1. Gonissa
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    Gonissa Contributing Member

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    Pen names!

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Gonissa, Mar 9, 2012.

    So, how do people feel about pen names? Do you have any? Also, if you've been published, how does that work? I'm sure the publisher has to know what your real name is.

    I work in a used bookstore, and I've been noticing that most of our authors have last names A-D. Like, a ton of them. It's the first four letters of the alphabet, but it's around 35% of our books. There's so many Browns, it's ridiculous. So if you want a pen name, I suggest choosing one that doesn't end in those letters. Or, conversely, if you have a last name that ends in A, B, C, or D, you may want to consider a pen name. Also, not the letter W. There's a ton of those. Rarer letters are E and O, and R is pretty good. Latter half letters tend to be better, as the earliest letters generally comprise half of our books. Y is always good, but if you specialize in science fiction then Z is pretty overused.

    Maybe it's silly, but you may want to try for a rarer letter to be more noticeable and memorable. I highly recommend pen names for any Jacksons, Browns, Williams, Wilsons, Griffiths, or Martins.
     
  2. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    My pen name for poetry online is Phoenix Hikari, but I always sign my poems with my first name, the copyright is also signed with my first name. If I ever publish, I wouldn't use a pen name just my own real first and last. Not really a fan of pen names.
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    My maiden name begins with a U, but I am saving it for if I ever write horror. Until my marriage I only ever once needed to share a pigeon hole for mail.

    I use Anastasia (Anya) Kimlin as she allows me to build an online author profile without giving away my real name. Charlotte Pimpernel writes the stuff I don't want my junior fiction readers anywhere near. I've been using another name entirely for my junior fiction/YA because I've managed to sell that to magazines in countries that wouldn't take kindly to my gay characters.
     
  4. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    I think that some pen names are actually chosen purely because of shelf placement - there are certain letters that always occupy the middle of shelves, and therefore get more browsing time from casual shoppers, who will usually stand in the middle of the shelf while they scan. Eye level is also a very sought after position, for obvious reasons. To an extent shelf placement is pot luck, depending on the store's layout and how many titles they carry and by which authors, but choosing a name that begins with a certain letter can help maximise the author's chances of being in this so called 'sweet spot' for eyeball traffic.

    But the most important aspect of a pen name is not anonymity or shelf placement, it's branding. You want to have a name that is appropriate for your genre, that is memorable, easy to pronounce, and will carry its weight. It also has the advantage that if you decide to branch out into a different genre, you can change your pen name and start afresh with a new brand.

    Some people think choosing an alliterative name is a good idea, but it's not really as powerful a marketing tool as people seem to think. Sometimes, if a name feels too contrived or cutesy, it can turn people off. Also, choosing a name that is very similar to someone who sells well in your genre can backfire too.
     
  5. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    My initials plus my last name (M. A. Searcy) I think sounds pretty authorish so I plan to use that when I get novels published.
     
  6. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    All of my work (in fact, pretty much everything I do) is under my real name in the form Christian name/middle initial/surname:

    Matthew S. Dent.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if you don't have a very good reason for using a pen name, such as writing in very different genres, i wouldn't advise using one... and i don't see shelf placement as being even a slightly good reason, much less a very good one...

    i've use them, due to some of my work being more or less x-rated... and also to not be immediately pegged as a female, thanks to that being a turn-off for many novel buyers...

    as for dealing with agents and publishers, all correspondence and payments will normally be in your legal name, your pen name appearing only in the by line of the work...
     
  8. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    I began using a penname because I write adult fiction yet -- before I reevaluated my goals recently -- I wanted to work with children. My aim was to use a name that no one would be able to relate back to me on the off chance that they were to come across it. For this reason, I also chose a foreign (German) name.
     
  9. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    Believe me, it's a consideration - I've known authors who have been advised to pick pen names beginning with a certain letter for this exact reason.
     
  10. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'll use a pen name if I ever publish anything. Actually, just a different surname, because my real surname is difficult for a lot of people to pronounce and spell. If it's hard to spell, people will have a hard time finding my work on Amazon or other sites. So I'll pick an easier name.
     
  11. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    Why? I love minstrels :D
     
  12. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    My name is quite unusual. I wouldn't change it for anything.

    To each his/her own.
     
  13. NeedMoreRage
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    NeedMoreRage Member

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    My real name is way too long and complicated. It would dominate most of the cover and ruin any cover art. It also has no flow to it; it's unappealing to say and hear. I'm not sure what my pen name will be if i decide to self-publish anything, but I might just go with something like my username, something that isn't a name at all. If I come up with a name so good I would want to publish under it, I would definitely prefer to use it as a character name, instead.
     
  14. Gonissa
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    Gonissa Contributing Member

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    You realize that saying this makes me want to know your name more than ever. :D I'm not sure with you can get away with a non-name with a traditional publisher, but I'd love to see you try. Weird names make me want to buy books.
     
  15. jackiehunter212
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    jackiehunter212 New Member

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    Pen Name Discussion

    Would you want to use a pen name for your pieces?

    I was speaking with a friend about actors using stage names, and he suggested I use the spelling Giaquolina instead of Jacquelyn because it is "more Italian" and fits my last name better. He also suggested turning my middle name, Hunter, into Cacciatore (the Italian version). Would this be a catchy pen name? What would you use for your pen name?
     
