Branding yourself as a Writer: What’s in your name?

“The power of truly mindful branding is mighty, indeed. “

Girl with cool T-shirt
“It’s the reeaall thing, Coke is…”

How about this one, “Ho, ho, ho, Green Giant!”?

Certainly, bologna’s first and second names do not escape us easily…

Now be honest, you sang those little ditties out loud when you saw them, didn’t you?

The power of truly mindful branding is mighty, indeed. It’s almost impossible to erase the images and feelings, once they’ve sizzled and burned themselves into our brains. Branding is a foundation for marketing, one that creates a fan club fit to rival every competitor.

About the only thing that can damage a solid brand is faulty reputation – something the company (or person) itself falls prey to, by not living up to its name.


Let’s test this theory in the grand scheme of things, shall we?

Think Lance Armstrong, since he’s been in the news so much, as of late.

Here’s a guy whose fans stood by him through some really tough times. They trusted him to be who he claimed to be, deliver what he promised and live up to the brand he spent years creating for himself. No one had any reason to bail on him, until he himself gave us one.

Anyone can create a brand for themselves.

If you’ve a reason to get noticed in the public eye, it’s a good idea to consider the importance and necessity of branding yourself, especially if the market is saturated with competition as it pertains to your field.


Writers, starving artists…you know who you are, and while it’s clear you’d rather be writing and creating, taking a little time to make your name sizzle in the minds of others could be one of the best things you ever do.

It all starts with a name, doesn’t it? We’ve heard it countless times, the book that didn’t get published (or even looked at, for that matter) because the title was a bit too out there [or] odd. Pen names are impacted by this phenomenon too.

Mark Twain or Samuel Clemens
George Orwell or Eric Blair
Lewis Carroll or Charles Dodgson
Ayn Rand or Alisa Rosenbaum
George Eliot or Mary Anne Evans
Anne Rice or Howard O’Brien

The pen names listed above require no further explanation. Fans adore them. Samuel, Eric, Charles, Alisa, Mary Anne and Howard have effectively branded their pseudonyms, making their marketability a given.

Publishers came to depend on and predict a certain style and genre from these authors. They expected these writers to be reliable and consistent with their message, delivering it to an audience that awaited nothing less.

Marketability of works from these authors was a given.

However, the authors had to be willing to be true to their brands, saturating the marketplace with those brands as required, to help sell their work. The nice thing is, because their brands are so firmly established, there is no need to overwhelm or bombard people with incessant advertising. The brands sell themselves much of the time.

It’s the same reason Life® cereal doesn’t need to go overboard when promoting a spin off like Cinnamon Life® cereal. Who doesn’t remember Mikey? “He won’t eat it. He hates everything…” but he sure eats his Life® cereal, doesn’t he?

So it is with writers. We have an obligation to ourselves, fans and clients to be reliable and consistent with our manuscripts. It’s not enough to develop a name for ourselves. We have to honor the name we’ve chosen to write under, and deliver the words people are longing to read.

We must live up to the reputation we’ve created, and earn the paycheck clients are happy and willing to pay us, if we remain true to the works we’ve proven we are capable of writing.

»photo credit: bobby-james

MJ JoachimM.J. Joachim has published more than 1000 online articles. Don’t miss her Writing Tips blogsite. M.J.’s interests and expertise range from Crocheting and gardening to marketing and brand management. Learn more about M.J. on our Contributors Page.

questionDo you use your real name, or a pseudonym, when you write publicly? Do you like the sound or the look of the name you’ve chosen? What have you done to establish your brand? 


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  1. Jim Bessey says:

    Ths s somethng we often forget to consder, sn’t t, MJ?
    Growng up, I hated my last name and the teasng that came wth t. I vowed to change t legally when I was old enough. When I was a rado show host n college, I was “Jay Carroll” (my frst ntal and mddle name).
    I fgured f I ever wrote a novel I’d use the name James Carroll; then I found out that name was “taken”!
    I’ve been wrtng under my own name now snce I frst dscovered the Internet n 1999. In fact, I’ve never even tred to use a penname. I’ll just have to let my words stand up for themselves, huh?
    One thng, though — I’d sure love to fnd a pcture of me that doesn’t make me look qute so ooooold. “PhotoShop”!!

