Monday, June 23, 2008

Picking a Pen Name & CONTEST

by Raelene Gorlinsky

Many fiction authors use pen names. This is especially true of authors of romance and erotic romance. It's a way to protect your privacy and safety, and to separate your personal and business lives. Most authors have "day jobs", and their employer or clients perhaps may not be thrilled with whatever genre the author writes. So having a pen name is often advised.

Authors who write in multiple genres may choose to use separate names for each, to clue their readers about what type of book they are picking up. They don't necessarily hide their multiple identities, they do want fans to try them in any genre, but they don't want to confuse readers. Nora Roberts in romance is J.D. Robb for her futuristic suspense In Death series. Jayne Ann Krentz writes contemporary romances, but her alter ego Amanda Quick writes historicals and Jayne Castle writes futuristics. Of course, some authors do feel that their readers will object if they found out about their books in another genre, and this could affect their sales. For example, an author who writes both middle-grade YA fiction and erotic romance does not want to mix those audiences, or deal with outraged parents.

Some readers of certain genres may have a bias toward writers of one gender or another. Romance readers worry that a man might not be able to write the emotions and heroines they want to read, so are less likely to buy a romance novel with a male name on the cover. There was an attitude among science fiction readers that women could not write this genre. (Now that so many women read scifi, that anti-female bias is less common.) So an author of the "wrong" sex may choose a pen name that could be either gender, or use initials.

But take time and care in picking your pen name! Be sure you like it and that it represents the image you want. Once you are published and start to develop a fan base within a genre, readers will lose track of you if you decide to change names. Even if you publicize the change, some readers won't get the news.

Make absolutely sure that readers will be able to remember, pronounce, and spell your name! Repeat after me: remember, pronounce, spell. That sounds simple, but a lot of writers screw it up by picking elaborate or oddly spelled or supposedly "meaningful" pen names, in an effort to be unique. Well, that name is not meaningful to readers if they can't find your website or look you up on Amazon because they don't remember your name or aren't spelling it right. And they won't discuss you or recommend you to others if they are afraid of embarassing themselves by mispronouncing your name.

Readers turn against authors if they feel they've been misled by the author's name.

~ No, do not use the pen name Norah Roberts or John Grishan. Yes, readers will be very angry when they are tricked into buying your book thinking it was written by you-know-who.

~ Do not use a pen name to falsify an ethnic background. Even if you set your stories in another country or culture, if you are white-bread American do not misguide readers by taking an ethnic-sounding name. They will find out who you really are, will be angry at being misled, will feel you are insulting that ethnic group, and will question the validity of your books.

~ Cut it out with the cutesy! Don't call yourself Suzette Sexpot if you write erotic romance. It will not sell more books for you, it will just make readers think you are ridiculous and that perhaps you are actually sneering at the genre.

Okay, contest time! Come up with your ideas for the wrong pen name for an author of a specific genre. Post the name and genre in comments on this blog by June 30 (a week from now). [For example: Suzette Sexpot - erotic romance] Our editors will select the most creative and entertaining ones. Prizes will be copies of the EC/Pocket print anthologies. (Note: If your shipping address is not in the U.S., prize is an ebook download from our EC or CP site.)


Anny Cook said...

Lone Hawke Starr - Western
Galaxy Jones - Sci-Fi
Randy Buck - Western
Queenie Love - Erotica

H. L. Dyer said...

My suggestion:

Eureeka Strong-Cologne (Historical Romance)

This whole pen name thing is a flummoxer for me. There happens to be a children's author with my exact name. So I've gone with initials.

I've considered using my married name, but my physician's license is in my professional (maiden) name.

And my husband is Mexican, so I am a little afraid of misleading readers as to an ethnicity I don't have.

Hmmm... requires more thought. ;)

Anonymous said...

Faerie Peggie Suss -- Fantasy
Rhea Bradberrie -- Sci-Fi
Love Mittender -- Romance
Jake Saddler -- Western
Annie Ryder or Sally Diddles or Sherrie Cummings -- Erotica

PJD said...

U.B.D. Chef -- cookbook

Faith N. Love -- Spiritual self-help

Tarot By Arwen said...

Jo Cartwright "Westerns"
Anni Gitchergun "Westerns"
Lemmi Liku "Erotics"

Laurel Lyon said...

Laura Norder (Crime) (an oldie!)
Dan Gleebits (erotica)
Rick O'Shea (Western)
Cass Trait (erotica you don't want to read)

Anonymous said...

