Friday, January 18, 2013

Considerations When Choosing Our Author Name

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig
Amazon1I read an interesting post recently by Chris Gerwel: A Question of Identity.

Chris stated that his last name was actually Modzelewski.  He explains why he chose to write under his middle name:

How will a difficult-to-pronounce name affect word-of-mouth recommendations? How will a hard-to-spell name affect search-driven sales on Amazon? How will a tough name affect the likelihood of bloggers and online reviewers writing up my books? Will a tough name diminish booksellers’ propensity to hand-sell my titles? Will signing my super-long name on stock give me carpal tunnel syndrome?
A difficult name is not, of course, a deal-breaker for any of these concerns... But there’s a way to forestall any and all of these concerns, and that is to adopt a pen name.
Other reasons I’ve seen authors use a pen name:

Their names are already famous…because of a different author.  (If your name was Stephen King, for example.)

They write material that might anger or upset their family or close friends.

They write books to appeal to the other gender (J.K. Rowling for the Harry Potter books, for example.)  Porter Anderson, in his most recent Writing on the Ether,  covered a very interesting experiment that writer Teresa Frohock made in his post Can You Tell ‘Male Writing’ from ‘Female?’ 

Their publisher asks them to.  This would be why I have one series written as Riley Adams.  As a side note, the publisher did allow me to choose my pen name and I went with family names. When I asked the publisher if they had a preference among several family names I offered, they immediately chose Adams for shelf-placement.  I think shelf-placement is rapidly becoming less-important, however.

How big of a deal are author names? I think they’re very important for getting readers to find us for the first time.  But after they’ve bought one of our books, online retailers like Amazon make it very easy for readers to find more books—they’ll pop up as recommended reads whenever they log in to the bookseller.

Writing under more than one name:

It can be tough writing under more than one name.  Readers may find it difficult to keep up with the books that you write under other names, although sites like Goodreads can lessen the impact. 

Technically, I’m writing under three different names: Riley Adams, Elizabeth Craig (the quilting mysteries), and Elizabeth Spann Craig. Goodreads allows me to add Elizabeth Spann Craig as a second author to the other two series so that all of my books are listed on the same page.

Amazon works a little differently.  There I’ve got two separate author pages: one for Riley Adams and one for Elizabeth Spann Craig. Thank heavens they don’t make me have a third one for Elizabeth Craig. Oddly enough, if you search for my full name on Amazon, the Memphis Barbeque mysteries do pop up. 

Have you had any author name challenges?  Multiple genres?  Difficult last name? Do you write under several names?