I’ve never really thought about using a pen name. I can see the benefit if you want to keep your personal and writing life separate (I know I wouldn’t want my grandparents to know I wrote smut, if I did that. NEVER happens. *cough*), but I want my own name on my work when it goes out into the world.
Well, kind of my real name… in real life, I’m not Kate. I’m Kathleen. I know, SHOCKING. The weird thing is, I spend so much time on this blog and commenting on others, with critique partners and at write-ins on Twitter that I now think of myself as “Kate” and have to stop to think when I introduce myself to people in real life. Do you know how awkward it is when someone asks your name and you have to stop to think about it? So much worse than forgetting your own phone number…
Anyway. I’ve wanted my own name on my books for a long time. Definitely since I started thinking about publishing anything. There’s just one teeny-tiny problem.
Quick, how do you spell my last name?
Did you have to look? That’s OK, everyone does. Please don’t feel badly if you’re someone who does/has done it in the past, because it’s not just you. Everyone writes my name as “Kate Sparks.”
It’s a fine name, if you ignore the fact that the name “Sparks” in writing leads you to thinking of sappy, tear-jerker romances. But it’s not my name. I’m Sparkes with an “ES,” and like it. It’s not the name I was born with, but it’s actually a pretty cool name. It’s a shortened form of the word “Sparrowhawk,” for one thing, which is a tiny little badass bird. Fine by me!
So what’s the problem? If readers can’t remember how to spell my name, they can’t find me. If someone tells a friend, “I read this amazing book by Kate Sparkes” and their friend is all “AWESOME, I’m gonna look for that” and they search for “Kate Sparks”…
See the problem? Especially for someone just starting out, I mean. If Stephen King changed the spelling of his last name to “Kyngge,” we’d still find him. For me, someone not finding my work on their first Amazon search could equal them saying “screw it, I’m reading the Hunger Games again.” And who could blame them? Fantastic book.
I’m getting off track again, aren’t I?
I’m not changing the spelling of my name to make it more searchable. I’m not changing it to Tallulah Fandongola, even if that is the name I give when I call the pizza place and it might be more recognizable (and is spelled phonetically). Most people probably search for books by title, so I’ll be OK as long as those are easy to remember (not like these ones), but still…
Questions! Will you publish/are you published under your own name? If not, why not? Do you recommend authors to people, or just books? Do you think Kate Sparrowhawk would be a good pen name HOLY CRAP THAT WOULD BE THE BEST PEN NAME EVER! What was I saying? Oh, any other thoughts on pen names, weird spellings, searchability on Google or Amazon? Anything, really. Tell me all of the things. ALL OF THEM! I’m not so much looking for advice or reassurances, since I already know what I’m doing. I just want know what you think.
(Also, if the day ever comes when someone searches on Google for “Kate Sparks” and it says, “Did you mean Kate Sparkes?” I will throw a huge party. Just saying.)
(Also also, have you ever read your own name so many times that it stops making sense and you begin to wonder whether you’re spelling it right? That’s me, right now, editing this post.)