A choice of names

I always hoped and expected a literary agent would be able to help me choose a name to publish under. Should I have a pseudonym? Initials? My full name? I feel like women’s names are loaded and articles about the apparent bias towards books written by female authors don’t make it any easier to know what to do. Now that I have decided to self-publish, however, choosing a name is something that I have to do without professional help.

I get a little sad every time a woman I know changes her name when she gets married. At the same time, I know that the name we grow up with is usually only the name of one parent’s family, and usually our father’s.

Legally I’m a Gibson, and I love being a Gibson. But technically, historically, even emotionally, I’m just as much a McKinnon. And if I was any other woman I would probably be a Murphy by now.

The easiest thing of course would just be to publish under Alison Gibson. It has its bonuses, the main one being it is easily searchable online. But it just doesn’t feel right. Names are malleable and by choosing one surname it seems to discount the other parts of me, and the other families I’m a part of.

A pseudonym also doesn’t feel right. This is my work, and I want to be proud of that and own it publicly.

So I have chosen Alison Theresa. It may cause confusion being so obviously two first names, and no surname. It’s not like I am Madonna, Kylie or Elvis after all. But it is still my name, still me, and I think it has a nice ring to it.

 

A step towards self-publishing

It occurred to me on the weekend that the answer to a recurring despondency might be self-publishing. Eighteen months ago I finished my first novel. I sent it out with hopeful letters to a handful of literary agents and told myself I wasn’t surprised that only rejections came back. I made changes, I paid for a professional opinion, my wonderful family gave me feedback, I made more changes. I’m happier with it now but times have changed.

I now have what seems to be a grown-up job. Full-time, hectic, at times stressful, at times exciting, it takes up a lot of time (and the almost three-hour daily commute doesn’t help). I still prioritise writing each day but the thought of dedicating that precious time to writing more letters, researching more agents, begging people who are still so unlikely to show any interest makes me sad.

Self-publishing always seemed like giving up. Now, however, it seems like a wonderful way to share work that would otherwise just be staring at me, daring me to make something of it. I’m not sure this novel is actually worthy of publishing, but I think that’s okay too. It’s a practice, like a music student’s evening soiree for friends and family before the real concert. It also means the next novel, the first draft of which has been marinating for a month but is almost ready to be reread, has something to look forward to.

And the best thing? The after-work admin it requires will actually lead somewhere, because it will be in my control!