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Real Name or Pen Name

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Vanya, Mar 2, 2012.

  1. Vanya

    Vanya Dreamer

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    Does a name give readers a bias opinion on how well a book is written? My name can be taken as someone who's snobbish or an older woman. I'm afraid if I use it instead of a pen name readers will expect my work to be better than it is. I'm not saying that it's bad, I just don't want expectations to be too high. I'd also prefer to use a pen name so I don't get friends telling me what I should write in my next book. Has anyone ever had issues with this or is it a fear that I should smother before it hinders me?
     
  2. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    I use a pen name simply because I don't fancy, as you said, people unwantedly bugging me for various reasons (If I want suggestions I'd ask for them am I right?), as well as because I would rather separate my writing, and private/work lives. I'm not saying I write anything particularly mature, but there are far too many factors involved in all stories that someone could easily take offense if they want. I would hate to be fired/not hired because of a view one of my CHARACTERS has.
     
  3. Kelise

    Kelise Maester

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    A lot of professionals seem to think they do. Publishing houses/agents will often have a say in what name you publish under. I guess if you were to read a high fantasy, bloody battle featuring elves, and it was written by Ella Posie Lacyferns... then you may wonder whether such a dainty sounding woman has the ability to write such a thing convincingly. A few may pick it up simply because of the odd clash, but many may not.

    Then there's also the issue that polls seem to find males are less willing to read fantasy and science fiction if it's written by a female - that's why so many female authors go by their initials and last name.

    However, I don't think they would look at a name and expect a certain kind of quality from a name alone. Most still hope that if a book has been published, then enough work has been done on it to result in some kind of quality in the first place.

    Personally, I'm always going to use a pen name. My real name isn't anything I want to be known by for any length of time (even when my partner and I are getting married, we're choosing a new last name for us both to go by) and as you say - I want to be able to separate myself from it so co-workers and friends don't know I'm the author unless I tell them.

    And then as JC says, workplaces and a whole lot of professionals are googling names these days. I'd rather keep my Government-hating Sky Pirates well away from my Government job. They're two entirely different Governments so it doesn't reflect on my workplace at all, but I shouldn't have to explain that.

    Anyhow, I ramble. Pen name, always pen name! (For me anyway.)
     
  4. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    What you see of my username.. IS a pen name. Admittedly its not far flung from my actual name and it's one I would use for stuff I don't mind being known for. I have another totally different one for...

    Well I'll be honest, I don't know whether I can justify exactly why and when I'd use them as I don't know. Though I'm sure when it comes to it I'll offer up both names to prospective agents or publishers to see what they think might come across best for the story.
     
  5. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Yeah, this seems odd to me, but I know there is truth to it and I know a few people personally who don't buy books from female authors, whether science fiction, crime stories, fantasy, or what have you, because they say they don't like books written by females.
     
  6. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    I've never quite understood how such a ridiculous notion gets into people's heads ... It's like those out there who insist that all female fronted rock bands are no good, as a rule. Pure sexism.
     
  7. Kelise

    Kelise Maester

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    Strangely enough, all my favourite Australian authors are female, with one or two being male.

    All my overseas favourite authors are male, with one or two being female. Not that it stops me from trying absolutely anyone's book, of course.

    Personally, I'll be going with a full name (no initials) - it just won't be my own. It was going to be Kelise Emery for a while, but that name's lost the attraction since. Picking a pen name is hard and then there's every chance the agent/publisher will request it changed anyhow. Sigh.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2012
  8. MAndreas

    MAndreas Troubadour

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    Howdy- I'd say it depends on what market you're writing for, and what your real name is. Jane Smith- probably want to use a different name ;). Female writing a book aimed primarily at male readers (or visa versa) I'd same use intials- or a different name.
    I write under my real name, but if I switched genres I might pick a different name for the other genre. Although that can back fire as it diffuses your whole "brand" ...which is another issue.

    Pretty much it's your call :).

    Marie
     
  9. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    Interesting incite!

    Iain Banks and David Farland come to mind (with Iain M. Banks and David Wolverton, respectively): Iain's science fiction pen name does nothing in the way of diffusing his brand, and David is very open about his pen names so there's little confusion.

    All depends on how you handle it I'd say.
     
