Wednesday, October 31, 2018

So, my name is James Patterson

As you can see, I share a name with a VERY famous fiction author. There's literally not a week that goes by without someone making a crack about my name or asking when my next book is coming out. I counted last week while on vacation. It happened four times in six days.

This is all fun and games until I actually get around to querying.

So, questions:

1) Should I bring it up "the name issue" at the end of my queries? I'm inclined to think an agent isn't going to care about it at this point, but it also seems like an elephant in the room.

2) Will this "name issue" in any way be a hindrance or a hassle or a turn-off to agents at any point?

3) Fast forwarding into the future, if you were my agent, what direction would you give me about how to tackle the "name issue"? Should I be planning on using a pen-name? How would that affect marketing, etc?

I know, I know, I'm getting ahead of myself. But it's hard enough trying to get my query nailed down without this insecurity in the back of my mind.

Thanks for listening,
Not That James Patterson

This is the same problem that J. Robert Lennon had. His friends call him John.

You can see he solved it by using his first initial and middle name instead.

This is absolutely not something to worry about. In fact, it's something to have fun with. I know writers who keep tabs on ALL the people who share their name. It's a dedicated page on the their website.

In fact, you can offer to blurb books (in jest of course!)
Or offer to be the other James Patterson's stand-in cause he's so busy cashing royalty checks.

As with many kinds of things you think of as problems when you first see them, if you think creatively, you can make it a plus not a minus.


Amy Johnson said...

This gave me an idea for my website, which I'm working on so I can "be visible." There are quite a few Amy Johnsons out there. Thanks, Janet.

Best wishes for successful querying, James. (Wow, I just wrote something to James Patterson in the comments section of Janet's blog! Maybe he'll write me back! Sorry.)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

WOW, to think that James Patterson actually is a 'reider' here on the reef, and respects our Queen enough to seek her guidance, well, I know I'm in the 'write' place.

Good luck J.P., Jimmy P. and/or Mr. Patterson.

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

My name isn't exactly common. My first name is spelled with a Y instead of the more usual O. I have a married last name which is very common in Sweden but has an H tacked onto the end of it (the story is great grandfather added it so the family could be found in the phone book when phones came to the country).
Last time I googled myself I was the only Sharyn M. Ekbergh in the country. Yippee!
And then...yup. There is a Sharyn M. Ekberg in my home state who also recently visited my home town. I don't live there currently but still, it is disconcerting to say the least.
She is 17 years younger so at least there's that if we are confused.
If I happen to become a best selling author I'll pay her to do my speaking engagements! Or school visits.
My maiden name makes me look like I'm related to a famous New England author so there's that for backup.

PAH said...

@Amy Johnson

Me and my brother co-directed an indie feature with Amy Jo Johnson a few years back. She's a pleasant lady!

Good luck. :P

PAH said...

Erm. My brother and I...

I'm a writer!

Amy Johnson said...

Thanks, PAH. Sounds like a cool project. I remember her from Power Rangers! I mean, I remember her from Flashpoint.

Colin Smith said...

Opie: Definitely something not to worry about at this point. I'm sure agents will figure you're not THE James Patterson. After all, why would he be querying? Though this could be a fun page for the blog. Maybe include it in your "About" page. "I Am NOT These James Pattersons" There are, of course, more Colin Smiths than I thought possible. There are two who work for the same company as I do. I know because I've received their email and meeting invitations! That's why I include my middle initial. Even then I've had people confuse me for some other Colin Smith. I guess that's one way to meet people... :)

Elissa M said...

My maiden name isn't common, but my married name is. I use my middle initial to differentiate myself, but I'm flexible. When the time comes, I'm willing to do whatever looks like it will sell more books. (Married name, maiden name, both together--I don't care.)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I don't see the problem. Just have your pen name BE "Not THAT James Patterson" - that works. Really, picture Title of Your Book BY Not THAT James Patterson.

Best of luck.

K OCD said...

If we think creatively?

Man, I knew I wasn't creative. Because I do NOT have a middle name (and my last name is quite common). I don't know how many people I know who have no middle name. Maybe zero.

I am just Katja. Nothing else, no other initials possible, no creativity.

Each time I have to fill out a form for registration or so (oh, and Fiancé and I have moved around A LOT!), I enviously peek at how HE fills in the middle name field.

So why did I not get this damned middle name?
Louise or so. But no, I'm as flat and boring as a piece of glass. Plain Katja, I'm afraid.

Unless Reider Lennon comes along and makes it look pretty :) :) ... Thank you, friend!

Beth Carpenter said...

Katja, my father had no name, just initials--R.C. I don't know what his parents were thinking.

Lennon Faris said...

Sounds like a great opportunity for some one-sentence humor in the bio section. James, the ideas are as bountiful as your published books. Sorry. I can see how tempting that is.

K OCD - there is something refreshing about no middle name. I have two middle names and that is really a bit much sometimes. And yes, you know how colorful and lovely "Katja" is to my synesthetic mind! Nothing plain about it.

Kate Larkindale said...

