Behind the scenes in my author circles there’s been an ongoing discussion:
Do I choose to have an ALIAS or not?
What are the pros and cons of a PEN NAME?
So, I asked a group of authors to give me their opinions on pen names. Here are their responses.
“I like that pen names give authors more chances to write in different genres and connect with readers who have a variety of interests. It’s also always fun when you find out an author you love has another pen name for you to check out!”
“I used to want to have one, but that was mainly so others wouldn’t know that I’m an Asian author. Now I’m very proud of my identity and no longer want a pen name because I want readers to know that I’m a Chinese American author.”
“I use a pen name for my romance projects, and my own name for YA. My agent essentially treats me as two different people — or tries to. The biggest issue I’ve had is trying to leverage my existing network under a new name, when the whole point of the new name was to keep my two “lives” separate.”
“I have a pen name out of necessity. My real last name is Moeggenberg and no one can pronounce, spell, or remember it. Also might be hard to fit nicely on a book cover! ;)”
“Pen names can be advantageous for authors trying to keep their writing life and personal life separate, or for those authors with really terrible or embarrassing real names, they are equally worthwhile.”
“I have several pen-names. Firstly to separate my business (authoring) from my personal life. I prize privacy for myself and family, and whilst many creatives and celebrities have built a brand around themselves as a person, i personally have zero interest in my person, my face, my life, being the public face of my work. I want my creative work to speak for itself and be appreciated or rejected without who I am influencing that in any way.
Secondly to separate my endeavours/projects from one another. I’ve seperate pen-names for genre branding I’ll be Kester Grant for MG through Adult genre fiction (SFF, Mystery etc…), but Kit Grant for picture books. If I delve into lit fic, non fiction or romance (all of which I have plans to do) then i’d prob sprout another name for the same reasons. For industry-branding, I do some illustration work, and I’m planning on tackling a non fiction botanical illustration project, this along-side anything that’s not related either in tone (narrative, genre, quirky, storytelling) to my writing or childrens book illustration would be done under another pen-name. I have a small side-business repurposing global textiles into home goods – that’s under another name also. From watching other author, illustrator and artist friends, and studying the careers of authors who write prolifically across genres my personal feeling tis that if your audience won’t cross-over to the work you’re doing, then rebrand it under another name so that your brand is as clean, and easily comprehended as possible. on the other hand if your work (from fine art to books) was in the same brand & tone (i.e Carson Ellis) – then there’s no need to create a fresh brand each time. There’s also the damage control aspect of separate pen-names; if something befell one pen-name i’d hope it wouldn’t taint all my other endeavours.”
“There are probably so many things a person could say about pen names, but what comes to mind is fear. It’s not why I used a pen name…mine IS my name, just minus the last part. But, here’s an angle: Sharing written creations can be honestly terrifying for an author. Perhaps pen names serve as a buffer, separating work from personal life enough that the writer gains a bit more courage.”
“While pen names are certainly one way authors can protect their privacy and differentiate between the genres they write, they can also be used to to honor others. People ask me often if June is my middle name or the month I was born, but I chose it because it was my grandmother’s middle name and I wanted to share that with her.”
“I’ve always thought that pen names create a wonderful sense of intrigue and can offer the author greater creative freedom. I did toy with the idea of a pen name, because I didn’t think ‘Gaughan’ was very catchy! But hopefully I’ll be proved wrong :)”
“A pen name is just another avenue for the author to tell a story: it hints at the kind of person they are and the kinds of stories they write.”
Ernie Chiara, “I use a shortened version of my real last name. I’m not sure anyone even knew until I filled out my agency contract with “writing as Ernie Chiara”, and no one has mentioned it since.”
*Other thoughts from authors on pen names were:
Con: It was hard to manage two social medias/keeping things straight.
Pro: Fans with no boundaries don’t know who you really are.
Example: “I didn’t want to use a pen name and my agent strongly urged it because of what I write. Then, I got my first fan mail after my book went up on NetGalley. “Hi, hi, OMG, I love your book. Just loved it. Where do you live? I loved your character so, so much. Says you live in the North of the city? I live… Do you have any appearance scheduled? I’d love to meet you. Did I tell you how much I think your character and I could be best friends?”
Pro: Publishers are mostly good with pen names.
*There have been times where publishers wanted to keep the more exotic name instead of using an easier pen name.
*All contracts are signed under real last name, example. Real Name writing as Pen Name
Pro: Pen names can be used to sell novels (that haven’t sold to larger traditional publishers) to smaller publishing houses or self-publish. I have several pen names out there!
Con: People not knowing what to call you or you not knowing what to call yourself.
Pro: I chose a name that is easier to pronounce than my full name.
Pro: “Some authors have used a pen name for new projects as a way to start fresh if their old projects were not successful.”
YOU: What are your thoughts on pen names? Why would you choose to have one or not?
Books & Love,