Monday, 27 April 2009

Pen Names

How do you feel about them? Personally, I am happy to use my own name, and in fact would prefer to. But what about when you want to write in multiple genres? Is it wise then to use a different pen name for each genre, or use your name for everything and hope that readers don’t get confused? What about quite closely related genres like science-fiction and fantasy? Would you use a same name for them, or different? How do you come up with pen names? I, for example, don’t have a middle name so I am pretty much stuck with first and last name. I may use my maiden name for something, and married name for another but that’s about it. To come up with a name entirely different just feels weird because my name is very much a part of my identity. What are your opinions, views? Do you intend to use pen names in your writing?


  1. When I first finished my manuscript, I was adamant that it was going to be published under my maiden name. However, my first name is a very lame nickname that, together with my maiden name, sounds like a country girl calling in the cows. Since that realization, I've written under my full first name (think "Magdalena" instead of "Maggie", although that isn't really my name) and my married last name, although it's a bit stuffy. I don't know ... it's hard. When I try to make up a name, it sounds forced and foolish.

    Anyway, I've found how much I hate the concept of pseudonyms through my blog, actually. It's hard to keep track of the names I've given to everybody : )

  2. I Like To Use Pen Names.

    My pen name is mysterious.
    My real name is plain.
    My pen name is part of a story.
    My real name is part of me.
    My pen name identifies an allegory.
    My real name identifies me.
    I like to use pen names.

    by 5ws1h

  3. I once read that an author shouldn't use a pen name unless the mob has a contract out on them, but I don't agree. I don't think there's any problem with a pen name.

  4. I think about pen names a lot just because I am both a writer and a scientific researcher. The two careers don't help each other when someone is trying to find me for a particular reason! But, like you, I like the idea of using my real name, so I haven't made any switches yet.

    For different genres, it might be good to use different names. But, I think if the genres are closely related, I keep the same name. Readers will often enjoy related genres, so they'd want to know that you do both.

    As far as the name to pick, I think that's really up to you. Do you have a nickname or anything people use for you?

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  6. The benefits of using a pen-name are often only apparent after your career is well under way. Changes of direction, breaks with the past - things that may be not only desirable, but necessary - are easier when you have kept back your true identity. You don't have to make initial submissions with a pen-name - in fact, there's no point; but once you have your first deal, I would advise in favour of their use, on grounds of professional safety. In addition, a well-chosen pen name can actually help attract readers. After all, we choose the names of our characters with care (or should); so why not the name on the jacket too?

  7. Thanks for all your views.

    if a person uses pen name to protect their real name, just in case that writing doesn't work out, surely they can do it the other way around? I mean, use the real name and if things don't go well, try again with pen name?

    Personally, I haven't made any decision yet. That is still a matter for tomorrow, but I do believe I would want to use my real name at least for one of the genres.

  8. I'm late in posting my thoughts, but I have considered a pen name alot. After all, my last name is insanely huge, and I don't know if it would play well on a book. I also think that after my first novel is done, I will probably be shifting to a different genre. My first book isn't thriller/horror, and I think thats what I'd like to eventually write. So who knows.

  9. I use my real name for my young adult novels and a pen name for all other genres. I chose my pen name by using part of a screen name that I had used years ago and coming up with a good sounding last name to go with it the same way I choose character names.

    Then, I googled the name to make sure it wasn't being used by another author or anyone semi famous.

  10. You're right: you can adopt a pen name at a later stage. However, the name that will appear on your contracts will have to be yours (otherwise the contract isn't binding); so your new publisher will have to know your identity - if not at initial submission, then pretty soon afterwards. That's where it can get sticky. An editor may love a book, but the fact that the author has not yet cracked the market will weaken the case in-house for buying it. This is especially true in the US, where sales records are considered crucial.
    It goes without saying that if you have no sales record, it cannot be counted against you. One reason why 1st novels are easier for agents to sell than 2nd or 3rd novels!

  11. There was a time when a woman couldn't get a thing published without using a man's name as author - so a pen name was a necessity.

    But assuming that one of the reasons a writer writes is to be famous, then for me it just doesn't cut it to say "Look, there's my pen name up in lights!"