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Don’t Do This, Ever: “Not you. The other one.”

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CW: Suicide

“And it’s hard to believe after all these years
That it still gives you pain and it still brings tears
And you feel like a fool, because in spite of your rules
You’ve got a memory

And you can’t talk about it
Because you’re following a code of silence
You’re never gonna lose the anger
You just deal with it a different way
And you can’t talk about it
And isn’t that a kind of madness
To be living by a code of silence
When you’ve really got a lot to say”– Billy Joel, “Code of Silence”

There is one particular blog post I’ve written more than once, and erased more than once. When I write it, I’m typing it up in anger and pain, and I’m usually at a point that’s so low, I can convince myself that by coming forward and saying something, I would be wrong. That I am a bad person for still being angry and hurt. So I always delete it.

It’s a post about my name.

When my first novel, Blood Ties Book One: The Turning was published in 2006, it was under the name Jennifer Armintrout. In 2011, Half-Blood, by Jennifer L. Armentrout, was published, and my life, career, and mental health took a nosedive.

I’ve been pretty honest about the rise and fall of my career as Jennifer Armintrout. I had a great success as a first-time author. My first book made the USA Today bestseller list. The advance on my second contract was in the six figures. I bought a house. I had a wedding. I had another baby. But, I made some stupid choices, and after a failed fantasy series, things weren’t going as well anymore. And then, things started going weird. I started getting praise for the wonderful new book that I’d written. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what the hell anybody was talking about. I responded to one reader to tell her she must have the wrong author; she wrote back to call me “a damn liar”. So, I did a Google search. And then I immediately emailed my agent. I love my agent. She’s very savvy, and a fun person to talk to. She kinda dropped the ball on this one. She told me not to worry about it, since most of my readers knew who I was already. After all, I was the established author, which is why so many people assumed I had written it. Eventually, all the confusion would straighten itself out.

It strikes me as darkly humorous that, when using dictation software to write this post, I had to manually correct “Armintrout” from “Armentrout.” That is how thoroughly eclipsed my former self has been; my own computer doesn’t know who I am.

All of this happened before I became the Jenny Trout you know now. 2011 Jennifer Armintrout was trying to play by the rules. She was trying to sell books for her publisher, and not make waves. If all of this had happened to 2015 Jenny Trout, I would’ve come out of the corner swinging. Today, it happened to 2015 Taylor Law, and I am furious all over again.

2015 Taylor Law is a lot like 2011 Jennifer Armintrout: opinionated, but unwilling to get involved in too much drama, for fear of appearing unkind to other authors or starting trouble, even when keeping silent would be to her own detriment. So when I saw this on my Facebook timeline today, I decided that 2015 Jenny was going to stick up for 2015 Taylor and, finally, for 2011 Jennifer.

Taylor Law's FB status update: "Okay – Heads up, my people. There is someone writing under Taylor W. Law. That IS NOT ME!! I'm not sure what I can do about it though. Also, Goodreads put their book under my profile, so any librarians out there, your help would be appreciated. *sigh*"

Unlike 2011 Jennifer, 2015 Taylor immediately asked for help. This was a great step. 2011 Jennifer wanted to scream out to everyone that would listen that she was afraid of what this would do to her career, but she didn’t. 2011 Jennifer listened to all the bad advice she was getting and played along when people started noticing the coincidence and found it cute and funny.

But, for me, it wasn’t cute and funny. I was angry. I had already established my name as my brand, and now there was brand confusion. I came across a blog interview in which the blogger had asked Armentrout about my characters, because they couldn’t tell us apart. A local bookstore I had previously done signings at contacted me, wanting to know if I wanted to be a part of their YA event, because they thought her series was mine. And, despite reassurances that people who loved my work would still know who the “real” Armintrout was, readers who’d been with me since my first book wrote to tell me how much they loved my new release — not American Vampire, my 2011 novel, but Armentrout’s Half-Blood. My title flopped, hers was an astronomical hit. And that was the end of my career as Jennifer Armintrout. It happen that fast.

The smart thing, at that point, would have just been to call it a loss, and pick a new name. But I didn’t want to do that; it was my birth name. It was how people knew me. It was how all the people who said I was going to be a failure would see how wrong they were. I wasn’t going to give it up without a fight! But the problem was, the fight was over, and I’d already been knocked out. I didn’t get another contract from my publisher (in a spectacular handful of sand in the face, they signed her a couple years later). My sales dwindled. I lost my house. And then I started losing my sanity.

