Wednesday, 29 August 2012

What's in a name?

I received an email a couple of weeks ago from someone called Carol McKay. At first, I thought my own email address must have been hit with a virus and I was spamming myself, but then I read the first few lines and realised this was an email from another Carol McKay. Like me, she said, she was a writer. She went on to say she would need to use a pen-name to avoid confusion, since I'd already bagged her real name.

In fact, there's another Carol McKay out there in the publishing world, too. She's the one I hope most sincerely people don't think is me. I mean no disrespect, here, but our writing styles and subject matter are very, very different and, to be honest, I was really quite angry when I realised that Amazon in the USA had allowed her to use the same name as me. Already, one friend has told me he bought her novel at the same time as he bought my short story collection, thinking both were mine.

In the world of big business, no two companies would be allowed to use the same name. Branding is that important. Is it different in publishing? I'm not likely to try to take someone to court for using the same name as me, even though I did get there first!

When I worked with Eileen Munro on her autobiography, I was dimly aware that there was another Eileen Munro out there, with a big reputation. Her writing's in the same field as Eileen's biography, except that she is a highly regarded professional commentator on child abuse, whereas the Eileen I was working with writes about being one of the victims. That Eileen had changed her name to Munro to reflect the mountain she'd had to climb to get free from her past (a munro being the name for a mountain in Scotland higher than 3,000 feet). In my opinion, it was a worthy and inspired name choice. How could I then go on to say that I didn't think she should use it? English language publishing has a global sweep and surely there must be some name overlap?

Anyway - back to 'Carol McKay'. Bear in mind that there may be more than one of us out there on the Amazon shelves. If you're looking for me and you want to be certain, you could look at my author page on Amazon.

Incidentally, the Carol McKay who already has books out has written a novel about the life of a character from the Bible and it's very Christian in tone and outlook. That's not the issue I have with it. In my opinion, it's poorly written fiction, and that could seriously damage my reputation.

I might prefer readers to mix me up with the Carol McKay who emailed me. She writes erotic fiction. Apparently this is one of the boom sales areas for e-book readers. I wouldn't mind a cut of her market share.


  1. I fully understand your frustration as I happen to share the same name as about 10 people on facebook, including a mediocre film star.

    You might consider adding your middle initial to avoid the confusion.

  2. Hello Alice,

    Lovely to hear from you. Thank you for your comment.

    Unfortunately, I don't have a middle name :) Anyway, I've been publishing using this one for about twelve years now so I'll stay with it. I just find it interesting that the internet has opened up the world so much that we now have much more chance of bumping into someone who goes by the same name. And since names in fiction are like brand names, that gives the whole thing an added dimension, don't you think?

    Best wishes,