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View Full Version : Beware the nom de plume, a slightly different take on pen names



the addster
05-11-2010, 12:03 AM
We get a lot of threads here about using pen names, this is just something to think about for everyone considering using one.

I started blogging under a pen name years ago. I chose it because it matched my user name on a message board dealing with the subject of my blog. Not a big deal, right?

Then I started writing about the subject for bigger paid blogs. Oh course I had to use the pen name, because that's what I was known by. Then I wrote some articles for print publications, all my credits were in my pen name, so I used it.

Last week I was speaking with a publisher about the new book I'm working on. We were speaking about how to proceed with the project. She knows I use a pen name because I have worked with her before. In that awkward moment on conference calls when everybody let's everyone else know what they want to be called, everybody decided just to call me by my pen name.

I'm pretty sure I'm stuck with it.

It's not a bad name, it is more "writerly" what ever that means. It was my real name at one point in my life, but I think I'm going to have to get something going in another genre to ever be published under my real name. It's not the end of the world, and the reasons I picked that name are still perfectly sound, but I thought I might be ready to just be me on this one.

Maybe next time.

Just something to think about when considering a pen name.

crazynance
05-11-2010, 12:34 AM
But I see lots of books where it says Author X under his/her pen name: Nomde Plume.

Shadow_Ferret
05-11-2010, 12:42 AM
It was my real name at one point in my life,...

I'm confused. You legally changed your name or something? Or are you using your maiden name?

I see no problem with using a pen name unless you have some reason to be able to brag to others, "Yeah, see? I DO write." :)

Me, I don't care if anyone I know knows I write. And in fact, I'd prefer to be unknown.

the addster
05-11-2010, 12:49 AM
Yeah, but most of them are well known under both names. I don't think I quite have the recognition for that one.

At least I don't have to worry about folks with torches and rakes showing up in my front yard.

the addster
05-11-2010, 12:50 AM
Shadow F,

I'm an adoptee, I use my birth name. It was changed when I was 2.

leahzero
05-11-2010, 01:01 AM
I see no problem with using a pen name unless you have some reason to be able to brag to others, "Yeah, see? I DO write." :)

There are plenty of other reasons for wanting to use a specific name that don't have to do with bragging. Many people have notions of identity linked to a certain name. To not be able to use the name you want, regardless of where it comes from, can undermine your sense of self-identity.

OP, good post and food for thought. IMO people are far too casual about pseudonym use, but that probably stems from a combination of internet culture (where pseudonyms are the norm) combined with a lack of awareness about building a brand.

Namatu
05-11-2010, 02:39 AM
If you used a pseudonym and then decided you wanted to use your real name, couldn't you do so and, in a brief bio line, note "has published similar articles under the name such-and-such"? Or is it more complicated than that?

the addster
05-11-2010, 02:52 AM
Nah, it's more complicated than that. It's the branding thing. I suppose that I could insist on putting my real name on the cover, but I'd only be hurting myself. My platform is in my pen name.

It's more the identity thing that's getting me. Anybody I care about either knows the pen name or wouldn't give a damn. I'm not out to impress anybody.

Eh, I probably owe anything I've ever got published to my identity issues, it'll be alright.

I just wanted people to think about taking a pen name as a commitment.

Namatu
05-11-2010, 03:51 AM
Platform is a good consideration. You can't rebuild that with a "has also written under the name" sentence.

Cyia
05-11-2010, 03:54 AM
I just wanted people to think about taking a pen name as a commitment.

I'd drop my given name in a heartbeat and never use it again. I like my pen name. :)

CAWriter
05-11-2010, 09:34 AM
I have a friend who encountered the same situation. She initially used a pen name because the subject matter of the book (infidelity and its aftermath) were sensitive and she wanted to keep her family from having to deal with the issues related to airing dirty laundry.

In her daily life I suppose she goes by her actual name, but now, anything related to writing (conference attendance, speaking engagements, etc) all are done under her pen name as that's where her biggest writing success and her 'platform' were established. It is hard to get the credit deserved under her actual name when it was earned under another.

kaitie
05-11-2010, 01:13 PM
I've had friends call me Kaitie before, which is certainly not my real name. I don't mind at all haha. I'm probably sorta weird like that, though. ;)

I do imagine having basically a separate identity would be weird, though.

shaldna
05-11-2010, 01:54 PM
I was named after a bun (yes, you heard that right) so I don't tend to use my real first name very often. Most people call me by my handle or by one of my various nicknames.

JimmyB27
05-11-2010, 03:40 PM
I was named after a bun (yes, you heard that right) so I don't tend to use my real first name very often. Most people call me by my handle or by one of my various nicknames.
Is that you, Hot Cross?

shaldna
05-11-2010, 05:37 PM
ok, since i've been inundated with requests I can assure you all that I was not named after a chelsea bun. Lol. It's not quite that bad,.