Katja, I don't have a middle name either. Neither does my mother. Both of us because we have long surnames and relatively long first names that never fitted on forms without a middle name, let alone with. Smart parents, I think...

Craig F said...

There are a dozen, maybe two, suckers who share my name in this country. Maybe someday I can make it famous.

OP: Just use your initials. People might think it is an offshoot of Jimmy-boy, but so-what? Think of the place on the shelf where your books will sit. There will be a lot of traffic and attention thrown that way.

Take advantage of it. Most writers need every break they can get a hand on.

K OCD said...

I'm just walking through a supermarket laughing - Beth, poor Dad!
Did he give you lots of middle names to make up for it?

Yes, Lennon, I have never particularly liked my name but YOU have made it so colourful :).

Kate, really? No middle name either. YES, we are rare, at least (in my experience). Makes us special, no!?

Oh, and the supermarket... As a currently frustrated writer, I'm looking for consolation. Like sweets and English desserts. Did you know that pudding isn't pudding here? It's just like when my neighbour recently asked me "Does it smell like a sower (sewer, who knows) in your flat?" and I had to ask for the spelling and still no clue what he was talking about.

Yeah, just one name, please!

Colin Smith said...

Katja: Do what J.K. Rowling did--make one up! I think she used her grandmother's name for a middle initial/name. If you think you really need one.

And yes, in the UK if someone asks if you'd like "pudding" they mean dessert. But not everything that's called "pudding" is a dessert. Yorkshire Pudding and Black Pudding are not at all sweet. :)

Amy Johnson said...

Whoa--had to do some thinking after finding out pudding can mean dessert. Pink Floyd's "How can you have any pudding if you don't eat yer meat?" came to mind. But Colin eats his daughter's cakes, and he's a vegetarian. Confusion. Ah, yes, but he's also a homeschooler, so he doesn't have to follow school rules. Whew, all is well. (I'm a fellow vegetarian/homeschooler/dessert eater. Glad that all worked out.)

K OCD said...

Yes, Colin, sounds like a cool idea - making up a middle name.
I won't, though. I don't need one, am okay with Plain Katja.

I may call it Accessible Katja.
Yesterday, I read what an agent here in the UK is looking for and it's accessible fiction. Well, just to be sure, I googled it. It's equated with "commercial" but also means "lowest a commons denominator writing". Or bad writing, ha ha.

Bingo! That could be my dream agent, I thought, since I'm fighting with the English language regularly, don't get anywhere near other writers' stuff etc.
So please guys, refrain from querying MY agent, you won't be a fit like me (*laughs out so loud*).

But then she confused me. I quote: "She will only consider submissions with material attached, please do not send query letters."
(*scratches head*)

I didn't make contact with her. Too inaccessible.

The name thing here in England is really bizarre. They cut everyone's short. Even if you've got only 5 letters (and no middle name - it's a robbery!).
I have NEVER introduced myself as "Kat". But, yep, that's what they do.
I remember how terrified I was, at 10 years old, when I had my first English lesson at school. I knew I would get an English name from the teacher. "Katherine," she said, demonstrating it with her tongue between her teeth, accidently spitting on my desk.

Oh, you know, the "th" for ze Germans... I knew it was coming, all kids were excited: "In English, we will have to stick our tongues out. It's very sexy." But I didn't want anything to do with sexy! Not at ten!

But my teacher gave me the horrifying name "Katherine" (apologies to all Katherines here).
I got used to th now, but a Matthew here would be Matt, for example.

K OCD said...

Oh, and the Yorkshire pudding should be renamed Yorkshire dough, or Yorkshire crust if it's a bad one (like the one they gave me recently).

Black pudding, yeah looks more like a pudding, but I won't try it!

Colin Smith said...

Katja: The British talent for abbreviating names is quite remarkable. Charles becomes Chas. Derek, Del. Margaret => Peggy => Peg. I'm sure in some future dystopia, everyone in the UK will be known by a single letter. Am I right, K? ;)

K OCD said...

So true, C!

Accessible K.

MA Hudson said...

K OCD - no middle name here either. (MA is for Mary Ann) And because I never felt the absence, I didn't give a middle name to any of my three kids. Never been a problem.

AJ Blythe said...

Katja, my cousin doesn't have a middle name and when she was a teen decided she wanted one so made one up. She then insisted we all call her by her first and second names when talking to her.

John Davis Frain said...

Hey OP,

Do what all the James Pattersons are doing these days--be a co-author. Even better, you can co-author a book with ... wait for it ... James Patterson.

Seeing Double.

It's Fight Club meets Prince of Thieves, where two insomniac James Pattersons both fall in love with the same bank manager. Only one of them is around to write the sequel--the bank manager.

Peter Taylor said...

My name is the same as that of several other authors, too. The most famous one is dead, but I'm still alive. There's one who writes business books who is not me, and another who... When my first book was contracted (on calligraphy) the publisher was already editing the recipe book of yet another Peter Taylor. We regularly received each other's mail. I and my agent try to insist that publishers use my middle initial for titles, but sometimes we fail, especially for spin-off books and products. And in advertising and reviews the initial often gets omitted. Sigh! Never mind.