Adopting a pseudonym after developing a social media presence

Venetian maskI’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

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7 Comments

Filed under About Katrina, Writer's toolbox

7 responses to “Adopting a pseudonym after developing a social media presence

  1. I think the earlier you do it, the better, and I wish I had done it sooner– it’s too late for me now. But I think checking the availability of a yourname.com domain name is crucial, especially as the web grows ever larger and if, like me, you have a common name. Glad you kept Kat, though!

  2. I really haven’t thought about it much, but maybe I should. Thanks for the post and the update.

    • Katrina Latham

      Hi Regina. It took me a long time to finally decide to use a pseudonym, and I had the name in mind for several months before doing anything about it so I could get used to it. Whether you end up deciding to use one or not, it’s definitely something to think about.

  3. So the moral of the story is: If you’re going to use a pen name, use it from the get go. 🙂

  4. Kristen Lamb

    I am going to be a fly in the ointment here, but social media for writers is what I do. You can find anything on the Internet these days and it is really impossible to hide behind a psydonym. That’s like locking your screen door to keep out a burglar. It’s a heck of a lot of work for no real pay off. As an authors and professionals we shouldn’t be talking about politics or sex or religion on-line anyway. Agents google you too and if they find out you are a foaming at the mouth ranting dirty-joke-telling pig, they won’t sign you. So use a moniker for that stuff if you must. Unless you are traveling to a Muslim country or Singapore, the fact that you write romance should be very little concern to anyone.

    Pseudonyms make it harder for us to take advantage of close personal networks and people who know our name. It makes platform-building tougher and we are already stretched for time.

    I’m sorry if I am the bearer of bad news, but pseudonyms were great for hiding an identity before the Internet. Now? Not so much. So if you aren’t too vested, consider just sticking with your regular name.

    And, regardless what you decide, I wish you the best of luck.

    • Katrina Latham

      Kristen, thanks for your insight. It’s really useful to hear from an expert.

      I completely agree that you can find anything online, including someone’s real name. But, like with all internet security issues, you can make it harder for people to find. I’m not trying to hide who I really am; I just don’t want a repressive government (because these are the countries I may need to travel to) to search for the name in my passport and immediately discover I write a type of novel that’s restricted or illegal in their country, or to have my name pop up as the winner of a sex-scene writing competition. As far as colleagues are concerned, I have no problem with them knowing I have outside interests and goals. But, because of the type of organization I work for, I couldn’t use those personal networks anyway.

      I was never fully committed to publishing under my real name, so I rarely used my real full name on social networking sites. So in a way, not having a pseudonym was holding me back from connecting with people.

      It feels strange to me to take on a pen name, like it implies I’m ashamed of what I write, but that’s not it at all. I have to protect my main career and be careful not to do anything that would limit my ability to work – or risk my safety. The things I write online for work and the things I write for pleasure (and to build a second career) have to remain separate. And that was the thing that swung my decision.

      Really appreciate your taking the time to put forward the cons, Kristen. They’re certainly important to think about as every writer tries to decide what’s best for her.

  5. Since my early days online, I’ve never used my real name, and since becoming a romance writer, I don’t think anyone would ever find my real life because I took pains to separate it from my writer life. Plus, because I rarely speak about my private life online and do not post pictures which could give a hint about the real me, it would take a master sleuth to discover the person behind the pseudonym.

    Granted, things will be a bit tricky when I am published, but my purpose in using a pen name from day one was to control what others could see about me. I just don’t feel comfortable knowing that someone could Google my name and rummage through the contents of my life and/or misconstrue my personal life for their own agenda. By having a pen name associated only with my writing life, every time someone Googles “Evangeline Holland,” my writing and related interests are the only things that pop up, keeping focus firmly on what is important–my career.

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