This is more complex than it might first appear. It is important to get it right first time, as once the information is out there it’s impossible to backtrack and change it.
- Spelling: Spell your name in your "Display Name" in your Profile as you wish it to appear on the cover (e.g. with or without initials), so the information that goes out on the book through the company and to cover designers/editors and then to the trade is consistent from the start.
- Qualifications: Some authors like their name to be prefaced by “Dr” or “Rev” or “Shaykh,” or followed by MA or PhD. We prefer not to, as these do not appear on international databases, and some may confuse your handle with your first name, or run extra letters into your surname. A number of the world’s bestselling authors, published by major houses, claim on the cover to have qualifications that are bought off the shelf for a few hundred dollars, but it’s not a practice we feel comfortable with. The vast majority of serious authors do not parade their credentials like this, and to do so can have a reverse effect ("only three degrees?!").
- Same name: Check on Amazon if there are authors with the same name as you. It’s not an insuperable problem if there is, it happens a lot, but you may want to tweak your name (using first initial, or adding middle name etc.) to avoid it.
- Be consistent: Changing your name though, however slightly, can lead to other problems. Information is increasingly exchanged between databases. If you have written articles or books under a slightly different name they will not appear under your "collected works."
- Pseudonyms: We much prefer to publish the book under your own name rather than a pseudonym. Sales people tend to want to know who you are, where you’re from, what you’re doing to promote the book, and it’s confusing for everyone if you’re doing that under a different name. The exception of course is if your potential readers are likely to know you by your pseudonym, if you have a professional name that is not your birth one. In general, it is not worth using different names for different markets (e.g. if you want to write business books under one name and fiction for children under another). It is unlikely that readers in one market are going to come across the other books, or that if they did it would lower their opinion of you, and your cumulative sales total will appear correspondingly smaller.
- Single name: Don’t use it. On most databases it will go up as the first name, with no surname, and then people look it up and can’t find it, and say it’s not in print.
- Long names: If you have a long name, it is likely to be truncated in databases and ordering systems. They mostly only allow for 15 characters, starting with the surname.
- Dual or more authorship: Same applies. So for instance, with joint authorship, Nielsen Bookscan will often drop the second author. Or, worse, they may take the second but not the first. Other databases may confuse the forename and surname if given too many options. If the "dropped" author asks for the book by his name in the bookshop, they will say it is not in print. This is annoying, but there is nothing we can do about it. So "Dodds and Hobson" is better than "Timothy Dodds and Zacariah Hobson."
- Diacriticals: Avoid ampersands, hyphens, apostrophes or similar punctuation. If you have a surname like Rupert Cave-Brown a bookseller will type Cavebrown onto the screen and it will not show as being in print.
- Longevity: Once the text and cover are showing as "final" on the production schedule we cannot change your name (unless it is an error on our part). At this stage the book is scheduled and information will be sent out. Later—names do change, whether through divorce, or changing your religion, or whim, but it is not practical to change your name on your book, even if it is a new edition. It would then be on the databases under two different names, with two different ISBN numbers, and people would not know which to buy, or order.