Tuesday, January 29, 2013 | By: HiDee

I Am a Writer, But Who Am I?

Writers are encouraged to develop and promote their brand, even before they have a publishing contract. Websites, blogs, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts are some of the tools available to us. Book promotion often lands on the writers’ plate. By working to develop and promote our author brands from the beginning, writers build a following of readers and supporters.

But before writers can start using these tools, they have to have a name.

Many writers opt to publish under their real names. Many others take pseudonyms, for any number of reasons. Some have real names that are difficult to spell or pronounce. Some wish to keep their personal lives separate from their public lives. Still others wish to write in multiple genres, therefore necessitating different personas.

As an aspiring writer, those options lay before me. Who is my writer self? Who do I want my writer self to be? Should I publish under my real name, or should I choose a pseudonym? What reasons do I have – for either decision?

Choosing a name has not been an easy task for me. Curious about authors I read and enjoy, I started by checking the copyright page of books. How many authors used their real names? How many used their real first name with a different last name? How many had a completely different name? Although it was interesting to see the names, it didn’t convince me which would be best for myself, so I moved on.

Ruling out my real name was easy. Even people who know me often misspell my name. I fear readers would never find me! A family member suggested I write under my birth name, or my adopted maiden name, but I’ve already been those people. They’ve made me who I am today, but they are not who I aspire to be as a writer.

photo by HiDee EkstromMy next thought was to find a name that means something to me. I have considered many combinations of family names – names of my children, my parents, and extended family members – both first, middle, and last. A few resonate with me, and are listed on a sheet of notebook paper for further consideration. But so far, none of these names have embedded themselves in my brain and not let go. None of them have shouted “That’s me!”

Names that resonate are put through the Google test. Many of the names already belong to real people. The name I really like belongs to a comedian I’ve never heard of, but do I want people to associate my writer self with a comedian? The top search result on another name, one I had mixed feelings about, revealed a controversial death. The name came off my list.

A third name returned no results at all. I could create my writer self without any previous connotations attached to my name. But is that name the right name? I admit my two main reservations are 1) that my mother reacted to the name, which pays homage to a favorite relative, with disappointment, and 2) I think the name sounds older. A part of me wants a timeless name, not one that makes me sound older.

Since I am a list-maker, my next step is to make a list of names I like. There are first names I’ve always liked. Many of them are definitely not me, so I will leave them to become characters. There are other names I like, but do they fit the person I envision my writer self to be? Should I use two names or three? Should I use initials in place of a first name? Can I answer to these names? I’ve searched surname listings as well, adding appealing names to my list of potential personas. I have to be able to respond to the name I choose, but maybe that comes with time.

Until I find the right name, I won’t be able to begin developing my author brand. Yes, I know what type of romance books I write. I can be thinking about my tag line. I can explore website and blog themes – maybe a design will speak to me and lead me to my writer self.

There are so many factors to consider in choosing a name. I don't just want to make a choice, I want to make the right choice.

How did you find your writer self? What factors did you consider when selecting your author name? Please share.