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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Progress Report

Or: A Retrospective on My Writing Journey

Nearly a decade after starting my first “real” story (i.e. the first one I realized I wanted to finish, no matter what), I am still not finished with a complete draft. That might be depressing to some who aspire to finish their newest tale in under a year, but I knew when I started that I was undertaking a large task in attempting it: the story includes an enormous cast of characters, creating their world from the ground up, setting up a history of at least two hundred years, putting political systems in place (and the different monarchs use very different systems of ruling!!), learning about military campaigns…. The list never really ends, and the stories of minor characters have moved beyond my control, so that now when I mention it to friends in-the-know, I lovingly call it “The Epic.”

I didn’t set out to spend ten years trying to write the thing ( I probably would have balked at even starting if I’d known!) At the time, I wrote to keep myself awake through long midnight shifts at my job. The story grew out of an idea for fanfiction that quickly passed the bounds of those characters, and as I begin coming up with their names and feeling out their story, I realized that I had something unique, and for the first time started to consider myself a writer, and not just someone who liked to write. Continue reading

Guest Post: Championing Our Words

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My writing dream all began when an innocent teacher said the fateful words, “Wow! You’re a good writer!”

And a monster was born.

I’ve been writing since middle school, more seriously since high school, and first tried to get published over five years ago. (*I’m still not yet published.) Over that period of time, I’ve made a lot of  mistakes and learned many valuable lessons. But here I am still plugging away at my writing & publishing dream. Why do we writers torture ourselves this way?

We have words inside us that need to be heard.

Continue reading

The Querying Show: Episode 5 “Standing Out in a Crowd”

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Welcome to The Querying Show’s 5th Episode!

Until the New Year 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!

***Note: There will only be two episodes in November & December!*** 

SO…..Today is the 9th week of CR’s journey. On the last episode, we broke down his query to show you the most essential parts that a Query should have. Today, we will hear from CR and standing out in a crowd.

Let’s check in our with brave querying fellow and see how things are progressing. (Click here for Episode 1 & 2 & 3 & 4.)   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

Querying Show Episode 4: A Query Breakdown–Show me the Stakes!

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Welcome to The Querying Show’s Fourth Episode!

Until the New Year 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!

***Note: There will only be two episodes in November & December!*** 

SO…..Today is the 4th week of CR’s journey. On the last episode, we whooped you his query. Today, we will not only hear from CR but we will dissect what a query should have! The first two people to comment will get a free query critique from CR & Nova.

But first, let’s check in our with brave querying fellow and see how things are progressing. (Click here for Episode 1 & 2 & 3.)

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

Any rejections? (Personal or form rejections?)

How do the personal rejections feel?

Requests?

CR/Write_Or_Left: 

To be perfectly honest with you, I’m in a query slump. With final projects due, I don’t have a lot of time to work on it, but that’s not the only reason.

Querying makes you doubt yourself as a writer. Not necessarily the rejections, but more so my own thoughts have caused this. I continually compare my story to published books. I ask myself, “Would anyone really want to represent this?” I start to wonder about my characters and about my narrator’s voice. Because of all this, I am starting to think I need another round of editing, possibly a big one.

All this to say, I sent 0 queries.

When the personal rejections pop up in my inbox, it’s usually gratitude that I feel first. Someone actually bothered to read what I sent them and even emailed me in response!

SP: Querying can be weeks of silence (oh, the painful months of just crickets!)–how are you holding up? How have your views of querying changed since you started? 

CR/Write_Or_Left: 

Like I said before, it’s starting to weigh on me. Not because of what agents have said, but because of my own doubts. Like many others, I am my own worst critic.

My views have changed immensely, mostly by raising my standards for myself. There’s a lot of great work out there, and mine just isn’t quite at the level yet!

SP: Thanks for your honesty, CR. Publishing can be a tough business and as writers, we have all been there. But the ones that make it are the ones that don’t give up when those rejections come. In the long run, those rejections prepare us for success–! (I think our next post should address attacking self-doubt! BUT FOR TODAY…)

WE WILL take CR’s Query and break it down in order to show you the few main parts that query should have.

