Pen Names… For? Against? Don’t Care?

09 Dec

Yesterday, I stumbled across an interesting blog post/article, written by a thriller author, who chose to go with a pen name, at the behest of her publisher.

I can’t say I agree with all of her/their reasons, but hey – it was ultimately her choice, and she picked a name she felt she could live with.

The article itself wasn’t what inspired me to make a blog post of my own though.  It was the comments that got me thinking.  Some of them were really harsh.  Some berated her for not sticking it to her publisher and refusing to change her name.  Some mocked her pen name choice, or her reason.  At least one even flat-out refused to read anything by her, because she had “sold out” by choosing a pen name.

I had no idea it was such a big deal to some people, or that one could be viewed as potentially weak for choosing to write under a name they weren’t actually born with.

Writers have all different reasons for choosing a pen name: so they won’t be confused with other writers or popular characters, so they can fit their name to their audience, book shelf placement, because their birth name is ridiculously hard to pronounce, because they’re writing both romance and horror but don’t want the audience to be confused or turned off, etc.

In the case of the author who wrote the article I’m referencing here, they felt her name wasn’t suitable to the genre she was writing in.  Basically, the main concern was that no one would want to read a thriller with “Alison Potter” on the book cover.

Personally, I don’t care what an author’s name is.  I’ll admit that I, like most, may make a purchasing decision based on the cover (though, the blurb on the back or online description is what does or does not sell it for me).  But, the author’s name has honestly never made a difference to me.  I’ve never said to myself, “Well, no one named Wendy Harper is capable of writing a good horror novel, so there’s just no way I’m going to pick that book up!”  And, I’ve never known anyone else who cared about that either.  I don’t even care if it’s chick-lit written by Frederick Humperdink.  What’s the blurb say?  What impression does the cover give me?

As I’m sure you’ve guessed, A. W. Omyn isn’t the name on my birth certificate.  So, why did I choose it?  Well, honestly, because I’m a bit of a smartass.  I’d love to say there’s some better, more serious, ethical, career-deciding, etc. reason for it.  But, in the end, it just boils down to my being a smartass.

I know that there are female authors who choose to go with initials, rather than their full name (whether of their own accord, or due to the advice of an agent/publisher/marketing consultant), in order to essentially hide their gender from the audience (at least until after the reader has read the book, or the author has gained a certain level of notoriety).

So, I thought it was funny to make a name with initials that not only does not hide my gender, but blatantly tells you exactly what it is.

Why did I choose to go with a ‘y’ instead of an ‘a’?  Is it some grand-standing political statement against the word “man” being within the title of my gender association?  Am I trying to push for the word “woman” to be changed to “womyn”?  Nope.  I just have a thing for ‘y’s in female names.  I think they make the name a bit more feminine and unique, generally speaking.

Thoughts on pen names?  Is there a bad reason to choose a pen name?  Is there a good reason to choose one?  Are you upset by authors who choose to go with a pen name?  Would the name on a book cover influence your decision to purchase, or read, a particular book?


Posted by on December 9, 2011 in All, Publishing, Writing


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

6 responses to “Pen Names… For? Against? Don’t Care?

  1. Lisa Taylor

    December 9, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    I’m with you, I have no idea why someone would care that the author is using a pen name. I don’t even know the names of most of the authors I read! I’m almost finished with a book that I plan to publish traditionally (I have only self-published before), and I’ve thought about the pen name question, because let’s face it, “Lisa Taylor” Is about as boring as it gets. I will be totally open to using a pen name if it will cause my name to stick better in the heads of readers. I mean, a name is just a name.

    • A. W. Omyn

      December 10, 2011 at 2:17 am

      “A rose, by any other name…” Right?

      Like I said, everyone has their own reasons for deciding whether or not to pick a pen name. If you want to spice yours up a bit, or take the opportunity find something fun and unique – go for it! On the other hand, if you want to keep your name, boring or not, it still wouldn’t prevent me from buying your book. 😉

  2. mygurlywayz

    December 11, 2011 at 1:25 am

    I’m the same as you. For me it’s more about the look of the cover, the name of the book and most importantly, the blurb on the back. I like to read what the book is about. That is what will sell me. I don’t care at all the name of the author. It only means something to me if I’m looking up other books by them, but nothing more than that.

    By the way, I like your pen name. I didn’t even realize what it was telling me until you pointed it out. haha!

    • A. W. Omyn

      December 11, 2011 at 7:37 am

      Title! Yes, title does play a big part in my decision to buy/not buy as well. Blurb still wins to ultimate vote, then title, then look of cover — name only gets my attention if it’s something funny like, “M. R. Butts”. But it doesn’t do a thing for my decision regarding whether or not I’m willing to spend money on this particular book, unless (as you pointed out) I’m already looking for a(nother) book by one specific author. That’s the only time I actually care who wrote the book (I realize this may be quite sad, being an aspiring author myself).

      Thank you. lol. That’s actually another reason I chose the ‘y’ instead of the ‘a’. It’s just a little bit more difficult to determine what the name says, since it’s a nontraditional spelling. That way – it’s kind of like a puzzle, a riddle, an enigma — MUHAHAHA — sorry. 😛

  3. Wren Andre

    December 12, 2011 at 9:50 am

    I agree wholeheartedly with the genre confusion argument. How many of you want to read an erotic romance by Stephen King? Eeek.

    • A. W. Omyn

      December 12, 2011 at 10:32 am

      Hey man, depending on what you’re into, a Stephen King erotic romance could be very interesting. hehe And, to be fair, the man has written a lot more than horror. He just isn’t as well known for it.

      But, I understand what you’re saying. And, I totally understand wanting to choose different pen names for different types of genres. You don’t want your children’s book readers thinking that your erotica will be good for their child. Or teens stumbling upon your non-teen-friendly work. That would suck! And, I can see how that may drive away many of your fans.

      To me, it’s the author’s choice. Stephen King wrote both The Langoliers and Shawshank Redemption. I happen to like both. I don’t mind that they’re in different genres. BUT, the genres aren’t soooo far removed from one another that I might become ticked off at the author for “fooling” me into believing I could hand it to my five year old (assuming I purchased one, based on my enjoyment of the other).


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