Friday, July 22, 2011

A Rose by Any Other Name

What? You were expecting a picture of a rose? Only if I couldn't find a picture of a cute dog.

Sometimes I'm like a dog with a bone, and when I want to get answers, I chew. A lot.

One of my bones was this question: Why would someone chose to write using a pseudonym?

Here's what I've come up with so far:

  • Your real name is too difficult to pronounce. Something Norwegian with a lot of consonants with funny things over them, and no vowels;
  • Your real name is immanently forgettable. Jane Smith comes to mind;
  • You write in more than one genre, like Roberts-Robb;
  • You would be embarrassed if people knew you wrote that kind of book;
  • You're under the illusion you'll maintain some kind of privacy;
  • You want to know what people really think about your writing;
  • You want to suffer the pain of bad reviews in private;
  • You write in a genre where it seems those of your opposite sex find more success. Women romance writers or male horror writers.
  • Your name has already been taken by another writer;
  • Your name is well known, and not in a good way. Casey Anthony. Jim Jones.
  • You're at the top of your game in the corporate world, and if your peers or clients knew you were 'wasting your time' writing a fiction book, your business would suffer;
  • You're a surgeon who writes about a serial killer who dismembers his victims; or
  • You're a divorce lawyer who writes sweet romance.

I plan on using my own name for a couple of reasons:
  • ego;
  • sales. Some people will buy the book(s) because they know me. Why lose those sales?

If you used or use a pen name, why?

If you don't, why not?

As a reader, what goes through your mind when you learn that an author is using a pseudonym?

Peg Brantley is working toward publication, picking herself up from frequent stumbles. Metaphorically. Asking her to do that literally could be a bad thing.


  1. You picked up my busy morning with this entertaining read, Peg! I love your understated humorous style! I had a good chuckle over your four reasons at the end, especially this one:

    "You're a surgeon who writes about a serial killer who dismembers his victims."

    Thanks for starting my day off with a grin!

  2. Fun post. I use my real name and will continue to do so, even if I venture into other genres. Call it branding or platform or whatever, but it's all I've got going for me in promotion world.

    The strangest thing about pen names is meeting those authors at conferences and learning that their real name is something else and they preferred to be called that. It's a little confusing, especially with a million people and names to keep track of. Still, they have their reasons and I respect that.

  3. I just wrote a blog about this myself, although I was questioning the use of using a pen name for myself. I agree with all these reasons you stated, and for me it's to write in a different genre. My decision is still up in the air. As far as branding, I already have a website for said pen name, facebook, and a blog so her branding is started if I choose to go with her. Keeping her secret is still my dilemma. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I just thought of another reason . . . absolutely no one likes you. So in order to have a chance of sales, it's important to have a name no one associates with you.

  5. Thanks for a great post, Peg. I still fail to understand why someone who's been published under one name would use another.

  6. I understand the logic but can't imagine putting an artificial name on my work. For me, it would feel disingenuous, like hiding. As a reader, it's hard for me to get behind a writer who doesn't want me knowing who they are. As a writer, I feel I have a responsibility to be accountable for what I create. That ultimately means taking ownership of it.

  7. I published children's books for years under my real name, Chris Eboch. When I started writing romantic suspense for adults, I didn't want 12-year-olds stumbling across it thinking it would be the same as my stuff for kids. But I kept a similar name -- Kris Bock -- so people can always call me Chris. It's hard building name recognition for a new name, but that might be true in a different genre anyway.

  8. Jodi, I got a kick out of thinking I gave you a chuckle this morning. Thanks for letting me know.

    I love your name L.J. There's something strong about it. And suitable for just about every genre.

    Mary, I have a friend who writes under a pen name. And yet, she signs virtually every email with her real name, and 'writing as' after it. WHAT?

    Marlyn, I think Chris gives a fairly upfront reason for making that kind of decision.

    But, I'm with Andrew. Sheesh, as much as I can struggle over character names, can you imagine what would happen to me if I had to think of one that had to actually last???

  9. Peg, Chris gave me a fantastic reason for the decision, but her situation wasn't what I was referring to. I meant people who use pseudonyms for the same gentre. There are several cozy authors who do this.

  10. Really? Is it because they write so many books in a year? If they're not completely different readers, I don't get the point. Sheeshkabobalino.

  11. It used to be the Big Publishers didn't want one to use his or her name in another genre, or to put out books too often.
    Now in the new publishing era...self-publishing...the choice is ours.

    Love you list, Peg.

  12. I qualify for your number one reason, my last name is too difficult to pronounce unless you're from Sicily. I have to spell it all the time, usually twice. I'm engaged, so Johns might be my last name some day.

  13. I write under my own name and what a mouthful it is - Avril Field-Taylor. I've had 2 books published so far and the website is under that name, but my FB page is just Avril FT. However, I write two characters in the same genre, one an apothecary in an alternative Tudor history and the other a contemporary early-music soprano. The second is very English, so I will probably keep the name, but the apothecary might need something a bit more cosmopolitan. However, until my (American) agent manages to persuade someone to take dear old Luke Ballard on, it's all academic. At the moment, the recession renders everything ten times more difficult than it already was.

  14. I think some publishers want their authors to write under a name of their choosing--one the publisher owns. Another reason is that your first book bombed so badly you don't want to be associated with it.
    My reason would be a different genre. If I ever finish my YA science fantasy, I'll use a different name, but I like Kris/Chris's idea. How about Allis Addrington (family surname) instead of Ellis Vidler?

  15. Linda, isn't this one of the best times ever to be a novelist?

    Madison, my sister married a Corriere. And she's getting ready to release her second book under ta-dah . . . Lala Corriere. (And congratulations on that engagement.)

    Your name is beautiful, Avril. Just unique enough to be memorabale.

    Allis Addrington. Nice homage to your family, Ellis, and looks like a name that could by fun for YA.

    I wish I had a more memorable name. Guess I'm gonna have to try and write memorable stories.


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