1. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Advantages/Disadvantages of a pen name

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Elgaisma, Sep 20, 2010.

    Does anyone know the advantages and disadvantages of using a pen name?

    I had always planned on using one - my fourth great Grandmother came to light several years ago. She has a strong distinctive name and I thought when I found it that she would make a good actress or authoress. I was going to use it.

    However my maiden name is also quite distinctive. My full maiden name looks really good on paper (nightmare to say with my accent always have to spell it out lol but it is simple for most people).

    Now time is coming to consider it might be published I am having a wobble and can't decide whether to use the pen name or my own with my maiden name. (my married name gives several authors with my name already).
     
  2. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would prioritise simplifying my name if i was going to into the international market.
    E. Dalesteel would be so much more simple than Elin Dalstål to handle by other nationalities.

    One reason many female authors select a pen name and often a male one is to avoid to needlessly be classified as chick lit. JK Rowling used her initials for this reason. And Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm too.
     
  3. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^^^^If you don't have any plans for international, should you use initials/last name if you have a somewhat longer name and want to make the name a tad catchier?
     
  4. Evelyanin
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    Evelyanin Senior Member

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    One big advantage is that if your first book is a flop, you can always change your pen name and start over again. A disadvantage is that if your books turn out really well, you can't really change it, even if you end up hating it.
    Another advantage: If you like to write different genres, you can use different pen names. That way, your romance book lovers won't end up with one of your brutal horror stories.
    Disadvantage: Your family might not believe you if you used a pen name. Not that it really matters. If it's a good book, they'll end up reading it anyway.

    I guess it really is a matter of personal opinion. Some people might like to stay behind the curtains, while others would enjoy seeing their name on the cover of a book. Your choice. :)
     
  5. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    My chosen pen name actually works well on an international level - I would rather be seen as a woman I think.

    My own name has the option of being unisex just by changing Charlotte to Charley my middle name is a Scots surname so unisex as well. I can't use intials. My intials and maiden name spell a word and my married name gives me a well known Scottish double glazing company (complete with jingle lol). My full maiden name is easy enough to read it is just when you try to say it together out loud it kind of runs into each other.
     
  6. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Heh, you have to be careful. I didn't use a pen name for my first published thing, and now I feel like I should stick with no pen name, since I've already been publised... I'm actually feeling like I'll have to use the pen name for the serious fiction where I want people to respect my writing... Ironically, considering using the root name for Melzaar as a pen name, which would then mean my fantasy is published under a real name, and my realism is posted under my fantasy name. :p
     
  7. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    hmm I am more confused lol I have sent it off with a pen name originally I did want to hide because of the subject matter of my second book clashes a little with my religious beliefs.

    However I want it to mean something it is important to me and I am now wondering if I should maybe stick my neck out and let myself be counted (to many cliches in that sentence for my liking).

    I think my reactions are both emotional my pen name I want her name to have recognition for some reason but I am really proud of my book. I could always change my name lol use a different one professionally.

    I think you should use Melzaar the Almighty as your pen name lol it is fabulous for fantasy books:)
     
  8. Horizon Noise
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    Horizon Noise Member

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    I certainly wouldn't use a name that wasn't derived from my own, either selected names or initials. But that's just me, it's up to the individual. My full name is too long so I'd probably use just my first and last names. Keep it simple. In actual fact I don't use my first and last name for my illustration as there's already an illustrator with that name, so I use my first and second.
     
  9. Tessie
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    Tessie Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, personally I love your real name. I didn't know the background of your pen name, but now that I do, I still can say I really like you real name. It sound so beautiful and it gives an air of elegance. It really does. I don't know what I am to do with my surname. I don't know, Charlotte, if even you know how to pronounce it lol. :D (there's a funny story behind it, by the way)

    It really is your choice. Maybe using the pen name will give your book a more exotic effect to people who run their eyes over the bookjacket. But your real name to me seems more like you; Weird way to say it. I think your real name is great as is. ;)
     
  10. flanneryohello
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    flanneryohello Member

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    I'm published under a pen name...my real first name, and my favorite grandmother's maiden name. This has worked well for me. I feel a connection to my pseudonym (it's not just a randomly chosen name...it's actually very personal) so it's not as though my published work seems disconnected from me in any way. I chose to use a pseudonym because my currently published work contains extremely sexually explicit scenes and I really wanted to avoid the scenario where a prospective employer Google me and gets an unfortunate first impression.