I’ve been open about my struggles with mental illness. I suffer from chronic depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. These all turned against me to create a paranoid pattern-finding machine. What were the chances, my screwed up brain chemistry asked, of both of us having such similar names, being writers, and writing paranormal fiction, albeit for different audiences? Clearly, there had been some kind of mistake. And the mistake was that she was meant to be a successful author, and I wasn’t. That success had just been delivered to the wrong doorstep. I felt like a fraud. I wasn’t a “real writer”, something I’d suspected since the moment I signed my first contract. My brain found all sorts of proof to feed my delusion, including a freaky twist in which both of us made the USA Today bestseller list at the exact same number our first time (okay, my only time). And nobody around me seemed to think the situation was strange or unfair, so my feeling of being wronged in some way was just an overreaction. It just made sense to me that since everyone liked her more, and suddenly no one like me at all, the universe had put everything back the way it was supposed to have been, and I was the failure I’d always suspected I was.

Coming to this conclusion didn’t make the situation any less brutal. At a conference book signing, an enthusiastic reader approached me to gush about how much she loved my books. It became clear to me (and to the authors seated around me) that she was talking about the other Jennifer. Humiliated, I quickly excused myself to cry in the bathroom. At another event, I introduced myself to an author and an editor from Kensington press. When I gave them my name, their entire demeanor changed, becoming very icy. The author leaned over to the editor and whispered something behind her hand, both of them still looking me straight in the eye. The editor said, very deliberately so that I could hear, “no, I don’t think she is either.” In other words, they thought I was some wannabe who had the audacity to pretend to be another author. My existence had been erased, and everything I was proud of, all of my achievements, had been replaced. I didn’t even own my own name anymore. I wasn’t the “real” Jennifer anymore. I was the “other” Jennifer now.

Obviously the only way to save face after this cosmic misunderstanding was to kill myself. I made up my mind to do this the day my inbox exploded with congratulations for my movie deal. This was not my movie deal, it was the Real Jennifer’s movie deal. On social media, authors I had worked with for years were singing the Real Jennifer’s praises; I decided they were all traitors, or worse, that they’d only ever been nice to me because they’d thought I was her. My husband called Bronwyn Green in a panic, and together they talked me out of my suicide plan, convincing me to just wait until I could talk to my therapist.

These days, I’m a lot healthier. Though I occasionally need to use various Chrome extensions to keep her name or book news from appearing on my social media feeds, this is only at times that I’m severely vulnerable to mental illness relapses. I’ve talked with Jennifer L. Armentrout online, and met her in-person earlier this year. She’s lovely, someone I wish I could have met in other circumstances. I’ve read her Lux series, which is fantastic. If you’re into YA romance and aliens, you should definitely give them a try. And that’s one thing that’s held me back about being fully honest about my feelings over the situation. I ‘m a fan of her work. Despite how I might come off on-line, I don’t want to hurt someone for an innocent mistake or a genuinely misguided choice. I’m willing to risk it now to protect Taylor Law, though, because we have a lot in common.

Like me, Taylor is disabled. Her struggle with chronic physical pain has impacted her mental health, just like mine did. When she reached out to her friends today, she got a lot of support, but some people suggested that she just get over it, that she not focus on it, that what she was feeling was unhealthy. When you reach out in pain and receive an ambivalent response, well. That’s a blog post for another time. Taylor says:

“I may sound overly dramatic, and I’ve been told that I should just get over it. But I was already depressed prior to this happening, because when your body turns on you and you can’t walk or remember your kid’s birthdate some days, things feel pretty damn bad sometimes. But no matter how emotional I am, this is wrong.”

What happened to me and what is happening to Taylor Law has happened to authors before. It happened to Nora Roberts in 2012. When it did, she had this to say about it:

“So if you’re named Michael Douglas and you want to be an actor, you become Michael Keaton instead – by, ironically, using Diane Keaton’s last name (whose real name is Diane Hall). Part of all this is due to Screen Actor’s Guild rules, and there are no similar rules for authors that I’m aware of. But, bottom line, to avoid confusion, if your legal name is similar to an established author’s name, you should go by ‘Michael Keaton’ when you publish. Got that?”

Even before this pronouncement from the undisputed queen of romance, writers were advised to check before using their pen name–whether or not it was their real, legal name–before choosing it. Before my first book came out, I searched my name. Ironically, I found a Jennifer Armentrout. She edited cookbooks, and my first agent advised me that it wouldn’t be a faux pas to use my name on my paranormal romance/urban fantasy novels. If I knew then what I know now, I would have contacted her directly to make sure she was okay with me using the name (as it turns out, she was; we’ve been Facebook friends for a while now).