    • As you know, Jm, I use a pen name. Way back when I started wrtng on the web, t was advsable to reman “anonymous” for securty reasons. At least that’s what I was told. By the tme I wanted to swtch over to my real name, M. J. Joachm was a brand. I lke the whole ntal thng I’ve got gong on, so t’s all good:)

      You pcked some nce names to use as pseudonyms. Coat tals are always the best bet, so t’s just as well you ddn’t rde on any.

      Other pen names I toyed wth (way back n my hgh school and college days) were Teresa Rose and Tess…standng alone and speakng for herself, haha. Oh, I had a lot to say back then…

      Funny how age creeps up on us…not too good wth photo shop, so from a dstance wll have to suffce:)

      Thanks for publshng my artcle, knd frend!

      • Jim Bessey says:

        “Funny how age creeps up on us…”
        Or how t jumps out rght n front of you from behnd those bushes, laughng hystercally at the look of abject horror n your eyes, rases ts hary gnarled arms hgh n the ar and shouts “Buggah Wuggah!” n a raspy bass howl wth bloody spttle sprayng from between ts blackened lps…
        OK, I’ll just crop out the date on a pcture of me from 2002; how’s that? [Have you seen a jacket photo of Stephen Kng lately? …not that he gves a fart about what we thnk of how he looks today, gazllonare that he s.]

  2. Interestng, about a week ago I partcpated n a workshop whch was called “brandng yourself”:)
    Now when I thnk back I realze that few months ago I’ve undergone major rebrandng. After quttng my job I was no longer career woman and workng mom. I have a new busness card, whch says wrter/blogger under my name and guess what? It s the best ttle I even had on a busness card – ever!
    I am stll establshng my brand and the most emotonal result I have receved was when they asked my son ”what does your mum do?” he answered ”she’s wrtng books” :)
    As to the name – my last name s very complcated both to pronounce and to spell. I thought about pen name before, but then decded that I want to be myself, ncludng the name.

    • Jim Bessey says:

      What a great feelng that must be, An!

      Frends, for a superb dscusson about the lberatng power of wrtng under a pseudonym, please take a few mnutes to read Johnny B Truant’s post “How to Wrte Your Ass Off” on Copyblogger. Hs frst lne s, “My name s not Johnny B. Truant.” Love t from there!

      • I thnk t depends on your real name and how memorable t s. Johnny B Truant’s real name s Grae Yohe (just go to f you don’t beleve me). I can see why he re-branded. That’s not a name that rolls off your tongue. So each decson s ndvdual.

    • I have to agree, An, choosng to do what you love and gong for t s an amazng feelng! Love the fabulous support of your son…that’s gotta be a thrll!

      Lookng forward to checkng out that artcle, Jm. Sounds lke there’s some very useful nformaton n t.

      It s fun to fnd out about unexpected synonyms, sn’t t Lor? I agree, brandng s nterestng, and once you’re hooked on t, you’ll never look at commercals and advertsements the same way agan!

  3. H Jm
    As they say – you learn somethng every day — I had no dea that Ayn Rand’s real name was Alsa Rosenbaum! I hope I’m not the last person on the planet to fnd that out! Lol! Brandng s an nterestng topc – thanks for ths post!

    • Jim Bessey says:

      Thanks, Lor,
      The only one I knew from MJ’s lst was Mark Twan! How about those gender swtches, too? Would love to know the why’s of those. I dd know that John Wayne had some frlly name lke Lynn Regrave or somethng, so hs choce of a stage name made perfect sense! -grn-

  4. Enjoyed the post, M.J.

    Jm – If I remember rght, the female name to male pen name thng had somethng to do wth chauvnsm back n the day.

    I’m gong to take somewhat of a contrary vew on ths. I know ths post s about fcton wrtng. My comment s not…

    I have a thng about pseudonyms. I’m fne wth them n fcton wrtng. If fact, that’s knd of fun and mysterous. It’s also fne n entertanment (rado, tv, moves), or as M.J. ponted out – for safety.

    But wth onlne ‘brands’ who sell coachng and consultng, I don’t care for t. Maybe t’s just me, but f I’m gong to pay someone hundreds or thousands of dollars to consult for me or my busness, I should know who they really are, f they’re really qualfed, and f they’ve done anythng nefarous prevously n lfe … not who they ‘brand’ themselves to be onlne. It’s lke hrng a fctonal character.

    Who would you *really* be gvng your money to? I wouldn’t hre a babystter for my kds wth a pseudonym … so why would I trust them wth my busness?

