Posts Tagged ‘pen names’

Pondering Pen Names and Horror

Hi squiders! It’s stupid hot here and I am getting nothing done except watching ghost stories on YouTube.

(I love ghost stories. As long as it is day time.)

If you guys have been around for a while, you know that I am…confused about the idea of pen names. I mean, not what they are or anything, but whether they’re worth using, and when you might use one if they are.

I think I might have finally figured out a decent use for one.

(Though I am still waffly on the subject.)

I write a wide spectrum of stuff, from science fiction to fantasy satire to romance (of a speculative bent, of course) to children’s, and I’ve never quite seen a good place to break things up. Is fantasy mystery far enough away from urban fantasy to deliver a break? Children’s stuff vs. adult stuff? (And where does the YA stuff then go in that break?)

(I’m still pondering about the children’s/adult split. Oh well.)

But I’ve been working on a lot of horror lately, specifically science fiction horror, and it came to me the other day that maybe THAT should be the split. Horror vs. everything else.

People either like horror or they don’t, and it might make sense to have a pen name where horror people know they’re getting horror and not anything else I come up with. I mean, there’s some leeway between fantasy and urban fantasy and science fiction, especially if you tend toward a common core, and readers are probably fairly happy to ride along that spectrum. But a horror reader may not like to read urban fantasy (or vice versa, honestly).

The question then becomes…is this worth a pen name? And if it is, what do I do with the other horror things that have been published under my normal name? (My very first sale was a ghost story, and there was that Lovecraftian anthology from last year, and…) Can I republish them under my new name? Is that a logistical nightmare?

Once again, everything is clear as mud. Any thoughts, squiders?

If you have any final thoughts on the nonfiction covers, please let me know! My hope is to have the first nonfiction book released by the 20th. It’s mostly done, so I just need to finalize everything and get it up.

And the Landsquid book is also going well–I should be ready to start querying by the end of next week at the very latest.

See you next week!

WriYe and Pen Names

Man, this week, squiders. The small, mobile ones have summer camps at the museum/zoo, which are conveniently next to each other, but are inconveniently an hour drive from our house. So I either have to stay here all day (and I have the smaller one for half the day, because she’s not old enough for full day), or I have to drive up, drop one, drive home, drive back, drop the other, get both, and then drive home again.

I am so, so sick of driving the same stretch of road.

And I’ve had to go back, because I have been sick. Apparently I have contracted tonsillitis from goodness knows where, and so I have had to go to the doctor’s, to make sure my tonsils don’t need to be removed. Yay.

(It’s excellent timing, as I’m supposed to be teaching songs to kids next week and can barely talk at the moment. Yay. I am so thrilled.)

But enough about that. Ugh, seriously.

Though I realize we’re most of the way through June, here’s the WriYe blog prompt for the month.

Real name vs pen name? Is one better than the other? Why or why not?

This is a question I struggle with all the time. Should I write under a pen name? Should I have multiple pen names for different genres? For adult stuff versus kid stuff?

It’s actually a subject I routinely bring up in discussions with other writers, who are probably all sick of me asking.

I’ve heard arguments both ways. Your real name is easily to maintain legally, if someone’s pirating you. Pen names help separate your real life from your public life. Using one name lets you show the breadth of your work, whereas using pen names lets you target specific reader groups so they know they’re going to get something they like.

I’ve given it a lot of thought, and to be honest, still have no clue. Right now I figure I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

Bonus:
Which would you use? Real or pen name? Why?

Well, I do use my real name right now. It is nice and alliterative (I had another writer at a conference ask me if it were real once), and it’s also nicely gender neutral, which can be a plus when writing speculative fiction.

But I am still on the fence.

Next week I should have more time, squiders, so I’ll see you then!

Pondering Pen Names

Ah, the pseudonym. Something to hide behind, for whatever reason. Authors as varying as Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and C.S. Lewis have used them over the years.

