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View Full Version : Pen names, are they any use?



Ton Lew Lepsnaci
03-04-2010, 06:00 PM
What use are pen names at this point, with internet-info spreading so fast and book signings where your pen name necessarily would become linked to your own name in your own area? Are there any writers on AW that use pen names and see any advantages to it? Do pen names still have a chance to serve their purpose?

Chris P
03-04-2010, 06:04 PM
Sure they do. This topic comes up rather often and people are generally in favor of them, even if they don't use them themselves.

I'm considering one because there are at least two other people actively writing who share my real name. I tell people about my POD novella, they go to Amazon and purchase "that other" Chris P's books thinking they're mine :(

Zora
03-04-2010, 06:53 PM
If you have audiences that aren't likely to cross, different names are usually a plus. If someone were to type your name into a search engine, looking for books on US law (or something related to you in real life or another field you publish in) and come across your webpage geared towards a middle grade or teen audience, there might be some confusion.

You can associate or dissociate them if you want. Take Jane Ann Krentz (http://amandaquick.com/biography.html), for example. She openly uses three names (her real one included).

veinglory
03-04-2010, 07:06 PM
I don't see the purpose of pen names as being absolute anonymity. They allow partitioning of branding and tasks much the same as an online username.

Jamesaritchie
03-04-2010, 07:33 PM
What use are pen names at this point, with internet-info spreading so fast and book signings where your pen name necessarily would become linked to your own name in your own area? Are there any writers on AW that use pen names and see any advantages to it? Do pen names still have a chance to serve their purpose?

I use several pseudonyms. They're just as useful today as ever. And the internet does not mean your real name is going to automatically be linked to your pen name. How could it? Book signings are the giveaway, not the internet, and it's a myth that a writer must do book signings. Even many of the most famous writers today do few, or any, book signings and tours.

Now, very, very few writers have ever used a pseudonym for anonymity, though it does happen. But that generally isn't the purpose. Dean Koontz has used eleven pseudonyms, Harlan Ellison about twenty-five, on and on and on, and everyone has always known what names they used.

Pseudonyms are primarily used to let the writer write a lot of books, usually in different genres. This allows readers to know what they're getting from a particular name.

Pseudonyms also allow a writer to write for more than one publisher. This can be important because publishers often do not allow a writer to write the same kind of books for other publishers under the same name.

Pseudonyms also mean you won't have too many newly released books with your name on the cover competing with each other.

But you can, if you wish, remain pretty darned anonymous. Only your agent must know your real name, though publishers can usually be trusted not to reveal it, if they do know.

Claudia Gray
03-04-2010, 07:43 PM
I love my pen name, and if I ever branch into another genre, I will choose another one, rather than my real name. Aside from the branding purposes veinglory brought up, I have discovered that it's psychologically very helpful to have a pen name. Once your books are out in the world, you get both scathing criticism and gleeful praise, and the extremes of either aren't especially helpful. Hearing these comments about "Claudia Gray" reminds me that it's about my work, not who I am as a person, which means the bad stuff doesn't bring me too low and the good stuff doesn't overinflate my ego.

DeleyanLee
03-04-2010, 07:46 PM
There's also the benefit of starting "from scratch" in the marketing numbers game. If you got dropped by a publisher because your sell-through sucked, that's all tied to your old name. A new name, not numbers-baggage when a bookstore's trying to figure out how many of your new books to buy.

Libbie
03-04-2010, 07:51 PM
I don't see the purpose of pen names as being absolute anonymity. They allow partitioning of branding and tasks much the same as an online username.

Exactly. They're a marketing tool for folks who want to write in widely varying genres.

Cyia
03-04-2010, 08:45 PM
My given name sounds like an already (relatively) well known person, so I use a pen name on my blog and when I comment on others' blogs. I use my nickname, which actually has a better "sound" to it (as some people who read the blog have told me). It's also a bit more androgynous than my given name. I'd use this name for my YA books, and another for other things.

jana13k
03-04-2010, 09:24 PM
There's also the benefit of starting "from scratch" in the marketing numbers game. If you got dropped by a publisher because your sell-through sucked, that's all tied to your old name. A new name, not numbers-baggage when a bookstore's trying to figure out how many of your new books to buy.
I can't speak for other countries, but in the US, every time my agent queries, one of the questions asked is "have they previously published under another name and if so, what is it?" Sell-through does follow you unless you can get people to lie for you, which isn't recommended.

I use a pen name for freelance writing so my readers don't get confused by articles I've written that have nothing to do with fiction.

