Social Reading Sites & Name Twins

Name twins. Such a problem for authors.

Since you can’t reserve or trademark your name, there’s a chance — a good chance, if your name isn’t an odd one — that another person out there shares your name and your literary ambitions. Maybe more than one. Not to mention the possibility that someone with your name isn’t a fiction writer but does publish books: scholarly treatises on some obscure point of economic history, say, or computer programming manuals.

Two problems: 1) you want/need to grab things like URLs and user/profile names before the other party does, and 2) search algorithms can’t tell the difference.

Now, the first one isn’t the worst of problems. If you don’t end up getting “yourname.com”, you can always go with “yournamewriter.com” or something to that effect. My Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/WriterKella because that was the best available option by the time I went to create it, but… it’s okay. WriterKella is okay, maybe even good. It doesn’t match my Twitter, but I can live with that.

The second problem can be… more of a problem. For instance, the editor of Stamps, Vamps & Tramps is an award-winning author with stories in literary magazines like Joyland and Nimrod, but she shares a name with someone who writes western romances and the author of an art history textbook (as well as at least two fan fiction writers on Wattpad, who could venture into Amazon territory at any time).

Not that there’s anything wrong with any genre, but if you’ve worked hard to build up a readership and reputation in your genre and style, you don’t want your readers confused — and what if that person who shares your name isn’t a good writer, or has a sloppy publisher and terrible cover designer, or has made enemies on Goodreads, or stands for values or politics you abhor?

This is why I claim my profile across all the social reading sites as soon as I can, regardless of whether I like them or want to use them or think they have value.

Amazon is the easiest one to take care of (I blogged about it back when I set my author page up). Once you’ve set up your page and claimed your books, it’s clear which ones are yours, and you can easily direct readers to your Amazon page to see them. Plus, if readers can easily see that Mary Smith #1 has claimed a series of gritty sci-fi adventures while Mary Smith #2 writes sweet Christian romances and inspirational/devotional short stories (with author photos and bios that show the Marys are two completely different people), there’s no confusion.

Goodreads is probably the most important one after Amazon because so many people use it. It’s super easy (there’s a link on unclaimed author pages saying “Is this you?”) and you usually get your approved status and welcome email within a couple of hours. The profile set-up is very straightforward and you can just walk through it as easily as the Amazon one. It lets you display all the usual information and, as with Amazon, you can “claim” your books.

LibraryThing is a bit trickier to use, because it’s more like a library database; there’s a learning curve. You can ask to be a “LibraryThing Author” but it takes a while for the request to be approved (in fact, at first I thought I was being ignored because I just have one story in one anthology, but it’s apparently just slow due to a huge backlog). Even while you’re waiting for LT Author status, though, you can still add an author photo and edit biographical details — actually, you can do this for anyone, not just yourself (some publishers will even take care of this for their authors). Most importantly, if you share a name with some other author(s), LibraryThing lets you split off your works from those of your name twins.

Shelfari seems to be down or slow a lot these days, and I find its mechanics a bit frustrating, but I still think it’s worth checking on your book(s) and author profile there. I believe there’s a way to claim “Shelfari Author” status, but as far as I can tell, there’s no real reason to do so since you can edit everything for your author profile anyway without officially claiming it as a Shelfari user. As with LibraryThing, there’s the ability to combine or split author profiles if you’ve somehow ended up with two or you have a name twin.

Booklikes appears to be mostly a blogging platform for readers and reviewers, but it does have author profiles so it’s worth registering to add the usual photo, bio, website link, etc. Unfortunately, at the moment I don’t see a way to deal with name twins on the site, but perhaps an author in that situation could make a report and have it rectified.

Do you have a name twin in the books-and-publishing world? What have you done to differentiate yourself and make sure your readers aren’t confused?

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