  10. Xanados

    Xanados Maester

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    Names don't really mean anything to me...
     
  11. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    They're the metaphorical front line of you as a brand. Whether you as a reader notice it or not, that name is what people are going to know you as and associate you with :)

    ... and all the cultural milieu and context that comes with it.
     
  12. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Rather than post a new thread, I may as well ask here.

    Would it be too weird if I used "Devor ((Somethingorother))" as a pen name?
     
  13. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    Is Englebert Humperdinck too weird?

    I wouldn't mind Devor (insert name here), so along as it was catchy enough. You get all kinds of names in Romance fiction for example. and some corkers in Fantasy for that matter.
     
  14. MAndreas

    MAndreas Troubadour

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    True, but even though she lets people know she writes under different names, a friend of mine is having serious marketing issues because her publisher has her under multiple names. It can make a difference, if I know I like a specific author, I may grab their book without thinking. But, if I don't follw them online- I may not know of the other names so I may not grab them right away. James Rollins (awa James Clemens for example (neither are his real name either-LOL). Kim Harrison and Dawn Cook. In both of those cases, I didn't realize the "other" writer was them for quite a while (hasn't hurt them obviously, but they're good examples of different names-LOL). Ok...so maybe I'm slow that I didn't know about them ;).


    Oh, and I think Devor would make a cool first name for an author :).
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2012
  15. Kelise

    Kelise Maester

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    Most authors who write under another name have a list in the front of every book, listing which other books they've written, sorted by 'under name: ____' and so on. Would probably help if they had a line in their 'about the author' section also, such as 'you can find more of their work in any good bookstore, also published under the name: ____'

    But yes, it's quite common. Mira Grant is also Seanan McGuire. Lian Hearn is also Gillian Rubinstein. Robin Hobb is also Megan Lindholm and Glenda Larke is also Glenda Noramly. The list goes on.
     
  16. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

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    I had to grapple with this very question recently. In 2010, I had my first book published by a small publisher in Melbourne (under my own name). It did pretty well (their biggest ever selling novel - but they usually do non-fiction) and I have had heaps of fan mail and clamour for the sequel.

    However, the next book I published, which came out three weeks ago, was in a completely different genre and leading up to publication I agonised over whether to use a pen name - and the issue was brand. Several thousand people have so far read my first book and, as far as I can tell, really enjoyed it and will buy the next without hesitation. But what if they don't like speculative fiction? (The new book traverses some fairly odd themes for those unfamiliar with such things.)

    The publisher (different from the first - the first doesn't do spec fiction) was happy to leave it to me, although had a clear preference for me using the same name as for the first book. In the end, I decided that the marketing cachet of my real name outweighed my cross-genre concerns. Fans of the first book will recognise the authorial voice they previously enjoyed and might even find they get turned onto a genre they wouldn't have bothered with otherwise.

    As for the work/politics aspects of using your real name, I am a lawyer by day and had some worries regarding this as my first book features a lot of swearing, violence and unusual sex scenes. I bit the bullet, and after the book was reviewed in the Law Society Journal was delighted to discover that my legal colleagues enjoyed this type of rough and bawdy writing. Mind you, the second book also contains these features but some very bizarre concepts as well. I truly fear that my legal colleagues will find the bizarre concepts far more disturbing than violence, swearing and unusual bonking scenes.
     
  17. Rikilamaro

    Rikilamaro Inkling

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    Thanks for posting this question, because I was wondering the same thing. I hate my real name. It has to do with a divorce and an aversion to the letter C, but that's neither here nor there. So I will be using a pen name. I'm trying to decide what it should be. Does the name need to reflect the genre?
     
  18. kadenaz

    kadenaz Scribe

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    I'm proud of my book and I used my real name, I'm just a 0,1% worried about the similarity between Francesco (you read it like "French-aesko") and "Francisco", like San Francisco, I'm not sure.
     
  19. Kelise

    Kelise Maester

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    As long as it's not very odd for the genre, then it should be fine (such as Felicia Flowerdream writing a bloodthirsty dwarf battle, or something like Abercrombie's books).

    It always helps, though.
     
  20. Rikilamaro

    Rikilamaro Inkling

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    Well I'm all about little things to make life easier. Thanks!
     
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