    I do plan on eventually publishing in different genres and will do so under another name(s). Maybe I will use my real name for certain books...I'm not sure. I suspect that any pseudonyms I choose in the future will be personal in some way, though. It makes it feel less like "a stranger" is getting credit for your work. :)
     
  11. erik martin
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    erik martin Contributing Member

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    I've considered it because I write in different genres, however I have to have somethings accepted first before it really becomes and issue.:)
     
  12. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    mine has become an issue because I am making a website and starting blogs for my characters, and not sure what they should call me lol sounds trivial but important to me:) Plus I am now sending out my introductory letters and chapters.

    Ugh I do think maybe I would give myself more creative licence as Anastasia/Anya instead of Charlotte/Charley
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    el...

    i strongly suggest you divorce yourself from the emotional side of this issue and make your decision strictly on practical considerations, plus what you feel 'gut-wise' [instinct, as opposed to 'emotional'] is the best way to go...
     
  14. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    Advantages:

    You can write & publish multiple books per year, which is useful for those who want to make writing their full-time job. (Some publishers frown upon publishing more than one book every nine months, but it's hard to make a living on just one book a year.) Obviously, this also applies to the short story market, where magazines might prefer not to print the same author in every issue -- but they might not mind alternating between your "real name" and a penname.

    If you write in multiple genres, your readers know what to expect from you. If you are Scott Estin for your science fiction series, Maritere Gallegos for your romance novels, and W. T. Prewitt for your mystery books, you never have to worry about a romance reader picking up a science fiction book under your name and being disappointed.

    If your sales drop, you can "start over fresh" with a pen name.

    If you have a really common name, like Jane Doe or John Smith, a pen name makes it easier for fans to find your work through Amazon or a search issue.

    You have a layer of anonymity, which can be useful if you don't want your career to be sidetracked. If Joshua Morrison wants to make partner at a law firm, and he writes humorous fiction on the side, he might prefer to be "Jim Morris" on the books so his co-workers don't find out and take him less seriously as a result.

    You can hide information about yourself -- your gender, your ethnicity, possibly your country. For some people, this won't matter. For others, it is incredibly important to them that potential readers don't dismiss their work out of hand because it was written by "a woman" or "a Jew" or "a Hispanic."

    Disadvantages:

    You can't point to a book and say "That's me! Whoo hoo!" in quite the same way. It won't have your name on it. It'll have a name of yours, but this is not quite the same thing as your real name, and some people get bothered by the idea that their book won't have their most commonly used name on the cover.

    Clerical errors become a pain. Your name is Cherry Wiznant, and you write under the name Sheryl Winters. But oops, someone has sent your check to the wrong name, and now you have to go back and get the editor to re-issue a check, because on the off chance the IRS audits your taxes, you don't want to have to explain to them that no, you weren't stealing from Sheryl Winters, you are Sheryl Winters and those checks are for you.

    If you use a pen name for each of several genres, you make it slightly harder for your readers from one series to find the other things you've written. For some combinations of genres, this doesn't matter; I don't suppose that many people are interested in both Westerns and bizarro. But fantasy and science fiction have a fair amount of overlap, and your readers might like both genres.

    There are a few legal complications. Copyright can be passed down, more or less; you hold the copyright for many years after your death, but clearly you'll require a family member, friend, or lawyer to manage any contracts after you pass on. However, if you use multiple pen names, you should bloody well mention this before you die, or your descendents may not actually know which stories you wrote. And if you want your Sheryl Winters stories to be taken care of by your granddaughter Joann, but you want your Christine Tremaine romances to be handled by your nephew, you should also specify this. Otherwise your heirs may get to arguing over who should be handling your work if someone wants to make a movie or TV show out of your books after you've died.