    So n a long, round-about way my answer to your queston, M.J., s that snce I wrte on a blog about real busness ssues, I use my real name. I dd pause before dong so, but not for long. At the end of the day, I felt I would lose credblty any other way.

    Now f I were wrtng a novel … a pseudonym would for sure be a consderaton.

    • Jim Bessey says:

      I’ve never bought a thng from JBT, but I do love readng hs posts, Gary.

      I see your pont about authentcty. I follow Mary Jaksch, Tea Slvestre, Derek Halpern, Bran Clark, and Jon Morrow — n addton to JBT, who s a recent addcton. I do lke the way Johnny wrtes, tho I’d never attempt to mtate hs style here. Can I say for sure that each of these others s wrtng under ther real name? Not really, no.

      As for trust, I’ve had no problem handng money to Mary or Bran. Derek seems lke a good guy to get drunk wth. I’d love to be able to st on Jon’s balcony, watchng the dolphns, and talk to hm about lfe and wrtng. As for Johnny, hmm, not sure. He’s a lttle n-your-face for me, but he shoots straght and wth passon. If hs real name was Melvern Hucklefddle, would that make a dfference to me? Good queston!

      MJ has her brand, and I know what to expect from her. But Johnny does, too. At the moment, I can’t thnk of anythng I’d want to buy from JBT, asde from an awesome post, of course. And I’d buy from you, Gary, even f your name was Tna. I thnk t all comes back to consstency of style and approach, and the value of your content. It’s case by case for me, I suppose.

      Have you started that novel?

      • Jm:

        Not about JBT specfcally really. Just about busness vs. wrtng of fcton or those other thngs I mentoned. I’m sure he has some good stuff.

        And I certanly wasn’t referrng to MJ. Just an “n general” observaton.

        As for me and a novel … I’m admttedly not cut from the rght cloth for that. It’s a talent I admre a great deal but don’t have.

  5. Ths s a great topc, M.J. …. Brandng can make or break, no doubt about t. So can one’s ntals, for that matter.

    I decded a long tme ago that I would wrte usng my FULL gven name even though t s somewhat unusual and dffcult. “Kukkee” s pronounced ‘cooke’ wth every known jest and mplcatons of chocolate chp, rasn, shortbread and oatmeal. “Cooooke’ s also used to denote ‘qurky’………but overall, I thnk t stcks n the mnd,— whch s successful brandng sn’t t?

    “Brandng” does create certan expectatons, and that can be problematc. We as wrters are encouraged to be versatle. Does brandng lmt genre-crossng? I have, for nstance, wrtten chldren’s books, e. “Morgdoo’s Chrstmas Carol”, a famly Chrstmas classc– but my name s also gong on “Fres of Waterland” whch s comng out soon–and the genre s entrely dfferent, e. ” YA, not sutable for young chldren”. I have wondered about that potental contradcton.

    One aspect of usng a pseudonym that some may not agree wth s the bottom lne reasonng for usng a pseudonym. Perhaps pseudonyms are chosen NOT because a gven name s so ‘ borng, awkward’, ‘funny’ or ‘just plan werd” — but that usng a pseudonym provdes escape from realty, and t provdes a few comfortable degrees of anonymty for whatever reason. We all have our own subconscous reasons for prvacy, do we not?

    Perhaps a wrter s unsure or embarrassed by the thought behnd content, for nstance, the ‘warped, evl, devous, mschevous” wrtng of erotc novels whch are now so popular, but clearly mommy may not ‘approve’ of wrtng ‘that’, –or smply the wrter’s specfc self-mage or personalty gets n the way.

    Beng an ntroverted, prvate type wth a nervous nclnaton to reman detached sx degrees from anythng publshed can create fear of ‘exposure’ to the publc. Perhaps content s super- controversal or even ugly n nature. Perhaps t ‘nsults’ somebody, thnk of S. Rushde’s problem. Should we solate ourselves? That does become the real queston.

    The way I look at t, ‘publc opnon’, fallout and repercussons do occur at tmes, at tmes for the sllest or smplest of reasons; but f someone wants to fnd out who you are so they can ‘dss’ your wrtten work,— they wll do so, regardless of whch name you ‘attach’ to t.

