Hi. Barb here.
Lately, I’ve been saying the above a lot, because so many of the writers I know have two or more names and identities.
Other friends use pseudonyms because they’re writing work-for-hire and don’t want the publishing company to end up owning their given name.
Then there are men writing books for women and women writing books they hope will crossover and sell to men.
Others are forbidden by contract to publish books outside their current line under their own names.
Or have unspellable, unpronounceable real names.
And still others have been advised to get a new name because their last book didn’t sell well.
All this may have made sense at one time or another in publishing. But now it runs absolutely smack into the pressure most authors are under to build a brand, an online presence and a persona. Then it makes no sense at all. Especially the last reason. I’m convinced no reader ever said, “Well I didn’t buy a book by so-and-so the last time, so I’m not going to buy her new one now.” This is the kind of dumb decision companies make when they are afraid of their own salespeople–and their own distribution system–booksellers–who are, I’m convinced, the only people who remember a non-sale. Believe me, if an author had a name the reader could remember well enough to know he or she had walked away from buying a former book, that author would have a name worth holding on to.
When I had my kids, it was in the era of hyphenate names, like Ethan-Marcus Weinstein-McGillicuddy (gotta be a good story there, right?) Or law firm families. (You’re reached the family of Smith, Jones and Clark. Leave a message at the beep!)
I got pretty good at navigating that, so now I’m adjusting okay to introducing my friends as Carol/Jane, Kelly/Clara, John/Ellen.
So far, everything I’ve written has been under my name. And I kept my surname when I got married. So you’d think I’d be pretty committed to it. But actually, I’m one of those people who’s barely cognizant of my name. When someone asks, “Should I call you Barbara or Barb?” I shrug. I’m lightly attached to either.
And Barbara Ross is a wicked common name. Every one of us is between 50 and 80 (the golden era–in fact the only era–for Barbara as a name). So my Google Alert on my name regularly sends me my own obituary.
There are lots of Barbara Ross authors, including one who writes almost daily for the New York Daily News. And the one who wrote Anaesthetic and Sedative Techniques for Aquatic Animals, and the one who wrote Goops and How to Be Them: A Manual of Manners for Polite Children. Sometimes on various author sites their books are attributed to me, and it’s always challenging, and sometimes impossible, to straighten it out.
So I have fantasized about another name. Didn’t everyone do that as a child? So cool to be able to choose. But then I think about rebuilding my meager brand and “presence,” and I’m like, meh.
So we’ll see what the future brings, but right now I’m sticking with Barbara Ross.
Writers, how do you feel about using your name or another? And readers, how do you feel about writers having other identities?