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Using a Pen Name

Discussion in 'Marketing' started by Christopher Wright, Oct 25, 2012.

  1. I've been considering using a pen name of late. I like my real name. Christopher Brennan Wright is a fine name, absolutely nothing wrong with it, I've been using it for 41 years and I have no plans to stop, but when you enter your name in the account windows of most publishing interfaces (i.e., KDP, Pubit, Kobo Writinglife) you generally get two fields: "First" and "Last." And gee whiz, there are a LOT of "Christopher Wrights" publishing fiction.

    One is an art history expert.

    One is an expert on the Book of Deuteronomy.

    One is, apparently, a former aerial reconnaissance photographer for the Royal Air Force -- I discovered this when I found Sony put his author biography on my book in their eBook store.

    Obviously, there is a technical impediment to using my name, so I figure "I should come up with an alias just to avoid this crap."

    But what name? The problem is, there are a lot of people with names in the world. I wish it weren't true. life would be very simple if there weren't so many other names. But when you try to think of a distinctive name you eventually wind up discovering someone else thought of it first.

    Life was easier, I thought, when I was a musician -- you had a lot more flexibility with stage names. Johnny Rotten. Sid Vicious. Slash.

    Then it hit me! I could use my music stage name! Back in my punk rock/industrial publishing days I was known as The Baptist Death Ray. I AM ABSOLUTELY SURE NO ONE IN THE FICTION WORLD IS USING THIS NAME.

    Perfect! The chance of The Baptist Death Ray being identified as a former member of the R.A.F. is very close to zero. The chance of being confused with the theologian who comments on the Book of Deuteronomy also approaches zero. The chance of having my book accidentally assigned to the Art History guy in Goodreads also, I might add, approaches zero. IT SOLVES EVERY PROBLEM.

    Then I thought I maybe I should give you guys a chance to tell me not to do it. I'm not promising I'll listen to you or anything (see "Chaos Lord" designation below) but still, feel free to fire away!

    :D
     
  2. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    Um ... why not use your middle name? Brennan isn't very common.

    I was thinking about using an alias to stand out though. Brett Wade is great for most uses, but doesn't exactly scream "riveting fantasy novelist".
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2012
  3. I've tried almost every combination of my real name and found someone with that combination claiming to be an author on Google. That doesn't mean some combinations won't work better, but after I got fed up and went into full-blown "burn them burn them all" chaos lord mode and tried to think of One Pen Name To Rule Them All. That's when BDR popped into my head.
     
  4. Weaver

    Weaver Sage

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    There is no rule that says you cannot write under the same name as someone else. You're a novelist, not an actor. :)

    Speaking of actors, my twin includes his middle initial so as not to be confused with an actor with the same first and last name. When he has to enter his first name into some online form thing, he types "Paul B."

    If you want to be known as Christopher B. Wright, when you need to enter your "first" name into some window, you can just type "Christopher B," and type your last name as usual.
     
  5. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    I'm golden. I share my real name with an old lady who lives in Glasgow (according to the UK electoral roll; although I am not listed because I told them not to put me on the public list so there might be others) and a middle aged woman somewhere in the States (who I found on Facebook and who never responded to my message). It is highly unlikely I will be mistaken for either of them. Add in my middle initial and I am entirely unique.

    But then I have a very uncommon surname - in fact if you google my surname, my aunt's website is on the first page and my dad's Linkedin profile is on the second. Added to that is a slightly out of fashion first name. Having said that, if I had gone by my middle name as I nearly did when I started secondary school, I would now have to return to my first name or else clash with my aunt. You, unfortunately, have a very common first name and pretty common last name. So how about this:

    Pick the first of last name of someone who you admire, and see how common that is when combined with your actual first or last name. If that doesn't work, try using your last name as a first name and your middle name as a last name, or using a name taken from someone you admire in conjunction with either of these things. Or pick a name you like the sound of. Or shorten your first name in some way. I used to know someone called Christopher who went by both "Kit" and "Opher", for example.
     
  6. KellyB

    KellyB Minstrel

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    Well, after some google searching, I found I have a very unique name, when I use my full first name (Kellene). In fact, when I searched my first and last name, using Kellene, I was the only one I found (yay! I'm unique! :D), but when I used the first name I usually go by, Kelly, I found many others with the same first and last name.
     
  7. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    Hmm, as someone that has an odd penname, I suppose I should say something here...