I was infact named after a......................... chocolate eclair. Honest to god. My dad thought it was a sweet story, thankfully mammy made him drop the e and I just got Claire.

My best friend was named after a boat though.

Lyra Jean
05-11-2010, 05:44 PM
It's one of the reasons that I now post under my real name. Although Jean is my middle name and not my last name. But I figure that's good enough.

shaldna
05-11-2010, 06:00 PM
It's one of the reasons that I now post under my real name. Although Jean is my middle name and not my last name. But I figure that's good enough.


I always thought Jean was a really cute name.

JimmyB27
05-11-2010, 08:25 PM
ok, since i've been inundated with requests I can assure you all that I was not named after a chelsea bun. Lol. It's not quite that bad,.

I was infact named after a......................... chocolate eclair. Honest to god. My dad thought it was a sweet story, thankfully mammy made him drop the e and I just got Claire.

My best friend was named after a boat though.
That's not a bun! That's a cream cake. Sheesh.

Also, what's wrong with Claire? My sister is called Claire...

Libbie
05-11-2010, 08:48 PM
You can just do what I'll be doing later this year, and legally change your name to your pen name.

Personally, I don't look at pen names as "not being published under my real name." Perhaps because I've gone through a parents' divorce in the past which involved a name-change, then was married, and now will soon be single again, my name(s) don't have a whole lot of personal significance to me. I know that sounds weird. But it is what it is. I'm Libbie, and I don't care much what other labels are affixed to me or my work. It's usually quite easy to find out the real name behind a pen name, anyway, so I look at my current pen name and all future pen names I may use for branding purposes as costumes to wear. It's like having a secret identity that's easy to figure out -- because, really, who in Gotham DIDN'T know that Bruce Wayne was Batman? Come on! Who else is rich and bitter enough to be the Dark Knight? Everybody knew. They just respected both Bruce Wayne and Batman enough not to let on.

Any publishing I might do under subsequent pen names will feel just as legitimate and just as attributed to me as will any publishing done under my legal name. But that's just me.

RedRajah
05-15-2010, 06:51 AM
I'm just miffed that my maiden name is probably too close to an already established published writer's name. My (full) married name is awkward, but if I only go by my husband's last name, I feel like I'm losing my identity. That what makes me "me" will yet again go unnoticed.

Mind you, it's all a moot point as I still need a successful query first... ;)

Devant
05-18-2010, 03:58 PM
Although I never got any real publishing, I got my nickname many moons ago (In my first roleplaying session, about 12 years ago), and stuck that much, that I kept using it for everything, to the point that some friends call me with it. I get called "Dev" a lot >.> The last two years, I am adding my initials to it (P.A.Devant). My real full name would be really awkward to use in a multilingual enviroment. (Being Greek and all).

aruna
05-19-2010, 07:08 PM
I've got a similar thing. I wrote my first book under my maiden name, Westmaas. My publisher suggested I change it because a) it wasn't easy to remember and b) it began with W which meant a bottom shelf. Eager to please, I did, dropping the West. My website and all my books are published under that name, and my 15 minutes of fame were under that name.
My next book, which is non-fiction, is going to be under Westmaas. I'm going to insist this time; the name has a bit of history and reputation where I come from, and it only makes sense.

Otherwise, I don't really care; a rose by any other name, and so on.

This is all, of course, under the BIG caveat: IF......!!!!!

(To make matters even more compliated, neither of these names is my real, legal name, which is my husband's name. And it's so German I can't even pronounce it properly myself!)

shaldna
05-20-2010, 03:29 PM
I've got a similar thing. I wrote my first book under my maiden name, Westmaas. My publisher suggested I change it because a) it wasn't easy to remember and b) it began with W which meant a bottom shelf. Eager to please, I did, dropping the West. My website and all my books are published under that name, and my 15 minutes of fame were under that name.
My next book, which is non-fiction, is going to be under Westmaas. I'm going to insist this time; the name has a bit of history and reputation where I come from, and it only makes sense.

Otherwise, I don't really care; a rose by any other name, and so on.

This is all, of course, under the BIG caveat: IF......!!!!!

(To make matters even more compliated, neither of these names is my real, legal name, which is my husband's name. And it's so German I can't even pronounce it properly myself!)


Completely unreleated, but I just ordered Peacocks dancing. gorgeous cover btw.

CalynMorgan
05-20-2010, 07:59 PM
If you have a pen name, are you able to legally use that name to sign things?

Also, will the royalty check come in your real name or your pen name?

the addster
05-20-2010, 08:07 PM
I've always used my real name to sign things, especially the back of checks.

There are ways that you can use a pen name, I've never looked into them because for me it's not a big deal if my real name is known. I'm sure some other folks will know what legal stuff you need to go through to make the pen name work for the business stuff.

cllorentson
05-20-2010, 10:29 PM
If you have a pen name, are you able to legally use that name to sign things?

