As a writer one of the first questions I had to ask myself was would I use a pen name.
Musicians painters, sculptors do not opt for a different name. Why, then, do writers? That was the question I posted to some writer’s groups recently. I was curious about the pros and cons for adopting a pen name. With J.K. Rowling choosing to write her crime mystery series under a pen name (Robert Galbraith), I thought it time to pursue this question.
The responses I got to the question from writers of many genre surprised me. Here are the top ten reasons. Do any surprise you?
This was the top reason given for using a pen name. Many female writers feel as if their sex might discourage some people from reading their books (male buyers). Others think it best to have an androgynous name, opting to use initials rather than first names that suggest male or female. On the flip side some said initials are harder to do a Google search on and discouraged writers from writing under initials (like J.K. Rowling). Even though this was the top reason given for using a pen name, one respondent noted that the rationale is faulty. She said, “In 2013, women read books written by women 57.9% or the time and men read books written by men 61.9% of the time. The other 7 years listed on the site show similar rates. Read the files called SUMMARY: http://www.reviewsbytdev.com/Summary-Memorable-Best-Books-2013-DorothyL“
Some suggested that naming the writer is like naming a business. You want a brand that fits what you write. For example, one writer told me her name was Joy but she wrote dark fiction. Her name did not fit the image she wanted portrayed. “It is as important to create the right image for the market place as it is to create the right atmosphere for your novel,” one writer suggested.
They said this in different ways. For example, writers who write erotica do not want to be associated with the graphic sex scenes they may create for their fiction. Others indicated they relish the privacy or anonymity the pen name allows. Still others indicated that they wrote controversial stories that might hurt them in the workplace or elsewhere in their every day lives. Several writers basically said this in different ways, “I use a pen name. because he and I are different people.” They see their writing persona as a totally different person.
- Practical reasons: 1) Their own name is too hard, some said. Others said their own name was too common. 2) They write under their maiden name because their married name may be “temporary.” 3) Their pen name is less forgettable. 4) They write as a husband and wife team and they combine the two names 5) The pen name results in a better Google search ranking than their own name. 6) Their own name is in use by someone else
Again, J.K. Rowling is the perfect example of this. She wrote young adult fantasy and made a fortune doing so. Choosing to move into the crime fiction genre, she decided on a pen name. The authors who chose to change their names due to a genre switch often want to attract new readers. People who never read science fiction, for example, might not purchase your historical romance if you’ve made a name writing sci-fi.
These are the top five reasons I learned why authors choose to use a pen name. If you chose to use a pen name, tell us more about why you did. If you chose not to use a pen name, why not?
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Interesting. I used my own name. I’m proud of my saga. No reason to hide it, but I do understand the rational behind pen names. Great post.
H Greenis – The Natasha Saga
Joan Curtis says
Hi Heather, I, too, am proud of my books. I asked the question of writers because I was curious about their thinking when they decided to use pen names. It was fascinating to learn the reasons and the more I learned the more I wondered if I should have given it more consideration.
Thanks for stopping by!
Meg Amor says
Thanks. Interesting post. :-). I write romance erotica or sensuous fiction. I write under my own name. Several reasons. I have nothing to hide and don’t mind people knowing what I write. I love my last name of AMOR which means love. It was my late husbands name and I always said id keep writing under it. Also I love that my name means love. And that’s what I write about. :-). I write about deeply romantic love relationships. If I switched genre – I’d change names to separate the genres. I use Megana Amor for my self help books. If I write another genre. I’d go to my maiden name of Meg calverley which I also love. 🙂
Many of the erotica writers do write under pen names. My life is an open book. So I like my own name
Interesting blog. Aloha Meg. 🙂
Joan Curtis says
Hi Meg, Thanks for your comment. You have such a great name that I wondered if it was a pen name. How fortunate it was not! I probably should have changed my name when I wrote The Clock Strikes Midnight because I had published 4 business books under my own name. But, I just didn’t think about it and now it’s too late. So, I guess people have to see me as a versatile writer 🙂
Thanks for stopping in.
Heather Brainerd says
Intriguing post. Other than anonymity, I never really thought about the reasons for using a pen name. I use my real name, but added my maiden name into the mix. This was because I write with my brother, and wanted to show the connection between us.
Joan Curtis says
Hi Heather, Yes it makes sense for you to use your maiden name (for a different reason than some people told me). I, too, was intrigued by the reasons writers told me they use pen names. I wonder how many Muse writers are using pen names? I’m just so curious!