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Feathers
02-20-2009, 03:37 AM
So here's the deal. I write both novels and short fiction, and I hope to eventually get a career as a novelist. But right now I'm submitting my short fiction. If I was going to get a pseudonym, shouldn't I start using it now? Would it be foolish to publish under my real name for a while - maybe even years - and then suddenly use a pseudonym for my novels? Wouldn't I want my short stories connected with my novels?

But conversely - wouldn't it be just as foolish to use a pseudonym for short fiction? I mean, who does that? It sounds egotistical, and juvenile.

But I need to do something. My name is entirely forgettable. I've toyed with the idea of getting a pseudonym for a long time - something simple, like switching my last name and middle initial. But I've always been uncomfortable with the double-identity aspect of having a pseudonym. I've heard you have to be pretty extreme to keep your real identity a secret, which would mean I couldn't really tell that many people about my book, which would make it difficult to create a buzz on the home front.

What I would like to do is have a pen name - more like stage name than a fake identity. That would make it less complicated, allow me to talk about my work with friends and stuff, and not have to play the whole double-identity game. But if I changed my name and let everyone know, wouldn't that defeat the purpose?

So. Should I go all out, get my pseudonym, live and breathe the false identity? Use a stage name? Publish under a pseudonym now, or wait til I write novels? All of them? None of the above?

I'm sure it's not that complicated. I just don't want to rush into the whole pen-name-pseudonym-DBA thing without knowing what the heck I'm doing.


-Feathers

geardrops
02-20-2009, 03:39 AM
I'm subbing short fiction under a pen-name. But it's partially to do with my real name being pretty crap, and partially to do with not wanting my professional/academic life to find my writing haps.

If that makes me pretentious, then well. That's okay. Because seriously, my surname is pretty balls for a writer name anyway :)

citymouse
02-20-2009, 03:50 AM
Feathers, I have a similar situation. I have three novels out under my real name. However, my WIP is nothing like my other books. In fact my characters are of different race than my own. So do I assume a pen name to reflect the character's race? If so should I concoct a false ID or should I simply avoid a bio altogether? My gut says okay on the pen name and no bio.

I'll be interested to see what you decide. No one I know has any solid opinion on this.
C

FennelGiraffe
02-20-2009, 04:30 AM
I think you're overthinking this.

If the only reason is that your real name isn't suitable--such as too boring or too difficult or too similar to a celebrity--why bother to keep your pseudonym secret? Just tell your friends and family you had to publish under that name for marketing reasons.

Palmfrond
02-20-2009, 05:26 AM
Don't fret about pseudonyms until you have an agent and a publisher. Your agent will know your real name anyway - she issues your 1099 tax forms. Your publisher will tell you that you need or a pseudonym or not; it's not going to be your choice. I was perfectly happy with my real name, but my publisher was not, so . . .

CheshireCat
02-20-2009, 05:59 AM
But I need to do something. My name is entirely forgettable.

One of the best reasons for using a pen name.


I've toyed with the idea of getting a pseudonym for a long time - something simple, like switching my last name and middle initial. But I've always been uncomfortable with the double-identity aspect of having a pseudonym. I've heard you have to be pretty extreme to keep your real identity a secret, which would mean I couldn't really tell that many people about my book, which would make it difficult to create a buzz on the home front.

What makes you think it's even about a "double identity?" If you use a pen name, a publisher doesn't make you swear in blood never to reveal it. You tell your friends, your family, whoever you like, about the name. People who know will ask a lot of dumb questions about why you chose that route, but so what? You have your reasons.


What I would like to do is have a pen name - more like stage name than a fake identity. That would make it less complicated, allow me to talk about my work with friends and stuff, and not have to play the whole double-identity game. But if I changed my name and let everyone know, wouldn't that defeat the purpose?

No, a "stage name" is often what a pseudonym is. No more and no less. You use your real name on airline tickets and hotel registers if/when you go on tour, but you get introduced under your pen name and that's how you sign books for people.


