I’ve been mentally bouncing back and forth between taking on a pseudonym now or waiting until I (hopefully) get a contract to publish a novel. There are reasons for and against adopting a pseudonym before publication, and lots of other bloggers have written about them. My friend Roni Loren wrote a fantastic post about reasons to consider a pseudonym and how to choose one.
I have another reason to add to her list. Some of you know I work for a humanitarian charity. My job mostly involves working on the web, not traveling to dangerous lands, but last week I went on a personal security course my organization runs so I’d be able to go overseas if the opportunity ever arose. There was a session on online security, and I discovered a humanitarian worker was deported from a foreign country last year because the authorities had Googled him and discovered his political affiliations on Facebook.
As a web editor, I know my employers (and potential future employers) would most likely Google me. But the thought of being kicked out of a country because someone doesn’t like the fact I write romance had never occurred to me.
So I’m going with the safe option and taking on a pseudonym now.
But where do you start when you’ve already been active online for over a year?
1. Write down the names of all the social networks you use.
I keep my Facebook profile private and purely for my friends, not for writing. I don’t even befriend my friends from work on Facebook. But there are lots of other places I have profiles – Twitter, Savvy Authors, RWA Online, this blog…. In fact, the more I thought about places where my name could be, the more places I remembered.
Fortunately most places make it easy to amend your profile. When you’re choosing a pseudonym, you may want to check your favorite social networking sites to see if the name is already being used (as well as making sure you can register the domain name, even if you’re not planning on building a website yet).
2. Don’t forget your email.
Your name shows up in people’s inboxes even if it’s not in your actual email address. Do you want people to know your real name or to start associating you with your pseudonym? Since taking on a pseudonym is a little strange to me, I’ve kept my real name in the settings and have written my pseudonym in my email signature so people get used to seeing it and thinking of me.
3. Let people know.
The people you talk with the most online may only recognize you by your avatar or screen name. Make sure you send out a message as soon as you change each of your profiles to let them know you’ve changed your name.
4. Google yourself and see if there are places you can change.
Being a bit of a contest junkie, my name is now on a lot of websites next to the name of my contest entry. I’m not going to email each chapter and ask them to change their website. My lack of foresight doesn’t need to affect anyone else’s to-do list. But from now on I’ll be trying to use my pseudonym wherever possible. Most of those chapters will change their websites next year when there are new winners.
Can you think of anything I’m missing? Any other places you think a writer should check when adopting a pseudonym?
Oh! I nearly forgot to tell you my pseudonym! It’s Kat Latham (or Katrina Latham on Twitter, since the short version was taken). Latham is my grandma’s maiden name and I’ve always liked it. Feel free to continue calling me Katrina – since that’s actually my name, it won’t feel strange!
Image c. Sorina Bindea/sxc.hu