What has happened to my poor name? It has been replaced with an unfortunate Scrabble hand. I have adopted an initials-based 'writing name,' but why?
The timing is odd as well, because I used my normal name for my first book. A writer's name is his or her best asset in the quest to build a readership, so it is not something that is generally tossed away for a lark. So, why have I done just that?
|A book apparently written by John Higgs|
On a practical level, it's the global Amazon era. When I wrote I Have America Surrounded, 'John Higgs' was a unique writer name, but times change and the amount of authors has increased exponentially. New John Higgs' arrived on the scene, such as the one who writes about Dealing With Danger, and old John Higgs' who are long out of print but still remembered by second hand book dealers have returned to the shelves.
This trend looks like it will only increase. Wrapping yourself in as unique a moniker as possible will become increasingly important. If you're in this for the long game, it will be better to go for it sooner rather than later. Already swinish writers have started adopting names like 'James A Patterson' or 'Nora A Roberts.' It won't be long until writers start trying to brand themselves with tag-like names such as WRiTR or S7EV3N K!nG, and you don't want to be changing your name in that climate.
Then there are the personal reasons. I know a number of people who have adopted new names at some point in their lives (As the blogger Tom Jackson pointed out, almost everyone involved with my publishers The Big Hand appears to be either dead, fictitious or using a made-up name). This can happen for a number of reasons, but it is often linked to a shift in the psyche, from being an individual that looks externally for validation to becoming someone who validates themselves.
For me, however, there was the fact that I had an excess of middle names which I've always ignored or denied. Having extra middle names may be normal in the Bullingdon Club, but I grew up as a free-school-dinners kid in a North Wales comprehensive where extra middle names were an embarrassment which needed to be hidden. My mum told me that she was completely blameless in the matter, and that the excess of names was my dad's idea. My dad died when I was three and hence was never able to explain himself, but apparently his reasoning was that it would look good "if I went into business." Which throws up the horrifying possibility that I could have been raised by someone who thought it would be good for me to "go into business."
Anyway, after decades of spurning this gift of extraneous names I suddenly realised that they are now exactly what I need, a unique and Amazon-proof identity. For the first time, they look great. True, they don't look that great written normally - JMR Higgs - because it starts all big and shouty and then trails off suddenly. It is better in a URL - jmrhiggs.com - but what really matters is what it looks like on a book cover, in capitals in Franchise font. And here, it looks pretty damn good.
So, I guess belated thanks are due. Thanks Dad!