  16. VioletBlade
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    VioletBlade Member

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    I've actually toyed with the idea of creating a penname for myself because I come from a VERY conservative household and upbringing. If you'd like any clue to how things went in my upbringing, my mother would actually burn Harry Potter books (at least that's what my brother told me!) I had to read these books secretly, as well as anything else she thought was 'occult'. Now I love my family, and I would love for them to know I got something published, but some of the stuff I write about would get me a lecture and a black sheep label faster than anything else would. So yes, to avoid them knowing I write fiction about vampires, or magical powers, or even people who swear, I probably would consider a penname. 'Course then there's all that bit about the author's picture at the end of the book and going on tour and whatnot, but yeah. I suppose, thinking about it, I would use V.R. Blade, or something around the likes of that. Haven't thought too seriously about it yet! :)

    I'm a bit confused with the penname you've created, however. Were you thinking to have it as Giaquolina Cacciatore instead of your real name? Or tacking your real last name onto the end of that as well? I think three long Italian names would sound very fake, but that's just my opinion. I like the Giaquolina, if you were inclinded to create a penname that is, but I think the penname would have to suit you, as well. Simply creating a new name to write under because it matches your last name probably isn't worth the trouble, but again, just my opinion!
     
  17. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    ^ I love the name Violet Blade. It sounds badass. You should use it. :)

    OP, I think Jackie Hunter works fine if you like it. The Italian last name sounds cool too, but the first name might be a bit hard to pronounce. If you want to use it, though, I'm sure it would also be fine. Or you could use initials....G.H. Cacciatore or something.
     
  18. VioletBlade
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    VioletBlade Member

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    Which, just my username or the V.R. Blade? I always thought Violet Blade as a penname would be really, really sweet, but I don't know... obviously fake or something! :confused: I never intended for the screenname to become that originally though... I actually just went to a random generator thing and picked out two things that seemed awesome together + my favorite color happens to be Violet, so it works?

    And yes, I agree, I had to try out the name Giaquolina a couple times to get it right, even though I knew it should sound similar to Jacquelyn. It's a really cool sounding version, but I'm really biased, since I've always loved weird spellings of names. (Perhaps that comes from never having one myself? Literally, if you were to spell my name wrong, I'd probably look at you really funny for a long time!) I would also probably pick a book up with the author's name being Cacciatore, too, simply because it's so different!
     
  19. Berber
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    Berber Active Member

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    I haven't really even bothered to think about using a penname as of yet. I'd rather finish a decent work first, then consider about such details later.

    I personally find Giaquolina Cacciatore to be a bit too much. I'm not entirely certain about the correct pronunciation to begin with, which makes it difficult for me to call it "catchy." I would probably shorten one of them and use Gia instead of Giaquolina. But, as stated, it doesn't really matter; if you want to use it, then go for it.

    Your name isn't going to sell your work (at least not at first). It's the material that matters.
     
  20. VioletBlade
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    VioletBlade Member

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    Agreeing with what mammamaia said, don't use a penname unless you've got a good reason. I have a considerably plain name, but that in and of itself wasn't ever enough to make me consider creating a penname for myself to spice things up! I can definitely see the writing in different genres area, something I wonder if J.K. Rowling has considered what with the rumors of a new book written for adults? (I'm sorry, I just have trouble not seeing all these little kids flocking to her book just because she wrote Harry Potter, but anyway!) For me, the real reason I actually thought about writing in a different name is this: I was born into a conservative Christian household and basically, some of the topics I write about (vampires, werewolves, earth powers, etc) are basically occult in our house and and warded away with the sign of the cross (not literally). My mother burned my brother's Harry Potter books, if that gives you any idea. I love my family, and would never give them up, even to be published though, so *sigh* maybe a pen name is the only way to go?
     
  21. jackiehunter212
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    jackiehunter212 New Member

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    I must say that I really like Violet Blade - it is so soft yet menacing hahaha! I don't know why, but V.R. Blade struck me as a something that would be a really strong (perhaps Russian) name, like Vladimir Blade (which in my heads sounds like a dictator or a vampire killer lol)
    Hahaha and I agree with you 100% about oddly-spelled names! I love unique/interesting names and spellings! I like to imagine it makes for a more interesting person (although, I do not a guy named Jacob Smith who is one of the most interesting people I've ever met)
     
  22. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Giaquolina just screams 'Fake Italian Name' to me, I'm sorry. Worse than that, it sounds prostitute-cheap, almost like Cicciolina :rolleyes:. I'd say your own is a good name, I don't understand why you want to change it. If you do, You also have to consider the kind of books you want to write and the audience. If you want to write childrens books having a "mean" sounding name is maybe not the best choice...
     
  23. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you want to use a pen name, then I would look for something that relates to your type of writing e.g. crime, romance,fantacy, childrens stories.

    As an author, you will want people to remember your name, therefore I would steer-clear of names that are hard to pronouce.
     
  24. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Why do we have two threads on pen names, almost next to each other in the thread lists?

    *merged*
     
  25. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Something slutty, racy, unique might work depending on what you are writing. (Violet Blade is a very Urban Fantasy style name).

    I use a pen name for similar reasons, so my dad can deny me when he finds out what I write lol. Anastasia Kimlin was an ancestor, I remember finding her name and thinking it was a fantastic name for an author/actress. I get the feeling she likes her name being used. I shortened it to Anya for my fantasy, because Anya was a very, very popular name for characters amongst the young-adult writers on the fantasy forum for my first NaNoWriMo. I'd had a character Anya, but she became Beatrice. (Queen Bea suits her ;) ) I use Anya for my fantasy (both my urban and my more epiclike one) and Anastasia for my detectives which I plan on self publishing.

    Charlotte Pimpernel is using my real first name and was suggested by someone on here. It is perfect and cartoonlike for my innuendo based humour, (naughty boy fairies and fire extinguisher spy).

    My maiden name has literary connotations and is best kept for horror. My married name is overused on the shelves.
     

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