Friday, March 2, 2012

Your Writer Name--Important or Not?

Here's a reprint of an article I wrote about choosing the name you will use as a writer. There may be more to consider than you think. 

Selecting Your Writing Name

By Nancy Julien Kopp

When I first began writing, I used the name Nancy Kopp. Why not? It's mine, and I felt proud to have it on my work. Some writers choose to use only initials and last name, others use both names and still others choose to use a pseudonym. I've always thought they did it if they weren't proud of their work, but perhaps they wanted anonymity only for privacy sake. If I spend hours writing an article, story or poem, I'd like my real name on it. I’ll admit that I didn’t give a great deal of thought to the name that appeared on my work at the beginning of my writing life. I spent my energy on the content instead.

Then, one day I was walking through Walmart and passed by the book section. It's nearly impossible for me to ignore a book browsing spot, so I wheeled my basket around and went back to scan the titles. My eyes moved from one shelf to another until a certain book stopped me cold. I couldn't tell you the title today, but in big letters under the name of the book was the author's name--NANCY KOPP. My heart beat faster, and I grabbed the book. I checked the back cover, frontispiece and inside to see who this imposter was. It turned out that this Nancy Kopp works at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and writes mystery novels on the side. What are the odds of having two Nancy Kopps who are both writers? I placed the book back on the shelf and moved on to the grocery section, but as I picked out lettuce, melons, and green beans, my mind kept wandering back to the book section.

As the week progressed, I continued to ponder the discovery I’d accidentally made. I wondered if it really posed a problem of any kind. After all, I don’t write mystery novels. But at the time, I lived only an hour south of the novel writer. Maybe that could be a bit too close for comfort. For days, I did nothing, but the whole thing kept nagging at me. What solution served both of us, hurt neither of us and could be accomplished in a relatively easy manner?

A simple answer was to add my maiden name, so I typed it to see how it looked, and I liked it. It looked professional and rather nice, so my new writing name came into being, the easiest birth ever. I've used it for a number of years now, and it feels comfortable, especially when an envelope arrives by Snail Mail addressed to Nancy Julien Kopp with a check inside in payment for something I've written.

If you hope to publish your work, give some serious thought to the name you want to use and be consistent in using it. Google your name, along with the keyword writer, to learn if there is any other writer with the same or similar name. You can use two monikers and still be the same person. The nurse in the doctor's office may know you by one name and your readers by quite another. Pick one for your writing life that feels good to you, one you’ll be proud to see in print under the title of your published work. The writing you present to the world is important, but so are you, the author.


  1. Hi Nancy

    I have always used my maiden name in writing. Partly due to the unique maiden name that I have, that I want to keep going for posterity, and partly for just the reasons you mention.

    Our family surname has such a rich and mysterious legacy tacked on to it, that I want it to continue long after I'm gone. And since my mom has been gone for so many years and was a wonderful writer, I wanted my middle name (marie) to reflect my mother's rich writing heritage behind me. Her name was Vida Marie, but was always known as Marie her life long. It was my way of keeping her close through the years.

    My sons never got to meet either of their grandparents, but our oldest son, realizing the importance of the family surname, legally tacked it on to his as well.

    It was an easy call for me. And before I read your piece about names, I had never really thought of the potential problems one could encounter with just using your own name without something to distinguish it from others. My Linda Carlson or even Linda Marie Carlson, could be anyone else out there. This was a good article for making your work stand out and creating a persona that is uniquely your own.

  2. Thanks , Linda, for your comment. I have a feeling that many writers never give any thought to what to use as a writing name. I certainly had not until the day I saw my name on someone else's book!

  3. I don't use my maiden name, which is Cather, not wanting to be compared to Willa, who won a Pulitzer Prize. Plus my name was Roan when I started writing. I was Roan for most of my life, so kept it since I started writing as Roan. I added my middle initial, which sounds better to me. It's interesting to hear how other authors chose their writing names.