Most people are given a name when they're born, and that's the one they live with forever. Maybe some will change it once - for instance, if they get married - but that's pretty much it. The only choices they'll have, in terms of names, will be what to name their kids and pets.
Writers, on the other hand, get the chance to name things all the time - themselves included. But do writers always make the best choices when naming themselves?
Think about your twitter handle. If your name is something like James Smith or *cough* Kat Ellis, that's going to make choosing a handle close to your name pretty difficult (trust me, I tried really hard*).
Maybe you have the bright idea, "I'll use my book title as my handle!" You're now known as @BrowniesTasteBad on twitter. The thing is, if you're at the query stage with this novel, what are you going to do if this is not The One, and you have to move on to something else?
Or even if you've published Brownies Taste Bad, what will you do when you write your next novel, Jodie's Toyshop? Jodie features no brownies at all, so people who are reading that and not Brownies Taste Bad aren't going to have a clue what your handle means. If they're searching for you by your name on twitter, you're not likely to stand out to the Jodie-fan among the reams of James Smiths if you have a randomly weird handle. What will you do, keep changing your handle every time you write a new book?
If you want to be found on twitter (and that's kind of the point, right?) that will happen more easily if people can tell who you are.
Your blog. Calling it 'The Writer's Right to Write' might seem cute at the time you set it up, but guess what? When I get your posts sent to my phone, I haven't got a clue who wrote it. And more often than not, I'm going to unsubscribe.
Have you ever googled yourself? Is your blog the first thing that pops up? If not, chances are other people who are looking for you online won't find your blog either, unless they go via your twitter account...but wait, if you're called @BrowniesTasteBad on twitter, and your blog doesn't have your name on it either...oh.
The genre switch. Written a YA thriller? Cool. But now you want to write a completely different genre - let's say it's an adult historical romance. Should you use the same name to publish both books?
Well, of course it's down to personal choice. The thing you might want to consider is: who's picking up your new book? If it's a fan of your earlier YA thriller, and they're expecting more of the same because your books have been shelved together and have the same author's name on the cover, they're going to be kind of WTF? about it. When someone begins your book with an expectation that a boy wizard is going to show up because that's what you've written about before, then your new book - no matter its standalone merits - is going to be disappointing. Because basically, you haven't let it be a standalone.
And of course I'm going to go there - if you switch from writing pretty much any category or genre to writing erotica, do you want someone to read it without knowing the type of content to expect?
I'm not getting into the argument of whether YA novels should contain graphic sex (that would be another long, ranty post), but if you're a YA writer who decides to publish books with very graphic sexual or violent content, FCOL pick another name to publish it under. Or even just add a middle initial. Something that will let people know that it's not another YA novel, to be shelved as such. As much as readers - teens included - have a choice about whether to read 'adult' content, they also have a right to fair warning before they do.
So, how did you choose your writerly names? Any regrets?
*When choosing my own twitter handle, I had a choice between @KatEllisWrites (which in retrospect wouldn't have been that bad), @KatEllis4 (who really wants to be number 4?) or @KatREllis (which just looks weird). So I stuck with @El_Kat, which I think sounds vaguely like hellcat, and it's short. SO.