What's in a name?
One of the things that taxes me most at the moment, as I look out at the no-doubt glittering career as an indie author ahead of me, is the marketing. I don’t think I’m alone there, since almost every message board and writing blog is about 50% people running around screaming ‘argghghggh’ and invoking the ghost of Bill Hicks to strike down whoever invented marketing, or at the very least, ship them an envelope full of glitter. As I sat down for my first marketing planning session of this year, it dawned on me that before I can do any of the nitty gritty platform building, I have a decision to make.
What the hell am I going to call myself?
Don’t get me wrong. I like my name well enough. It’s a good, functional name. I like the idea of identifying with my work, because I’m proud of it. I want the world to know it’s been done my me. Not only that, in order to launch with any semblance of success at all, I’m going to need basically everyone who knows me to buy it, which will most likely only really happen if it has my name on it.
So what the hell am I talking about? Well, I have a fear, and not the usual one about a bathtub full of spider wasps, but that ‘Paul Stephenson’ is not a great name to put on the front of a book. The two words are completely different lengths for one thing, and the surname is the longer, so if I were to double up I’d need to have the PAUL huge and the STEPHENSON in tiny writing. Just a bit weird. Of course, I hear you say, you could just do it on one line. You’d be right to point that out (if a bit of a pedant), but that means a small name, which is harder to read at speed. You need to stand out on your cover, and you’re unlikely to do that if people have to strain to see your name on the thumbnail of your book. It’s a fricking minefield, let me tell you.
So what are the options? Well I could go the initials route; PR Stephenson. But I’m not convinced on that, either. Seems a bit, I don’t know, wanky for me. I’ve toyed around with a few other options, but none of them feel entirely right. Since my good-lady-soon-to-be-wife is going to be taking my name in all probability, I quite like the idea of taking her surname in some kind of tit-for-tat name swap, but I’m not sure Paul Green is all that better than what I have already. Besides, there’s a few of them on Amazon already, which would make it a riskier proposition than my real name, which is so far unclaimed.
‘Why the hell are you worrying about this now’, you may be asking. ‘You’re not publishing for ages yet, and you haven’t even finished the first book yet. Concentrate on that.’ You may say that (although that sounds a lot harsher than I imagine my readers to be) but the truth is that I need to start doing things like building author platforms in the next few months. I need to decide on the name of my author platform, for one thing, in order to buy the domain and start building the website.
I need to get moving on the marketing now, so that there’s some vague hint of an audience out there when I launch. This is doubly important if I’m going under a nom de plume, since any vague cachet I’ve built up through the likes of this blog, DP or the Rolling Stone challenge will no longer count.
So I need a decision. I need help. I might need an exorcist. What do you, dear reader, think?