Author Pen Names
Why do authors choose pen names? Or a pseudonym, as it's known? It's a question I've been pondering since late last year.
Literary types call it a nom de plume and they're quite common. In this blog post, I'll go over the steps involved and share insights into the process of implementing one.
I have been using my actual name since starting my manuscript in January 2019. Like most people, I like my name and I've grown fond of it. The problem is when someone has to search my full name, including my middle initial, to show up number one in the search engines. If you type my first and last name, I show up ninth on Google and second on Yahoo.
There are too many people with the same name as me. It would be easier if there were less.
The fact is, I dominate the whole first page of results when I use my full name. It's because it's a niche string once I include the middle initial, and I've optimized for it.
Launching a Book
When an author launches their book, people looking for it either search the title or the author. I desire a top search result for both so they can find my book. Ambitious readers could forget to insert my middle initial when they search my name. All of my SEO (search engine optimization) efforts could be wasted because they wouldn't find me at the top of the page.
There is a simple way to solve this problem. Make the choice to use an author pseudonym.
Google Knowledge Panel
Another reason to use a nom de plume is to acquire a Google Knowledge Panel. If you don't know what one is, search Lisa Cron in Google, and look to the right of the page. With one glance, you see her photo and understand she is an author. Her books, which I have read, show up in the lower section of the panel. Her Twitter link is visible too.
Lisa Cron is my example because her name is short, memorable, and easy to spell.
A Google Knowledge Panel already exists for my name, and no, I am not going to claim it because it's not mine. If I did, it could get messy, and I don't want that.
Someone with the same exact name as me published a few books back in 1971. It belongs to him. He is on Goodreads too, which can cause unnecessary chaos in the midst of a book launch. These difficulties exist for authors. It's tedious and time consuming to sort out. It can literally make or break your author platform.
Privacy is an important reason to not use my real name. Some writers like to keep their personal lives separate from their writing life. My reason for privacy has nothing to do with the style of writing I do. Ideas for a children's picture book (PB) in the future is hardly something I want to hide. Using a pen name does offer a buffer of protection to the author's family though.
The content in my personal page of this website will still contain original information. It will have to be reworded and paraphrased to be less specific. Locations are an integral aspect of SEO though, so they will be identified.
Again, there is no intention to hide or keep things secret, just private.
Keep it Simple
For me, things need to be straightforward and clean. My objective is to dominate the first page of search results across all engines. Therefore, the pseudonym I choose needs to be niche. One of a kind, with no competitors. Short, memorable and easy to spell.
Some authors prefer to keep their first name. I'm choosing to include my last name because it's important to me.
The exact domain name will need to be available as a .com and as a .ca (Canada's country code for top level domains) for my situation. Both are required to establish dominance. Also, no search results for the chosen pen name should interfere. Not an effortless task in today's Internet.
Something that Resonates
A pen name has to mean something to you. Back in the nineties, I used to watch a television show about two FBI agents who investigated the existence of aliens. It was a popular show and had a cult following. The primary character always resonated with me. I liked the name Fox because it was sleek, memorable, and easy to spell.
As a result, I have been researching the name Fox Miller for a pen name the last few months. To my delight, I've discovered it's a niche search term. An extensive Internet search revealed nobody with the name Fox Miller who is a published author. Goodreads didn't list one either, meaning it might be suitable.
However, some social media complications exist. Both Instagram and Twitter have people using the name Fox Miller. It isn't serious though. With strong SEO, I believe I can overtake their presence. There are minimal instances of the name in both cases.
When I choose a pen name, I will apply it across my entire author platform. The plan will be to update all social media profiles. Much to my relief, I can separate Facebook from my personal profile. I can create an individual author page under my existing account, then share it with friends and family at my discretion, maximizing privacy while respecting friendship.
In March 2020, I secured both domain names necessary. It surprised me the names were available, because they are so short
For a month trial, my author name will be Fox Miller. I will publish as Fox Miller on medium and my website address will be foxmiller.ca and gordonwmiller.com will be forwarded to it.
Twitter, Pinterest and the Facebook author page I am drafting will be updated to reflect the name Fox Miller. I will have to create a new Google Brand Account. Linkedin, will not allow a pseudonym, but I'll see if I can create an author page. It's not as easy as it sounds but I'll try it. If it works, I will join the Goodreads Author Program as Fox Miller when the time comes.
Once I tweak the website with the new domain and inform Google of the changes, my current SEO position should dip sharply. Search results for Fox Miller will take time to recover but hopefully return to the top after a short while. If I am mistaken, plan B will be to reinstate my full name with the middle initial.
By making this choice, I will have accomplished my goal and established a successful author platform.
In five months my manuscript's first draft will be completed. Fantasy author Gordon W. Miller always sounded good to me but maybe Fox Miller could work too?