BRAND MARKETING: Can You Live With Yourself?

By: Kathleen Pickering

Here I am, a mere mortal and I’m morphing. I am undergoing a change in identity without super powers, scientific experimentation or surgery.


Within the next few months I will be assuming a new identity through Brand Marketing. My mug will be little affected. My personality will most certainly root itself in the duo identity. I will change my website easily, but it might take me, Kathleen Pickering, a while to get used to the new moniker I will assume.

Now, as a romance writer for Harlequin, I will remain as my established self: Kathleen Pickering. However, for my paranormal and urban fantasy works that I will most probably self publish, I will morph into someone new, and hopefully, wonderful. This is so exciting!

Think about it. You get a chance to pick a new mystique, a new name. Revamp your whole look, should you choose. Who would you be?

famous authors

My brand specialist and I are tossing around author names for my new, self-publishing identity. Here are a few of the choices:

Erica Miles

Amanda Foster

Kate Mills

Kim Lucas

Nan Leonard

Believe me, the list goes on and on. My advisor insists I should choose a name that not only reflects my genre, but is a name I can live with for a long, long time. I don’t want to do this more than once.

How did I choose my list of names? I used a baby name book. Ran through the girls names I liked and made a list. Then ran through guy names I would use as last names. Then played with them to see what appeared. By the time I finished I had over 30 names. And, believe it or not, I could live with myself under any of those chosen names. Talk about multiple personalities!

One of the many reasons for the pen name? Liability. I have already self-pubbed under my legal name, but I’ve learned that if I plan to publish myself and be professional about it, it’s best if my real self stays at home.

Establishing a Limited Liability Corporation is a good idea, as well. Obtaining a post office box in the name of my LLC and/or my pen name is another step I shall take. These are points all self-pubbed authors should consider. Whether e-pubbing digitally or offering POD hard copies, authors should consider how exposed they want to be. Which brings me to another good reason for this new direction – Security! In this time of online hacking, credit card and banking security terrorism, working under a pen name and LLC help reduce risk to me and my family at little expense.

Now you say, but what about ME?? I like ME. I like my current name and who I am. I don’t want to change. What about my back lists? My works already on Amazon?

Well, ME is still fabulous but vanity is not worth the risk in which I can potentially place myself and my family. So, I humbly suggest that if you choose to take the self-publishing route, consult your attorney on the legalities behind the process and decide what works best for you.

researchAs for back lists, again, it’s personal choice. I made my first self-publishing efforts last year; not that long ago. One by one, I will pull the books already out, announce the changes through my social media channels and re-release the works under my new name.

I have already begun revamping Mythological Sam-The Call. The book is currently written in first person. I’m switching to third person and I love the new personality arising with the story. We’re creating a new cover as well. So, if you own the current version of Mythological Sam-The Call, it will become a collector’s item. Congratulations!

Why make so drastic a change? We all know plenty of successful, well-branded authors using their own names. Since I’m relatively new to the publishing scene, I’m choosing to switch before the momentum increases. The industry is morphing before our eyes. I will, too. 

This takes me to an additional reason for changing my name. I plan to brand a personality around my works that defines me as an Author and a Publisher —and if done properly, this personality will appeal across genres. Appealing to multiple genres is important to me.


Think of the YA’s that adults practically tear from their kids hands to read for themselves. (Twilight or Harry Potter, anyone?) Or the mysteries that appeal to romance readers because of the finely-honed heroes/ heroines. Or best of all, consider the books by authors like Patterson, Childs, Roberts and King. Even if folks haven’t read them, they know who those authors are. Why? Because these authors and their books are well branded. Look at the fabulous Dr. Seuss! Everyone knew his name. (God Rest His Soul.) Why? Branding. I can guarantee you these authors have, and had in Dr. Seuss’s case, no trouble living with themselves.

famous authors3

Bottom line: with this changing industry, I’m changing, as well. I am investing in my long- term future safety and repositioning my self-publishing line of business into a position that will handle my success safely and securely.

I will continue to give my agent and editor first dibs on everything I write. I still honor and seek brick and mortar publishing houses over self-publishing because they have the experience, the marketing savvy and influence in the business. However, if they do not express interest in my manuscripts, my alter-ego will take over and funnel the stories to my self-publishing line of business.

The best part? I have yet to meet this new author I am creating. Not unlike Frankenstein, she is still under my Brand Marketer’s tarp. Bwaaaaahaaaahaaa. I will let you know who she is after the lightning strikes!

writersforneworleans-2010Piks with authors Linda Conrad and Traci Hall (and their alter-egos) at one of Heather Graham’s Writers for New Orleans Workshops.

So, let me ask. If you were to develop an author alter ego who would he/she be, and after creating this being, could you live with yourself?

Happy writing!

xox Piks



24 thoughts on “BRAND MARKETING: Can You Live With Yourself?

  1. Wow, Piks – you go girl.

    I’m amazed at your creativity and your ideas on business operations. It’s a whole new world of things to consider.

    I like Amanda Foster.

    Can’t wait to see what you do to Sam.

    This post is well-timed for me as we finish up our YARWA workshop with Jordan Dane this week.

    My notebook on craft is growing larger as we speak and I’ll put your post in the business section.