But Taylor W. Law doesn’t edit cookbooks. He writes romance novels, just like Taylor Law does. Nora A. Roberts wrote romance novels, too, and her inclusion of the “A.” was used as evidence that she not only knew who Nora Roberts was, but was also aware that it would be advantageous to use the name while legally differentiating herself (she proudly admitted it was a marketing strategy; her name isn’t really Nora). And Taylor W. Law’s Amazon bio says he works in television, so surely he must have at least heard of the Screen Actor’s Guild law and the very practical reason it exists. When Taylor Law confronted Taylor W. Law, he acknowledged that he was using the middle initial intentionally, to “avoid confusion.” So someone has advised him on this, the same way I was advised that Jennifer Armentrout’s cookbooks wouldn’t be confused with my vampire novels. This is bad advice, and we have to stop handing it out. The average reader isn’t going to take the time to figure out if Taylor W. Law is Taylor Law, or if the Jennifer Armentrout who once edited cookbooks switched vampire novels before becoming a YA superstar.

That’s not the only bad advice going around in Taylor Law’s situation. She’s receiving the same guidance 2011 Jennifer received when she talked about her feelings over the name mix-up. To ignore it, that her readers know who she is, that she’s the better known Taylor. What are the odds that, like Jennifer L. Armentrout, Taylor W. Law will become a #1 New York Times bestselling author? That he’ll get a movie deal? Stranger things have happened, and a career in television might mean Taylor W. Law has access to channels–no pun intended–that Taylor Law has no hope of accessing. E.L. James worked in television, too. And right now, Taylor W. Law’s romance novel is the third result that appears when you search for Taylor Law on Amazon.

Do I think Taylor W. Law is doing this on purpose? I won’t say that, because I don’t know. I do know that I received the same advice about Jennifer Armentrout, editor, that Jennifer L. Armentrout probably got when she found out about Jennifer Armintrout, author. It appears Taylor W. Law has considered the situation from the same angle. But how important is the intent, when Taylor Law was left feeling like this?

“I was gut-punched. My name is my brand. My brand is me and my name. When people think of Taylor Law, they think of me. I may not have that many books out but I’ve spent the past 5 years building my brand, networking, and making connections, and those cross over into the general romance world, too. It wasn’t just like someone having the same name as me. It was like someone had stolen me and my work, all at once.”

When Taylor and I discussed it, she mentioned feeling alone. I know exactly what she means, because I felt it, too. I felt I couldn’t say anything back when it would have mattered. I sat through presentations at conferences where authors, editors, and agents hammered home how important your name is, that it’s your brand, that you must protect your brand. Some of these were the same people who’d cautioned me to stay quiet and not make waves, that it was just a name, that it didn’t matter. It mattered to me. It mattered to me after I changed my professional name, but still had a sick feeling in my stomach every time I signed my legal name. It mattered to me when I changed my legal name to try to get away from those feelings, only to have my grandmother tearfully ask me why I was ashamed to be a part of the family. But there was never, at any point in this, a moment where anyone in the industry (except very close friends) cared about what I was going through. The expectation was that I would sit quietly and Be Nice, because for all we talk about protecting our brand, when it comes time to actually do it, it’s “mean” or “jealous” or “unprofessional”.

If we’re going to keep telling authors to guard their names and protect their brands, then accuse them of paranoia or cattiness if they do,  there should at least be some acknowledgement from the bookverse that name confusion can cause actual psychological damage to authors. Even though it’s done without malice, it can destroy a person. It almost destroyed me. I don’t want that for Taylor, and I don’t want that for anyone else, either. I’m happy now as Jenny Trout. It fits me. But Taylor Law fits Taylor Law, and it’s hers. She did the work to build that name, to build her brand, and now she’s being advised to step back and let Taylor W. Law use it. I don’t want to see her lose her hard work. I don’t want to see her erased, the way Jennifer Armintrout was erased. Taylor W. Law has one book published. There’s still time for him to rebrand himself. If he has any compassion or sense of professional ethics, he’ll do it.

50 Comments

  1. Years ago, someone recommended that I check out Alison Weir. They thought I would really enjoy her books.

    I googled the name (I ironically had years before bought one of her books from the Bargain Book section and then put it on my shelf and forgotten about it!). There is Alison Weir the British historian and author whom I’ve grown to love and then there is Alison Weir the American bigot. Guess which one came up in my initial Google search?

    Thankfully, I had someone to set me straight, but now when I recommend Weir to anyone, I have to make sure they know which one.

    It’s a shame people can’t bother paying more attention to things like name spellings and initials. All this could be avoided. Glad you managed to come back from all of this crap.

    December 17, 2015
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  2. Stella
    Stella

    You know I said this back in the day when you were dealing with it. A simple google search would have dealt with any “questions” and the fact that people do this on purpose is very upsetting to me. If it was me, I would eat their goddamn face. YOu guys are strong, and You know how I feel about this shit.

    Im sorry, both of you are dealing with this mess, and I know that if the industry gets behind you, well then it will be resolved. and I think that needs to happen. A line needs to be drawn. this industry is so far from fair its laughable, and its getting worse.

    December 17, 2015
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  3. philifox
    philifox

    Good grief. You publish some raw, painful things here, but this is really hard-hitting. I’m so sorry you went through that.

