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View Full Version : What's in a (pen) name?


Revan
04-17-2011, 09:22 AM
Having spent my first day here on these forums, let me just say I feel pumped about writing. Surrounding myself with you all has sparked some motivation in me.

I want to write novels. A series, if possible. However, I wouldn't mind building up my resumé while pursuing my goal. I want to give writing contests a swing, so now comes into play the pseudonym.

Do you use a pen name?
Why did you decide to use one?
What thought did you put into it?

Having grown up with heroes such as Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, I view the pseudonym as a superhero identity. I want it to be memorable, and all that other pizzazz and jazz.

Thoughts and comments?

froley
04-17-2011, 10:53 AM
Glad you're enjoying AW so far!

Are you going to use a pseudonym for your novel series? If not, I'd recommend putting your real name to contest pieces. If something you write now (e.g. a short story) gets published, it might help you when it comes time to shop your manuscript around -- but only if it has the same name attached.

I love KOTOR, by the way. Cool username and display pic.

Revan
04-17-2011, 11:20 AM
Glad you're enjoying AW so far!

Are you going to use a pseudonym for your novel series? If not, I'd recommend putting your real name to contest pieces. If something you write now (e.g. a short story) gets published, it might help you when it comes time to shop your manuscript around -- but only if it has the same name attached.

I love KOTOR, by the way. Cool username and display pic.
Thanks for the response. Yeah, KotOR is definitely one of my favourite games.

Regarding the topic: you see, my first and last name is spelled differently compared to common variations. I figured if I was going to enter a writing contest, I should create a pseudonym for the very same reason you stated -- for recognition tied to the name.

P.S. If you're looking for a beta reader on your time travel novel, I'd be happy to take a look -- I enjoy them.

A.V. Hollingshead
04-17-2011, 11:39 AM
I have considered using a pen name for the sake of gender neutrality. I write adult (for adults, not erotica or anything) fantasy, which is generally a very male-dominated genre. All of my protagonists are males, and the heavy influence of literary fiction and Westerns also contribute to the whole "male-dominated market" issue. From a marketing standpoint, it is tough to say whether being a female will be to my disadvantage or not.

Should I decide to use a pen name, however, I have long since decided on Charlie Meadows, because my two major influences both have the initials C.M. Cormac McCarthy and China Miéville. I'd also be rather close to Miéville in a bookstore, as well as Stephenie Meyer (I may not like her, but let's face it, 'M' is getting a lot more time under a potential reader's gaze than 'H' [my real surname is Hollingshead]). So it works.

My name is unique enough that I wouldn't bother if it weren't for the gender issue, though. Alexandra Victoria Hollingshead. There aren't many Hollingsheads out there - a voice actress, a UK journalist, and the dude who invented the drive in movie theater are the only ones I know of. Even Alexandra, a rather common name, isn't being used by any real big name authors, at least right now.

Revan
04-17-2011, 12:37 PM
I have considered using a pen name for the sake of gender neutrality. I write adult (for adults, not erotica or anything) fantasy, which is generally a very male-dominated genre. All of my protagonists are males, and the heavy influence of literary fiction and Westerns also contribute to the whole "male-dominated market" issue. From a marketing standpoint, it is tough to say whether being a female will be to my disadvantage or not.

Should I decide to use a pen name, however, I have long since decided on Charlie Meadows, because my two major influences both have the initials C.M. Cormac McCarthy and China Miéville. I'd also be rather close to Miéville in a bookstore, as well as Stephenie Meyer (I may not like her, but let's face it, 'M' is getting a lot more time under a potential reader's gaze than 'H' [my real surname is Hollingshead]). So it works.

My name is unique enough that I wouldn't bother if it weren't for the gender issue, though. Alexandra Victoria Hollingshead. There aren't many Hollingsheads out there - a voice actress, a UK journalist, and the dude who invented the drive in movie theater are the only ones I know of. Even Alexandra, a rather common name, isn't being used by any real big name authors, at least right now.
That's food for thought. Like I said, my names aren't spelled in the common way. In fact, my first name is spelled in the female style. Just my luck. I think I'll take a page from you and think of who inspires me and then develop a pen name from that. And yes, it's unfortunate that Meyer is so popular.

VoireyLinger
04-17-2011, 05:50 PM
I have a pen name.

I chose to use it for several reasons, the first being an ex who is... um... unpredictable. Yeah, let's go with that. I need to have a public face for writing but I don't want him finding me.

The next reason is because I do a lot of work in my area that is in apparent conflict with what I write. I'm one of those affected by morality clauses -- those pesky little bits of employment codes that require me to keep a squeaky clean image. A pen name isn't subject to the clause.

Finally, I do it for privacy. I'm a stereotypical writer: and introvert who prefers to be left alone. Professional recognition online thrills me. In person it makes me want to hide.

How i got to this name is a little less interesting. I looked over the family tree and took a last name that was several generations removed from me, then i hit a random name generator for the first name. Voirey kept popping up and after seeing it for the 30th time I realized it had grown on me. I googled to make sure it wasn't going to pop up with a psycho or stripper's website, then nabbed to domain and gmail address. I went from no name to having the website up in about 20 minutes.

PorterStarrByrd
04-17-2011, 06:17 PM
I use a pen name for a couple of reasons
possible privacy in the future, if I turn out to good enough to have any notoriety. Nobody is going to find Porte Byrd in the directory.