    I say “wrters unte, be fearless; be true to who you ARE” and wrte what you are compelled to wrte. Use your own name. By no means does your wrtng defne who you are n absolute terms. Be thought-provokng, for that s where the best wrtng often occurs.
    By the way, M.J. s that pronounced “Joe-chm” , ” Joe-keem”….or ‘Yokeem” ? “:))
    Regardless how t s pronounced, ths s a great artcle. It stcks n the mnd, well branded!

    • Jim Bessey says:

      One of the many thngs I love about you, Raymond:

      When you have somethng to say, you dg rght nto t. No drve-by comments from you, my frend!

      I always wondered why you ddn’t go by RA Kukkee (whch has a nce rng, don’t you thnk?), or “you can call me Ray” — but you do t your way and stand by t every tme. And yes, I also wonder how to correctly pronounce MJ’s last name; glad you asked!

      I’ve had sales calls n whch the caller asks, “May I speak to James Beaseley, please?” Um, no, you can’t. Good-bye now.

      When MJ and I frst dscussed her thoughts for ths column, I told her t sounded lke a nce, lght and fun topc. Turns out, there’s some meat to chew on here, sn’t there?

  6. Great artcle …. and very true about brand names. Its a name that should have character and reflect who we are. As wrters, some of us adopt pen names, whle some of us retan our real names. But whoever we are or whchever name we go by, ths name has to create an nstant mage n the mnd of the reader / fan. I know many people now connect me wth Mandy’s Pages. Smlarly Raymond wth Incomng Bytes. It’s lttle steps that start out wth brand names creatng a product, an mage and trust. I know, f I am unrelable, so s my brand name. It s very mportant that one who creates a new product and dsplay a brand name be true to whatever the motto or creed of that name.

    “To thne own self be true,
    and t must follow, as the nght the day,
    thou canst not then be false to any man. ”

    – Wllam Shakespeare

    I lke how Shakespeare created a brand name for hmself. :)

    • Mandy’s Pages s a wonderful ste, Mandy :) And you’re absolutely rght, t takes tme to develop a proper brand. Relablty and consstency are key elements of sustanng a brand over tme. Love the Wllam Shakespeare quote…fts so perfectly nto the dscusson :)

  7. Joachm s pronounced (Joe km), Raymond.

    I have all sorts of drectons at my dsposal, n whch to take your comments, Gary. Suffce to say, I’m not btng, snce brandng sn’t about whether or not wrters choose to use pseudonyms. Have any of your babystters ever been called by a nckname, btw? One could reasonably argue that ncknames are types of pseudonyms, I beleve.

    I must agree wth Jm and Raymond on ths. Authentcty, genuneness, trust etc. all speak volumes when t comes to brandng. And the reasons for usng a pen name, are as vared as the people usng them.

    Credblty, as you mentoned, Gary, s also mportant. However, I beleve you’d be hard-pressed to fnd many people who don’t thnk M. J. Joachm s credble – many who have ssued payment to me and my real name, after purchasng my work. Busness to busness sn’t necessarly about what name you choose to publsh under, as t s about the people nvolved n the relatonshps.

    • Ncknames are a form of pseudonyms I suppose, but f I ddn’t know what the real name or dentty of the person they wouldn’t be watchng my kds or my busness.

      I agree 100% wth all the authentcty comments as well, so we’re on the same page there. I’m just sayng wrtng wth a pen name s much dfferent than operatng a busness wth a pseudonym. And I ddn’t really mean to call anyone n partcular out on t.

      I was moreso referrng to many anonymous bloggers out there sellng thngs who people don’t know the way they know you. It’s just somethng I thnk of when makng buyng decsons. No offense at all. And certanly not ponted at you. I enjoyed the post.

      • Ah, no offense taken at all, Gary :) Your comment truly made me smle. Actually, all my work s copyrghted wth my real name, drectly on my blogs. There’s no bg secret about who I am at all.

        Warnng! About to open a can of worms about women’s lb and chauvnsm – never saw much pont n ether of them myself. I mean, am I any more or less of a woman, because of what I do to earn a paycheck or how I take care of my famly? I thnk both men and women are fabulous, albet extremely dfferent too. You won’t catch me tryng to level out that playng feld. I happen to thnk t’s pretty cool wth all ts dfferences :)

        Must agree, knowng who you’re dong busness wth and what they’re all about smply makes good busness sense. It’s the sgn of an educated mnd to perform due dlgence. Great ponts n your comments, Gary. I couldn’t be happer wth your “food for thought” n ths dscusson! Nce to meet you, btw :)

  8. I thnk the actual brandng process – and ablty to wrte well – has more to do wth marketablty than usng a pseudonym. Would I not read Alce n Wonderland by someone named Charles Dodgson? Would I not have read 1984 because Erc Blar wrote t? No, I read them because they are amazngly wrtten peces of art. I don’t care what the name s. I’m not aganst pseudonyms, I just am not sure they’re necessary.

