1. The Piper

    The Piper Contributor Contributor

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    Pseudonyms

    Discussion in 'Traditional Publishing' started by The Piper, Sep 16, 2018.

    Hoping this is in the right section but feel free to move it if not!!

    I know there are a lot of pros and cons when it comes to using a pen name and a lot of reasons for doing so/choosing to write under your own name.

    I've been thinking about using a pseudonym lately, for the sole reason that "Jacob Alexander" doesn't seem to work. I've never been a huge fan of my own name, honestly, but until now I hadn't considered using a pen name. Realistically, my name just isn't too catchy - I know this seems a ridiculous reason to use a pen name and I guess that's part of the reason I'm asking this: am I overthinking things?

    What I'd like to know is has anybody here used a pen name? What reason did you have, what are your personal pros/cons?

    To elaborate, I'm thinking "Nick Harper". There's a personal connection there that I won't go into but generally, it just sounds better (especially for horror). It does to me, anyway - I'd love to know what people think about this situation and if anyone has any experience with this kind of thing!!

    Thank you
    Piper
     
  2. Edward M. Grant

    Edward M. Grant Contributor Contributor

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    I use a modified version of my real name because there are at least six other writers with the same name, and something like eight or ten of us on IMDB.

    Then I have a few completely unrelated pen names for more experimental stuff that I don't want linked to this name.

    I don't think there's any real problem at all with using a single pen name. But don't use more than one unless you have a good reason, because it means you have to promote every single one of them separately.

    That said, there is the possibly apocryphal story of the African mercenary who turned up on the doorstep of an action novel writer with intent to cause bodily harm because he was convinced the guy was his old enemy from the mercenary wars... and discovered 'he' was actually a grey-haired old lady writing under a pen name. So you might want to check whether there were any real people with the name you plan to use.
     
  3. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I use a few different pen names. I like it - the anonymity, the potential to start over/walk away, the flexibility of being able to write in different genres without confusion.

    That said, it is a promo challenge. I don't DO a lot of promo, but what I do tends to be pretty fragmented, which isn't ideal.
     
  4. Ben James

    Ben James New Member

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    How do you go about promoting multiple pen names and titles, surely it must be a lot of work each time?
     
  5. Edward M. Grant

    Edward M. Grant Contributor Contributor

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    Yeah, exactly. One is much easier.
     
  6. Gemima

    Gemima New Member

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    I like your real name and your pen name - they both sound catchy. You can't lose either way
     
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  7. The Piper

    The Piper Contributor Contributor

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    Thanks @Gemima that's sweet haha, no idea what I'll end up using - need to finish a project first instead of starting Christ knows how many new ones!
     
  8. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Admin Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    There's nothing wrong with Jacob Alexander compared with some of the author names out there

    Chris Kuzneski springs to mind
     
  9. Bobby Burrows

    Bobby Burrows Banned Contributor

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    Ben Dover - might already be taken by an adult film star.
    It makes me laugh.
     
  10. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    I don't have any experience using a pseudonym, But I have a great deal of experience forgetting names. If this were the only metric by which you were to compare these two options, I'd stick with Jacob Alexander. Personally, I think it sounds good anyway. It's strong. That's all subjective though. My point is that (and I almost typed "Harper Lee" here without thinking about it) "Nick Harper" sounds more common to me somehow, like maybe I've heard it before, but I don't remember where or why, even though I might never have. "Jacob Alexander", on the other hand, I'd more easily reconnect with the book I read or even just heard about from someone who did, and that's important.

    Would your middle name or initial be of any help? I don't think it's necessarily needed here, but sometimes even a made up letter or two before or after your first name can sound more authorial. You should be fine, whatever you choose, but I vote "Jacob Alexander". I use my full name because it flows better and is more unique and memorable than just first and last. It sounds more like a novelist's name to me. Jacob Alexander sounds like a novelist.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2018
  11. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    Also, Jacob Piper sounds like he writes Clive Barker, Dean Koontz, Stephen King level horror. I still prefer Alexander, but it's a thought.
     
  12. The Piper

    The Piper Contributor Contributor

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    Thanks @Rzero this is what I'm hoping for is just "which one sticks out more" and I guess if that's my real name then fair enough!!

    Never considered Piper as a last name before. I use the name on here because it was the title of my first moderately successful book and the first one I was truly happy with. I've thought about writing under Piper as a first name but it's definitely a more common female name, and while I wouldn't mind writing under a female name I think I'd feel inconsiderate knowing that women have had to do the opposite historically and why they had to. Maybe that's an odd perspective on it, it would be interesting to see what people think about that!
     
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  13. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    For me, in connection with the horror genre, it immediately evoked, in the back of my mind at first, thoughts of the child thief of Hamlin. The Pied Piper is not a cute fairy tale; it's a nightmare, like so many of the stories compiled by the Brothers Grimm. One of the brothers was also named Jacob, by coincidence, so there's even a double reference there, and it all coalesced shockingly organically. It might still benefit from an initial, "F. Jacob Piper" or "Jacob K. Piper". I don't know if that sounds better.
     
