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Why Use a Pen Name?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Black Dragon, Mar 4, 2019.

  1. Black Dragon

    Black Dragon Staff Administrator

    Do you use a pen name? If so, why? Is there a good reason not to use one?

    I use one for two reasons:

    1) It's kind of fun.

    2) I like to separate my fantasy writing endeavors from my professional non-fiction writing.

    What are your reasons?
  2. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

    I don't intend to publish under "Ban" or my previous "Banten" anymore, because I quite like my real name (It has a nice and haughty feel to it :p), but I did plan to do so originally. I began writing consistently as a teenager, and like pretty much any youngster of the current generation, it was rammed into my head that you should never ever in a million years put anything embarrassing out on the internet because it will make you unemployable, undesirable and damn near pariah-ble. Showing off and discussing a skill I had not yet developed was without a doubt one of those embarrassing things I wished to avoid.

    In hindsight I nof course vastly overestimated the impact that bad writing would have on my future, but I think it was still a good decision back then. Being able to explore a skill without having to meet any standard on that skill is liberating and I advise new writers to adopt a pen name for the first few years they start writing.

    Now that I've been doing this for some time I'm ready to move on and show off what I can do under my own name.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2019
  3. I use one because I'm generally a pretty private person, and because I picked one that reflects rather well on my overall outlook on life, the universe, and everything. Plus it looks awesome.
    Sheilawisz likes this.
  4. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Sage

    I have a pen name for some of my non-ficton writing because I was falsely accused of being a paedophile and had my life threatened by neo-Nazis some years ago and I don't want to go through that again.
    Darkfantasy likes this.
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    No pen name, but it's worth mentioning that it's important to be consistent with your name. As I was getting started, I didn't know if I wanted
    E.L. Knox
    Ellis Knox
    Ellis L. Knox

    The hesitation came in part because I've been called Skip ever since I was little, so none of those names felt quite natural to me.

    I wound up with books published under each of those names, making it harder to do searches. I also wound up with two Amazon Author Pages. It's been a bit of a muddle.
  6. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

    My real name is long and complicated. It wouldn't easily fit on a book cover.
    KC Trae Becker likes this.
  7. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Sage

    When I was in the world of nonfiction writing (magazine articles) I used 'Steve' instead of 'Stephen.' Why did I change? Because when I first went to get myself a web address, that was the version available! So I use it for everything now—almost. I do have a pen name for writing what might be called 'women's fiction,' which I prefer to keep separate from all the rest, as much for marketing reasons as anything else.
  8. Firefly

    Firefly Troubadour

    Okay, this might sound superficial and kind of silly, but the main reason I plan to go with a pen name when I publish is that I just really dislike my given name. It's completely a me problem, most people love my name, but I've always felt like it really didn't fit me.

    There are other reasons too, of course, my last name is German and can be hard to spell, if not to pronounce, and I kind of like keeping my real name mostly off of the internet. (I had it drilled into me so much as a child that you should NEVER SHARE your personal information online that I'm still a little paranoid.) But I think mostly I just like being able to deliberately choose something that fits me and my genre.
  9. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Staff Leadership

    For us it's because there are three of us, and that will never fit gracefully on a book cover. Also two of our names are very hard to spell and one is super common. This name is very old, from the days of the domination of the brick and mortar bookstores, and in the SciFI and Fantasy section "Lowan" would have put us right in between McCaffrey and Lackey at eye level, so perfect shelf placement. Since things have changed we've stuck with the name out of nostalgia, plus its easy to remember.
  10. Malik

    Malik Archmage

    If I could do anything over again, I'd have used a pen name.

    Seriously. Single biggest regret of all this.

    I had no idea that it was going to get this big (and in the grand scheme of things, I'm not even all that big, although for an indie with only two books out, you could argue that I'm doing pretty well) or generate this kind of fandom. I figured I'd sell a couple hundred books and call it a success and move on to the next thing. And don't get me wrong; I love my fans, but a few of them are seriously, and I mean, "Be right back, I'm just gonna go turn up the electric fence," load-the-guns batshit crazy.

    There's also a popular musician with the same name, and we get each other's mentions all the time. I definitely need to fly out to one of his gigs someday and buy him a drink or six.

    A pen name would have avoided a lot of stress.
  11. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

    I am of mixed minds on a pen name. I think my actual name has no decent flow to it, and so would not be ideal to put on a cover. I am inclined to just keep using pmmg, which I am sure would also not be helpful, though most of my writing life tends to be online and I am kind of pmmg everywhere I go online.

