Monday, 21 September 2015

Authoring 101: Pen Names

Recently a well-known author in the MM author has outed himself as female. I’m not here to talk about this but I thought it brings up a solid point on the why’s for choosing a pen name or not.

But first I’d like to link you all up to some thoughts on the matter that are relevant and should be considered while you are, well, considering if it’s something you wish to do or not.

This, however relevant to the point is more a discussion on why you would use a pen name and maybe help you decide if its something you want or need to do.

What’s a pen name?  google says: an assumed name used by a writer instead of their real name.
synonyms: pseudonym, nom de plume, assumed name, alias, professional name.

So what are some of the reasons you’d chose to use one?

Your name is so bland or common. For example if your name was John or Jane Smith then you’d want a pen name so you’d stand out from the rest. Not get lost under the thousands of other names.

This isn’t just for names you’d think are common, but ones you might have thought twice about. My suggestion would be to google your name (though I think you’d already know just how many of yourself there are out there, really who hasn’t googled themselves before?!). Go onto Amazon, Goodreads and put your name in. if you come out with more than 3 people with the same name I’d change it, but that’s just me.

Definitely if there is more than 5 or 6 your name needs to change. It’s a choice though, completely one of your making but it’s all about getting noticed.

Another reason is family.

1. This can have multiple reason too. That you have young children and you want to keep them safe from prejudges around them.

2. That your family and maybe not the ones you’re living with but outside that are prejudges in anyway. Therefore, you’d use it in order to protect yourself. (I’ve spoken to people whose husbands don’t know exactly what they write).

3. Just to protect yourself. I use my real name because my name isn’t the same as my children. This isn’t to say that anyone who already knows me hasn’t looked me up (despite my brother telling them not to bother and why) but all in all if I needed to disappear I could.

A decision based on your chosen genre.

I don’t actually know how to answer this one. Like I could say what I think but I believe my thoughts come from a place that isn’t all that pleasant and that’s not helpful at all. I have lots of opinion, plenty of them, really, more then I should have and I’m trying very hard not to spill them all over the place.

Genre switching.

 Another one of those times that it depends on what your switch is and what you feel yourself.

Okay I can’t actually think of an examples if you are writing adults novels, from romance or horror, straight or gay you can decided whether or not you want to write under a different name or the same. This I think works more on where you started, how big you are where you started, and what you’re hoping to gain by going somewhere else.

I know a lot of people who write mm romance and het romance under two different name.

Another could be because you are going from erotica or romance into writing children’s or YA this one will most definitely need a different pen name. Yes you can tell the original or anything like that but unless you’re really famous you kind of need to keep those two writing separate. Or even if you use the same name you need to create a completely separate you under each genre.

Can’t be corrupting the children now can we.

This is probably more important depending on the type of books you write. If for example you are writing hard-core erotica with all manners of kink included and on the other hand you want to start writing NA or YA that very lightly touches on sex then your names needs to change. The same if it’s not that dramatic and you write one type of romance with the erotic twist and one that fades to black, you don’t want people up in arms because they stumbled upon your other books and weren’t expecting or even like that.

I believe in pen names. I believe that everyone has the right to use them for any of the reasons. It’s your choice, yours alone to make and you can’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

It’s something you need to give lots of thought to because once you have a pen name that is your name. It is whom you are selling.

Word of caution: People can pretty attached to you as that pen name. They depend on it. Start demanding certain things from it.  So I believe it’s probably in your best interest to tell people it is a pen name especially if you’re asked, or more so when they asked don’t pretend that you are this person. At the end of the day if you’re honest they will respect you.

They don’t need to know what your real name is. They have no right to ask and if they do you tell them you choice to use a pen name for your own reason and that you can’t discuss it. Tell them to butt out. Chances are though that no one will ask or be pushy because they understand.

Pen name are you, you create them, build them up and become them and that’s all that matters and your readers will accept that. They just, in general, don’t like to be lied to or feel like fools because they believe you as you lied to their faces because at the end of the day that’s exactly how they will feel.  

And that’s it for me on the topic next time research, promise.

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