Ask Daphne! What about my name?

November 28th, 2008 • Kate

Some particularly unusual shoes (they’re made of paper!) for KS, who asked in a comment on another post:

I have a pretty unusual name, but there’s another writer out there with the very same first/last name who’s posted her own stuff (which isn’t spellbinding) on writing.com. I’m scared to death anyone Googling my name will find her stuff and assume it’s mine. Am I right to be worried? When I Google myself with “writer” in the search, it’s the first thing that pops up.

Ugh. That’s annoying, and I’m sorry for it. Have either of you been published professionally, as far as you know, or can you only find her work on writing.com? If neither of you has a professional track record, and you’re incredibly attached to your name, exactly as you’ve always used it, I’d advise you to get to work building your internet presence. The best way to knock her name off the top of the Google search results page is to make sure Google finds you first, more often, and more helpfully. Comment on blogs in your own name! Make sure your website has your name all over it! Post regularly on any number of different forums!
The other option, of course, if you’re not yet published widely, is to use a different name, or a different version of your name. I could be Kate Schafer, for instance, or Kate Testerman, or Katie Testerman, or KS Testerman, or Kathleen Schafer, or any one of a dozen different options using my middle name, my confirmation name, or a version of a family name. And I have…
Pick a name that you can see yourself using for years to come and start building a new internet presence with it. It sucks to feel like you have to give up your identity, but consider if you hit the jackpot and become Nora Roberts or Stephenie Meyers levels of famous — do you want anyone who Googles you then to be able to come up with your high school achievements, embarrassing Facebook photos, or other telltale details of your true identity?

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6 Responses to “Ask Daphne! What about my name?”

  1. Marva Says:

    I always wondered why people use nom de plumes. My name is so unique, I'm absolutely certain I'm the only one in the world with my name. If I add my middle name, I'm absolutely guaranteed of exclusivity.
    It sucks if some marginal writer shares your name. It's hard for me to say, but I'd think if I were in your position, I'd at least use my middle init or maybe middle name in lieu of your first name.

  2. Kiersten White Says:

    This was a great post, Kate. My agent and I decided to use my maiden name in place of my married name, mostly because my married name lends itself to a funny (okay, embarrassing) mispronunciation. Downside being my nom de plume is a bit more common, but I've already sprinkled it all over my blog, set up a website, and done exactly what you are advising here–made sure it pops up first and often!
    Wonderful advice, as always ; )

  3. lotusloquax Says:

    Great advice! My name is pretty unusual, but there is someone else with the same name who comes up first on a google search. I'm down about three names. I need to figure out how I want to proceed. If it's necessary to change or not or if I just need to make the difference in us more pronounced. She's a cyclist. I'm a writer. It's already pretty obvious, but it might appear that we are the same person. I'm not sure about the name of my blog. I probably should have originally picked something else. I'm going to have to look into changing it.

  4. Dara Sorensen Says:

    Interesting post!
    My name–both maiden and married versions–are fairly unique though my maiden name is a bit more common (I've found a few with my maiden name that were doctors). But the upside is that with BOTH names, I'm the first one in a Google search. With my married name, I'm all but one entry on the first Google search page. So I'm thinking at this point I'll use my married name.

  5. Joe Iriarte Says:

    Marva, I've always thought there is a good chance I will use a pen name when/if I get published. It's not that I'm not proud of my name or my heritage, but most people can't pronounce or spell my last name. That makes it hard to get name recognition, or to look for my (potential) books on Amazon. In the last year or so, I've been hearing that ethnic names are actually good . . . but only if people can pronounce them. (Even other Latinos tend not to recognize my name as Hispanic!)

  6. KS Says:

    Thanks for addressing my question, Kate! I've got a few pub credits under my current name (not biggies, but still claim-able), so I kind of want to hang on to it. I reserved a website in "our" name already, so maybe it's time to start working on it. Thanks again.