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  1. #1
    Greymane Wilson Geiger's Avatar
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    Web Presence/Pen Name Questions

    Another round of dubious questions! I've really started to think about web presence as I continue works-in-progress, and I've recently started thinking about pen names. Now, I'm not considering it because it's "cool," or because I'm so famous that I need another outlet. I just happen to have a really, really popular first - and last - name. I've checked domains and my name just won't work, as almost every variation has been taken.

    I don't think I absolutely have to have my name as the domain, but it certainly helps; my current site started out a few years ago as a freelance project, and after that passed, I've started to re-do it with writing in mind. But I'm not sure the domain is really going to work for that, as I titled the domain with freelance web design as the goal (I don't want to come right out and say it, but just add a "-ified" to a really popular last name and there you go).

    I suppose it's a good sign that I'm really starting to thinking about this, but I worry that I may freeze and fuddle over every last detail, doing nothing in the end.

    Should I really try to find a domain that will mirror any name I use? Is it ok to make it 'market-y'? Do I need a more unique name so that mine isn't drowning in a sea of similar names? Does all of this make my head hurt? Yours?

  2. #2
    Life is fantastic, yes? CMTheAuthor's Avatar
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    I got lucky, as I didn't have any major problems with my name, which is also fairly common. (While there are plenty of people with it, almost all of them really did not have any kind of internet presence.) I just stuck "the Author" on the end when making my blog, and it's worked since.

    I suppose that shopping around the different site domains is a good first step. Check to see what URLs they attach to different names, and that will give you an idea of what you can get away with. (I'm assuming cost is not a concern here, because if it is, your options may be limited.)

  3. #3
    It could be worse. ~tmso Moderator N. E. White's Avatar
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    Good questions - I haven't really tackled this yet. I came up with my pen name (N. E. White or Nila E. White, based on three of my four real names) when I first started writing and just stuck with it - good or bad. All I do is have a blog with Wordpress.com using my pen name. Is it recognizable? I don't know. I'm not sure if anyone looks me up by name since most folks wouldn't know it. (shrugs)

    I think it is a good idea to have this stuff in mind, but it might be a bit early for you. Are you shopping around a novel? Check out some of the Writer's Digest platform articles. They might help.

  4. #4
    KMTolan kmtolan's Avatar
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    Yep, pen name.

    My opinion is that you will need to get yourself a relatively unique pen name and stick with that as your domain name. Nothing overly humorous or designed as an obvious pen name, just a name you'd be comfortable with.

    Your web presence is all about branding. The one thing that will stand out as being common among all your future projects will be the name you write under. That is what you want folks to Google. You are your brand.

    Kerry

  5. #5
    Greymane Wilson Geiger's Avatar
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    Thanks for the advice. After checking, I've also found a few authors with the same name, so I'm definitely thinking I may need a pen name. Lots to think about!

  6. #6
    We Read for Light Window Bar's Avatar
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    Pick a Name........

    Quote Originally Posted by Wulfen View Post
    Thanks for the advice. After checking, I've also found a few authors with the same name, so I'm definitely thinking I may need a pen name. Lots to think about!
    Hi Wulfen-- The other responders have said it well: Do it. My birth name is quite uncommon, but one of its bearers is a famous corporate attorney, another a rock musician. Not only would I have languished for a long time at the bottom of the listings, the very mention of my name would have conjured up one of the other two. The pen name I chose has ZERO other bearers, which is how I like it.

    Another way to play would be an alteration of your birth name. One of my favorite fantasy writers, CJ Cherryh, was born Charlotte Cherry. Unh-uh, said her first editor. It sounded far more like a pen name than most pen names--and definitely wrong for the genre. Charlotte cut to her initials (thereby becoming genderless for those who worry about such things) and added a final "h." The result? She became instantly unique.

    Of course, her 60 books and her Nebula and Hugo awards haven't hurt a bit.

    -- WB

  7. #7
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    I'm lucky in that a spelling mistake gave me a unique middle name, so in theory it will be identifiable should I ever end up being searched for due to my awesome prose. I just use my first and middle names, though admittedly my last name is also relatively uncommon.

    Turns out "Christopher" is the "Mohammed" of the western world...!!!

