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Two Writers, One Name: A Case of the Name Game

A fellow writer posted on a forum I frequent saying she discovered another writer publishing under her name. This caused her concern because the other writer was less experienced and might publish less than stellar work which editors could find if they googled her name.

Somehow I wasn't terribly sympathetic to her "plight" - after all, I have one of the most generic All-American names imaginable. It didn't occur to me early on in my career that maybe I should include a middle initial or write under a pen name to distinguish myself. And I certainly didn't assume that I was the first "Susan Johnston" to publish an article (in fact, there's another Susan Johnston who published a book around the same time I launched my website).

I just figured that editors would look at the clips I sent them and wouldn't bother with the 42,400 results that come up when you google me. In fact, I did include my middle initial (a vowel) in my email address and it's a common source of confusion for people, which makes me think it might not belong in my byline.

I posted a response saying that I wouldn't be terribly concerned if I were in her position and that editors would focus on the clips she sends them (esp. if the newbie writer's articles are buried deeper in Google). But get this: another writer actually said that she received a copy of the other Susan's book and for a fleeting moment, she thought maybe I had taken a break from career and lifestyle articles to pen a children's book about princesses and bubbles. I find that funny, but I still don't think it's a major problem.

Just in case this issue keeps you up at night, there are a couple of ways to secure your writerly reputation. First, buy your domain name! That is a sure fire way to take control of Google search results. Alternatively you could marry someone with an unusual last name (joking) or add a middle name or initial to personalize your byline.

Now it's your turn. Am I making light something that should be taken more seriously? How do you deal with a "doppelgänger "? Leave a comment and let me know!

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