Should I use my first name or an initial?

writers groupThis post is for Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers Support Group (click the link for details on what that means and how to join. You will also find a list of bloggers signed up to the challenge that are worth checking out). The first Wednesday of every month, we all post our thoughts, fears or words of encouragement for fellow writers.

This month’s insecurity – Do I use my first name or an initial?

As an author of a thriller (To Hunt a Sub) that includes military and science, should I publish under ‘Jacqui Murray’ or ‘J. Murray’? Thrillers that include military plots are more the purview of males than females. If I had a military background, it might work, but I don’t. I’m hitchhiking off warriors I know well and a profession I admire. I’ve been told more than once by agents I should use an initial rather than my first name.

What do you think?

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of dozens of books on integrating tech into education, webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. 

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52 thoughts on “Should I use my first name or an initial?

  1. My name, the one you know me by, shows up on web searches for other people than me. But when I use my legal first name with my maiden and married names hyphenated – there is only ONE – me! My genre is populated by women writers so I fit in well there.


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  3. Pingback: How I’m Doing on ‘To Hunt a Sub’ « Jacqui Murray

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  5. Sounds like you’re getting votes equally on both sides…I think “Jacqui Murray” is a beautiful and memorable name, but maybe if I were a guy I’d subconsciously respond less positively to a female author’s name.


    • Your books are YA–great for female writers. If you jump into horror or something that YA readers want to avoid, maybe do MSharif. For example, I was reading a great author of dog-mystery sort of books. Fun, friendly. I wanted to read more of what he wrote and stumbled on porn books. Here’s a time he might have wanted to use a pseudonym. Those two genres may have different reader pools.


  6. Although your first name isn’t unique or strange, the spelling is a little different. It may work out to your advantage to use it. This is a question I’m mulling over too. It’s a tough decision to make.


    • I have another series I’m writing that’s historic fiction. I don’t want to use the same name for both series, so it might be prescient that this one’s first and should be initials. Still pondering.


  7. I don’t pay attention to the sex of the author when I buy a book, but then again maybe I’m the outlier. In the end, you just have to do what feels right for you. On the other hand, having a writer only use their initials does add to the mystique.


  8. Jacqui, though I’m not privy to what’s going on in your head, I don’t think this should be a question of insecurity. I think the marketing issue is a concern to be considered. Unfortunately we live in a world of irrational biases and prejudices. I quite like J. Murray. It’s strong, evokes a bit of mystery, and kinda has a ring to it. Can’t wait for “To Hunt a Sub” btw, And what’s the latest on the archaeology story you were working on?


    • Thanks for weighing in, Michael. There seems to be a definite trend here, and I’m listening. I’ve had a slight set-back on To Hunt a Sub–no biggie. One of my experts won’t be available tor review his part of the materials until early May. I’m getting everything else done so I can move forward after that.

      And, ‘Lucy: Daughter of Man’ (working title) is still with me. She’s drafted and ready for rework, which won’t be until after ‘To Hunt a Sub’ and it’s sequel (which is already written, just awaits a few final touches). 18 months maybe? She’s my favorite.


  9. Jacqui is really beautiful – love the spelling. Words that end in the “eeee” sound in some languages connote diminutive, endearing, child-like . . . So my gut says that because of the genre and you do want to sell I might go with the initial or perhaps Jacq/Jac Murray.


  10. I think in this instance and initial is your best choice. It’s unfortunate that this bias exists, but it does. You’re most likely to sell books to men if you could be a man, at least in topics like these. BUT disclaimer: I’m no expert! This is based purely on what I’ve heard/read from others.


  11. Has someone suggested using Jack as opposed to Jacqui? No they haven’t because that is too misleading and it is not who you are. I say use Jacqui and be proud. Boldly enter the genre with pride and confidence. Kick down the door and rise to the top because only you can write this type of novel. If you write a killer novel, people will read it no matter what name is on the cover.

    By the way, if I were writing a romance novel I would use my initials because what woman in her right mind would expect a man to know about romance. But you are writing a book read by men and most men don’t even take the time to look at the name on the front. They wont even know your gender until they are looking for the second book in the series. So my advice is to not sweat this at all.



    • I did consider that. I’m not opposed to it. I’m hoping one approach grabs me and says, ‘You found the right answer!’ Not yet, though. It’s not a procedural, so I don’t have to get into the weeds like Clancy does. Just be knowledgeable when the subs/Cruisers propel the action.

      I agree with your point about romance (not that men know nothing about romance, though!). I’d love to hear what romance readers say about that.


      • Really?… Oh dear…. That is what I would called a language barrier if you wish! … No wonder why adjectives don’t have “gender (male-female)” in english but they do in Spanish!… If I were a boy, my nickname would have been “Aquileano”… best wishes!, Aquileana😀


  12. In this case I would go for the J – though you might consider souping it up a bit. How about Commodore J Murray, or Rear Admiral H Murray? ☺


  13. Military? Submarine? Unless you’ve tuckrd a romance into it, I’d go with an initial.
    I use initials because I’m not eager for crossover from my day job. Similarly, you’ve got a marketing angle–not that you’re concealing–but let the book description grip them before shutting things down with a feminine name. Just my opinion.


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