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What do J.K. Rowling, Mark Twain, Amanda Quick, J.D. Robb, George Eliot, and Dr. Seuss all have in common?
They are all pen names.
In our fame hungry world, why are so many authors not using their real names? Isn't the dream to see our name scrawled across that book cover?
Well, maybe, but there are a lot of good reasons for going with a pen name instead of what's typed on your birth certificate. Here are a few:
1. Your parents were cruel and your name is just awful. Who wants to buy a book by Harry Butts?
2. Spelling or pronouncing your name requires a lesson.
3. You want to write in a genre whose readers are unconsciously gender-biased. (i.e. guy writing romance, woman writing political thriller).
4. You're already published in one genre (lucky you) and you want to write something completely different.
5. Your given name is Steve King or Lora Roberts and it’s just too close to another author’s.
6. Your write naughtiness and you don't want your mother or neighbors to know.
7. You can't pass up such a creative opportunity as coming up with a whole new name.
8. You're convinced your book is going to inspire stalkers.
9. Your name is common and boring.
10. You want all those bullies/ex-boyfriends/nemeses to KNOW what you’ve accomplished.
11. You're afraid your book is so freaking awesome that it will surely rocket you into uber fame and you just can't bear to lose your reclusive life.
I've discussed this before. In fact, this is a modified post of one I did last year. I even tried on a pen name for a while here on the blog--which ultimately didn't work out. Picking a new name that you feel comfortable with is harder than it looks.
Most commenters at the time recommended I just stick with my real name, but now that I'm venturing into writing erotic romance, I've come to the conclusion that a pseudonym will be in order. Not because I'm embarrassed by what I write. But there are many people who are judgmental of the genre and I'd rather not have the kiddo, my husband, family deal with that. It also could be an issue when I return to the working world.
So, most likely, if this newest WIP finds a publishing home, I will pick a new name. However, if Harlequin buys Wanderlust, I will probably use my real name on that one (or maybe just pick a different last name). We'll see. Hopefully, I have to face that quandary. :)
Now, if you're like me and are considering a pseudonym, what elements should you consider in picking that name?
1. It's been said that what works best rolling off the tongue is a two-syllable first name and a one-syllable last name.
2. Make sure it's easy to spell and pronounce.
3. Many recommend picking something earlier in the alphabet so you're shelved higher in the bookstore.
4. Consider in your genre who you would be shelved next to.
5. Make sure another author doesn't have too similar of a name.
6. Be wary of structures like St. Whatever as a last name. Many workers don't know if it should be shelved under Sa for Saint or St for St. You don't want your readers to have to struggle to find you.
7. Please (especially if your write romance) do not pick something that could double as a stripper name. Some of the names I've seen out there seriously give me pause--like if the author thought that pen name was a good idea, I worry their book is going to be just as cringe-worthy.)
8. Make sure it's something you'll feel comfortable answering to if you're doing a book-signing or giving a workshop, etc.
9. Don't make it so long that it's not going to fit on the book spine.
I'm sure there are others, but those are what come to mind. See, not so easy to decide on one.
So what are your feelings on pen names? Do you plan to use one? Why or why not? Do any of the above reasons apply to you? And if you are already using a pen name, how did you decide what to pick?
**Today's Theme Song**
"That's Not My Name" - The Ting-Tings
(player in sidebar, take a listen)