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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Marketing & Social Media Tips Part 2

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Thanks for coming back to read “Marketing Tips Part Two!” (Find part one on Social Media here if you haven’t read it yet!)

The tips I have below have come from different authors I’ve met, or agents who gave certain advice, or just research itself. Hope they help!

What the Pros have done: 

One night I went to an event to listen to an indie author talk about marketing. She is a cozy mystery writer, who was determined to be such a good author that Amazon would knock on her door and make her an offer. And they did. Did that get your attention?

What she told the audience about marketing was very gripping.

Her first story recounted the author of the DaVinci Code. Dan Brown and his publicist decided to take a risk and send copies of his book to over 300 major newspaper-book reviewers. Well, the risky strategy paid off! It was reviewed and he became a best-seller overnight!   Continue reading

Prompt: Warm Rain

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Warm Rain.

In 200 words or less, what scene do those two words bring to your mind?

Go. 

Then POST your prompt in the comments!

Here are two example prompts from SP writers Nova and Noah.

Nova:

I wake to small warm drops on my face. A splash on my eyelids has me wiping away what feels like a tear. But tears were for yesterday. Today is for survival. My eyes crack open to a brilliant rainbow light coming thru the mist. I squint and try to remember what exactly happened last night.

My arms push my body up. That is when I notice the bruise on my leg. Dang it. So it is true. I’m marooned. On an island. Alone. In the middle of nowhere. And all because of one little lie.

There’s a rustle in the palms and a rhythm that sounds like footsteps. With great pain, I bend my leg and scoot behind a large bush doubtful it can hide me. Whatever it is, its getting closer. Maybe I’m not alone after all.

Noah:

Thunder rumbled in the distance as I ran across the field. The clouds rolled over head as I ran faster. I always loved to race the rain. The thunder was like our gunshot letting me know the race had begun; the long grass brushed against my legs as I barreled past. My calloused feet pounding on the dry I earth. I could hear the rain coming fast from behind me, a loud, overwhelming whooshing sound, that seemed to come from everywhere and meant no escape.  l saw my small home in the distance and laughed to myself.

“The rain always won,” I thought as it finally caught up to me, instantly drenching me. Slipping in the fresh mud I fell onto the ground and laughed again.  

 

**Photo by Pete Nowicki on Unsplash

Book Review: Legendary by Stephanie Garber

Legendary cover

Title: Legendary

Author: Stephanie Garber

Blurb:

A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name. Continue reading

Book Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval book cover

Title: Caraval 

Author: Stephanie Garber

Blurb:

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over. Continue reading

Write A Novel Workshop 2018 & Travel Writing Contest

Pen Friends ~ Nova, here. In today’s post I wanted to share a) exciting news b) an international writing contest where you can make a difference c) a final note of encouragement…OK? Thanks!

Write a Novel 2018 Nova

This year, in May, I’ll host an International
Write A Novel Workshop 
In Chengdu, China…
with BEST SELLING AUTHORS…
Lorie Langdon & Carey Corp
& Self-Published Amazon #1 Best Seller, Laura Frances, & Upcoming Debut author, Ellen McGinty!!

Check workshop details @ WRITE A NOVEL 2018

 

*This idea has been brewing in me for a couple years now, and wow, it feels good to see an idea become reality!

As for the amazing international opportunity, look down.

Extravagant Yak Travel Contest 2Free trip to Tibet by writing a 1-2 page story on the theme of transformation? Too good to be true?(It’s legit–I helped organize the contest.) The men who run Extravagant Yak Travel are my dear friends. I can’t express how awesome they are and how much they do for local Tibetans. The winner (s) get a pretty sweet deal and by just entering YOU get to help Tibetans too! So if you have a story to tell, get on it! They want to hear and spread it! You just might end up on the roof of the world!

Check it out @ Extravagant Yak

Continue reading

YA Author Interview: Caitlin Sangster

Pen Friends~ It’s my honor to welcome YA Author Caitlin Sangster to the Spinning Pen. This amazing lady shares something very special with me– a love for travel and Asia! Which kind of inspired her debut, Last Star Burning– a thrilling dystopian, fantasy, fairytale, blend of awesome. Today she will share all kinds of gems with us: her writing journey, world building tips, and more!

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SP: Hi Caitlin! Thanks so much for joining us! First, can you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?

CS: Hi! I’m so glad to be here! I’ve been writing on and off since I was a kid, but started seriously writing about five years ago. I’ve lived in California, China, Taiwan, Montana, and, most recently Utah. In college, I did a BA in Asian Studies with an emphasis in China (and am, consequently, a huge Chinese history and politics nerd). I love to run and wish I were a ballroom dancer. Lost but very much not least, I have four delightfully disruptive children ages seven and under. Continue reading