There are many reasons to use a pen name, and you can find good information online that explains the pros-and-cons. For this post, I'm going to explain the reasons I decided to use one.
Online marketing is becoming more and more important. The internet is a wonderful way of leveraging a writer's time and money. You can promote your works to hundreds and thousands of people without leaving your home. You can listen to and interact with many great writers, publishers, editors, and agents without getting off the couch. It's awesome. That's why we always hear about building your brand.
That's where I ran into trouble.
I like my "real" name. I have a family name with generations of history behind it. If I could, I would choose to use the name my parents gave me. I debated a long time with myself and others before finally decided to take on a different one.
My last name isn't very common, but the problem comes with my first name. Of all the names in my family, my first name is, by far, the most common. During my research, I learned that my first name has been a family name for many generations and in many different lines. When I went online to search for my name (I know you all do it, and it's a good thing to do), I found over 2 million hits. Even using my middle initial and quotes turned up over half-a-million pages.
Doing a quick Google search turned up a high school, a Canadian politician, a professional hockey player, a lawyer, and a musician. Argh! It got even worse when I searched Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Blogger. In order to come up with anything consistent, I would have to use "MyNameAuthor1". I guess there's another budding author out there with the same problem, because "MyNameAuthor" was taken on one of the networks. Sigh.
I didn't want to compete with all these other people, so I decided to use a different name. It took weeks of searching to find a name that was available. I tried searching on lists of last names, but in the end my name came from somewhere much closer.
Why I chose John Waverly:
- It's unique. It's available on all the different platforms I wanted.
- It resonates with my audience. "John" is very common and "Waverly" appears in many places: towns, streets, TV shows, companies, etc. So, while John Waverly is unique it is also familiar.
- It's easy to spell. Online searches will find me. I can't tell you how many times I've searched for a common-sounding name only to find out the person uses a strange spelling of the name. That's great once people find you, but it's frustrating the first time (or even the first few times) you search for them.
- The clincher is that "Waverly" was my grandfather's name. How awesome is that?
Question: Do you use a pen name? Have you considered it? Do you think I've made a good decision?
* Name tag picture by Alan O'Rourke can be found on Flickr.