I have a friend that is a NYT bestseller who uses a pen name and no one has outed her. She still lives a peaceful life with most people around her unaware of who she really is.

the addster
03-04-2010, 09:38 PM
I've used a pen name to some advantage. I'm an activist in one field that I write in. I've pissed some folks off, people that could have kept me from being published. I've submitted under the pen name and got right by them. By the time I had to let them know my legal name (because I do like to get paid) everything has been cool.

I'm not too concerned about anyone finding out who I am. Most folks that care already know. I have had a few "is this you?" surprises on things I have written in other areas though.

Kasey Mackenzie
03-04-2010, 10:06 PM
I can't speak for other countries, but in the US, every time my agent queries, one of the questions asked is "have they previously published under another name and if so, what is it?" Sell-through does follow you unless you can get people to lie for you, which isn't recommended.

It may follow an author as far as publishers go, but what she's talking about is escaping the death spiral of the _bookstores_ ordering based on your alternate pen name's numbers. Obviously you have to be completely up front and honest with your publisher and agent. Switching pen names CAN free you from the baggage of the previous low sales of another pen name as far as the computerized ordering process for bookstores goes.

cameron_chapman
03-04-2010, 11:14 PM
I plan to use a pen name for at least some of my work. I'm already pretty well known in the design blogging field associated with my real name. I also write women's fiction, which I may or may not use a pen name for (as there's little overlap between the market in which I'm already known and that particular market). But I also write sci-fi and fantasy, and for that I'm more tempted to use my real name, as there probably is some overlap, and I'm thinking the name recognition might help. I have an entirely androgynous name (actually, if I include my middle nameóJohnóyou'd swear I was a man, but I'm most definitely not), so at least I don't have to worry about that.

My main reason for considering a pen name is to differentiate between the genres I write. My sci-fi/fantasy tends to be on the dark side, where my women's fiction is definitely more mainstream (though it tends to deal with some sensitive issues). If I use a pen name, it'll probably be more along the lines of CJ Chapman instead of anything too different.

Of course, if I ever get around to writing that erotica novel I've been toying with, I think I'll choose something entirely different...;)

ChristineR
03-05-2010, 04:30 AM
My given name is already in use by a pornstar, plus no one can spell it either.

Jamesaritchie
03-05-2010, 04:38 AM
[QUOTE=jana13k;4703851]I can't speak for other countries, but in the US, every time my agent queries, one of the questions asked is "have they previously published under another name and if so, what is it?" Sell-through does follow you unless you can get people to lie for you, which isn't recommended.


QUOTE]


That strikes me as really odd. I've had three agents, and all said it was never a problem, and publishers definitely don't ask my current agent about previously pseudonyms, but only about books published under the same name I'll be using there.

And publishers allow writers to make comebacks under pseudonyms on a regular basis.

LuckyH
03-05-2010, 09:48 AM
[QUOTE=jana13k;4703851]I can't speak for other countries, but in the US, every time my agent queries, one of the questions asked is "have they previously published under another name and if so, what is it?" Sell-through does follow you unless you can get people to lie for you, which isn't recommended.


QUOTE]


That strikes me as really odd. I've had three agents, and all said it was never a problem, and publishers definitely don't ask my current agent about previously pseudonyms, but only about books published under the same name I'll be using there.

And publishers allow writers to make comebacks under pseudonyms on a regular basis.

Making comebacks is the main reason for name changes in most cases.

The publishing world can be a nasty place, and itís often a very small place too. Even if you are under contract to a mainstream publisher, itís possible to fall out with one influential person in the chain of command, and thatís all it takes to finish your career.

You will then need a fresh start; your old name has been blacklisted and is now a hindrance. And if the quality of your writing shines through, what does the name matter?

Stellan
03-05-2010, 03:18 PM
People can spell my pen name. My real name, not so much. So that's useful.

EFCollins
03-05-2010, 09:41 PM
I myself use a pen name, but not to keep my identity a secret or anything like that. And I shall never, ever wear a cape. ;) To be serious: I use one because my name is so common, and there are other writers with not only my name, but every combination of my initials. I've told people my real name without blinking an eye--I just have a common name.

There are authors, though, that use several pen names, a different one for different genres. This is more common than I thought--Nora Roberts has JD Robb and etc. It makes me wonder about doing so myself, when/if I ever manage to write anything besides horror & dark lit. that is publishable.

Noah Body
03-05-2010, 10:28 PM
My pen name will be Bic Cross, and it's damned useful.

Terie
03-05-2010, 11:12 PM
My pen name will be Bic Cross, and it's damned useful.

Oh, ouch. You need to be taken out to the water, man, for that one.