    Do as you wish.

    I was even going to make a comment about saying, hey, you might not want the religious overtones that "baptist" throws in there, and then I remembered the religious overtones some people attribute with my own.

    Anyway though, I do cheat in that I have my real name listed, but I have the penname as an identifier. Hmm, maybe I should change my name to include "Zero Angel" with the first o_O I guess growing up in the 80s where you couldn't have more than 4 characters for a name has trained me to assume that there would be an upper limit...

    Oh, and if you want to talk about common names. Don't get me started. Last I checked, Robert was the 6th most common male first name in America, and Richardson is by no means unique either. There are like over 13 authors on Amazon with the name, and even one with the same middle name! (Thomas, gah!).

    Others on here have encouraged me to go a more traditional route, but well, I've always gone by this since high school and I have gotten rather accustomed to it. I also think it is easier to brand something that is not just a name.

    Whatever you do, just don't add "R.R." as your middle initials to seem like Tolkien (yes, I am aware that Martin has officially done this for relatives' names, but it just reeks of not that to me--I'm entitled to my own delusions).
     
  8. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    My real name is so unique, I was the only one in my high school of over a thousand students. So I've never had a nickname, and never considered a pen name. But my real name just wouldn't impart confidence in a reader, so I'll have to either use my initials, or make up some initials or something. I thought I'd better not get my heart all set on something until I found an agent, who might have a better suggestion. Left to my own devices, I'd probably come up with something stupid.
     
  9. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    I'm thinking about writing under the name Virgil Black or some variation thereof. Because it just sounds awesome.
     
  10. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    Mindire, that does sound awesome. Makes me think of a film noir detective.
     
    Mindfire likes this.
  11. Leif Notae

    Leif Notae Sage

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    Mine was an homage to the three characters I created with pride that changed my life, and one of them is a given name backwards. Suppose that'll be too easy to figure out.

    The thing is no one will ever confuse your work with others if they know what you write. It isn't the name, it's the presentation.
     
  12. Disagree. My problem isn't with my readers. My problem is with SEARCH ENGINES.

    Sony placed some other guy's bio in the entry for my book, because Sony doesn't really care who I am and something got crossed somewhere. Goodreads had my book assigned to another "Christopher Wright" because the book said it was written by "Christopher Wright" and I didn't have an author account yet. All that stuff is automated and it's a pain in the ass to fix.

    I'm not the slightest bit worried about my readers knowing who I am. It's the soulless machines that organize information that I'm trying to fight.
     
  13. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    If you Google "Zero Angel", mine is first, fourth and tenth on the first page. But it wasn't always like that. That's only happened since the release of my first novel. It's all about popularity beyond anything. But you should get an author page on Goodreads. In my experience, Goodreads is pretty quick with approving you and making changes and so forth.
     
  14. ... I do have an author page on Goodreads. I was using past tense in that example.
     
  15. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    You still think it's a pain in the rear end to fix? Or are you just referring to the need to fix it being a pain? I thought it was rather painless to associate my author's page with my book.
     
  16. The problem is when it's already been associated with another author's name. Unless you've reviewed 100 books, you don't get librarian rights (or whatever they call it) so you either need to contact their help to get them to switch it over, or you need to get someone you know who has edit rights to do it. It's kind of a pain because once that's done you have to confirm that it's correct, and if you're not fast enough someone might re-assign it to the other guy's book again.

    So yeah, pain in the rear end to fix. :)
     
    Zero Angel likes this.
  17. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    Geez! I had no idea about that. Glad I associated mine before another Robert Richardson took it.
     
  18. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Staff Leadership

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    Have you considered B.D.R. Wright? I bet there isn't anyone out there with that combo.

    When I was coming up with our pen name, it was originally A.E. Rowan. However, upon reviewing the bookstore shelf placement of the name, we decided that Lowan with an "L" would be a better choice. Plus, there are no other authors named "Lowan" out there! I did, however, find a definition... Urban Dictionary: Lowan

    It's so me!
     
  19. JayEmma

    JayEmma Acolyte

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    I'm not sure why, but I have loved the idea of a pen name ever since I've
    come up with my own. I have no desire to use my real name. Go for it.
     
  20. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    You're looking at a pen name, my friends. To be honest I dislike the way my real initials look on paper. I wanted it to flow. I've got a number of other ideas but I'm stuck with Jc for now :) just how it goes..
     
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