So. Should I go all out, get my pseudonym, live and breathe the false identity? Use a stage name? Publish under a pseudonym now, or wait til I write novels? All of them? None of the above?

I'm sure it's not that complicated. I just don't want to rush into the whole pen-name-pseudonym-DBA thing without knowing what the heck I'm doing.-Feathers

Why a false identity? Seriously, a number of my friends use pen names, all for various reasons, and not one of them has a "false identity." Not one. They just use a different name for the books, or different names for different books (because publishers used to believe -- and some still do -- that an author shouldn't "over-saturate" the market).

And there's no need for a DBA at all. You sign contracts with your real name, the checks are made out to you, the IRS knows how much you get paid and that's all they care about.

It's no big deal. Do what you want.

Though selling a book first is usually the best way to go.

Soccer Mom
02-20-2009, 06:11 AM
Pen names are no big deal. I use one to keep my writing and day job lives separate, but many of my coworkers know my pen name and it's no big secret. My real name is also very boring, so I use my real first name and my mother's maiden name as a pseudonym.

IceCreamEmpress
02-20-2009, 06:43 AM
You don't have to "get" a pseudonym. It's not like a screen name that you need to register with the performers' unions.


wouldn't it be just as foolish to use a pseudonym for short fiction? I mean, who does that?

Lots of people. S.P. Somtow, for instance, published his short fiction (and then later his novels) under that pseudonym for a variety of reasons, including the fact that English speakers find his legal name, Somtow Papinian Sucharitkul, to be hard to remember.

Joe Hill published his short fiction under that pen name; his legal name is Joseph Hillstrom King, and part of the issue was that he didn't want to be riding the coattails of his father's achievements, and another part was that "Joe Hill" is an awesome name.

I'm another one of the people who is confused about this whole "false identity" thing. Pen names and pseudonyms are the same thing. There are very few authors who use pen names as "false identity"--Alice Sheldon a/k/a James Tiptree, Jr. is one of the very rare cases.

IceCreamEmpress
02-20-2009, 06:55 AM
In fact my characters are of different race than my own. So do I assume a pen name to reflect the character's race?

I would not do that. Many people will take that as an ethnic imposture a la Danny Santiago and Amado Muro (http://labloga.blogspot.com/2005/08/strange-cases-of-danny-santiago-and.html), or Nasdijj (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1154221,00.html). I beg you to reconsider this.


If so should I concoct a false ID or should I simply avoid a bio altogether? My gut says okay on the pen name and no bio.

My gut says not okay on the pen name. Perhaps an ethnically ambiguous pen name would be okay--if your name is Erin O'Leary and you're writing about privations in North Korea, calling yourself J.K. Lee seems like it would be okay to me, whereas calling yourself Hyung-Chung Choi seems like an ethnic imposture.

Even more dishonest than a completely ethnically misrepresentational pen name would be a false biography. Sherman Alexie's column about "Nasdijj", which I linked to above, makes the case for why this is problematic quite eloquently.

Feathers
02-20-2009, 08:14 AM
Thanks for all the responses and comments. I'm still not sure what I think, but all the advice is helping. If having a pseudonym is nothing more than having a stage name (unless someone chose otherwise, of course) that's probably the route I'll end up taking, just because it's simple and it works with what I want. But I'm still not sure about publishing my short fiction under the pseudonym.


Feathers, I have a similar situation. I have three novels out under my real name. However, my WIP is nothing like my other books. In fact my characters are of different race than my own. So do I assume a pen name to reflect the character's race? If so should I concoct a false ID or should I simply avoid a bio altogether? My gut says okay on the pen name and no bio.


If this novel is in a different genre from your other published works, I don't see a problem with you using a pseudonym, as long as you don't purposely try to trick people into thinking your a certain ethnicity by the name. Because it is a trick. There's nothing wrong with being a Latin guy writing about Mexicans, or whatever. Lots of people switch ethnicities in their writing. And I would think the prejudice you'd get writing outside your ethnicity would be less than the prejudice you'd get FAKING an ethnicity.

Keep the comments coming, everyone. They help. :)

-Feathers