Pen Name or Not? What Authors Say…

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?

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So, I asked a group of authors to give me their opinions on pen names. Here are their responses.

Tobie Easton Ya Author of the Mer Chronicles

“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!”

Katie Zhao, Author of The Dragon Warrior (Oct 2019)

“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.”

Ashley MacKenzie

“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.”

Lorie Langdon, YA author of Olivia Twist and the DOON series

“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! ;)”

Kim Gabriel, YA Author of Every Stolen Breath

“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.”

Kit Grant, Author of upcoming debut, A Court of Miracles

“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.”

Laura Frances, YA author of the dystopian, Slave Series (book 1 is free right now on kindle!)

“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.”

Christina June, YA author, No Place Like Here:

“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.”

Evie Gaughan, author of the The Story Collector

“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 :)”

Rebecca Sky, author of Arrowheart and Heartstruck

“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,

Nova

 

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The Querying Show, Episode 3. Gently Rip Apart His Query, Please.

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Welcome to The Querying Show’s Third Episode!

For the next six months you will witness every juicy (or completely stagnant) detail of our SP Staff Member’s querying life in the SLUSH PILE!

(Check out our rules and reasons in our intro post here!)

Will CR’s/Write_Or_Left achieve AGENT success? Or will it result with a querying and MS reboot? Dying to know? Follow us to see how Write_Or_Left ‘s querying journey will end up!

***Please forgive our late post. Autumn colds took over last week! 

SO…..Today is the 3rd week of CR’s journey. Today we will do something a bit different. We will SHOW YOU CR’S QUERY and ask YOU for feedback!

But first, let’s check in our with brave querying fellow and see how things are progressing. (Click below for Episode 1 & 2.)

SP: Ciao CR/Write_Or_Left. As always, lets start with the STATS. How many more queries have you sent out? 

Any rejections?

Requests?

CR/Write_Or_Left:  Just one rejection, and no requests. The rejection was a good ol’ copy-paste (the email itself said as much).

SP: Be honest, are you:

A) Twitter stalking the agents you queried?

B) Checking your inbox regularly?

C) Totally Chill and got this?

D) Other exciting or emotional thoughts? (Do tell.)

E) All of the above?

CR/Write_Or_Left : I check my inbox pretty regularly, and I research agents before querying. But for the most part, I’m surprisingly calm about everything. I think it’s mostly because I really have no expectations except that I will get rejected. Therefore no rejection is all that painful, and all positive feedback is a welcome surprise! I think that’s given me a thicker skin for this process.

I’m also working on an additional project that I’m pretty excited about, so if this whole thing flops, I’ll have learned invaluable lessons that will help me in that project!

SP: OK, so for Today’s show, we wanted AUDIENCE feedback on CR’s Query. Your advice just may help him get a request!

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Our questions:

What do you like about it?

What don’t you like about it?

Would you request it?

What can be improved?

Any other helpful tips?

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Rules: Add your thoughts in the comments below. NO slamming! Please be kind while critiquing–all critiques must be helpful.

 

QUERY:

Dear “Awesome Agent,”

(Insert Personal Greeting and Necessary Genre, word count, Comp title info–or something of the sort! FYI, this is MG fantasy.)

12-year-old outlier Evander Ross knows there’s something special about the book his Grandpa tried to destroy. But he never would have guessed it would almost get him killed. Three times. 

Despite his mother and grandfather’s efforts to shield the truth, Evander accidentally discovers traces of a strange world in one of his family’s many “forbidden” zones in the city. The Gifted World is everything Evan has dreamed of—a place full of strange creatures and new abilities, but also great danger. Within it, Evan nearly dies at the hand of Katerina, one of the Gifted World’s most wanted criminals; he finds Lumen’s Middle-High—a school that finally understands him; and he’s taken by authorities who tell Evan that he will never be accepted in the Gifted World—that his family was banished long ago.

Evan is now eager not only to discover his family’s true past but also to find his way back and prove the Marshals are wrong about him. So when Evander learns that Katerina plans to attack Lumen’s Mid-High, he takes his chance. But no one believes him. Now he might be the only one that can stop her threat. And if he doesn’t, Lumen’s and everyone in it might be completely destroyed.

(End with BIO and other useful info like social media and contact info)

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

CR

SP: Our Querying Tip of the Week:

WHILE you are querying KEEP writing on either your WIP or a new project; Get more readers to review your work–have an open mind; Get involved with other writers and read their work too! And DON’T stress it! All good things take time. 

Schedule Update:

Since we have posted late, we will NOT post a show this Friday.

Also, during November and December, we will only have 2 Querying shows per month due to extra holiday busyness and school exams! Thanks for understanding! *If something exciting does occur, we will be sure to let you know!

Nova and CR/Write_Or_Left  signing off! Have a GREAT weekend!!!

Human First, Writer Second: Having the Right Mindset for Setbacks and Shortcomings

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It’s 11:00 P.M., and you’re staring at the blinking vertical line on your screen. Your word count has changed by only 50 words since you sat down fifteen minutes ago, and that’s only from deleting the previous sentence because its sounded like something you would read out of a book titled “Clichés 101.” You sigh, shut the laptop a bit harder than you probably should, then head to bed, feeling exhausted and guilty for not having accomplished any of your writing goals. Continue reading

New SP Contributor: Caleb Robinson

Pen Friends ~ We are super pleased to announce that we have a new contributor at the Spinning Pen–Caleb Robinson, a very talented Middle Grade & YA writer, has joined us! 

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Welcome Caleb! Tell us about yourself…

Caleb: At a deeply secretive college in an unknown location between a floating mountain and a cloud city, I study the shadowy and dark arts of… Chemistry. Well, at least I do until my writing decides to turn itself into a full-time job that actually pays (opposed to just being my full-time hobby that doesn’t). Until that time, I am content studying tiny things we can’t see (chemistry), playing basketball, reading (shocking), being an RA, and just hanging out with other humans or other creatures. I have been writing stories since the day I learned to form sentences with crayons.

Glad to be here! Ask me about anything–writing, chemistry, books, magic…Go.

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To learn more about Caleb, click this link to his last post: Obsessed Writers, which for convenience also links to his other posts, also be sure to find him on his Instagram -a widely popular writing account- and his twitter! Look for his posts in the future!

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Nova, signing off.

 

 

 

Editor Talk: With Tara Creel & Write On Editing

Pen Friends ~ Today we have more insightful Editor Talk with professional editor Tara Creel, as she shares her insight into editing, publishing, and getting it right!

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SP: Welcome Tara! Can you tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you worked as an editor?  

I’m Tara Creel. I’ve worked as an editor for Month9Books/Tantrum Books for almost four years now. I have also been doing freelance editing on the side, but have recently launched a freelance editing business with Michelle Millet called Write On Editing. Continue reading