Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Picking a pen-name - considerations and pitfalls.

The journey to published writer has more steps than any beginner can imagine. Writing a book, editing a book and finding a publishing home for the book is only the beginnning. Each of those steps has sub-categories, but I'm not going there today. The steps I am currently struggling with are public face and promotion. I do so hoping other newbies out there will avoid some of my glitches.

If an author is going to publish under their "daily" name, the first step is simplified. Authors who choose to use a pen-name have an extra step. You could use your maiden name, mother's maiden name, yours or your husband's middle name as last name or you could make up an entirely different name altogether.

One much-published author (Judith Duncan) told me years ago that using your own first name can be helpful if you plan to attend conferences and other public events. That way, when someone speaks to you in the middle of a crowded room, you recognize your name and respond. Step one decided for me. Mahrie is my first name, published and un-published.

I then worked though the issues of a last name. After internal debating and external discussions with family members (remember your last may also be theirs), I went with my maiden name: Reid.

I missed the next step. I did not search the web for entries with the name Mahrie Reid. The Reid is more or less the Scottish version of Smith, so I knew it would be out there. However, Mahrie isn't the most common spelling of Mary. Imagine my consternation when I searched the combination and found  6,930 returns.

In the first eight pages only three were references to me (plus one photo). The name appeared in locations around the world and in at least four languages. In the first three pages most references were to a very prolific film producer. I wish my name-doppelganger well.

As you can see by my blog header, my solution is to add a middle initial. I chose G because although it does not stand for my real middle name, it represents other names connected to my present, my school years and my mother.

When you are a baby, you have no choice of name. When you get set to publish, you have a choice.
Choose wisely and do your reasearch before creating your public profile. May your name stay with you as publish and prosper.

Write ON


  1. I completely understand your problem. I was going to use my real name. It's just easier than doing the whole pen name thing, but it was already taken, not by a film producer, or some other listing on the net, but by another writer. So, I tried my maiden name that was also a writer. I struggled with the decision for months until I decided on a combination of both my last names. It's not perfect and I wished I'd thought of the middle initial thing. Well done. I wonder if it's too late to add one.
    Thanks for the information it was very helpful.

  2. A good question Marlow - once you're semi-established, can you change things. Thank you Mahrie for the information too. I have debated whether to use a pen-name or not and like Marlow I often wonder if it's too late.