    Names are absolutely critical – unbelievably so. A ‘brand’ is one thing, but it seems a bit like people who need brands (I mean marketers etc, not the actual people) forget that there is a person behind the business strategy, and you can’t just move it around like chattel.

    I’m coming at this from a trans perspective, and here’s telling you that anybody who says that your name isn’t important, or to just change it, or it’s not a big deal – that’s pure gaslighting, even if unintentional – your name IS important, and I can totally see why your mental health took such a dive.

    Anyway enough rambling – I’ve never commented here before, but I had to just to say thanks for writing about it, and I’m sorry you had the experience.

    December 17, 2015
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  4. I find it pretty deceptive and amoral to piggy-back off the name of an established author, intentionally trying to create confusion to trick their fans that they worked for into buying your book (and diluting their brand.) It makes me think of those Disney-like rip offs that end up in the Redbox around every blockbuster release–trying to trick my Nana into paying for a garbage movie.

    I have a sometimes overdeveloped sense of justice. I hope she gets the word out. That’s a really sucky thing, and I don’t know what I would do if it happened to me.

    December 17, 2015
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    • Is is intentional, though? If I didn’t read this blog, I never would have heard of the four authors in question (including our Jenny). Unless the new authors are using pen names, it isn’t really their fault that they have the same name.

      December 17, 2015
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      • Renee,

        He’s using a pen name. He never said if his name being so similar to Taylor’s was intentional, but to take a pen name so close to hers and even use the same font she uses on her covers (which is also part of her brand) is suspect.

        December 17, 2015
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        • OK. Yeah, that’s definitely not OK. But not surprising, considering all the plagiarism going around.

          December 17, 2015
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  5. Because I’ve known you for a number of years, I knew about your struggles with your name and your brand. Back when I was still “MamaKitty” and I decided to try getting published, the first thing I did was Google the hell out of the name I’d chosen. I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes, piggyback off anyone’s success, or try to steal anyone’s identity. More importantly, I wanted to build my brand and have people recognize Paige more than they’d recognize MK (something I still struggle with sometimes, actually).

    When you Google my (pen)name now, all my social media pops up. My blog, any blog I’ve been mentioned on, even my Spotify user page. There’s *one* other Paige Prince on the first 2 pages of Google results, and strangely enough she works at the hospital mine just merged with. Strance coincidence, since she’s an accountant and I can’t math to save my own life, but there’s no one else in the industry (that I’ve been able to find) with the name Paige Prince. Because I did my damn homework first.

    When I started writing under a different pen name for my more erotic themed books, I did the same search. The thought that anyone can’t use Google or Bing or Yahoo or whatever other freaking search engine they utilize to perform a simple search maddens me. The thought that someone would do it on purpose to try and steal some of the author’s (or other job) hard work (because branding yourself IS hard work!) sickens me and pisses me off to the point where I’m a ball of frustrated, unbridled rage.

    I don’t know if this Taylor W Law person did it on purpose or not. But the fact that he knew about our Taylor and did it anyway is very suspect and shady as shit.

    We *should* have Actor’s Guild-like rules regarding names. Yes, there are thousandss of us out there, but there are thousands of actors and hopefuls out there, too.

    Sending you and Taylor love, Jenny. And all the support I have to give.

    December 17, 2015
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  6. Aaron Chusid
    Aaron Chusid

    I read that first book of yours. A couple times. Liked it, and I’m not normally a fan of vampires or romance, let alone vampire romance. I can vouch that the original Jennifer Armintrout is a real deal author and one hell of a writer.

    December 17, 2015
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  7. mitzy247
    mitzy247

    This doesn’t change the past and all the pain you went through, but I’m very happy to have a (THE) Jenny Trout show up on my Twitter feed rah day. I hope everything ends well for Taylor Law.

    December 17, 2015
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    • mitzy247
      mitzy247

      that should say Every Day, damn tiny phone keyboard.

      December 17, 2015
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  8. ViolettaD
    ViolettaD

    You’d think your name wouldn’t be terribly common. I have one of those names where there were always at least half a dozen of us in the school library system or drugstore scrips, so they would ask for school ID or birthdate. I knew from the time I started doing theatre that if I joined any of the actors’ unions, I’d either have to change my name entirely or at least add my middle name, not just the initial.
    I don’t blame the authors all that much. I’m betting the agents and publishers are the ones who intentionally encourage the confusion; they make a profit either way.

    December 17, 2015
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  9. That happened to me, too. Somebody called Lynn E. Connolly started publishing on Amazon and his/her books kept showing up on my searches. I had to do a bit of fighting, but like you, that’s my real name, so I dissociated myself from them.
    People can also copy your book title, since that can’t be copyrighted. It’s a nasty, underhanded practice, and although sometimes it’s coincidence, it isn’t always that way.