Anita Dyldoe - Erotica
Chuck Stake - Splatterpunk
Dr. Reginald Fortenwald Magnibolence - Science Fiction (insanely philosophical sci-fi)
The Writer Formerly Known as "Harryottercullen Baggypants" - Fantasy

Christine Carey said...

Harry Sword - erotic sci-fi :-P
I.M. Scooby - Mystery
Travis Goodrider - Western
Elle Fenbard - Fantasy

Anonymous said...

Anita Peters - Erotica
Willow Tree - horticulture
Ima Dyke - F/F erotica
Shada Tree - Horticulture

That's all I can come up quickly, but I can't wait to read everyone's suggestions. Some of them so far are great.

Anonymous said...

Sharon Guys - Erotica

Debra Glass said...

Busty Biggins - Erotica
Anita Hardin - Erotica
Jolie Rodgers - Pirate Romance
Shadow Darque - Paranormals
Dee Light - Erotica

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised nobody's tried:

Margarette Cox - Erotica

Francesca Hawley said...

Buster Moove - Dance Instruction
Playme Whet - erotica
Ani Wei Can - erotica
Buffet Vam Slaer - urban fantasy
Tuff Sor Ciress - fantasty
Shees Majik - fantasy

Maggie Nash said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maggie Nash said...

I think someone actually uses this one but I think it is hilarious:

Paige Turner: Romantic Suspense

(I forgot to add the genre in the first post *blush*)

Belle Scarlett said...

Shapeshifter - Harry Wolfe
Vampire - Payne Inthanek
Erotica - I.M. Kumming
Mystery - Nan C. Dru
BDSM - Iluv Pinkbottoms
Western - Lou E. Lemur
F/M/M - Shizgot Twincox
The fake penname (umm, aren't all pennames fake?) that I give to my parents whenever they threaten to Google me and find out what kind of romance I write: Penelope Pigwhistle

KB said...

I was wondering when there were posts earlier about the conventions, if things get confusing between real names and pen names.

My suggestion:

B.J. Swallow - Erotica

Anonymous said...

Aurial Cummings - Erotica
Dusty Ryder - Westerns
Skylar Blue - Sci-Fi

PJD said...

Stan Down - military history
Bill K. Lechter - financial advice
Sam O'Nella - cookbooks
Gloria N. Excelcis - spiritual
Sue Yiu - law procedurals
Jerry Rigg - home improvement
Norm L. Guise - male ennui fiction
Cray Z. Beech - chick lit

Anonymous said...

When I first started writing, I planned on using a pseudonym because of some of the reasons you listed -- like that you can't discuss a writer whose name you can't pronounce.

Unfortunately, my first publisher loved the ethnicity of my name, and really, REALLY wanted me to write under my own name: Therese Szymanski.

Of course, that was back before Web sites and now I've put off getting a Web site due to the URL issues. An Australian reader finally came up with a winner, so I did secure, but the main site that that will redirect to is (A literary mag once spelled my name 5 different ways in one issue. The only time they got it right was on the masthead.)

Sage Burnett said...

Ben N.Gerry --m/m Erotic Romance

I.M. Chapped ---Western

Liana Brooks said...

These are so funny! I don't know if I can compete....

Star Shooter: sci-fi

Landon Parke-Laine: financial advice (thanks to Jasper Fforde and the Thursday Next series)

Digami Bones: murder/suspense

Chuck Wagon: western

P.S. Kissimee: romance

L.O. Solo: sci-fi (maybe only the Star Wars geeks would get that)

G. I. Tacticus: ancient tactics and warfare (and a nod to Terry Pratchett and Discworld)

Ima Frome Roswell: sic-fi or alien encounter books

D.N. Breakit: home repair

A. Key: medicine/ homeopathy

M. M. Goode: cookbook

Vivienne Westlake said...

I wish I was as clever. I'm drawing a blank on this one. Anny, I love Randy Buck. LOL. Just as a side note, there is an EC author who write a story with a character called Queenie Love-a-day. But, the name is a 'stripper' name, not the character's real name.

Maggie, I actually like Paige Turner. I think because that one sounds the most like a real name and I'm sure there are a few writers out there with that name. Maybe we can google it or search it on amazon.

Here's my cheesy author name:

Ivanna Phuk (You could also change that first name to Amanda)

Debra Glass said...

Erotica - Demi Mondaine (if you're unfamiliar with this term look it up - demimondaine)

Bethany Cage said...

Em T. Whol and Phil R. Yuppe- erotic
Starr Fyre- science fiction

not as good as the others, but still... :P Fun contest! I love what others have come up with!

Term Papers said...

Thanks for pulling this together and sharing!

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