Once you have decided to start building your author platform, the first thing you need to do is select the pen name under which you plan to publish. This is an extremely important decision, and for some authors, it will be more difficult than others. Your pen name is likely the first impression of you readers will receive (beyond your book–but more on that down the road), and you want it to be something that sticks with them and easily identifies you out in cyberspace.
The first decision to make is whether to publish under your real name or a pseudonym (fake name). There are valid arguments on both sides, and only you can make the decision that is right for you.
Publishing Under Your Real Name
- You get all the glory associated with your books and author business.
- It’s easy for you to remember and embrace when speaking with readers.
- It makes you more transparent as an author.
- It makes the business and legal aspects slightly easier.
Publishing Under a Pseudonym
- You can separate yourself from your work. (This is especially nice if you fail miserably or write in “controversial” genres like erotica.)
- It provides a layer of protection or privacy for you.
- Certain genres, especially romance, have a long-standing tradition of pseudonyms.
- It can help avoid readers’ prejudices against certain genders writing in genres considered to be dominated by another gender.
Google Your Chosen Name and Potential Connections to the Industry
While it is nearly impossible to avoid sharing your name with someone in the universe, try to avoid having an identical name to someone who is well-known in the writing industry. For example, if your name happens to be John Kenneth Rowling, publishing as J.K. Rowling probably would not be a smart idea. When your readers tried to find you online (once they realized you were not THE J.K. Rowling) they would be bombarded with search results for Ms. Joanne and struggle to find little old you.
Of course, this could also work in your favor and bring some “accidental” traffic your way. Maybe these readers would stumble upon you and be pleasantly surprised to find a new author. However, they could also feel “duped” or “cheated” to discover you are not THE J.K. Rowling and drown your book or website in bad reviews.
Personally, I chose to publish under a variation of my real name. My first choice was to publish as “Kate Colby.” However, a quick Google search told me that a relatively successful poet was already publishing under that name. By throwing in my middle initial, “M,” I was able to separate myself from her, thus preventing confusion and allowing me to dominate any Google searches that were meant for me.
Likewise, “Kate Colby” as a username was taken on virtually every social media site. Other than Facebook, most social media platforms do not allow multiple accounts to have the same username. However, a quick search on my desired platforms showed me that “KateMColby” was available on every single social media platform I wanted to use, which leads into my next point…
Keep Your Author Platform Cohesive
Once you have found an original pen name for yourself, use it in as many places as possible! Keeping your entire author platform branded under the same name has several benefits:
- It makes you easier to find for readers who are searching for you.
- When readers find you, it increases their confidence that the account is truly yours.
- It groups your entire author platform together in search engine results for your name.
- It makes your pages/URLs easier to remember.
- It looks more professional.
My blog, my email, and every social media platform I use are under “KateMColby.” This makes it easy for my readers to find me on whatever social media sites they use, and it makes them feel more confident that it truly is me and not some other Kate they are finding online.
Admittedly, using your pen name online may not work out as perfectly as it did for me. However, try to keep your author platform as cohesive as possible. If you have to throw in an “author” or “fiction” here or there (ie: AuthorKateMColby or KateMColbyFiction), that’s okay! Just make sure you keep your accounts as searchable and obvious for readers as possible.
In short, selecting and using your pen name should be your first step in creating your author platform. Without your pen name, you cannot brand yourself nor establish an online presence. But remember: your pen name is not just a name. It is the “brand name” of your author business, and it is a strategic tool you can use to make sure you are unique, genre-appropriate, and easy to find online.
For those of you who skipped to the end, here are the actions steps to take as you move forward:
- Select your pen name (real or fake)
- Test your pen name online (Do you have a lot of competition with your name?)
- Test your pen name on social media (Are accounts with your name taken?)
- Repeat until you find a good balance
- Use your name universally across your entire author platform
For more on building your author platform, click here.
How did you choose your author pen name? How do you feel about authors using their real names to publish? Pseudonyms?