Today's post has to do with an issue I have recently confronted in my writing -- whether to use a pen name instead of my real one.
A pen name . . . or nom de plume . . . as some say, is simply a made up name used in place of your real name as author of your work. There are reasons why one might want to do this. And reasons why one might not want to.
Why you may want to use a pen name:
Here are several popular reasons to use a pen name instead of your real one.
-- You want to change your gender. In certain genres, romance for instance, it seems that female authors are better received. This is particularly true if your main character is a female. And in other genres, thrillers perhaps, there is a preponderance of male characters. So you may want your author gender to be male. (These are just examples. I'm not trying to pick a fight.) If you are writing in a genre where readers prefer authors of a certain gender, maybe you want to switch yours if your God-given version isn't right for the task.
-- If this is your first book, you may wish to preserve your privacy by using a pen name. We all know that once our personal information is spread across the internet, it is widely available to anyone with nefarious intent. So privacy might be another consideration.
-- If you are already known for writing in a different genre, or different medium, you may consider a nom de plume either: 1) to avoid confusing your readers as to the type of book they are buying; or 2) to preserve an alternate author image in your previous work. St. Paul newspaper columnist, John Camp, writes as John Sandford, presumably for this reason.
-- If your real name is very common (eg. John Smith), or you share a name with another author, you might consider a pen name so your fans can more easily find your work on a search engine, or to avoid confusion with the other author.
-- If you want your author name to have a certain pizazz, you could spice it up a bit. "Rocky Savage" may sound more masculine to some than "Tracy Ween."
-- Or you may have one of those given names that might be male or female (like Stacy, or Sean, or Jamie). And perhaps you want to make your gender clear for the readers.
Why you may not want to use a pen name:
-- For many self-published writers, their personal name recognition (at least by friends, relatives and community) may be their best initial marketing tool. You might not want to lose that advantage by using a pen name. Community is a great place to start building your following. See my earlier post on The New Prevailing Wisdom - Begin at Home.
-- If you have already established some name recognition with your other writing pursuits (columns, short stories, etc.), you may want to extend your "brand" to your new works. Using your real name as author of your new book(s) is a great way to do this. Hopefully, any goodwill you have established in your previous writings will transfer to your new audience. This is called "leveraging goodwill" in the marketing world. And lots of big companies use it. At one point the Gerber Company was known only for its quality baby food. But they have leveraged the the goodwill of their brand into baby clothing lines, and other areas as well. Why should we think a food packager can make clothing? Who knows . . . but this leveraging works.
-- If your name is recognizable in some non-writing circle -- eg. you're a sports or entertainment figure -- using your real name can be a huge advantage. How many people would have bought "Chelsea, Chelsea, Bang, Bang" if the author were not a famous comedian?
Well those are a few reasons I have come up with.
I am currently trying to balance name recognition, with the potential to confuse (or even alienate) my audience, as I approach publication of a new novel in a completely different genre from my "Beck" suspense/thriller series. I'll let you know later what I decided to do.
If you have other reasons for using a pen name or not, I would love to hear your comments. Maybe we can get a discussion going.
That's it for today.