Also, will the royalty check come in your real name or your pen name?

This is a good question. I write under my maiden name, which is not my legal name, but I do have documentation to show that it was my legal name at one time, i.e., passport, marriage license, old driver's license, etc. If I end up with a check from a publisher that is written out to my maiden name, I just show the bank all my documents when I go to deposit the check, and they usually don't even want to see all of it.

I try to ask the publisher to make the check out to my legal name, when we get to that part of the discussion. But if I don't get an opportunity to mention it, and the check is made out to my maiden name, I don't sweat it.

Of course, this only works if your pen name is a legal former name. If the name is completely unrelated to your legal name, then you would probably want to make that clear to the publisher before they write the check.

Personally, that's why I love getting paid through PayPal. You could call yourself "Elektra the Rain Beast" and still get paid, as long as they have your email address...:)

Paul
05-20-2010, 11:16 PM
I've always used my real name to sign things, especially the back of checks.



And therein dies the angst.



on a slightly more serious note, i like the pen name thing - when i write (creatively/genre) i have to enter a different mind frame, so a different name suits.

Long as the checks have my real name..

Paul
05-20-2010, 11:18 PM
If you have a pen name, are you able to legally use that name to sign things?

Also, will the royalty check come in your real name or your pen name?

Whatever name's on your publishing contract = name on check

Wayne K
05-20-2010, 11:19 PM
My pen name is Bic Flair

Alitriona
05-21-2010, 01:45 AM
I'm just miffed that my maiden name is probably too close to an already established published writer's name. My (full) married name is awkward, but if I only go by my husband's last name, I feel like I'm losing my identity. That what makes me "me" will yet again go unnoticed.

Mind you, it's all a moot point as I still need a successful query first... ;)


My real name is very close to an established published writer's name. But, it is my real name and I don't want to publish under a different name to my own so I will be using it.

Hallen
05-21-2010, 01:59 AM
One other aspect to consider and that is security. My friend has published three books and has a decent following. She does get bothered, from time to time, by weirdos. Fortunately, that mostly happens online. She uses her real name. It's a name that has a lot of equity now because she is also a top notch freelance copywriter. So, it's hard to hide.

If you know somebody's real name, and you have some internet savvy, or willing to pay somebody with that savvy, you can find out a whole lot about a person. If you own a house, that address can be found online, and it gets worse from there. Do you really want some creepy stalker showing up at your house at 2am to discuss your character's motivations?

So, if you want to protect your privacy and security, then using a pen name would be one way to accomplish that. If I ever get published, I'm going to consider it for security reasons.

JeanneTGC
05-21-2010, 02:08 AM
If you have a pen name, are you able to legally use that name to sign things?

Also, will the royalty check come in your real name or your pen name?
All the checks go to your real name, just like the contract you'll sign with your agent and publisher/s, unless you've incorporated under your pen name (which is costly and unnecessary until you're at Nora Roberts levels).

I, personally, don't understand the pen name angst. I'm pubbed under 4 different pen names...so far...and have several others with novels being shopped. Each name writes differently and in a different voice, hence the different names, because your name IS a contract with the reader that they can expect "this kind" of book from you.

It can get a little confusing if I'm signing books under two names, but, you know what? Readers are FAR less confused, or interested, in this than we are. They just go, "Oh? You write this, too? Cool."

Pen names are a business decision first, and a personal preference second. Using one doesn't mean you do or don't like your own name. And there are a lot worse things than having a pen name that's successful brand. Like, you know, not having any name that's selling anywhere. ;)

JimmyB27
05-21-2010, 11:30 AM
Personally, that's why I love getting paid through PayPal. You could call yourself "Elektra the Rain Beast" and still get paid, as long as they have your email address...:)
I would love to read a book by Elektra the Rain Beast. :tongue

I, personally, don't understand the pen name angst. I'm pubbed under 4 different pen names...so far...and have several others with novels being shopped. Each name writes differently and in a different voice, hence the different names, because your name IS a contract with the reader that they can expect "this kind" of book from you.

It can get a little confusing if I'm signing books under two names, but, you know what? Readers are FAR less confused, or interested, in this than we are. They just go, "Oh? You write this, too? Cool."
Hm. Personally, I would prefer my writers to use the same name. I love Robin Hobbs, but I've still yet to try anything by Megan Lindholm. Partly because it was a while before I even knew they were the same person. Now I feel like I'm missing out. And yes, I could just go to the bookshop and get a Lindholm book, but I'm not sure they're as popular. I don't think I've ever seen one. And there's still a sort of subconscious disconnect in my mind that they're 'not really the same person'.
I like what Iain Banks does though. He 'changed' his name for his SF novels, but only after a complaint from his mother who wanted to know why he was shunning his middle name. So his 'normal' books are published as Iain Banks, and his SF as Iain M. Banks. :D