Monday, May 31

Real Name v.s. Pen Name

A question I've often asked myself is, "Do I want to be published under my own name or a pen name?"

Well by now it's rather obvious. I've chosen my own name, but don't be fooled, I've got my own pen name tucked away for a rainy day.

"Why?" you ask.

Simply because I feel that using your own name or a pen name has advantages and disadvantages aside.

When I was dwelling on whether or not to find my own fancy pen name, I did a lot of research on whether or not it was well thought of to use one or whether it was better to stick with your own.

These were my findings...

Real Name: The Disadvantages
  • Some names are hard to for the reader to remember, which isn't good when they're searching for your book, and they just can't quite pinpoint what your name was or how to spell it. I get this problem a lot. People assume when I speak my name that it is "Kerry" or "Carrie." You'd think a shorter name would be easier to remember but no. My surname is also often misspelled as "Peyton."
  • Your surname might be at the end of the alphabet. In fact, it is thought that if your last name is somewhere in the first half from A-M, you have a better chance on the shelves. People often stare at their eye level on bookshelves first and if you are an S or a Z or even a P like I am, your potential readers might have to bend over to find you. People, bookstores and libraries like to alphabetize. I've chosen to stick with my surname as I know there are a lot of successful writers who have their name start with P, and even though I might have to compete with their titles for attention, I'd be glad to be in good company.
  • Your name might not suit the genre you are writing. I know it doesn't seem fair but men might not buy an action adventure novel written by Susie Love, no matter how brilliant her writing may be. There is gender stereotyping. The same goes for men who write books with female protagonists targeted at women/young girls. I've often seen them use their initials instead of their first names to make themselves gender neutral.
Real Name: The Advantages
  • People will know that you wrote the book/poem/script/article. Wouldn't it be great to have someone you attended school with recognise your name on the shelf?
  • People can relate to a name. You might think your real name isn't snazzy enough, but I'm more likely to pick up a book written by Sarah Jones than I am to choose one by Morgana Autumndust. There are a lot of writers who seem to think a pen name is akin to a role playing name. It isn't. Professional writing is a serious business.
  • It's easier to respond to your real name. Readers will relate you with your pen name and unless you choose to write under a name that you have gone by a good deal of your life, it might feel strange being called something different.
Pen Name: The Disadvantages
  • A pen name is not a secret identity, so if that is your reason for wanting to use one, don't bother. It isn't a conundrum. People will find out who you really are, so it won't quintuple your privacy.
  • Using a pen name to hide the fact that you might be writing about friends/family/work is doubly bad. You will be found out and you will get into trouble. Uh-oh.
  • Remember that your pen name is a brand. Readers will identify you with it. You don't want to find yourself later regretting your choice only to be stuck with it. Anyone who has ever been stuck with a username they came up with when they were 12 will know what I'm talking about.
Pen Name: The Advantages
  • You can write in alternate genres under different pen names. The same readers may not read both chick lit and historical fiction but you can still write both under different names.
  • You can choose a pen name that is gender ambiguous so that your writing will appeal to both male and female readers, without being prejudged.
  • You can have a pen name that is easy for your potential readers to remember, spell and find in a bookstore or database. I've actually read that a pen name that has fewer syllables is ideal.
What is your opinion?

Are pen names a go or an absolute no?


Nao said...

I think it's okay to use a pen name if you're going to write in a different genre, but for your main genre, I think you should use your real name.

Joycelyn said...

I like to use my real name. After all, it is my work, and I want people to know that I wrote it. I'm a little biased to using real names, since I'm proud of mine, and like to see it on my things.
It's true what you say about gender prejudice. However, I think that once your novel has been established, it won't really matter if you're writing under a male or female name. In fact, it might just draw readers' attentions if you're a female writing in a male dominated genre.

Anonymous said...

I've been considering using a male penname based on my own preference for male writers. I'm wary of female authors because a lot of teen lit these days is written by females for females, and and most of that teen lit is terrible. I don't want people who think like I do to be turned off a book I write simply because I'm a girl. And besides, my penname's not stupid; it's just a bit more uncommon than my real name :P