The pen name debate

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Should I take a cue from S.E. Hinton?

Theodor Geisel became Dr. Seuss. George Eliot was really Mary Ann Evans. The ‘Out of Africa’ author was not Isak Dinesen, but rather one, Karen Blixen. Alice Sheldon became James Tiptree, Jr. Hell, even Stephen King penned books under the name Richard Bachman.

It always is curious to me when people use pen names. Oftentimes in Georg Eliot’s or S.E. Hinton’s case it was to cloak the fact that they were women. King said he wanted to try and distance himself from both his prior success and failures and have his novel judged on the work alone.

Regardless it is an author’s choice to publish under a pseudonym or their birth name or somewhere in between.

My spouse has suggested many times over the years as I’ve worked towards becoming an emerging writer that perhaps I need to assume a pseudonym. He has sent me links to stories about why other authors, especially women writers, have done it; how it’s helped others maintain their family’s privacy, etc.

I counter to him that I’ve been building a reputation with my work under my own name and that I would need to start building my platform all over again.

However, I’ve been thinking more and more that it might be a good idea and maybe it’s time I consider the coming up with a pseudonym.

I’ve taken lots of different versions of my own name and tried to come up with something that is genderless and still has that rhythm, like other best selling novelists —   J.K. Rowling, A.A. Milne, M. J. Hyland, S.T. Joshi, and even. H.D. (the poet). But, I can’t decide if I’m going to take this plunge.

Many of the ways that some of these pseudonym or initial-only authors got their start is wasn’t a requirement of publishing at the time. There was no ‘platform’ required. No blog required. No social media aspect to being a published author. It was all about the writing first. Of course, it’s still about the writing first, but there are valid points to having a pseudonym.

I’m curious to know what my readers, friends, and family think about this choice. I can see the value in my work not being held up to the gender filter; I like perhaps keeping my children out of the potential limelight, etc. Do readers have more affinity for authors who have a certain rhythm to their name along with good writing? Does the gender of a writer influence what you read? Have your say below!

Tell me if you think I should make a “short-list” of potential names, and maybe we’ll vote on which is best. Or if I should just keep on keeping on as I’m doing now.

Please comment and let me know your thoughts.

While you fill up my page here with comments, I’m going to go write for a bit. And, maybe, a nap to sleep on the whole idea.

 

Maryellen Brady

I went through this debate when I began my platform.
Some personal issues popped up, and it was like a sign from the universe….don’t need a pen name, be proud to be who you are….

Trust your instincts!!!

Tom Orzechowski

I get good feelings off the name I already have for you. “Caszondra” has a foreign accent of a spelling that’s very attractive. You’d be losing that distinctiveness by going to a pair of initials, which may just blend into the sea of everyone else’s initials.

Kathleen Gabriel

The platform is vital now; and I don’t think you can leave that behind. Maybe you could change your name just enough not to be found in the phone book, and take your family’s names off your facebook account. My first two books were published under a different name than the one I use now, and then the third I changed again. Now I’m just me. It’s simpler that way for me. It’s a complicated issue. Use a different last name, maybe, but I really want to see Casz on your books. I’m rambling. Sorry. It’s a thing to think about, good and bad stuff either way.

Samantha Tiner

I’ve debated the same thing actually. And I don’t know, I think readers today respond more to writers that they can relate to. I know I would rather have a little window into their world but then I’m another writer as well. For some the appeal is the mystique.
However, given the privacy issue, it might be best all around to use pseudonyms. Point is, you can make arguments for both points. I tend to agree with Kathleen in that the platform work is a critical function in this process. You work so hard at it, do you really want to start from scratch?

grey

If I publish fiction, it will have to be under a pen name. I can’t have my academics in history and religion under the same name as vampire fiction (without the sparkle). Plus, my late husband’s job would have frowned on it.

I accepted that a long time ago. I might (emphasis on the might there) include ‘grey’ in my pen name somehow, but I highly doubt it. I need my anonymity, and ‘grey’ won’t offer that anymore. Thus far, I have initials and a last name. It is not a particularly gender neutral name. I picked a Polish last name, and went with the feminine form.

I don’t see a problem with continuing to publish under your own name, especially since you’ve built a reputation. If you’re that uncomfortable with exposing your kids and family, take all the names you can claim, first, middle, last, maiden, historical family, etc. and combine them in a different way.

In the end, you have to be able to *be* whatever you pick as a pen name. I kept my first initial, and will probably keep my first name, and my last name, well, it means secret. I have to be able to recognize that I’m supposed to respond to this new name sometimes, so it still has to fit me.

I rambled, but what I’m trying to say is, whatever name you want to be published under, it still has to represent you.

kill_the_onions

As a reader who doesn’t write at all, I can report that I personally have never thought at all about the usage of pseudonyms (other than the obvious “oh how sad that so-and-so felt it necessary to pretend to be a man”). I just want something good to read; of all possible things to judge a book by, it’s not going to be whether the author’s name is listed as “Robyn” or “Rob” or “R.”!

That said, from a writer’s perspective, it sounds very complicated. Privacy sounds great, but then being recognized (i.e. by your real name) for hard work sounds great, too. I’d assume that maybe pseudonyms would only strongly appeal to people with more serious concerns about their privacy, I mean, unique circumstances and so on? So if you have any such concerns, listen to your feelings and be safe, and if you don’t have such concerns, revel in future named fame, I say!

laura morgan

I have given this much thought in the past, and teetered from one side to the other, but I think in the end I feel strongly about a pseudonym for probably two main reasons, my childrens privacy and a separation from the industry I work in (advertising).

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