Monday, September 13, 2010

All in a Name


Talli Roland had a great post last week about pen names. This topic has been on my mind a lot lately because I’m so uncertain about it.

It’s not like using a pen name is an unusual thing. Science Fiction writer, C J Cherryh, put an “h” at the end of her name because her publishers felt that otherwise her name sounded too much like a romance novelist. J K Rowling used initials because her publishers didn’t want to scare off male readers with a female author name on the books.

If I had an unusual name I wouldn’t worry so much, but it turns out my name is more common than I thought. And, what is worse, a woman of the same name, same spelling, has published children’s health books and another whose first name is spelt with an “i” has published faith books.

With today’s growing need to build a platform before we try to get published, I’m nervous about promoting a name that may have to change. This uncertainty factor is why I don’t use my name in my blog title.

What are your thoughts? If I stuck to my true name would I become just one of many, lost in the crowd? Should I stick to this name for now and wait until a publisher tells me to change it, or should I change it now and hope the publishers like it?

I know some of you use pen names. What are the reasons you decided to change your name? Why did you choose a particular name? Do you think a name matters that much?

39 comments:

  1. I"m a teacher and I really don't feel comfortable with my students reading my work. I was thinking about using a pen name. My real name is very usual. In fact when I google myself, I"m the only one who comes up.

    Writing is fun and it makes me happy, but it's not worth losing my job over.

    I would use my middle name and my mother's maiden name for my pen name.

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  2. I have had my pen name picked out since I was 17. Just. In. Case. :)

    I don't use it online because it's a name I made up and I don't wanna see it in lights from someone else using it. But I also know that using my real name is risky too. I have always used a screen name online until now. I wanted to be more "real" on this blog in case agents and such were scouting. So I dunno... hmmm

    Following Erinn's advice I would be Rae Royer. You like? LOL Me neither.

    I say use a pen name unless you are afraid of someone taking it, like your paranoid little friend here.

    I might be back here if I change my mind... I can feel myself going back and forth on this!!!

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  3. Wow, that's tough. Guess I was lucky that my own name is rather unique. I know several authors who blog under one name while their books boast something different. Maybe it won't be an issue.

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  4. Erinn, Your reason for a pen name is valid -- to separate your writing life from your teaching life. I don't have that particular problem, but maybe it would be easier later down the track to gain a certain level of annonymity by using a pen name. I don't know.

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  5. Michelle, I'd never thought of someone stealing a name. As for using a real name, when I first started building a platform I heard everyone say you should promote your name. So I put aside my paranoia and threw my real name out there. Made me nervous lol. I keep going back and forth on this too.

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  6. Alex, you are lucky!!! Why did you decide to use the J? (It does add a certain distinguished feel to the name).

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  7. The reason I go by Natascha Nichole is because my maiden last name and my married last name are difficult for people to pronounce. I've never liked either of them and so when building a career in writing, I chose to go by first and middle name. It's something I can be proud of. If a publisher someday asked me to change it, I would give it consideration, but until then it's staying the way it is.

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  8. Natascha, I like your chosen name. I can't see why anyone would make you change it. And yes, easy to pronounce is a good thing, I think.

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  9. Lynda - I know several romance writers who changed their names to make them sound more romancy LOL - but I think it's up to the individual and I guess your publisher and agent. Whatever makes you happy. =D

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  10. Thanks for the shout-out! :)

    I use my pen-naem because I write in another genre. Plus, there's another erotica author with the name Marsha Moore (my real names) - eeps!

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  11. look at is as an adventure - you could choose a name you always wanted to have or some beautiful fantasy name :) which would make you sound like a queen of some unusual world or something :)

    You already know that the cyber world knows me as Dezmond Hunt. Since I write mostly for my dear Americans and Britons it would be crazy using my real Serbian name so I use this one which fits me perfectly I reckon :) because it goes well with my personality.

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  12. i think you have a lovely name, but you make a valid point...
    i know a gal trying to decide if she should use a pen name, because she feels like it will give her more freedom to write whatever she wants without having to worry about what those she knows will think of her.

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  13. Me, I don't care what an author's name sounds like. I just want to read a good book. But I would think from a marketing perspective, publishers and authors realize there is something there regarding "what's in a name" and make decisions in an effort to become more attractable in the public's eye.

    Stephen Tremp

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  14. I think whichever way you go, you should use the same name for everything - novels, blog, twitter, etc. - to establish yourself.

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  15. I use my first initial and my maiden name thus far. The agents / publisher in August seemed to like it. This way, if I ever get 'known', I can still enjoy a private life under my married name.

    I thought about using either of my grandmother's maiden names, too. So, my paternal grandmother's maiden name was Young, which is my father's middle name. :)

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  16. I like my own name. I joke that I married my husband because of it:) I know for tax purposes it gets tricky with a pen name. But I am who I am and so I chose to go with me:)

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  17. It seems alot of people have been talking about names- and being an author- and how to do it. Honestly if you have a female name your chances of losing male readership seem pretty high, ment end to think women write only romance or some kind of blaze erotics. Which is why agents suggest using a name that seems more male, but its been that way for many years, its hard for a female to become prominent with just their name with out static of being a "woman" The choice is yours, maybe wait til someone tells you to change it.

