ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

#IWSG post - Do you use a pen name?

Time for the April IWSG. Thank you to Alex J Cavanaugh and his side kicks for the month--Christopher D. Votey,Madeline Mora-Summonte, Fundy Blue, and Chrys Fey! 

Man, did I ever get a nasty surprise this morning when I checked whether my IWSG post had gone live--it'd disappeared. You can imagine my frustration. I'd prepared it a few weeks ago so I could clear my slate for an April write fest.

I really don't have the heart to redo the whole thing with pictures etc, so I'll just get to the question of the day--no, not the suggested question about whether I've ever used the A-Z to market a book--my question today is 'what do you think of pen names/pseudonyms?' I've been thinking of republishing under a pen name after attending a Joanna Penn workshop--she publishes under Joanna Penn for her non-fiction and as J.F. Penn for her fiction. She says it helps Amazon to target readers for the different genres.

So then I started researching, as you do, and was quite surprised at the authors who use more than one name. Who would have thunk?
Image result for images for pen names
  • Stephen King (his real name) writes Horror. He also writes as Richard Bachman, Eleanor Druse, Steve King, and John Swithen. Check them out!
  • Jack Higgins (his pseudonym) writes Mystery. He also writes as Martin Fallon, James Graham, and Hugh Marlowe.
  • Issac Asimov (his real name) wrote Science Fiction. He also wrote as Paul French and George E. Dale.
  • J.K Rowling (her real name) writes her Cormorant Strike detective series under the pen name Robert Galbraith -- that secret was soon revealed!
  • Barbara Michaels (her pseudonym) writes gothic and supernatural Thrillers. She also writes as Elizabeth Peters.
  • Nora Roberts ( born Eleanor Marie Robertson) writes as J. D. Robb for her Death series and under the pseudonym Jill March. She calls herself Sarah Hardesty in the UK. Fascinating!
  • Alistair MacLean (his real name) writes Mystery. He also writes as Ian Stuart.
  • Eboni Snoe (her pseudonym) writes African-American Romance.
And of course, there's many, many more...

  • So, the question is -- why do these successful authors use pen names? I'm sure they're not insecure about too much. Why then? Is it just about different genres, or are there other reasons? 
  • Do you think the extra work involved (new blog, new social media etc) is worth it to write under a pen name? I've had people tell me yes, people tell me no.
We at WEP would love it if you sign up for our challenge on April 19th - "P" day for the A-Z. You can so do both...sign up in my sidebar or over at Write...Edit...Publish.

WEP CHALLENGE FOR APRIL, FITTED TO THE A - Z CHALLENGE.

Thanks for taking time in your busy schedule to visit me!





42 comments:

  1. I've already given you my suggestion so I won't rewrite it here, but I'll have to check back a few times to read what everyone else thinks. :)

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    1. Thanks for your suggestions, Lyn. It's interesting to see the different ideas here...:-)

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  2. Hi Denise - I think as they become successful in one genre, it makes sense to add another (pen)name into the mix ... I can see the logic - also they want to get approval ... as JK did before Galbraith got outed. I'm in for the Peace and Love ... probably not conforming, but there! Cheers and enjoy the writing time - and you know I'm A-Zing ... Hilary

    http://positiveletters.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/d-is-for-ducks-dabbling-diving-domestic.html

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    1. I think it makes sense, too, Hilary, but these authors have secretaries. :-(

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  3. There seems to be a growing trend for authors who publish in different genres, to have pen names. It seems to work well for some of them. They have a different writing voice/style with each genre which they say is a great help to readers as well. Some say anonymity of writing the stories knowing people don't know who they are kind of takes the pressure off...
    One indie said the advantage of having multiple names is that she can release one author name's book while writing another author name's book.
    I suppose there's nothing to lose by going this route. What I did pick up on, was the extra work involved in having a pen name, e.g. the setting up of social media accounts for the new pen name, new mailing list, new PayPal, Facebook page, pen name author profile (depending to what extent you want to market and promote)
    What picture would you use for the new persona?
    I read that the challenge in having a pen name(s) is trying to keep up with writing/publishing on some kind of reasonable schedule for both the names.
    Just my thoughts...

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    1. Yes, I've wondered about the picture thing. Joanna Penn uses her own face, but a different pose and different colours and feel for her pages.

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  4. Sooo frustrating to lose a post!
    I think a pen name would be fun but only if I had an assistant to set up a whole new online profile for me :P

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    1. Yes, I do need an assistant that's for sure!

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  5. I really don't see the need to use a pen name. I think writing in different genres just shows that you are talented and is a way to draw in more readers. Didn't realize Stephen King and Nora Roberts used pen names too.

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    1. They sure do as do so many others!

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  6. We've discussed this, but I'm still on the fence. I used my first two names, but wish I'd chosen something different. I like the idea of initials though, sometimes gender is a killer, but if you do the social thing, it's out there anyway. I say start with a name you like, if you're successful, stick with it, if not try something new! But yeah all that extra work, no thanks, too much already to do and I only have 5 or 6 books, gee, I can't even remember!!!
    You have name recognition due to the blogging and travel writing and the WEP!!! Great marketing already started!

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    1. Yep, but those who recognise my name don't buy my books! LOL! I'm looking for a different market.

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  7. Sorry you lost your post.
    That's a lot of pen names.
    I think some authors have names that just don't roll off the tongue. Or maybe they're too long? Can you imagine if I used my full name? It would never fit on the book cover.