Since I decided to use one I chose to salute two other writers who interest me (and to some extent influence my writing) Those are Mark Twain and Ned Buntline. I chose a naughtical phrase as they did.

There is also, I have read, the freedom to publish under a different name for a publisher other than one you are contracted to.

If you write in different genres you can separate your images where one might poison the other. For instance, you write religious work but decide to write a groaty crime novel or two on the side.

DiloKeith
04-17-2011, 06:20 PM
I write kinky gay erotica, so I never considered not using a pen name. The first name is a short for Different Loving, which I took from the title of a book on BDSM. I think it's gender-neutral, which I wanted. The last name is a Scottish clan remotely connected to me. I wanted something with a personal meaning.

For all names I considered, I searched the Internet to avoid duplication. I failed to do that with a name I use on several forums, but it's had no consequences. That name is based on the names of my three main characters.

elindsen
04-17-2011, 06:40 PM
I have two pen names because I write two very different genres: romance and picture books. I've kept my real first name for both though. Love my name :)

I also choose pen names because of privacy. In my fantasy world, I am a big name author lol. In case that ever happens I want to be safe than sorry.

KimJo
04-17-2011, 07:06 PM
I use a pen name for my erotic romance for a similar reason to Voirey's... my ex-husband once threatened to take my kids away because I'm vegetarian (the kids aren't, just me), so I can only imagine what he'd say if he found out what I write. I also chose to use a pen name for the erotic romance because even though that's the genre in which I was first published, I'd been writing YA under a variation of my real name for quite a while, and I wanted to keep the romance 100% separate from the YA.

The first name of my YA author name is a nickname I've had since middle school, and the last name is my married name from my first marriage (to the aforementioned ex; I kept the name for my kids' sakes). So it isn't exactly a pen name, but it isn't exactly my real name either.

Lillie
04-17-2011, 07:46 PM
The few stories I have subbed so far have had a pen name.

This is really just because my real name is incredibly common. I googled it. Hundreds in the UK, thousands in the states.

So I had something a bit more interesting. Not much, just a bit, because if I want a blog or something under my writing name I wouldn't be able to do that with my real name, all the variations of it were taken long ago.

JSSchley
04-17-2011, 08:03 PM
I'm not even truly on submission yet with my novel (still in that last "polish until you're sick of it" stage) but I plan to use a pen name for Google reasons. At the same time I'm trying to become a published author, I'm also trying to build my stable of academic articles so that I will be an attractive candidate for a tenure-track position when I'm finished with graduate school. My novels aren't salacious or anything, but I want people who google my real name to come across a C.V. that looks like all I do is slave away at my academic work.

I chose my pen to pay homage to others in my family, including my foster mother, who didn't get to keep me when I was a baby.

Tracey Taylor
04-17-2011, 08:14 PM
I use a pen name. Privacy is the reason. I like my privacy.

As for how much thought I put into my pen name, a lot. I tried various combinations before finding one that worked. It's the combination of my real name and the name of someone important to me.

Carrie-Anne
04-17-2011, 08:30 PM
I adopted a pen name 18 years ago this May, when I was just thirteen. I think part of the reason was that I've never been a fan of my forename, which is the most overused female name in history after only Mary. A lot of people have also messed up my Slovakian surname and called me McCormack, McCormick, MacCormick, and MacCormack (and other manglings that are nowhere near what my name actually is).

I picked my pen name from two Sixties songs, though at the time, since I was just starting to get into oldies and classic rock, my choices for a forename were kind of limited. The only other halfway decent choice on that small list I was making up was Cecilia. My choices for a pen surname were even more limited. Two years later, when I became an Armenophile, Brown became Brownian. It was just random at the time, but my pen name has always felt right and perfect, like it chose me more than I chose it.

dangerousbill
04-17-2011, 08:44 PM
Do you use a pen name?
Why did you decide to use one?
What thought did you put into it?


I like the superhero idea, but there's some perfectly good reasons for taking on a pseudonym. I use two, in order to disguise my real name, which is Dangerous Bill.

I use one because I write erotica. In itself, that's not an entire reason, but I have a business, with clients who might react badly if they knew that their favorite technie, Dangerous B, wrote erotic fiction. Even if my novels are works of art.

I know one erotica writer who wrote under her real name. A coworker, a born-again Christian, Googled her, found out about her writing, and outed her in front of the whole office. She had to quit writing or leave her job.

I went through about a half-dozen candidates, and filtered them.
- I wanted a bland name, not Rod Screwem or something stupid like that.
- I wanted a name that either didn't exist in the real world, or was very common. I didn't want the real Rod Screwem coming to my door and breaking my jaw. You can check your names on
www.howmanyofme.com
as well as Googling them.

The use of pseudonyms is so common, you do not have to explain it to agents or publishers.

Libbie
04-17-2011, 08:51 PM
I'm going through a divorce right now, and both my current legal surname and my maiden name are difficult for people to spell and pronounce. I am using a pen name because I want people to be able to find my book(s) in book stores and online. Having an easy-to-remember, easy-to-spell name will help with that. I like my pen name so much that I'm actually going to change my name legally to my pen name. It's amazing how much less annoying your life becomes when you don't have to constantly correct the spelling of your last name.