  8. #8
    Greymane Wilson Geiger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fung Koo View Post
    Turns out "Christopher" is the "Mohammed" of the western world...!!!
    Yes, yes it is. Wouldn't know how I know that.

  9. #9
    www.voxnewman.com kongming's Avatar
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    Based on my experience, I'd say stick with name. My name Kevin Newman is somehow extremely common and several people who bear the same name have varying degrees of fame. I couldn't use my name as a domain name but I discovered Latin words blend well into branding and one's name and have been able to claw my way up from page 24 of Google search to page 1 on a good day.

  10. #10
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wulfen View Post
    Yes, yes it is. Wouldn't know how I know that.
    Of the international teachers at my school, 5 of us are Christophers. Strangely, none of the other 100 or so teachers share a repeat name.

    EDIT: Wait, not true -- we have two Naomis.

  11. #11
    I actually polled my readers, and the vast majority of them opted for my real name.
    So I went with it. And as far as I know, I'm the only one in the world.
    Igor

  12. #12
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Well here's how it goes -- for most types of fiction, the author's name is not particularly important to readers. Readers remember the titles of books instead. Quick, who wrote The Kite Runner? Gone Girl? You may know but more likely you've heard of the title and remember that. But SFF is one of the areas of fiction where it's flipped -- people are more likely to remember the author's name than the book's name. This is in large part because the titles in SFF are often throwaways, very similar and because series are common in the fields. So there's a series title, which folk are more likely to remember, and then individual titles that may have a connective theme, but you don't necessarily remember which is in what order. And half the time people just use anacronyms for the titles anyway, meaning the exact titles are less repeated. And some SFF authors are so prolific and doing so many different series, that it's much easier to remember the author's name than all the book the author wrote. SFF fan readers have more familiarity with and keep tighter track of authors than others -- meeting authors at conventions, chatting with them more often on the Net, etc. So all in all, if you're writing SFFH, it's a good idea to have an author name that people can easily remember. So too unique will be harder for them to remember and too common and English may be hard to remember. But somewhere in between is usually going to be the most useful, though not absolutely critical. Since they do keep track of SFF authors, fans will look folk up.

    For websites, as I understand it, having a somewhat uncommon last name might help with searches, but first names probably not. If you have a common name but it's relatively easy to pronounce and remember, it might be a good idea to keep it and come up with a website name that is your name with some other word or words attached that will be easy to remember and pop you up top enough in the searches. So JohnSmithfantasticemporium.com, for instance, might work. Or a shortened or altered version of your name -- the daily bob, etc. -- might work too.

  13. #13
    aka. Stephen B5 Jones MrBF1V3's Avatar
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    You know I have to step in. I tried the pen name thing for a bit, and hated it. On the other hand I have an extremely common name, shared by at least three authors, a number of well known attorneys, rock gods, a president of a very conservative university, and as I understand, complete rugby teams.

    Do what you want, but my advice is to stay as close to your real name as you can. I use my name, and add the shorthand for my username in it; in the form of "B5". Sure, there's questions, but it is easy to look up, and vaguely meaningful.

    B5

  14. #14
    bingley bingley beep kissmequick's Avatar
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    I think as long as your pen name is in the keywords, along with author, you should be find re google. My website is mypennamebooks as myname was taken. Neither the first nor last names are particularly unusual, but crucially there's no one writing in my genre with that name.

    I'm using a pen name at the moment. I also write/have been published under my real name. I share that name with many people - a lady who does some very nice pottery, a load of ladies who work at universities, a drag queen and one other author. But she writes a very different genre to me (though amazon do insist on getting us mixed up at times)


    I think as long as you aren't using a very famous name (Soo...Johnny Depp might be out, along with JK Rowling and Stephen King - which is a pen name too) you're fine. Stephen King is a very common name (I actually know two Steve Kings, and that name is also taken by, iirc, a famous wildlife photographer) but what makes you easy to find on google isn't necessarily the site name, but using the right keywords, SEO optimisation and you know, people actually having heard of you

  15. #15
    What do you mean by keywords? You mean meta data in HTML?
    Google algorithms ignore keywords, btw. It does take into account the description field.
    Good SEO is relevance between title, description and topic content, consistently maintained.
    Having valid html also helps.
    Igor

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