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    1. Fitting the book cover...that's good. But you stick to one genre. I imagine if you branched out, you'd use a pen name.

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  8. Ouch! Hate losing posts.

    I didn't know Steven King, the master of horror, had so many pen names!

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    1. I'd like to know why. Someone suggested it was for tax purposes???

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  9. I use a pen name for my romance, mostly because I was teaching high school when I started writing. I use my real name for writing fantasy.

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    1. That's interesting to know, Susan.

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  10. I've met plenty of authors who write sweet romances under their real name and erotica under a pen name.

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  11. Sorry you lost your post, how frustrating. But this is so interesting! I knew about some of the pen names but didn't realize there were so many. I've thought about it and I think if I write any more children's books I will use a pen name.

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    1. Yes some have told me if they branch into another genre, they'd definitely use a pen name especially if they write erotica.

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  12. Some just want to branch out and fans won't let them. Pat Hatt rhymes so rhyming books get that where as my full name gets the non-rhyming

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    1. Yes, you rhyming guru. It does work for you!

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  13. Writing under different pen names for different genres makes sense to me. Jayne Ann Krentz does it too. Some writers come up with a new pen name in hopes to revitalize their writing career or because they changed publishers. Others start with a pen name because they like that pen name better than their legal name (or because their publisher does). I use a pen name, but I wouldn't presume to advise you (or anyone) whether you should. It's a personal and business decision.

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    1. It makes sense to me too Olga, but when I think of the work...but I do think it's a smart decision.

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  14. Isaac Asimov wrote technical treatises too but not sure what name he used. I didn't realise some of the other names were pen names. I was told it was a tax thing but I don't know how true that is.

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    1. The tax idea is interesting Jo. I've heard it's strategic if an author wants a new start.

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  15. I have a Pen Name. Under my actual name I write Science Fiction, and recently Fantasy. My Pen Name was for an entirely different genre (which I won't say here), that I feared would be judge harshly against me for my other works.

    Why publish it at all then? As a writer, I don't always get to decide what story to write, sometimes I just write whatever is in my head. And so I wrote something the deviated from my normal stuff, and felt it was good enough to give to the world. It's why I did it.

    So somewhere, out-there, exists a book of mine under a different author's name.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Chris. I'm sure your story is not all that uncommon.








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  16. That's awful you lost your post! How frustrating!

    Had no idea Stephen King and Asimov had authored books under pen names. Or Rowling. Wonder if they started with both simultaneously, or the pen name came later, or earlier, and why. Makes sense for separate genres or taxes, but super extra hassle-y in maintaining the separate accounts.

    Thanks much for your support for the A-Z at mine!

    Nila.
    Madly-in-Verse

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    1. Lovely to see you, Nila. Rowling wanted to be anonymous after Harry Potter but found getting published as an unknown was so hard. Once people knew Galbraith was her the sales boomed. I love the detective series, especially the first two.

      I love reading your posts for the A-Z, Nila.

      Denise :-)

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  17. Hi Denise!

    Yes, pen names are fun but it is hard job maintaining all those different personas. You get all the anonymity to write what you want.

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    1. I think the anonymity appeals to me.

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  18. Hey, Denise. Sorry you lost your post. I totally understand why you wouldn't try and do it over.

    I started out with my name, plus a pen name because I had two publishers. After a while, I dispensed with the pen name. I understand the use of a pen name for those who write in different genres, but what I've noticed is that some people buy my books despite the genre. And yes, the work would be too much for me. Maintaining everything under my own name keeps me more than busy.

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  19. I can understand keeping different genres separate. In the past I can also imagine using pen names for privacy purposes - authors often being a secretive lot and not wanting to deal with endless questions at dinner parties along the lines of "Oh, are you the BigNameAuthor?" And readers often knew nothing about authors beyond what was on the book cover, so they could get away with that kind of anonymity. Nowadays, though, with all the connectedness of the world I think readers want/demand more of a connection with writers which kinda defeats the idea of a pen name.

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  20. Weird about losing a post. So far I've been fortunate in that not having happened to me.

    I decided to go with a pen name when I started my blog because there were already a dozen or so published authors with the same name as my real one and maybe thousands of other people sharing my name. I didn't want to get lost in that crowd.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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  21. Well, I blog under a pseudonym so obviously I have no problem with the basic idea.

    I have no interest in being famous. Money and power? Sure. Fame? No thanks. Privacy is a luxury few truly appreciate. I believe strongly in a compartmentalized life.

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  22. I chose my pen name at age thirteen because I felt writers were just supposed to use pen names. I got "Carrie-Anne" from The Hollies' song, and Brown (changed to Brownian two years later, after becoming an Armenophile) from the Herman's Hermits song "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter." I wanted to chose names from songs, and I didn't have such a wide range to draw on. I'd only started getting into classic rock and pop a few months earlier. I now use the alternate pen name Ursula Hartlein (my middle name and my five-greats-grandma's birth surname) for my intense, serious, super-long historicals. Carrie-Anne is reserved for mostly my shorter, more lightweight stories involving American-born characters.

    My real forename is the next-most common female name in history after only Mary, and even Mary seems like an original choice nowadays, after falling so far in popularity. People frequently mangle my Slovak surname into an Irish or Scottish name (Mc or Mac), or in other ways. I love my surname (and as a second-generation Lucy Stoner, would never change it if I married), but I know it's not the kind of surname that looks particularly glamourous and writerly.

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