  2. Good luck with this,Kathleen. It sounds really exciting. I agree with Joe: short is good.

    I am totally on board with the brand marketing thing. The music industry has been moving toward that for years since the advent of mp3s. Movies of course have practiced it for some time, to the extent that a film is often referred to as a “four cup movie.”
    “GET YOUR SPECIAL TACO BELL TOY STORY CUP!!! COLLECT ALL FOUR!!!” What you are doing sounds much more classy and ultimately more effective.

  3. Hey, Paula! Jordan’s workshop must be amazing. That woman is a force unto herself!

    Glad I can contribute to your arsenal. Sounds like you’re morphing into a kick-butt author as well. YOU go, girl!!

  4. Joe H– THANKS! I’m excited with this re-vamp project.

    And, hey, if they want to make drinking cups out of my story characters, all the power to ’em. However, they’d probably be better suited as beer mugs!

  5. Hi Kathy, good luck with the new personality! Question: Other than the LLC, is there anything else you should do to protect your right to the pen name?
    Edi Ojeda

  6. I agree with Joe. Short. Something that rolls off the tongue & people don’t spell or pronounce wrong. Also make sure the website or blog domain is available, as well as a twitter acct. Creating & maintaining another brand can get costly & definitely time consuming. Think it through, but it sounds like a good plan for what you’re doing, Pikster. Good luck, Whoever.

  7. For romance I vote for Erica Miles. It sounds exotic.

    I write some naughty stuff under a pen name I will never reveal. I went for something lush and exotic.

    Before setting up a business entity, check with a lawyer and your tax preparer and make sure the benefits outweigh the additional costs and tax requirements.

    LLCs and S-corps have a whole separate slew of state and federal filing requirements and the deadlines are all different and you could easily wipe out a year’s worth of royalties with one penalty. Not to mention several hundred dollars a year in fees and additional tax work. ::cough:: I know of what I speak.

    You might see if a PC (professional corporation or your state’s equivalent) might not work better. A lot of doctors and lawyers use this entity.

    What are your liability concerns?

    I think the pen name think is awesome. When I read a certain name, I often have a certain expectation. If the book doesn’t meet that expectation, I may not be happy. However, if I know it is still written by X under the penname Y, then I am getting the writing I trust, but also know it will be different.

    Publishers use different imprints for different style and genre, why shouldn’t writers?


  8. Piks, you are very savvy and smart to create a new you for your self pubbed works. I am a fan, no matter what name you have!

  9. I love your names–they are so cool! But if it were me, I’d probably go with Kate Mills, since it’s closer to your real name, and I might forget who I was otherwise. LOL – but that’s me.
    I love my pen name Patrice, so I’d hate to change that. I might go with my birth name of Bard if I had to have another one for branding. But I don’t, so I won’t!

  10. Depending on the genre, I’d use a gender neutral name, initials before the last name, or even a male pseudonym. Sorry to say, I think there’s still a preference among some readers for male authors. And as long as the name’s a fake, who cares? Of course, the first time you appear on a promo gig, you’d have some ‘splaining to do, lol!

  11. I like Erica Miles and I love this post, Kathleen. I went through this prior to my first novel coming out and wrote a blog post about it. Here’s the link if you have time.
    I chose Jillian Kent for several reasons. The first being I wanted to keep Jill in the mix since that’s my name. I also wanted a short last name and because I write Regency romances, and Kent is in England that worked too, but there was a lot more to it you can read if you have time on that post. Good luck!

  12. Wow! Great comments.

    Terri–I’ll have to tap you for more info. You really know the ropes here.

    Kathryn–I’m going to stay female, much better to present!

    Edi–I’ll check for you.

    Jill–My mother’s maiden name is Kent. Good choice. Nice and strong and very English. I will read your blog as soon as I get back from Sleuthfest. I’m tearing around here trying to get ready!

  13. Interesting – now I have more things to consider:) esp. brand marketing myself (under various names maybe!) I think short and memorable is the way to go for pen names…that being said I’ll probably go for some longwinded name…oh, that is my name already!

  14. How many of us as kids wished we could pick out our name? Now is your chance.

    When you use to wear the red wig, what was your “evil twin” sister’s name?
    Good luck with your new venture.

    Debbie Andrews

  15. Jordan—LOL!! Love it.

    Deb– Christine. She’s is solely reserved for the red wig; not a pen name. LOL!!

    Kathryn– I like the name Kim as well. I’m thinking I want to stay with a Kate because I don’t know if I’d respond to another name not close to mine. I’d hate for someone to think I was rude.

    I so appreciate everyone’s responses. Blogging rocks. xox

  16. A question for Joe Moore and Kathleen:

    If short names have the advantage of being bigger on the cover, is there no reason to choose a longer name? Perhaps to be different or to stand out from all the other Kates, Kims, and Nans?

  17. Daniel, there are a bunch of reasons to go the pen name route. If you’re going to use one, I suggest keeping it short and easy to remember. Also, make sure it’s easy to pronounce. As I mentioned, one of the advantages of a short author name is that it can appear larger on the cover than a longer name. You can stand out from the crowd with a short name just as easily as a long one. The direction you take is a topic you should discuss with your agent and editor to insure you’re taking advantage of all marketing angles.

  18. I’m changing my name to a symbol, like Prince did.

    Maybe an Ankh, or an anthropomorphic male Moose posing with an H&K 417 rifle.

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