Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What's in a name?

Yeah, sorry for the cliche title... but can you really expect me to resist Shakespeare when the opportunity arises?

I've been reading a lot lately about blogging, writing in general, and marketing, and that has led me to a lot of thinking about the name I use. Right now, everywhere on the Internet (except Facebook) I go by Clare-Dragonfly. Sometimes it is punctuated or capitalized differently, but that's the ideal form of the name. But if I want to promote myself as an author, is this the name I want to be using? I decided some time ago that to publish I would use my first initial, middle name, and last name. I really dislike my full first name, and though I'm okay with going by a nickname for it, I don't want to use the shortened version of it for publishing. It seems unprofessional. Just using a nickname would be bad enough, but I spell it in an unusual way, which would be worse. So my solution is to hide it mostly away. I'm also less than fond of my uncomfortably common last name, but I don't see a way to get around that without using an entirely different pen name, which doesn't appeal to me.

This would not be a problem, of course, if I could and wanted to keep the world of the Internet and the world of publishing separate. But I don't, and it doesn't seem like a good idea. I've been reading so much about how your blog is an essential marketing tool, and your name is your brand, which makes perfect sense to me. So I have to reconcile being Clare-Dragonfly and being my given name.

This would be easier to do, I think, if I were just starting out in the blogiverse. I could just start using my given name and make people who already know me as Clare-Dragonfly aware of it. But while I haven't really done much of what I'd call blogging (though I've been using LiveJournal, and now InsaneJournal, for years), I do a fair amount of commenting on other blogs. I usually do that as Clare or Clare-Dragonfly. If I suddenly switched to the other name, I would seem like an entirely different person starting to post on those blogs. The relationship, slight as it may be, with those bloggers would be gone. I've had some interesting conversations, and I wouldn't be associated with them in the same way anymore.

It gets even more complicated. I go by Clare in real life, too. My family calls me by my given name, and some of my friends do, but almost all of my friends from college know me as Clare. Of course, they know my real name as well since they're friends with me on Facebook, but I am associated with the name Clare to them.

Then there's the fact that if I went with first-initial-middle-name, people would assume I wanted to be called by my middle name, and I don't. That's kind of weird, as I love my middle name and always have, but I've never actually used it. It would be uncomfortable to have people suddenly start calling me by it. Plus, then I would have three names...

The above issues could potentially be solved by deciding to publish under the name Clare-Dragonfly. But that seems even less professional than using my nickname! The only author I know of who has successfully used an obviously created name to publish under is Lupa, and she's not publishing novels--she's publishing nonfiction otherkin and pagan books. If I were doing the same, or even publishing books on other aspects of spirituality, I would be perfectly comfortable with using Clare-Dragonfly. I could make it appear less made-up and replace the hyphen with a space, so it would appear that my first name is Clare and my last name is Dragonfly, but something about that makes me itch. I'd rather make them one hyphenless word than two. Two words makes it "Clare, a member of the Dragonfly family." But that's not right: Clare is Dragonfly. With a space in between, it's just not my name any more.

So yeah, long post. And I'll probably think about it more. But for now, feedback from anyone who happens to be reading this blog is welcome.

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