Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Why People Pen (Name)

Hello All!

Today I want to talk about pen names and why some people choose a nom de plume when publishing their work. When I started this writing journey, I was conflicted over whether or not to use one. My own real name is actually more "author-y sounding" than my pen name, but I've ultimately decided to go with Evie Redding for my genre writing needs. 

I am certainly no expert on this matter as I am still learning things about the publishing industry, so please consult a publishing professional on things like taxes and the like when using a pen name.

That being said, here's a list on some of the reasons why one may want to consider using a pen name.

Separating Spheres

Keeping the spheres of one's life separate is often a reason why one may create a pen name. Many times, authors will have day jobs...tis' a fact of a writerly life. Therefore, some may want to keep their writing life and their working life separate, and creating a pen name will help with this. 

Perhaps you don't want your boss to know you are moonlighting as a Mystery writer on the side, or you don't want the water cooler chat at your office to center around questions like "Can you put me in your book?", "Can I get 50 copies for free when you publish your novel?", and "Why do you write if you have a real job?"

In a similar vein, many people choose to use a pen name for privacy reasons. Some think writing is a fruitless endeavor, and if an author happens to be surrounded by people who share this view, it can be easier to not discuss this topic. Therefore, a pen name can be useful in maintaining a sense of privacy about one's work. After all, many of us are introverts, so privacy can be important to us.

For others, the issue of privacy is paramount as they wish to conceal their true identity for those who wish to cause them harm. Being in a toxic relationship takes bravery and strength to move on from, and creating a pen name may help to ensure that they are able to follow their dreams without the fear of being discovered. This is not to say that this is a full-proof method by any means, but it is a reason some decide to use a second name when publishing.

Multiple Genres/Already Published

An author may also choose an alias because they are already published or write in multiple genres. For example, if a romance writer is also an academic, he or she may choose a secondary name for their genre work and use their real name for scholarly/nonfiction work. This way, if I wanted to write children's books along with adult SFF novels, for example, I don't have to worry about children or their parents accidentally picking up content not intended for that audience.  

Likewise, if an author is already published, there is a brand that goes along with that name and book. For instance, if someone self-pubbed a novel, but wished to distance themselves from that due to poor sales, they may take up a pen name when trying to get traditionally published. 

Of course, agents and publishers typically want to see sales records under any pseudonym in order to gauge past success/investing potential, but a pen name may help to make a clean slate in your career.

A Layer of Armor

Writing a novel is scary business. But, I believe what comes after writing is even scarier: marketing. Yes, you have a product, and yes, you'd like that product to sell. BUT...this product is the result of blood, sweat, tears, and existential crises — you are marketing your very soul! 

Or so it can seem when trying to put yourself out there as an author.

Therefore to alleviate some of the anxiety associating with constantly tooting your own horn, some (myself very much included) use pen names as a way of building a sort of armor or layer of thick skin. 

Not sure if this is a writer thing or an INFJ/INFP thing, but having a pen name makes it easier to engage with others in the creative world. It helps me not to take things so personally.

Got bad reviews? Rejections? Trolls trying to bring you down? The pen name takes the brunt of the negativity in a metaphorical sense. It's great to separate yourself as an individual and an author that must treat the endeavor as a business. 

Many people have no problem having their real name as their marketing brand, but for some, perhaps a pen name will help to relieve some of the fear of diving into the publishing world.


And finally, having a pen name could be fun! It's a chance to reinvent yourself in a way. Plus, if you're a geek like me, choosing a pen name is reminiscent of naming a character in a video game. Maybe it alludes to something personal to you, your likes or interests, or pays homage to an important person in your life.

This is one of the reasons I enjoyed picking my pen name. While there are, in fact, several reasons I chose the name Evie Redding, the most recognizable reason is this little guy: 

Some also pick pen names because their real name may be difficult to pronounce or sounds too much like another famous person's name. There are many reasons someone may choose to use a pen name, but hopefully, this will give you some background as to why having a pen name may be right for you.

Do you use a pen name? Why or why not? Answer below or find me on Twitter!

As always, may your words be great and your pages many~

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