    December 17, 2015
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  10. I had seen her name pop up before when I was trying to pull up The Turning on our catalogue at work, but I had no idea it had affected you so badly until now. I’d figured you changed the name just to avoid mixups and that was that. I am so sorry this happened, but I’m glad you seem to have a good support system in place and that you’ve been doing better with it.

    As for the Roberts quote about SAG rules – authors should definitely have this in place. Just like actors, you’re known by your name/penname. At work, I frequently have patrons ask for “the new James Patterson” or “the new Tess Gerrtisen” just like someone would look for a new movie by the lead actor’s name. Even if they can’t think of the title, they know the person who wrote it. I’m not sure how well it would be enforced among self-pubbed authors, however.

    December 17, 2015
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  11. Thank you for blogging about this. I understand completely how seriously this can affect an author, because this has happened to me too.

    I write (erotic / adult) romance novels under Ranae Rose, which BTW is my legal name, and I was the first to publish anything under, ever. About a year after I was first published (with numerous books out), a woman decided to also write (erotic / adult) romance novels under Renee Rose.

    I won’t go into all the details of the problems this has caused for me professionally (confusion, etc) because you obviously already know, but I will add that it’s been even worse how it’s affected me personally. Not only does this woman publish books under my name, but she blogs about things I find totally repellent (her sex life or fantasies, for example). It’s so bad that the topic has come up at my husband’s work, and he had to explain what she’d done.

    I’ve also had to explain it to people many, many times. Friends, new acquaintances, other members of the rescue squad I serve with … I always end of have to say something, like a fucking disclaimer, so that when people Google me, they know I have an impostor.

    Although I’ve been dealing with this for years, I never said anything about it publicly / online until just recently, when I learned that she’d signed up for a book event I attend every year. She will literally be there walking around, having the nerve to tell people she’s me.

    Anyway, I truly feel for you.

    December 17, 2015
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  12. Big hugs to you, Jenny. I am so sorry this happened.

    To me, you will always be the one-and-only Ms. (Armin)trout

    December 17, 2015
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  13. Lieke
    Lieke

    I don’t really know what to say about this. Obviously, I wish this hadn’t happened to you. And I wish it wasn’t happening to Taylor Law right now. Because (whether intentional or not) it sucks.

    December 17, 2015
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  14. Jennifer
    Jennifer

    Please don’t ever think it’s silly to put importance on your name. You have every right to feel that way.

    I am not even remotely existent on the scale of notoriety for anything at all, but I have toyed with the idea of legally changing my last name to my mother’s maiden name out of solidarity and defiance. I haven’t because I don’t really know if it’s the right thing to do, but I am remarkably unattached to my own last name. My father was an abusive dirtbag and my mother, for all her faults (schizophrenia, depression, and eventual suicide), lived through hell and did everything she could to cope.

    I even identify myself differently in that I go by Jennifer, Jenny, or Jen in different situations.

    Your name is part of your identity and you have every right to be upset about that being jeopardized, regardless of if there were actual professional ramifications for it. I totally understand why this has been so upsetting for you. You aren’t at all overreacting.

    December 17, 2015
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    • alicia
      alicia

      i had the same sort of feelings about my last name and i did end up switching it to my mother’s maiden name and hyphenating it with my husband’s last name. i really like it now, and it’s given me a good psychological break from my abusive childhood with some much needed distance.

      December 18, 2015
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  15. I am so sorry you had to go through this. Names do matter–a lot! My legal name is pretty much impossible for anyone to say or spell. So I decided to use a pen name. I spent a lot of time searching and thought I’d come up with a great name that no other author had–Danica Devlin. I was all excited; I even bought the domain. Then a friend of mine pointed out that there’s a Delilah Devlin who also writes romance. Granted, the first names aren’t the same, but the fact that they’re both three syllables and start with “D” and end in an “ah” sound told me there would probably be confusion. So I went through the whole process again. Because I want to be known for my own work, not someone else’s. Names ARE important. Anyone who says they aren’t is either naive or kidding themselves. The last thing anyone should want is to try to piggyback off another person’s success. And what if the “other you” does something awful? (Or just writes poorly?) Do you want to run the risk? Even if you both have the same legal name, the second one to publish should suck it up and use a pen name. It’s only fair–to BOTH of you!

    December 17, 2015
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  16. Tam
    Tam

    Back in 1988, I changed my last name legally to Alexander. I was writing fanfic under the name TM Alexander. I was working toward going pro with original fiction under that same name. Well, lo and behold, another TM Alexander popped up with a children’s book in 2009. I can’t tell if she’s written anything else sense, but her name is out there as a published author. I only just found out about her. So, what do I do? I don’t write children’s books. I write adult, LGBT, paranormal and fantasy. Does this mean I have to change my name? what about all the fanfic that’s out there in the form of fanzines with my name on it? How many people think that’s her? I guess she didn’t check to see if there was another TM Alexander out there before she got into writing, because you can find my name on many websites pertaining to fanfiction.

