Helping Writers Achieve Their Dreams for Over 14 Years!
HOME   |   ABOUT US / CONTACT US   |   WRITE FOR US   |   AD RATES   |   MASTER SITE INDEX
FREE NEWSLETTER   |   LINKS FOR WRITERS   |   BOOKS BY OUR READERS
FROM THE EDITOR: Coffee on the Deck - Ramblings on the Writing Life

For Beginners:
    Getting Started
    Grammar & Skill-Building
    How to Win Contests
    The Writing Life
For Fiction Writers:
    General Fiction Tips
    Crafting Fabulous Fiction
    Mystery
    Romance
    SF/Fantasy
For Nonfiction Writers:
    Freelancing Tips
    Travel Writing
    International Freelancing
    Creative Nonfiction
    Tech & Copywriting
More Writing Tips:
    Children's Writing
    Poetry & Greeting Cards
    Screenwriting
For Every Writer:
    Queries & Submissions
    The Writing Business
    Rights & Copyright
    Getting Published
    Promotion/Social Media


Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer


Queries, Pitches and Proposals

Print Friendly and PDF

Pseudonyms: 10 Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Pen Name

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:

1. How comfortable are you with having your real name splashed all over the Internet, especially if your writing is being savaged in a blog post or book review?

2. Are you likely to attract more readers in your fiction genre if you're writing novels as a male or a female?

3. Would your name be easier to remember, pronounce, or spell if it was more generic?

4. Is your real name so common that it could be easily confused with the name of someone else (for instance, a highly publicized white collar criminal or another author in your fiction genre?)

5. Would you prefer to err on the side of caution, protecting your loved ones from your followers or from any future career fall-out that you may suffer?

6. How comfortable are you with the idea that fans and detractors may be able to find you in the phone book and show up at your house or your place of business?

7. Is your preferred pseudonym easy to spell and remember?

8. Does your real name invoke a positive association with the fiction genre that you're writing? (For instance, if your birth name is Cherry Clapp, you may face hurdles in the Romance genre.)

9. Are you planning to write multiple fiction genres?

10. Where is your preferred pseudonym likely to be shelved? (At the bottom of a book store's stacks? Near the name of a bestselling author in your fiction genre?)

Okay: I promised you some answers to the pseudonym mystery, "Do they or don't they write under pen names?" So here goes:

Robin Hobb (her pseudonym) writes epic Fantasy. She also writes as Megan Lindholm.

Stephen King (his real name) writes Horror. He also writes as Richard Bachman, Eleanor Druse, Steve King, and John Swithen.

Jack Higgins (his pseudonym) writes Mystery. He also writes as Martin Fallon, James Graham, and Hugh Marlowe.

Rebecca Brandewyne (her real name) writes historical Romance.

Issac Asimov (his real name) wrote Science Fiction. He also wrote as Paul French and George E. Dale.

Barbara Michaels (her pseudonym) writes gothic and supernatural Thrillers. She also writes as Elizabeth Peters.

Alistair MacLean (his real name) writes Mystery. He also writes as Ian Stuart.

Eboni Snoe (her pseudonym) writes African-American Romance.

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.

Related Articles:

Pseudonyms, Pseudonyms and More Pseudonyms by Moira Allen (tips from The Writing Desk)
http://www.writing-world.com/business/pen-names.shtml

Should You Use a Pseudonym? by Moira Allen
http://www.writing-world.com/business/pseudonym.shtml

Using Pseudonyms (survey), by Dawn Copeman
http://www.writing-world.com/dawn/pseudonyms.shtml

Copyright © 2012 Adrienne DeWolfe
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Adrienne_DeWolfe
http://EzineArticles.com/?Pseudonyms:-10-Questions-to-Ask-Before-Choosing-a-Pen-Name&id=6870099

This article may be reprinted in accordance with the terms specified here: http://ezinearticles.com/terms-of-service.html


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

Get our articles, tips, and publishing news twice a month FREE with our Newsletter!

Copyright © 2014 by Moira Allen. All rights reserved.
All materials on this site are the property of their authors and may not be reprinted
without the author's written permission, unless otherwise indicated.
For more information please contact Moira Allen, Editor

Organize your writing
and save time. Click here for a free download


A Writer's Year 2014


The Writer's Guide to Holidays...


Writing to Win