As I ponder trying out new genres, I find myself returning to this topic. (Of course, depending on the quality of the finished product of said new genres, it may all be a moot point.) And also on how different a genre has to be from your original genre to warrant a pen name.

(For example, I’m plotting out a cozy mystery series with paranormal elements. Do the paranormal elements link it close enough to my normal fantasy/scifi/horror to keep using my same name? Or does the mystery structure move it far enough away to consider using a different one?)

There are various arguments for or against pen names. The reasons people typically use them include:

  • To protect one’s identity (especially if one is writing erotica or something controversial)
  • To confuse/hide gender (female authors might take on a male or gender-neutral pen name, such as using initials instead of a first name, or a male author might take a female or neutral pen name if writing in a women-centric genre)
  • To make things less complicated (if a real name is hard to spell or pronounce, or if a real name is identical or similar to a famous author’s)
  • For co-writing (two people writing under one name, ala Magnus Flyte (my favorite example))
  • To separate themselves from previous work (if they want to try something new or experimental, or just something different)
  • To separate different genres (such as scifi and romance, mystery and children’s, etc.)
  • To hide from past failure (if books sold under one name haven’t done well, an author can re-invent themselves under another and hopefully do better)

If any of the above are an issue, then it can be beneficial to have a pen name. But there’s also arguments against using a pen name, such as the fact that any audience you may have built up won’t follow you to the new pen name so you’ll have to start over audience building from scratch, processing royalties and other payments becomes more difficult, there becomes complications with copyright and rights sales, and things along those lines. There is also an argument that openness is highly valued these days, so using a pen name can seem dishonest to some people.

There are also bad reasons to use a pen name, such as believing that not writing under your own name will allow you to commit libel, or thinking that money earned under a pen name doesn’t have to go on your taxes, etc.

(As a side note, I have learned that some “authors” are really company-owned pseudonyms, meaning any number of people could have written under them. These include V.C. Andrews, Carolyn Keene, and Franklin W. Dixon. Wild. Also, now I know I could potentially write a Nancy Drew novel, which is somewhat exciting.)

I go back and forth on them myself. I’ve looked into people who have successfully published in more than one genre under their own names, and most are big name authors that could probably write down their shopping list and have them published (Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, etc.) or are authors that mostly write/wrote a single genre and then had one or a few random things. (Did you know Ian Fleming wrote¬†Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?) But there are some–Lisa See is best known for her historical fiction, but also has a mystery series, and Emma Donahue is all over the place (though hers are all standalones, best as I can tell).

There is also the counterargument that you don’t need a pen name for different genres, especially if they are wildly different, because it will be obvious. If you write both scifi and romance, for example, one of your romance readers can probably look at your spaceship and alien-infested cover and figure out that it’s not a romance title. (Which goes into the importance of title/cover matching genre expectations, I suppose, but we’re not going to talk about that right now.)

What do you think, Squiders? Pen names or no? Under what circumstances would you (if an author) use one, or would you (as a reader) want an author to use one? Examples of people who have or have not used them to successful or disastrous consequence?

And don’t forget to vote in Tuesday’s poll!

Pen Names

Pen names. Nom de plumes. In simple terms, when you put out work under another name that is not your own, but is still meant to be you (i.e., not ghost-writing for someone else).

Some people do, some people don’t. I don’t. I just use my name, and it just happens to be wonderfully alliterative. (I’ve had people at writing groups and conferences compliment me on it. Ha!)

Why do people use pen names? Because they don’t want to be associated with a work. Because they think their real name is boring or unmarketable. Because they write two wildly different genres and don’t want their readers to confuse the two. Because they value their privacy.

Why do people use their real names? Because they don’t have to remember another alias. Because their real name is awesome. Because they don’t want there to be confusion about who did the work.

Which do you prefer, Squiders? Do you use a pen name, and if so, what is it? What are issues/perks you’ve found with using a pen name versus using your real name?