    December 17, 2015
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  17. ViolettaD
    ViolettaD

    I never knew any of this before. Totally different from acting. That’s why you have Mary Stuart Masterson, Mary Louise Parker, Mary Kate Olsen, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio–seen a plain Mary since Mary Pickford of the silent era? Michael J. Fox doesn’t have a middle name, but he needed one to join the union because there was already a Michael Fox. Bud Cort, most famous for “Harold and Maude,” was born Walter Cox, but there was an actor named Wally Cox who voiced “UnderDog.”
    I’m kind of astonished that publishing DOESN’T have any restrictions on this.

    December 17, 2015
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    • Mandi Rei Serra
      Mandi Rei Serra

      As much as I would love to see something implemented to stop people from cashing in on the names of others, how would it be regulated? With SAG, they are an integral part of the industry– gatekeepers, akin the the Big Six publishing. Can’t work unless you have their approval. With the advent of indie publishing, it’s like the wild west; there is no regulating body to oversee pen names to prevent confusion, and I don’t see how to establish some sort of code of indie ethics on a mass scale, aside from starting a guild (but then who would take it seriously, at least at first? Maybe I’m too cynical) and/or requesting en masse for people to not be douchecanoes.

      December 19, 2015
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      • ViolettaD
        ViolettaD

        True, but even if you don’t join SAG or Equity, you wouldn’t choose a stage name like “Merrill Streep” or “Robert DeNyro.” You’d be laughed at. If either of those were your legal name, you’d probably be advised to change it.

        December 19, 2015
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  18. I’m glad that you wrote this, and I damn well hope that Taylor gets the support she deserves. When I had to come up with a pseud for my erotic romance writing I Googled Nicola Cameron. There were a handful of them out there, but none of them were writers. If there had been one, I would have picked another name because stepping on someone’s brand? Dick move. And especially in this case where Taylor W. Law is a pseudonym — he should have done due diligence and picked another name. Tossing in a middle initial is just bullshit.

    December 17, 2015
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  19. Megan M.
    Megan M.

    Aww, Jenny. I’ve read about your suicidal thoughts and I’ve read about the whole Armintrout-Armentrout debacle, but I never put two and two together on that one. I’m so sorry.

    The same thing happened to another self-pub author I’ve read. I read her debut and Googled her to see if she might have another book out soon. I found her blog and she talked about how, about a month before she published her first book, she found out that someone with the same name was about to trad-pub a book, so she changed her author name.

    Anyone who intentionally causes this kind of distress to another person is the worst and deserves whatever karmic justice comes their way.

    December 17, 2015
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  20. Beck
    Beck

    I had 3 short stories published under the name Susan Beck … (my first and second names switched) … I received an email one day from another author, also called Susan Beck, who writes craft books … apparently she had received some of my fan mail, and, as I write erotic mm, she was understandably upset (as was I! I missed out on fan mail???) … it took me less than 6 months to re-brand myself to my birth name … took me 30 minutes to update all my author profiles … I then went to Facebook, started a new account and send friend requests with a brief explaination as to who I was … this was not a drama for me but then I’ve never tried to steal someone’s creative juju … I hate that this has happened to you and Taylor … it is wrong, wrong, wrong

    December 17, 2015
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  21. Laina
    Laina

    When the other Jennifer started getting popular, I did think it was you, and I kept getting annoyed that people weren’t mentioning your awesome vampire novels. I kept wondering what they were doing.

    I’m sorry you had to go through this, and I’m sorry Taylor is, too. I have some name things myself. I have my father’s name who I haven’t spoken to since I was 9, and I’m not gonna change it because it’s MY name. There’s actually not that many people with my legal first name. It’s very uncommon, and the combination is unique. If anyone else used it, it would be VERY bad form. I am the only me I’ve ever found, and googling me brings up a short story I had in an anthology. I honestly can’t imagine how this feels, but I know from the outside, it seems gross at best.

    December 17, 2015
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  22. taycibear
    taycibear

    I completely understand how you feel. I have been TayciBear since I was on werewolf.com and Neopets. That’s me on everything and I would be very upset if someone took that from me and not even in a professional environment.

    December 17, 2015
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  23. Carolina West
    Carolina West

    Are there actually people who choose similar pen names to intentionally screw over their fellow writers? Now that is one of the lowest blows I can think of!

