1. PeterC
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    PeterC Active Member

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    Pen Names?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by PeterC, Apr 27, 2012.

    I'm wondering how many writers use pen names and what the pros and cons of doing so might be. Certainly it seems natural to associate one's work with one's ordinary name. Yet I know some writers do use pen names. Why?
     
  2. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If I ever get published, I will use a pen name. My real name is a bit hard for most English-speaking people to pronounce and spell. It's also probably hard for them to remember. I think I'd like to make it easier on them to find my work by using an easier name. It's not just a help to them; it might be easier to market my work.
     
  3. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    I write homoerotic fiction and for years my aim was to work with children. I don't think that would have gone down well if anyone found out - so I used a pen name.

    Even though my ambitions have since changed I'll be sticking with the same name - firstly because I already have published work using this name and secondly because people pronounce/spell my real name wrong. :rolleyes:
     
  4. Cristian
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    Cristian Member

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    Ironically enough, my pen name is of British origin. It's quite a typical one, actually; kind of to accentuate the simpleness of my complex(at first sight) emotions.
     
  5. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    It would have to be 'Tonto Weissman.' It's the punchline to an old joke.

    A plain-Jane milquetoast kind of guy is seated next to a gorgeous woman on an airplane. He has zero chance with this babe, who on top of her pulchritude relates that she is a sex researcher. To make conversation, he asks about her work.

    Without hesitation she gushes, "The best lovers are Jewish men, American Indians and redneck bikers."

    To be kind, she asks his name. He reponds, "Tonto Weissman, my friends call me 'Bubba'..."
     
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  6. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    No pen name, but in the great tradition of J R R Tolkein, J K Rowling and P D James, I think I will go with the initials thing. It's way posher ;)
     
  7. CrimsonReaper
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    CrimsonReaper Active Member

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    My name is so generic people would assume it is a pen name anyway!
     
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  8. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    Confusion is one of the main reasons: there's a non-fiction writer, two other fiction writers and five other screenwriters on IMDB with the same name as me so I use a variation to distinguish myself from them.

    Other writers write in multiple genres and use pen names so people who read one genre won't pick up a book that's in a different genre that they won't read. Even if it's as simple as 'Iain Banks' vs 'Iain M. Banks' for his mainstream and SF novels.

    Many publishers wouldn't let a writer release more than one novel a year under the same name, so they'd release two or more under different names. In other case the writer's novels were a flop and publishers dropped them, so they started again with a different name.

    So there are many reasons not to use your legal name as a writer.
     
  9. simplyrachel
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    simplyrachel Member

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    so many people have pen names. i hate my name so i use the pen name "Lorretta Jade"
     
  10. thecoopertempleclause
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    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

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    There's sexism issues as well. Sad fact is, few people would read a fantasy or sci-fi book written by a woman, so a few deliberately disguise their gender (J.K. Rowling for instance) and similarly, a male name isn't too successful for those writing period romance, so the name is sometimes changed to make it appear female. Oddly, if people see initials and a surname, they assume it's a male writer.

    There's also anonymity. Many writers have no desire to be famous (if it ever came to that) and don't want their writing life to collide with their normal life (most published writers continue to hold down day jobs) so they keep them very separate.
     
  11. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless Contributing Member

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    See this? I don't understand. Do people really look at the author's name? I completely bypass it until I'm done with the book and want to go looking for another by the same person. I just don't understand why a person would just go "John, well I'm not reading a romance written by a male" or "Sarah, pfft, what would a female know about sci-fi?" (Yes, I am imagining twisted up faces for this.) I don't know, it's just never something I've actively looked at when deciding to read a book.
     
  12. toeshy
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    toeshy Member

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    I think if i were to choose a pen name it would be a combination of people/things that influenced me early on. (i.e. Philip G. Muse)
     
  13. simplyrachel
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    simplyrachel Member

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    ha, toeshy i like the pen name :) let me guess, combination of Philip Pullman and the band Muse? :D
     
  14. madeleinefarraday
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    madeleinefarraday Member

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    I use a pen name because my real last name is 14 letters long, and students at where I used to work called me Mrs. C.

    But I also really liked the pen name I chose...it just reminded me of a certain TV show I used to watch (though I only stole the last name, not the whole name.) And it just felt like it had a lyrical quality that my real name was lacking.

    That being said, when I entered a contest recently, I used my real name. I didn't want there to be any confusion in case I did win.

    If I ever publish an actual novel, I will probably use my pen name.
     
  15. Kael
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    Kael Member

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    I hope I am allowed to post in this topic with some questions/concerns. If not, I apologize for the error. :(

    If one doesn't want to have people knowing their real name or any other family personal details (stuff like that), would a pen name be the course of action? What would this actually allow and not allow? And if so, would this mean the author could not be seen by public if under a pen name, for signings or any other matter? I guess what I mean is, does a pen name keep you from activities such as book signings or interviews. Also, does having a pen name mean people cannot find out who you really are, or does it work were your real legal name has to be associated to the pen name? Also, what about the legal issues?

