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Let us suppose an unmarried female author. She publishes something. Then she gets married, and chooses to change her surname to her husband's.

Obviously, she can choose not to change her surname. And she can choose to publish under her maiden name, using it as a pseudonym of sorts. But let us suppose she actually wants to use her new legal name.

How would that work?

Two things need to happen, as far as publishing is concerned: readers who are already familiar with the author's work need to be able to find her under the new name, and new readers would need to find out there's also this other stuff written by the same author. How would that be achieved?

Or is the standard that once published, an author doesn't change the name that appears on her books, no matter what changes her legal name undergoes?

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    I don't have a fan base by any means but I published online articles and a few misc things in magazines and papers under my maiden name and now use my married name (cause I like it better!). If I had any significant publications under both names, I'd list them both on my website. Use the term "under the name Givenname Maidenname." – Cyn says make Monica whole Aug 10 '19 at 0:22
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    It's been done with reasonable success without it being even a name change due to marriage. I can think of two male authors who used differing names to separate their output styles - Michael Marshall Smith/Michael Marshall & Iain Banks/Iain M. Banks. – Tetsujin Aug 10 '19 at 15:08
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    Couldn't resist mentioning an online counterpoint: domain names – jpaugh Aug 11 '19 at 6:31
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If you can avoid it at all, ...

Do not change an established brand name!

One major factor in selling books are readers looking for more books by the same author. You do not usually want to lose those sales.

Successful authors who change their names usually do this precisely because they do not want the new name associated with the old. J. K. Rowling used a pseudonym for a fresh start in crime. Stephen King used a pseudonym not to flood the market (and to see how his writing would sell if it wasn't attached to his famous name). The most common reason for many writers to publish under different names is when they write in genres with incompatiple audiences and do not want readers of one genre (say, children's fiction) to follow them into the other (e.g., erotica).

Unsuccessful authors sometimes do change their names to break the connection to that "failure" and give their careers a fresh start. As Megan Lindholm has stated in interviews, she began using a pseudonym because her novels, published under her own name, didn't sell well and booksellers didn't order her books, further limiting her potential sales. So she began publishing as Robin Hobb and is now a bestelling author under that name.

Successful brands who have to change their name usually try to keep the connection. When the name of the popular chocolate bar "Raider" was changed to "Twix" in many European countries, an expensive marketing campaign was started to keep the buyers. The advertising slogan in Germany, for example, was "Raider is now called Twix, otherwise nothing changes" (the German sentence rhymes). You can often see the same intense ad campaigns when companies are bought or merge and brand names change.

A common practice when old brand names need to be kept is to create a new brand name that combines the old name with the new. When Daimler and Crysler merged, they called the new company Daimler Crysler. When musician John Cougar chose to use his real family name, he kept the pseudonym Cougar and called himself John Cougar Mellencamp for a while, until the new name had been established and he could drop the Cougar completely.


What I would advise in the case of a female author marrying and changing her maiden name is to:

Change the legal name but keep publishing under the maiden name.

There is no reason why an author's brand name must match their legal name.

As a second option, the author could change the brand name to a combination of their maiden and their new familiy name creating a double name in the way John Cougar Mellencamp did. I find this option potentially confusing for readers and the resulting names usually unattractive and awkward.

The best approach, in my opinion, is to stop thinking of the name on your books as "your name" and to begin seeing it as a brand name, and treat it as such.

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Presuming maiden is Jacobs, married is Williams:

Mary Williams née Jacobs

Mary Williams (Jacobs)

Mary Jacobs Williams

It isn't like space is limited on the cover or copyright pages; I'd use the maiden name in parentheses, or the appellation née (meaning 'originally', but used almost exclusively to indicate a married woman's maiden name).

I know at least two woman that kept their maiden name as their middle name; and still sign with that initial; For one of them the middle name could pass as a first name ("Royce" as in "Rolls Royce" which is actually two last names!), but for the other woman it is clearly a last name (like "Stephenson") and she doesn't care.

I think the world is getting past issues with weird sounding names; we get actors and celebrities from all over the world, nobody cares. I work in a university (America) with students from all over the world, and many foreign students no longer adopt Americanized names, nor should they: We can learn to say their names just fine. Well, apparently I mangle the Asian languages, but I make the effort!

Name yourself what you want. As B.L.E. says, I wouldn't give up the brand, but it just needs to remain recognizable, adding another name to it will not dilute it.

For an emphasis, you can add a parenthetical "author of" beneath your name in smaller type, or use an asterisk and a footnote at the bottom of the cover: e.g. (author of Forty Ways to Fake Your Death)

As we have seen with sub-titles, there is plenty of room for text on book covers, and spines, and don't forget that your fans don't mind reading.

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    I love the "...and don't forget that your fans don't mind reading." – A. Kvåle Aug 10 '19 at 13:21
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The German author Lucie Flebbe did that: born as Lucie Ringe, she married and became Lucie Klassen, published her first novel under that name, divorced, married again, and published more books as Lucie Flebbe. Those 9 books feature the same persons and are generally considerered as one series.

So yes, it is possible, but I'd say it causes more confusion than it's worth. Personally, I started with book 4 of the series, was quite disappointed that book 1 seemed to be out of print, and it took me years to realize that it actually wasn't.

Her (German) homepage lists the whole series, but the fact the first book used the old name is quite invisible - you can't see it anywhere except on the book cover image, see here: https://www.lucieflebbe.de/lila-ziegler-romane/.

I asssume that, after a divorce, the incentive of not having the former husband's name on your books, is quite bigger than it just being about your maiden name; but as a reader, I just don't care about the name, or the personal life, of an author. If I like a book, I want to read more from the same person, and I'll use the name to find more; making it harder for me to find your books generally means I'll spend less on them and you'll earn less.

So don't change the name you use to publish your books; your readers won't care about your marriage and name change, but they will care if they can or can't find your books.

The exception being, as mentioned in some other answers, when you're starting to write something "totally different" and don't want to alienate your previous audience by throwing something at them they probably won't appreciate.

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  • Welcome to Writing.SE, Guntram! Thank you for your detailed answer, and for the example. Take a look at our tour and help center pages when you have time, they're really helpful. Hope to see more answers from you here! – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Aug 10 '19 at 20:56
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One example is Janet Jeppson, who wrote a few books under the name ‘J. O. Jeppson’, but after marrying Isaac Asimov wrote many more (some alone, some with her husband), mostly under the name ‘Janet Asimov’, but occasionally as ‘J. O. Jeppson’ or ‘Janet Jeppson Asimov’.

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