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  18. RaShelle, this is so confusing lol.

    Talli, it makes sense to change your name for writing another genre. Scarey someone has already taken your real name lol.

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  19. Dez, lol! Are you saying my real name isn't a beautiful fantasy name? ;) *giggle*

    That makes sense also for you to change your name. See, names are important. :)

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  20. Aspiring - Thanks, I'm kinda attached to my name ;) I don't feel I need more freedom to write what I want. If I did change my name it would be because it's such a common name. I like the anonymity too.

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  21. Stephen, yes, it's for marketting reasons I'd change my name so maybe I should wait. Sigh.

    Laura, I agree with that. Our names are our online itendity.

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  22. M Pax, I love your name. It's perfect for the scifi you write. And yes, I really like the idea of a relatively private life under my married name.

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  23. Terri, yeah, I have a strange maiden name that no one could spell right. I was delighted when I married ;)

    Summer, if you want male readers all you have to do is initialise your first name. I agree it seems silly we still have to do that in today's 'modern' world.

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  24. I'd like to use my real name but it is so common. Many writers, musicians, and other use the many variations of my actual already and if you Google it there are a lot of listings. So a more unique pen name it is.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  25. Arlee, hmm, seems like I'll have to change my name. Now to think up a new name. Eeek!

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  26. I'm going with my actual name for now, but I could always write under a pen name should the need or the desire arise.

    Kristin Nelson over at Pub Rants had another good point about pen names. Some employers might not believe an applicant is in for the long haul if she is also a writer.

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  27. With two other authors already out there with your name, it sounds like you may need to go with a pen name. My own is unique enough that I probably won't, although I haven't checked to see if there are any other Helen Gingers out there. If there are, then I probably would adopt a pen name.

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  28. It's funny, I'd never thought about names much, but at the writers conference a discussion arose on the topic and I was told I had a good name for writing because it is a type of alliteration (CC) and it's easy to say and it's towards the beginning of the alphabet.
    I'd never even considered that it might be better to use a different name. I know some writer friends change theirs because they worry about their privacy, but I really don't see that changing much unless you are a huge mainstream writer. I've also heard of a lady changing her name so her books would sit right next to the author she imitates in genre and style (I guess so kids accidentally pick up her book?).
    I've never worried about my identity, never used made up names online and yet I don't get stalked (try as I might).
    I would think Lynda Young is a nice name to pronounce and easy to remember, maybe you want to check out the bookstores and see which shelf Y sits on?
    In the end I suppose it's a personal choice. :-)

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  29. Jeffrey, oh wow, that's a good point about employers. I hadn't thought of that.

    Helen, yeah, that was my fear. And I love your name. It's memorable, no problems with spelling.

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  30. Charmaine, I had actually thought about where the Ys sit on the shelf. I used to work in a bookstore and the authors later in the alphabet hardly got looked at unless they were big time authors.

    My husband is an IT manager and taught me internet paranoia. I love the name Young but I think after reading all these comments it might be better to change it. The next problem is what do I change it to. lol.

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  31. I don't think I'd use a pen name unless I didn't want my students reading my work. My first book is fine, but the one I'm working on now is a little racier- ancient prostitution. But I'd rather have my name on my work if I can.

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  32. Stephanie, oo..your new book sounds interesting. I cna understand why you'd want to keep your own name though. That's what makes me so torn over the issue.

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  33. I don't have an issue using my name, and it's unusual enough to be recognizable. Google it and I'm the one one listed. However, Stina isn't my legal name. It's the shorten form of Kristina. But no one (except for a teacher when I was eight and the government) has ever called me that. But even with my full name, you can google it and I'm one of a kind.

    I wonder about the use of the last name. Though I know my husband and I will never divorce, what happens if that does happen? Just a thought. Is it better, like some female authors do, to use your maiden name instead of your married name?

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  34. Lynda...I think you should stick to your name. Its your writing that will stand out and it does. Even if there are other writers with the same names, their genres and market are different from yours. And your name is a part of you, your identity.

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  35. I've thought a lot about pen names, too . . . but have come to no conclusions. My name is amazingly common, and I can't decide if the pros outweigh the cons. I figure I'll wait to discuss it with a publisher/agent when I get to that point. I hadn't thought about all the wasted name recognition of it. :) Good luck deciding what to do!

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  36. Stina, you lucky thing to be one of a kind. I'm not sure what happens in the case of a divorce. I will never divorce so it's not an issue.

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  37. Rachna, thank you so much. Your words mean a lot to me. I'm still undecided though lol.

    Janet, you are right. I think it might be better if I wait to discuss it with my publisher/agent (when the time comes to get one) although it would be easier if I knew now lol.

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  38. I'm sorry I missed this post, somehow.

    I worked for a PI one summer and learned a lot about privacy issues and security, so I use a pen last name. I could be paranoid but that's what comes of detective work:)

    That's my reasoning, for what it's worth.

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  39. Terry, yeah I'm a tad concerned about privacy. I still haven't decided what to do lol.

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I'd love to hear your opinion. Thanks for leaving a comment.