    Thank you all for taking time to read this. I appreciate any and all answers, if any. :)
     
  16. live2write
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    live2write Contributing Member

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    I think it depends on how you want to be judged by the audience. The only author I have met personally was a writer who called himself Avi because it was the name his sister gave him as a child.

    Personally If I write fiction or non fiction that can be viewed by a mass audience I would use my first and middle name. If it is along the lines if my photography or a subject that is marketed to a small audience I would use a Pen Name. Some people want a separation where they want their writing life and their personal life. Some want to push their name out to the public to be known.

    To be honest it is your decision on what you want to use. If you receive recommendations to use a Pen name, use it. Either that use your first name and middle name or first initial and middle name that way you have some connection to you and your work
     
  17. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Kael:

    Given the internet and all the modern digital searching tools available, I would not expect your real identity to remain unknown. If you use a pen name, odds are anyone who really wants to know your true name will be able to find it. Using a pen name should not keep you from book signings and things like that, and it can be useful both in terms of branding and creating a separation between you individually and your work (even if someone who really tries can find out your identity, most people won't).
     
  18. Kael
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    Kael Member

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    Thank you for the replies, live2write and Steerpike. :)

    I see. If it is possible to be known even if you use a pen name, then I think I should avoid it. Seems a bit pointless for pen names nowadays when people can just figure out who you really are. I guess I just didn't think the internet and searching tools would be used in such a manner. How would someone even go about searching a pen name and connecting it to a legal name without, at least, visuals associated to the legal name? I heard from a couple of librarians (I was talking to a few friends around them about this issue) that when you set up your pen name, you can check something legally so it remains a secret to everyone but your agent and publisher, and of course family. Is that true any true? I certainly hope so; I would rather the fame stay away from the family and family name.
     
  19. PeterC
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    PeterC Active Member

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    Try a Google search on "George Eliot" and see what happens. I suppose that's not a fair comparison, though.
     
  20. Kael
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    Kael Member

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    Hm, I did google her and read the entire Wikipedia page.

    If you have a new pen name and aren't know, I don't understand how someone could go about learning who you really are, though its possible I know now. It almost seems impossible to do though, especially if that person has no images or whatnot, available online or offline. And if not all could find it but one did, then one could spread it, so I guess it wouldn't be necessary for me if that's possible.

    Though my my first name and surname are constantly being misspelled or incorrectly said, so I guess I should for the sake of any readers. :redface:
     
  21. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Kael:

    I think you could take steps to make it pretty difficult for people, but I wouldn't rely on the idea that no one will be able to learn who you are. Some people take greater steps than others to try to keep their real name hidden. I use a pen name, and do so for two reasons:

    1. I write mainly dark fiction, fantasy, horror, some science fiction, &c. I also write children's books, however, and I like to keep the name I use on children's books separate from the one I use with adult fiction that has themes not suitable for children; and

    2. I'm also a lawyer, and law firms (and some clients) can be pretty conservative. If I was writing legal thrillers, it probably wouldn't be an issue, but the firm is not going to want potential clients searching my name on Google and coming up with a bunch of horror and dark fiction. It isn't like people couldn't find out, but that initial layer or two of searching (which is all most people are going to do, I think) isn't going to tie the names together.
     
  22. Kael
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    Kael Member

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    Hmm. I see. May I ask what these steps one could take are? Is it something as simple as not (in the internet or whatnot) connecting the pen name work to my legal name? I would like to write in a pen name and keep it, as much as possible, away from my real name and identity.
     
  23. aimeekath
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    aimeekath Senior Member

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    I can't decide if I'm going to use a pen name or not, and so I'm probably going to write a pros and cons list to help me. Something I've always wondered though is this -

    If a writer publishes something under their own name, and then got married (presumably taking up their spouses surname) then what would they publish their next piece under?
     
  24. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    I've wondered about that myself, especially when retaining a popular name might be awkward.

    For example, Tina Turner (nee Anna Mae Bullock) kept the name of the man who beat her.

    Jeri Ryan kept the name of the husband who took her to 'swinger' clubs.

    I can see where both women would want to get the smell off of these men as fast as they could. However, these names are the ones they had when they became famous. Both of them kept the handles, however I cannot see why.

    BTW, my new 'real name' was a nickname in 1964. I changed it to my legal name. My parents were buttinski micro-managers. When I left home, I really left home. My name was a chain securing me to their whims. I cut the ties that bound.
     
  25. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    For one thing, you could conduct as many of your business dealings as possible using the pen name. You can register the copyright under your pen name without identifying your real name. Presumably, a handful of people (like an agent or attorney) are going to know your real name. Also, if your work is successful enough to warrant a lucrative publishing contract, or film, television, etc., then when the people you are doing business with do their due diligence they're going to see (assuming you've already registered your copyright) that the name at the Copyright Office is different from yours, and that will raise concerns that need to be address (maybe you can shield yourself through that whole process too - I've never tried it).

    Registering the copyright under a pseudonym potentially shortens your copyright term, so that is another consideration, if only a minor one.
     

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