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Pen Names… For? Against? Don’t Care?


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?

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

 

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