A number of times recently I’ve had discussions about pen names. It’s a subject that comes up in my writing courses, too.
Q: Should you have one? How do you choose one?
A: Maybe, and carefully.
Here is the primary question to start with: if someone Googled your real name and found your books, would you be 100% okay with that? One hundred percent. If not, if you have any doubts at all, get a pen name.
I write my novels under a pen name, but much of my published erotica and poetry is under my real (then real) name. I wish I’d used a pen name from the start; not because I’m in any way ashamed of what I’ve written, but because my place among many different types of marginalised communities means I’m aware I can be Googled, and there’s a sense of professionalism that makes me want to keep that writing separate.
But, it is what it is.
And that’s part of my advice about pen names. Think ahead, not just about today. Because once it’s in print, that’s forever.
The other part of my advice is to think it through. Choosing a name like pert butterfly butt is cute, but is it the professional writing face you want to turn to the world? Is it something you’ll answer to in public, at readings? Will it get you taken less seriously than a more standard sounding name? Does it make you sound like an amateur cyber writer? If you have a long and wonderful writing career, will you be happy you published under that name?
These are questions only you can answer for yourself. But give them real thought, because as I say…forever. It’s kind of like the tattoo of publishing. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. And then you can decide how solid you want that wall between real self and author self to be.
And one last thing; someone asked me about having a second pen name, as they might be genre jumping slightly. This is a pronged question. Are you going to be doing lots of writing in a single genre? Do you have a solid fan base within that genre?
Then yes, you should consider it. Pen names allow you to play with different genres and still keep your readership happy. However, if you’re a natural genre jumper, if you write all over the place anyway, then there’s probably no reason to bother with it.
Happy writing, under any name you use.