Day 5 Challenge: Pen Names: Why Hide Behind Aliases?

textI chanced upon a piece of cook book at the Amazon Kindle Store with the cover image of a delectable and highly enticing meal. It got my attention so I searched for similar titles under the same author.

I did find five to six more. Great work on the book covers. Same strong appeal. Same inviting effect.

As I scrolled down his Author Central page, I found more Kindle ebooks. They were erotica books featuring torrid, steamy and stimulating images of couples.

Okay, a chef who loves erotica. Why not?

Well, to some, this can be disturbing.

Pen Names: Should You Be Using One?

Let’s add a twist to this. What if, the author happened to be a prolific writer and did children’s books catering to the impressionable minds of 6-8 or 9-12 year-old kids? For sure, these age groups have the capability to search out books from the same author. Imagine how they’ll react to his erotica-themed book covers if they bumped on them in their searches. Would they say, “Mommy, I want to read this!” or “Mom, what the…”?

Then, what if he also carried religious types of books?

Who knows if he were a sex therapist and had books on that genre as well? Or he espoused ideas on same-sex marriage?

Let’s add more juice. What if the writer who’s using his real name is a pastor for a congregation of churches, university chancellor, professor of theology, guidance counselor for abused teenage kids or high-profile banker at the Bank of America?

The story can go on and on and on. And the horror?

But then, who told you that you can’t write and publish books on various competing and conflicting topics or genres? Or that you can’t use your real name for all of them?

You can, of course. Go ahead. As long as you don’t violate rules, rights or law that you’ll be held accountable for, why not? Most especially in this age of indie publishing where publishing a book every second is not far from possible, the sky is the limit as to what where you can take your writing.

But publishing your books under just one name or your real name can have serious implications on your career and personal life.

Why? How?

Pen Names: Why Use One?

Using pen names, fictitious names, aliases, pseudonyms, nom de guerre or nom de plume is legal, acceptable and an honored tradition that survived hundreds of years.

Why use one?

Here are reasons why you’d opt for a pen name instead of your real one:

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  • Privacy. Many authors just want to live normal lives, safe and free from the prying eyes of strangers who can get in the way of their personal and/or professional space. In the same way, they want to protect their family and relatives from the spotlight in anticipation of fame. Maintaining anonymity saves them from unnecessary distractions and allow them to focus on what they normally do. 
  • Integrity. Many authors want to uphold their integrity or their ability to remain honest and maintain strong moral principles. They want to keep their self-respect intact. Pen names can help them achieve that end.
  • Branding. Many authors want to build a personal brand or image or be known as an authority in their chosen field. A pen name can do that. Compare a meticulously crafted or well thought-out pen name with a funny or hilarious name. Unless their books are related to jokes or making people giggle or laugh,  a suitable pen name would help them be taken seriously. Also, a female writer who wants to influence the male population would benefit from a male pseudonym. It’s not uncommon to have a specific pen name for each genre or subgenre for the purpose of branding.
  • Marketability. Easy read, easy recall and quick sell. That’s power selling. That’s what using a highly marketable pen name is all about as practiced in Hollywood.

Pen Names: A Great Guide Before Using One

Here is a great resource that Adrienne DeWolfe of Writing World put together on 10 important questions to ask yourself when considering using a pen name:

  1. How comfortable are you with having your real name splashed all over the Internet, especially if your writing is being savaged in a blog post or book review?
  2. Are you likely to attract more readers in your fiction genre if you’re writing novels as a male or a female?
  3. Would your name be easier to remember, pronounce, or spell if it was more generic?
  4. Is your real name so common that it could be easily confused with the name of someone else (for instance, a highly publicized white-collar criminal or another author in your fiction genre?)
  5. Would you prefer to err on the side of caution, protecting your loved ones from your followers or from any future career fall-out that you may suffer?
  6. How comfortable are you with the idea that fans and detractors may be able to find you in the phone book and show up at your house or your place of business?
  7. Is your preferred pseudonym easy to spell and remember?
  8. Does your real name invoke a positive association with the fiction genre that you’re writing? (For instance, if your birth name is Cherry Clapp, you may face hurdles in the Romance genre.)
  9. Are you planning to write multiple fiction genres?
  10. Where is your preferred pseudonym likely to be shelved? (At the bottom of a book store’s stacks? Near the name of a bestselling author in your fiction genre?)

Pen Names: Ways to Find One

  • Think up of a random name that sounds great to your ears, something that pops out or has rhythm. It can be anything. Please consult your brain for this!
  • Use one that’s similar or close to your real name. If your name is Charles Dickens, why not use Dick Charles? John Andrews from Johnny Andrews. Charlie Chapman from Charlie Chaplin.
  • Find one that rings a bell to readers in your target genre like mystery, science fiction, paranormal or supernatural, business. You may visit bestseller sections at the Amazon Kindle Store for samples of fitting names.
  • Use a random name generator such as Name Generator, List of Random Names and Fake Name Generator. They are fun to use and can be handy when creating character names for your fiction stories. This is the easiest to use.
  • Search for popular names of babies born under a specific year based on the age group of your target readers. If you’re targeting women between 45 and 60 years of age, you may look for popular names of baby girls born between 1969 and 1954 here or here, which is a US government site.
  • Search for names of popular or bestselling authors and create one that sounds like or is similar to any of those names. J.K. Bowling, Stephen Queen, Stephen Coffey, Anthony Bobbins? Of course, I’m silly! But you get what I mean.
  • Mix and match or do a combo based on previous searches.

Have you picked a pen name yet?

What are you waiting for? Actually, when you need to or when you’re ready.

A Pen Name: What Is It to Your Book Cover?

file000388983772Whew! I got overly excited about discussing pen names that I almost lost sight of what’s behind writing this section.

Let’s get back on track: What’s the relevance of pen names to creating our book cover?

What are the highly visible elements of a book cover again?

  • Book title
  • Image or picture
  • Author’s name (or pen name).

These elements help to sell your book.

Very briefly, a relevant, striking and powerful pen name adds to the emotional appeal or affectivity and salability  or effectivity of your book cover.

Period.

Hope that helps.

Let me know what you think of this post. I’d really love to hear from you!


MARIA SILVO ~ Entrepreneur  Ι  Children’s Book Author  Ι  Blogger

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One thought on “Day 5 Challenge: Pen Names: Why Hide Behind Aliases?

  1. Reblogged this on Brett P. S. and commented:
    Definitely all good reasons to have multiple pen names. I’d put branding at the top of my list, especially for genre writers. People come to expect a certain kind of product and a deviation from the norm can kill a fan base.
    I remember looking up an author of a good book only to find that he wrote some other titles that put me off. Sadly, I haven’t bought from him since and it was difficult to look at the book I bought in the same way.

    Like

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