    Mine popped into my head when I needed a fake name for a social studies project, then for some reason I decided to Google it. Turns out Carolina West is also the name of a wireless phone company. Also a dental place and ribfest. Starting to think I should change it to Carol East or something…

    December 17, 2015
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  24. …somehow this had never occurred to me. I figured I was safe since I’d never heard of a Kit Harding. On Googling, there is one who wrote one book about collectibles in 2000 and nothing else since. Since I’ve only published one short story and a little-viewed blog as yet, easy to change, but I’m probably safe just adding a full-on middle name given the time gap. Or a hyphen. (Kit April Harding? Kit Catherine Harding… no, probably not that; it’ll get shortened to Kit-Cat. Maybe I could just be Kittery Harding. That sounds kinda cool, actually!)

    Though I do now have to email Goodreads (I never thought one short story in a Circlet Press anthology would end up on Goodreads) and go “These are not the same Kit Harding, separate them.”

    December 17, 2015
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  25. Altofront
    Altofront

    From your post, and in the comments, there are half a dozen authors who have been actively harmed by someone claiming their name, and another half-dozen who had to take steps to avoid claiming another author’s name. Seems the problem is rife.

    It would probably be difficult to establish a guild like Equity (although not impossible), but even something like the bandname.com registry for authors would help keep everything in good faith.

    It should include Pen Name, genre, titles, dates of publishing, cover images… any other info that relates to the author’s brand and could cause brand confusion / be used to differentiate authors.

    I mean, Google is a great tool and all, but it gives preference to the most popularly-known person with that name, and not necessarily the one who was using it first. And people can claim ignorance because there’s currently no explicit convention of accountability within the publishing houses that you must take steps to avoid using another author’s moniker.

    It just seems like if there was a definitive list, publishers could just point to that as a matter of course and say “You need to make sure your name isn’t like anyone else’s, or this list will make you look guilty of brand identity theft and cause problems”, In the same way that all teachers have to explain plagiarism-detection software.

    You got enough people to make this happen?

    December 18, 2015
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    • Pax
      Pax

      There is a site called AUTHORSdb, a bit like IMDB for writers: http://authorsdb.com/ but like anything, it kind of relies on people filling out data for it and I don’t think it lists big-name authors.

      Although hell, just checking Goodreads which DOES list most authors going in most fields would be a start for some people.

      December 19, 2015
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  26. Jemmy
    Jemmy

    I started reading your blog during your 50SoG snarkfest, and I remember you pointing out Jennifer L Armentrout wasn’t you and could all the ppl making nasty remarks leave her alone. I also remember you being very passionate about your birth name, so I was a little surprised to see you change it, it makes sense now.

    It is a terrible thing to have a career start and then flag, let alone the rest of the things you went through. A name can be very important, especially in a close knit family, and I’m sorry that this has also affected other family members such as your grandmother.

    December 18, 2015
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  27. Thea
    Thea

    One thing i would like to point out is that you guys (authors) are in this business BECAUSE you are creative. It makes sense if you were born or married a name that you would be invested in it and its significance to your life. Taking an existing name as your pen name seems either unbelievably lazy or just mean. I agree there should be some framework like SAG. It might be awkward, but everyone would play by the rules going in. I guess writing is a little less formal, as I expect actors have to pay fees to belong to the union. I understand that writing is often not a paying job (wait a second, what about struggling actors, do they have to pay dues even when they don’t have jobs, to protect their name?)

    Sorry you have had to deal with all that, and it is really sisterly of you to help bring awareness to the problems this girl is having.

    My personal understanding of name trauma: My parents divorced when I was young and they still hate each other’s guts 40 years later. My mother hated my last name, and wanted me to change it to her maiden name since I wasn’t going to change it to her second husband’s last name (I love him, but I don’t own his name, and ow on my father!) I could not wait to change my last name when I got married, but it is a rotten and complicated Finnish name. I have people ask me all the time if i speak Finnish, if i have ever been to Finland, have i ever tried X cultural thing.. (i’ve had the vodka, let’s leave it at that). On top of it, my husband was adopted, so he doesn’t even identify with that culture either. Names can really suck.

    Oh yeah, I knew the last name was already a burden so I wanted to name my kids something easy for the first name. Emily is my daughter. easy. So of course in kindergarten, there were two other Emilys. She couldn’t just be Emily S, she had to be Emily Saa, you know where the names diverged. Sorry kid, never thought of that part…

    December 18, 2015
    |Reply
    • Jemmy
      Jemmy

      My husband’s parents divorced and was pretty horrible. His mother has gone back to her maiden name and his sister has taken on her maiden name as well. I took my husband’s name when we got married. I told him he was welcome to change his surname, but if he did I was going back to my name because I’ll be damned if I keep swapping to keep his family happy.

      We have the same issue with a ‘need to spell it out’ surname so our kids have very simple first names as well. Surprisingly there’s no other Kates so far, but our son Jack has already come across many others.

      December 19, 2015
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  28. I’m so sorry this happened to you, Jenny. I had no idea. It shows how strong you are that you’ve been able to overcome this horrible thing and get on with your life. I’m glad I know you.

