What is in a Name? A Publishing Story

by | September 23, 2017
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Firstly, I have to say for anyone waiting for what was supposed to be my next blog about getting published, things have taken a twist. Things in my life have been complicated and writing an article about getting published has gotten more complicated, this is in part due to not being able to talk to the person who was going to help me with some facts and figure. Sometimes the best plans can get messed up by little things like a full fall list of books to get out.

In the theme of publishing, I thought I would tell a little story that I heard about a year or so ago. I am a little grey on some of the facts, but I think you will understand the gist of the story. The story is not so much about the topic of the book, the tittle of the book or even what the book is about, it is a story about the name the author chose to publish the book under. It is not unusual for a fictional author to use a nom de plume (pen name) but when a non-fiction author uses a name that is not theirs, some may find it unusual. In this story only one person had a problem with the name the author used.

Since I was told this story a year or so ago, I can not remember the names of the people involved so I will just give them some common names. I will call the author Karen Jones, Karen was retired from a high ranking executive position within her company and well known in her industry (I think it was the insurance industry). Because of the stresses and demands of her work, she did not spend much time at home and had been twice divorced. For most of her professional career Karen had gone by the last name of her first husband, which is sometimes common with women who became successful using that last name. Even after her second marriage, she still professionally went by the name Karen Jones. It was not until after her retirement at 52 did she start going by the last name of her third husband.

About 5 or 6 years after her retirement, she was approached to write the official biography of one of her former bosses and mentor. It took Karen just over 2 years of researching and writing the book because of the interviews she had to get from people who know her former mentor (who had passed away before she was asked to write the book), but getting peoples time was the hardest part of getting the interviews. When the book was finally done and the editors had done all their work, it was time for the book to come out. It was decided that she would publish the book under the name Karen Jones and everyone was happy with that choice, including her current husband.

It was not until the book was released that one person had a problem with the name of the author, it was the current wife of her first husband Mike. It was further complicated by the fact that Mike was mentioned in the introduction of the book as her husband being the man who introduced to her the the person that would become her mentor. Mike’s current wife was most upset that when she mentioned who Mike was in the introduction, she referred to how her husband Mike had introduced them and had not the he was now her ex-husband.

While not as extreme as the situation as Karen Jones, I know of several successful women who continue to use the last name of a former spouse, simply because that was the name they built their career around and that name essentially became their professional brand. Just like a company that changes its branding, it is easy for a women to change her last because she is no longer married to the person whose name she legally took after getting married. The problem is how much does it cost a person or a company to re-build a brand image and have everyone who they have dealt with know the new name and forget the old one?

The reason I wanted to share this story and the explanation is because I have an acquaintance who is six months from getting married and her new husband is upset that she will be keeping the last name of her former husband. She is confused on how to work with one last name and legally have another last name, so much so she has had to talk to a lawyer.  I just know that if I was going to marry a woman who had built a career and reputation on her name, I would not push for her to take my name upon getting married.