First, keep your query as concise as possible. Do not add extra details that do not show us these main things:

  1. Introduce your clever and relatable MC.
  2. Introduce the clever premise or hook/conflict of the story.
  3. Show us what the character wants (a goal/desire) and what is stopping him/her from getting it.
  4. Show us what is at stake if the MC can’t reach his/her goal.

NOW, let’s see how CR has done this~

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. (Here, CR has introduced his main character & a small hook! Great job!)

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. (Here he set up the story with a premise and a problem, told us what the character wants, and what is stopping him.)

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. (Here, CR showed us more of the goal/hook/conflict and what is at stake if the MC can’t reach his goal!)

SP: TIPS so you don’t go crazy while treading in the slush pile!

While querying—consider taking part in TWITTER CONTESTS:

#Pitchmas

#Pitmad

#Teenpit

#DVpit

#Revpit

#querykombat

ETC

The first link below is a LONG list of pitch contests and their dates:

https://iwriterly.com/writing-resources/pitch-contest-calendar/

Don’t miss out on a chance to have an agent read your work! 

The second link is an authors journey to getting her agent thru twitter! 

I Got my agent on Twitter! 10 Tips for online pitching contests!

 

profile

 

CR

&

 

Nova

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signing off!

 

 

 

Marketing & Social Media Tips Part 1

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Last week I attended a Writers Meet-Up with a fantastic group of authors who ranged from traditionally published to indie authors.

Throughout the night, the selected authors talked about Social Media, Marketing, & Publicity! In part one, I will summarize and expand on a few of the topics they taught on!

Kim Vandel, Indie author of Into the Fire series, was the first to share. She talked about the need for authors to be active on social media–to create a presence, a following, marketing, and an availability to readers and fellow writers, and to be in community. Well, what if social media isn’t your game or wondering what to post doesn’t come natural? Kim gave her helpful tips and ideas, and then had the group hold a brainstorming session on things they could post. It was super useful–so I asked her if I could share her tips!

Here are a few ideas of what to post on social media sites:

  1. Writing Status & Place — It’s always fun to see where an author is writing and what they are working on. If you go to cafe, or are writing at home, snap a pic of that cozy place and talk about what you are working on that day. Maybe mention a writing goal or a character. Don’t forget to ask others about where or what they are working on too! B42B074F-24ED-4D50-A763-1C06BE4DBD89-1722-00000510753835B0_tmp
  2. Quotes, Memes, Aesthetics’sQuotes from famous authors or entrepreneurs that are inspiring, funny quotes, or Memes (usually a humorous pic with a one liner) or an aesthetic (a collage of pictures showing off your novel.) 6
  3. Author Events–If you have done an author event, or attend a conference or workshop, post pictures from it! IMG_4756
  4. Authors friends getting together for a writing sessionIMG_4733
  5. Books! Post your latest read or a book that is on your TBR pile, or promote a friend’s book!IMG_2699
  6. National Day–For those of you who don’t know there is a national day for EVERYTHING! Get creative–post something about that’s day’s National Day if you don’t know what to post about– just to participate!National Donut day
  7. Participate in the upcoming writing, book, goal, personal challenges on Twitter or IG – NanoWriMo, Twitter Contests, get involved in community that way!WIPjoy
  8. Participate in Contests & encourage community –This is a great way to get involved and know other writers–and possibly score from one of those contests! Find a contest that fits you and your book, and go for it! Post about it and engage the others who are going for it too!PitchWars-Logo.jpg
  9. Personal Life— Post something from your latest trip across the world, share a different hobby with your followers–painting? Photography? Share something personal! Your followers enjoy knowing you! Also, if you are not the type to post pictures of your face, DO IT anyway sometimes. Followers love to see who they are following. Seeing you–even if its not perfect, and especially if tis real, they love seeing faces and lives. It helps to connect us.IMG_2762
  10. Research–Post interesting facts or tidbits that you found while researching for your novel! Those small facts can be engaging! A few of my writing friends have researched all kinds of science facts, (even how long a body takes to decompose!) Falconry. Math equations. Spy techniques! Start with…DId you know that….?images-39
  11. Post pics to promote authors you like– help in doing COVER REVEALS or congratulating people on their Book Birthdays! IMG_4735

There are many more tips floating around the writing community–these are just a few. What are some ways you play with Social Media?

If you would like to add some tips to our list, PLEASE comment and we will add them in!

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Nova, signing off!

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!!!