  14. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I personally know two people (unrelated) with the surname of Piper. Neither of them plays pipes! :) So the kids are safe.
     
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  15. jim onion

    jim onion New Member

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    My name is incredibly common and vanilla. There are tens of millions of people with my last name, and tens of thousands of people with both my first *and* last name, including many famous individuals.

    So for that reason, as well as enjoying the anonymity since my writing is transgressive, my curent pen-name is James K. Autumn. Subject to change though because I would really like something with Fox as the last name... James K. Fox?

    I don't think you're overthinking. You sound pretty reasonable to me. And having a name with a "ring" to it is always a good thing. It's important to have a personal connection to your alias.

    My question is: do you think you'll eventually be found out? For me, I see it as kind of inevitable that my real identity will be discovered at some point (assuming I have a successful writing career here). I don't mind.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2018
  16. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    Someone at our writing group brought up a good point... she uses a pen name, but often forgets and signs books with her real name. Oops, trashes one of her paperbacks, throw it away ($$$$) and start over on a new one!

    Jacob Alexander sounds fine. Perhaps if you write erotica or other controversial stuff, you might want to keep your real name anonymous, but I don't see any other reason to do so. And your mother is probably going to find out anyway. I don't want anyone to not know of anything I have written, so I see no need to conceal that I wrote it.

    I really don't think your name is going to affect your sales, though if your name is John Smith, your Amazon search-by-author might be crowded. But really, if you are a new author, only your immediate circle of friends might search for you by name, rather than title, and they will wade through that. Frankly, I don't remember the names of most authors I read, unless I personally know them or they were exceptionally good.

    There are three things I look at when choosing a book to read about which I know nothing. The first is the title or the cover, because these are the first two things I notice: a catchy title, preferably short, and a cover that catches the eye, not overdone, plenty of contrast so the title stands out. If those two click, then I read the blurb to find out more. The author that I don't know and haven't previously read doesn't even register on my scale of things that attract me to a book... literally zilch, nada, nothing. And if you consider how you pick a new book, I think you will find you do the same.

    I think there is a certain vanity about writing under a pen name, telling your friends "Oh yes, I write under the pen name John Cockadoodle," as though that were something special. I'd rather be known for what I wrote, not the name I used.
     
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  17. jim onion

    jim onion New Member

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    I agree. I hadn't really considered that about having a really common name like John Smith or something. Guess the only significant reason I have is controversial material.

    Yeah, having a pen-name with a ring to it is just icing on the cake for the most part. Everything else you mentioned is far, far more important.

    I'd also like to be known for what I wrote which is why I'm not particularly concerned about ever being found out... although don't you think pen-names would come in handy for somebody like me who enjoys writing in many different genres? People have a habit of pigeon-holing. I'd rather be a Tom Hanks, not type-cast against my will.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2018
  18. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    I don't know, @Foxxx, I am branching out into non-fiction now, and have several other fiction stories in mind, besides the ongoing sequel to the Eagle and the Dragon. I think name recognition is hard to come by, but if you have some success getting it, people are going to be more inclined to buy your next book, even if it is a different genre. By spreading yourself across several pen-names, you are starting over with each new line.
     
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  19. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Admin Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I'd use a pen name if I wrote in radically different genres like say Erotica and MG where being known for one would hurt the other if they searched by author, but apart from that I just write under my name... I'm contemplating using my full name for non fiction just to keep the also boughts separate - but it sounds like also boughts are going away anyway
     
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  20. ugly henry

    ugly henry Member

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    I plan to use a pen name for anything I get published. I would appreciate if my pen name became famous while I personally stay as anonymous as possible.
     
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  21. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    I use a pen name because of my profession. I can't have people coming up to me saying "hey, you wrote that" all the time. Of course, my personal friends and family are informed.

    I know someone named Robert Redford and he of course has to write under a different name.

    ****************Off Topic

    There's a town near me where there are a lot of streets and buildings named "Hitler"-- Hitler Park, Hitler Road, etc. It occurred to me that infamous people can give their name a bad rep through out eternity. But their relatives do have that name, and people not even related to them, as I guess the people in this town named for everything co-incidentally are.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2019
  22. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    Michael J. Fox, the actor's real name is Michael A. Fox. He said he changed it because Michael A Fox bordered on conceit.
     
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  23. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Contributor

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    If I ever get a book published, I want to shout to the sky that I’m the one who wrote it. So I’d have a preference to use my own name, or a form of it, unless I was doing something that I wanted anonymity for. Which I’m not at the moment.

    I’ve considered using a form of my name, such as M. MiddleName LastName. Not because there are other people with the same name as me who would hurt the brand — I think there’s a doctor or two, but that’s about it. But mostly so that I wouldn’t cause any branding confusion with myself. I’m also an engineer, which, marketing wise is a slightly different persona. Having a Sci-fi book published would be on my engineering portfolio, but wouldn’t be at the top of it. It would make for better marketing to create two different but similar personas for myself, with different names to make sure they don’t step on each other’s google and social search results.

    It depends I guess. If I were to ever hit it big, my writing persona would take front seat. But right now my engineering persona is more profitable, so it’s hard to make it ride shotgun.
     
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