Equipping Writers for Success
The Writing Life
The Writing Life
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by Adrienne DeWolfe
Pseudonyms abound in writing circles. What doesn't abound is clear and insightful advice on how to choose the best pen name for a long-term career in novel writing.
Let's have some fun. Check out the names of these genre fiction authors: Robin Hobb, Stephen King, Jack Higgins, Rebecca Brandewyne, Issac Asimov, Barbara Michaels, Alistair MacLean, Eboni Snoe...
Do they or don't they write novels under pseudonyms?
(Keep reading for the exciting answers to your pop quiz.)
One of the biggest decisions you'll face as a newly contracted author is whether or not to write under a pseudonym. Choosing a pseudonym - which is sometimes referred to as a pen name or a nom de plume - will also be one of your greatest creative challenges. In fact, it's far more difficult to name yourself than to name a character when you're writing novels!
Whenever fiction writers ask for my advice about pseudonyms, they're usually wondering:
a) Why do published authors choose to write under a pen name, and
b) How do genre fiction writers choose a "good" nom de plume.
The answers aren't cut-and-dried. There are many reasons to write under a pseudonym. Some considerations are emotional (honoring a relative or mentor); some involve self-protection (keeping aggressive fans from tracking you down); and some considerations are strictly professional (your real name is too complex for the average person to pronounce, spell, or remember.)
Later in their novel writing careers, some authors choose to change the name under which they write. A variety of reasons exist for this decision, including:
The author wishes to write in multiple fiction genres or sub-genres but doesn't want to confuse his/her core readership.
For example, bestselling Romance novelist Nora Roberts (her real name) decided to try her hand at futuristic suspense. She chose to write the new genre under the pseudonym, J.D. Robb. [Editor's Note: In fact, an alert reader points out that Nora Roberts is a pseudonym for Eleanor Marie Robertson, who also writes as Jill Marsh and Sarah Hardesty.]
The author wishes to start fresh.
If an author's rate of return is 50% or higher (after his third published novel), publishers will shy away from buying that author's future books. To overcome this "sales stigma", an author might bury his name (or pen name) and give birth to a new pseudonym, hoping for a second chance with publishers and readers.
Choosing whether to write novels under a pseudonym is a highly personal, and often emotional, matter. It's important to remember that the decision is, at its core, a business one. Before finalizing your choice, confer with your agent and editor, as well as your spouse.
Your advisors can help you make the best choice for your novel writing only if you're clear about your long-term career goals. You need to carefully consider how publicity (both positive and negative) will impact your life, your family's lives, and any other businesses that you may own now or in the future.
Most importantly, you need to understand the far-reaching impact of publicity upon your privacy, as well as your right to privacy, under the law, after you become a public figure.
Here are 10 questions to consider as you decide whether or not to write under a pseudonym:
Okay: I promised you some answers to the pseudonym mystery, "Do they or don't they write under pen names?" So here goes:
For better or worse, your pseudonym will follow you throughout your novel writing career. It will become your brand, characterizing your public persona and the types of books that you write.
Like any decision, choosing a pseudonym has its pros and cons. It can offer you a layer of protection from the public and help you retain a degree of privacy.
While deciding whether or not to write under a pseudonym, I encourage you to research the privacy rights that public figures are entitled to under the law.
That way, you'll start your novel writing career with your eyes wide open.
Find Out More...
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Published by Bantam Books and Avon Books, Adrienne deWolfe is an award-winning genre fiction novelist and freelance writer based in Texas. She offers the free, downloadable report, "20 Questions Editors Ask Before Buying Your Book," which can be accessed at http://eepurl.com/eGgbs. For more tips about the business (and humor) of novel writing, check out her blog at http://WritingNovelsThatSell.com