Monday, February 16, 2009

Writers: make your name a distinctive brand

Any writer who expects to write more than one book, blog or article hopes that people who like one thing she or he has written, will want to read more.

One good way to help people find your work is to have a distinctive name, like actors and singers.

"Jor-El," Superman's Kryptonian father's name, is unique and distinctive. And so is "Marlon Brando," who played the part. (Marlon Brando was his birth name -- a lucky advantage over Marion Morrison who had to become John "Duke" Wayne.)

Stephen King's name is neither unique nor distinctive. But after selling perhaps 300 million books, he probably doesn't suffer from the existence of others with the same name. (Wikipedia lists about a dozen others including a Congressman, a pedophile and five athletes.)

If you have a common name like Bill Smith, you might be better remembered and found if you change to Xavier Bacciagalupe or Hamburger Smith.

English punk rocker Declan MacManus morphed into a more-memorable Elvis Costello. OTOH, film critic Elvis Mitchell was apparently born an Elvis.

Sometimes a slight change can do the job. Bill Smith might be better remembered as William Harrington Smith. Edward Jay Epstein has written more than a dozen books, perhaps with more success than hundreds of Ed Epsteins.

For my own brand, I've chosen to include my middle initial, N.

A Google search for "Michael Marcus" brings up nearly 70,000 hits. But a search for "Michael N. Marcus" shows just over 2,300 -- and apparently there are just two of us. I'm the writer. He's a psychiatrist.

If you are evaluating potential pen names or just want to have some fun, take a look at The site ranks popularity for first names, last names and first-and-last-together based on listed phone numbers.

Edward Epstein is the # 254,818 ranked full name, with 123 occurrances. OTOH, Juan Epstein, from Welcome Back Kotter, is unique, with just one listed person in the US.

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