    You may lose readers who would have been interested in what "the real you" might have written. If you're an actor, a blogger, a pop star, a famous scientist, a doctor, or just plain well-known by a large number of people, you might get some book sales from people who recognize your name -- "Hey, is that the same guy I went to high school with?" "Oh wow, it's the lady who writes the advice column on PopularSite dot com!" -- and buy your stuff on the spur-of-the-moment. Clearly, if you make up a name, those sales won't happen.
     
  15. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If I get published, I will probably use a pen name. My main reason is that my real name is hard for some people to pronounce and spell. I also think it's somewhat ugly.

    I'd like to use a name people can easily say and remember how to spell. And one they won't laugh at.
     
  16. finchgeam
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    finchgeam Member

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    I am using a pen name,
    Why?

    1. My Full name is long and the initials of my first name and middle name are weird with my last name AF Fjeldsted. It sounds weird.

    2. I have a fun time creating personas, like the alien Roger in American Dad.

    3. The names Alex E. White or Alec A. Anderson sound more likely to be authors. just saying.

    It will not cause a lot of trouble. Alex E. White is a known name for me.
    I am normally never called buy my real name. If i would not have a debit card I would have forgotten my name years ago.
     
  17. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    One advantage is when you are rich and famous you can release a book and see if you still "got it".....or if it's your name that sells books...

    King did that
     
  18. shabit87
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    shabit87 New Member

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    LOL its funny you talk about the disadvantages of a pen name. I wrote my first book using one and showed my mother upon completion. She swore up and down I did not write a book. Once she was finally convinced, she begged me to use my full first, middle, and last name for the next book. Oh and she also asked for me to put her name in the dedicated section...I guess 'mom' just isn't personally enough.
     
  19. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    My name is pretty commonplace. I just did a google search for writers with my name, and there are at least dozens of notable ones. I will definitely use a pen name just so no one gets me, the middle-grade writer, confused with the guy who writes about sexual violence.
     
  20. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    I did publish a few pieces under my real and it was a mistake. So, for my latest work (the only published piece I'm happy with despite an obvious error with tenses in two paragraphs - I guess I should have left the vodka until after I'd finished the final edit) I used a pen name I've been going by online since last summer. I find it useful because my name isn't easy to spell and it separates me from my writing. This is a good thing because I don't tell people I write unless it comes up in conversation. For my pen name I decided to use my nickname (strangely, I never use my real name offline except on documents) and a made-up surname.

    I want to work with young people + my characters lack morals & I often write erotica = not a good combination. I doubt anyone would make a connection if I did use my real name (a pro of wanting to work with languages, perhaps - even if they did find it there's a good chance they won't understand it!) but I wouldn't want to risk it.
     
  21. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am now using two pen names online - my books now range in age from children's up to not erotica but books with very grown up themes. I may need one more but will see.
     
  22. BEyre
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    BEyre Member

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    I am going to use my real name if and when my murder mystery is published. My surname is commonly mispronounced by everyone except those in the UK and Australia.

    So, when I am interviewed (dreaming positively here don't you know) on major talk shows about my book (perhaps have delusions of grandeur at this point), and my last name during the introduction is yet again mispronounced, I can start things off by saying something akin to: I love my last name - it sure is a conversation starter as it is commonly mispronounced. :D

    I do have ideas for stories in another genre where it would probably be best if I use a pen name. :redface:
     
  23. TheSpiderJoe
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    TheSpiderJoe Senior Member

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    I thought about it, but I like my name too much to use anything else.
     
  24. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I thought about using a pen name too not too long ago, I think it was because I felt I would have been so "exposed" (lol) to use my own name, I was afraid to stand up for my own work, I guess. Afraid that pople would know that I had written that (crap)! Now I feel more confident and have almost abbandoned the idea. I still think my name sounds a little too common to be on the cover of a book, and I have been playing with the thought to use another sirname that is in my family which is more original, but right now i'm sticking to my own. I'll deal with that the day I sell my first book ;)
     

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