    If I used a pen name, I could avoid the things Malik is concerned with, and use it as a better type of marketing tool... But then, there is kind of owning who you are. I wrote it, I'll stand by it. Not really sure what I will end up doing. The last story I published, I published as pmmg.
  12. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

    Yeah. There are some unhinged crazies out there. I've definitely gotten my share of weird ass fan mail. At least having a pen name protects your identity to some extent although everyone can still see our faces. That's somewhat of a different thing though. Readers tend to trust you more if they can see what you look like and personally, I think it's unprofessional when authors have caricatures as their author photos on Amazon.
  13. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Staff Leadership

    Even we've had our share of weirdos, pen name or not. The first one came about a year ago, when a writer friend tagged our youngest partner in a picture he had taken of her by her real name. Some guy tracked her down through Facebook, very common name or not, and sent her a message to the effect that he was using her picture to pleasure himself and wanted to meet her. Insta'ban.

    The next one was just a few weeks ago, and thankfully so far fairly harmless. We got a new follower who asked us if we were furries, the people who dress in fur suits and take on fursonas for play, mostly because we call our shapeshifters "therian." We very politely told him no and wished him a nice day. Within a few days he starts private messaging our Facebook feed with all sorts of conspiracy theory stuff, until finally I had to tell him that the A. E. Lowan page was for discussing writing and books, and that his messages were inappropriate. So far, he's taken it in good stride, but it's only been a couple days.

    Long story short - being a public persona on the internet is weird.
    Malik likes this.
  14. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

    Anyone suffering from weirdos may from now on deposit their fanbase with me. Just send them all down to the website linked in my bio and my instagram is...

    ;) Had to
  15. Mytherea

    Mytherea Minstrel

    I write under a pen name 'cause my first name is difficult to spell/pronounce if you're not Welsh and my last name is common as dirt. My first initial and last name is my other persona/hat as an illustrator, so that identity's taken (also, still common as dirt). There's another fantasy writer who has an inverted initials/last name combo (my middle initial is their first, my first is their middle) and another has a very, very similar initials/last name, to the point that at a glance, the first letters could be transposed. Thus, pen name. Also, the pen name has a swooshy signature that looks snazzy, which I can't say for my actual name.
  16. Malik

    Malik Archmage

    I just want to point out that there are crazy creepy fans and crazy awesome fans. I had a fan ask me to sign her boob with a Magic Marker at a con a couple of weeks ago, which was definitely in the latter category.

    So, just for the record, let me state that I shall remain open to selfies from female readers who get--er, titillated--about my work, and shall continue to be deferential and appreciative to the female readers who send me pics of themselves in drafty outfits, no matter how wildly impractical their choices of armor. Keep those cards and letters coming, ladies. You are the stuff dreams are made of.

    That said, I can't shake the feeling that I'm going to die at the hands of some dude in elf ears who's holding a blowtorch and demanding that I tell him where the portal is . . .
  17. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

    Wow. Just...wow.

    You win the thread. About the worst I've had was an inappropriate comment about certain activities within my book by a male reader. Yeah...totes not cool.

    *Ahem* back to the thread.
    Malik likes this.
  18. Nirak

    Nirak Dreamer

    My legal last name is, honestly, kind of silly. Also if you do a search on it the main hits are German officers in the 1940's - not a good association at all. It's a good idea to see who already shares your name!
    Sheilawisz likes this.
  19. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

    I call it Author Name, since pen name just sounds weird to my Castilian mind.

    The name that I selected for this purpose is Sheila Wisz Ellayn, and I believe that it would be abbreviated to S.W. Ellayn if I ever get my stories published in a traditional book format.

    I decided to get an author name because this is a well-known practice, and it's fun as well. After all, those ugly Italian and Spanish surnames of mine are far from attractive and I got bullied a lot in my early years thanks to the Italian one.

    In Wattpad, I have observed that many people use incomplete photographs of themselves as avatars.

    They wear sunglasses for example, and this way they can protect their privacy at the same time that they allow the readers to see what they look like in person. I keep using my Anna avatar instead... this practice certainly carries a disadvantage for me because readers need a personal connection for some odd reason, but I prefer to keep potential stalkers at distance.

    Sadly, stalkers and aggressive weirdos are common at Wattpad too.

    Oh well, I have a personal fondness for dear Sels and I am very sorry to hear that she got stalked like that. Facebook is a bigbrotherian force and very evil in nature! Everyone should stay away from that thing, it's just not good for you. Hey Sels, I bet you are reading this... I send you hugs, and also my best wishes for everything in your life.

    Some of my stories have caused people to have very negative reactions towards me, so perhaps it's a good thing that my exposure to the Internet has been quite limited so far.
  20. valiant12

    valiant12 Sage

    I don't have much choice in the matter. There is another person with the same first and last name as mine who had already published four books. Either that or somebody had picked my real name as their pen name.When I google my real name the first results are this person's books.

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