    December 18, 2015
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  29. The Unicorner
    The Unicorner

    Jenny, thank you for this post. I had never considered that anyone would purposely try to coast off another author’s name until I read the linked post about Nora Roberts. That’s messed up.

    I thought I’d be safe publishing under my real name since it’s a rather uncommon name (at least in the US), but then I remembered there was a student at my old school whose name was one letter off from mine. I think the school mixed us up a couple times and people would ask if we were related. I guess I better check if this girl has published any books!

    December 18, 2015
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  30. Okay, I fixed it! I’m now Kittery Melissa Harding. And I’m glad this post came up when it did, because if I actually manage to be a writer, changing it farther down the line would be a lot harder. (Though introducing myself as “Kittery” at BDSM events is going to be interesting.)

    December 18, 2015
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  31. I agree, I dislike this intensely.

    But, is there any confirmation on whether or not this is his real legal name or not? For me at least it changes the douchecanoe level.

    December 19, 2015
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  32. Oh man! I’m so sorry this happened to you! And to Taylor Law. And it absolutely disgusts me that the person going by Nora A. Roberts IS actually doing that intentionally!
    Of course, your name is important! And I think Taylor Law should NOT back down and let someone else take and use her name.
    There really should be regulations for this, this is not okay.
    I would pitch a fit if someone were to start an art business with something so similar to my name! Deidre Dreams is not just a name to me. Your brand is never just a name. Why else would you choose it?!

    December 20, 2015
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  33. […] Nachdem das neulich schon ein kleines Thema beim Wortmagieblog war, schreibt Jenny Trout über die Namensgleichheit mit Jennifer L. Armentrout, wie das ganze angefangen hat und was seitdem alles passiert ist. Don’t Do This, Ever: “Not you. The other one.” […]

    December 25, 2015
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  34. I had a very similar situation when I discovered that someone had published a series called the Knight Trilogy (which was erotica) and storming all the Amazon charts and USA Today charts. It had been published and marketed in 2013 – 2 years AFTER the establishment of my brand ‘The Knight Trilogy’ — I wondered why all of my SEO and google search placements had plummeted, the sales dropped and pretty much everything came to a stand still. It was a real anger inducing moment. A simple google search of the name ‘The Knight Trilogy’ would have flagged up at least 5 front pages of a google search connected to my name — now I’m totally eclipsed. However, this must be even more horrendous when it’s your own personal name and identity. A great article and I’m sorry you had to go through this.

    December 27, 2015
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  35. I always wondered where you were and thankfully through this article I found you. I was and still am a Blood Ties Series fan and always wondered where you were and if you still wrote. I purchased Jennifer Armentrouts book because I thought it was YOU! BUT you both are truly talented and equally creative!

    I am still a fan and will now seek your other books! I applaud you for this article and I hope it helps you bring peace inside you! Goddess Bless you!

    <3 Gladys #XOXOtheNerdGirl

    December 28, 2015
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  36. Tammy Walton Grant
    Tammy Walton Grant

    I’ve never read the “other” Jennifer Armintrout (I don’t like YA, as a rule). I loved American Vampire and your Blood Ties books. I’ve read you under your real name, your new name and all of your Abigail Barnette books. You’re the original Jennifer to me. I can’t even imagine what they must have been like for you.

    December 30, 2015
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  37. […] up with a derivation of my maiden name. A couple of weeks ago, another blogger, Jenny Trout, posted a blog post about her experience with another writer having the same name as her. I had never considered all […]

    January 1, 2016
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  38. Wow that’s some horrible crap.

    I think I am lucky, in that my name, McGuire, is pretty much ubiquitous. There are several authors with the name McGuire but as far as I was aware when I last checked, we all write different things.

    I hope Taylor Law gets it all settled her way. Some kind of registry of names, like actors have, sounds really smart.

    Cheers

    MTM

    January 4, 2016
    |Reply
  39. Should also add, the McGuire authors all have different first names.

    Also, for what it’s worth. A friend of mine had his book evaluated by the Editor’s Desk on Authonomy. He got told it was a great idea but not for them. Two years later they release a series of ghost written kids books with the same series name and a very similar premise. I’m glad to say that his Time Hunters books are still doing well but he was gutted. You can sue but it’s a long slog and you really need to hope you win because it’s expensive. Some lads who got ripped off by a TV company here succeeded in suing and winning so it can happen.

    Cheers (again)

    MTM

    You are not alone.

    January 4, 2016
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  40. Fully agree with Jenny. My name, Sigyn Wisch, is very unique and reflects my relationship with my husband, Loki. If someone else chose to take that name, I would have a complete existential crisis. New authors, actors, etc. Need to have some consideration of their fellow human beings.

    January 5, 2016
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