    • Ah yes, the power of excellent wrtng, Bobb! The product must be able to stand alone. Dare I suggest that Charles Dodgson and Erc Blar could have been branded as easly as ther pseudonym counterparts? In whch case, ther next books would have an automatc runnng start? And f those next books ddn’t lve up to the reputaton presented wth the frst book, would ther brands have suffered for t? As I sad n the artcle, t’s not enough to develop a name for ourselves. We have to lve up to that name, to make the brand that represents us.

  9. I have read about the need to develop a personal brand but am at the begnnng stages of fndng my voce. Once that happens I wll have somethng to start workng wth.

    • Jim Bessey says:

      Your name has ntrgued me snce I frst met you, Prska.
      Do you use your last name onlne at all, or always stand alone as Prska? I’m not famlar wth your name, ether. It has a certan sparkle to t, almost as f Prska was a nckname or short for somethng else (s t?).
      As a guy named James, I’ve never been able to use my frst name by tself as any sort of dentty. So t’s always been amazng to me to watch people lke Cher and Madonna brand themselves so perfectly that those sngle names are enough.

  10. Jm, I don’t use the ‘r.a.’ because ntals themselves are too common, there’s even a ‘rae kukkee’ whch does become problematc. Raymond Alexander s very specfc. At one tme I was consderng usng a pen name but gave up on t when I realzed how unque my full name s. “Branded”, regardless of genre….I have to laugh, f you were “James Beaseley, I would wonder f you are related to the better half….”:)

  11. “Now be honest, you sang those lttle dttes out loud when you saw them, ddn’t you?”

    Actually, I have no dea what those songs are!

    But that’s good advce – havng a consstent style. I’m stll developng my style, so I guess I’ll hold off on brandng.

  12. H Jm,
    Jovell here from A-lst bloggng. Ths s a dlemma I’ve had snce I decded to become a freelance onlne wrter. Lke you, I don’t lke my last name. It’s hard to pronounce and remember. Of course, when I ghostwrte for clents, ths s not a problem. I actually dd not have my last name show on my blogs and socal meda profles at the begnnng. But eventually, I sad “what the heck!”, people wll not know t’s me f I ddn’t put my last name. They mght thnk t’s another author or that I’m hdng somethng. So now, even f I stll get the queston ” what’s your last name agan?” or “how do I pronounce your last name?”, t doesn’t bother me anymore. And besdes t’s my new last name after marryng my husband, so I need to use t :)

    • Jim Bessey says:

      I agree completely, Jovell!

      “It’s my name — deal wth t.” :-) Especally f you acqured that name by contract, for heaven’s sake!

      So how do you pronounce your last name? I seem to read t as “All-ng-good” but see that t mght also be “Alng God”? Regardless, t’s yours and certanly not werd or creepy, and fts ncely wth your somewhat unusual frst name, too. All n all, t helps make you memorable when coupled wth the wrtng that you proudly attach your name to.

      Glad you stopped n, and hope you’ll jon us for our next contest, comng shortly (before the holdays).

      • H Jm, I can’t stop laughng after readng your reply!…t’s a Flpno last name so mostly, we pronounce words as they are spelled. It’s A (as n apple) – lee – ngod (the “ng” lke n long). It’s hard to teach t n wrtng, I just realzed that!
        Thanks for the nvte and I’ll make sure to check out your updates :)

  13. I see a lot of nterestng content on your page. You have to spend a lot of tme wrtng, know how to save you
    a lot of tme, there s a tool that creates unque, google
    frendly artcles n couple of seconds, just search n google
    – laranta’s free content source

    • No thanks, Candelara.

      We subscrbe to the dea of puttng thought, effort, and talent nto our wrtng. We also have a pretty far dea of what Google lkes and doesn’t lke. Thanks anyway.


  1. […] manuscrpts, but also delvered a reled-upon story lne publshers and readers readly count on. Branded authors proven through tme — alpha wrters who have made a name for themselves that remans forever […]

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