Monday, April 16, 2012

A to Z Challenge: N is for Name



N is for Name:  a word or combination of words by which a person, place, thing, body, class, or any object of thought is designated, called, or known; a distinguished, famous, or great reputation. (Dictionary.com)

Shakespeare wrote in his most famous play, Romeo and Juliet, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."   In short, this means that what truly matters most is what something is, not what it’s called.  For most things, I think this is true.  But when you’re a writer, your name is your brand, and that means everything.

Most of the writers I’ve met in the last eighteen months are using their true and legal names to query and publish under.  One of the first questions my own publisher asked me is if I plan on using my real name or a nom de plume, which is a literary double or pseudonym.  I’ve met only two writers I can think of who are using pseudonyms.  They don’t even blog under their real names.  And I can’t help but wonder why. 

Are they embarrassed by what they’ve written?  Do they want to retain some anonymity?  I understand some women use initials or a more masculine semblance of their name to compete in a male dominated genre.  Some writers use pseudonyms to cross over into a new genre, one which they’ve never been published under before.  This could be because they want to retain a clean brand from their previous name, or maybe because their titles didn’t sell well under that name and they need to start fresh. 

One of my favorite authors, James Scott Bell, is now writing under a pseudonym because his new series of books is so different from his normal fare.  Even some famous writers have written under pseudonyms:  Stephen King, Agatha Christie, Dean Koontz, Nora Roberts.  Just look at one of America’s greatest writers of all time, Mark Twain.  His real name is Samuel Clemens. 

I have nothing personal against using a pseudonym; I just feel that I’ve put so much time and effort—my blood, sweat, and many, many tears into writing and polishing my novel—why wouldn’t I want everyone to know exactly who had written it?  Though it does deal with some provocative and horrific events, and people often stare at me and ask how on earth I came up with all that, I want them to know me, to recognize my name, to say, “Oh, you wrote that book, The Mistaken.  I know who you are.”  Call me vain, but I want people to know and remember my real name.           

What about you, do write under your real name, and if not, why?  

40 comments:

Natalie Aguirre said...

I didn't know all those authors use a different name. Even if you write in a different genre, I'm not sure why you wouldn't want to use your name, especially if you're successful. Though I have heard other authors do it for different genres like you said.

I plan to use my own name. I could see a new author using a pseudonym if they are in another profession and want to keep their names separate for some reason. Just guessing.

Tara Tyler said...

i use my first & middle name, its much more catchy than my last name...

and googling or facebooking old friends, it's astonishing how many results you get!

Jennifer Shirk said...

I use my real name too. But I could definitely see me using a different one if I chose to write a different genre.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm with you! I want people to know it's me.

Jack said...

I've always believed in branding one's true name. Like you said, what's there to be afraid of? I have nothing to hide, so it should be easy to brand my name! :)

Oh, and I love you Romeo & Juliet reference! It is my second-most-favorite book in the entire world!

Valentina Hepburn said...

Sometimes there are reasons for not using ones own name. I'm a professional writer for companies, websites, literature etc. and I decided to keep my novel writing and corporate professional life apart to avoid confusion. When a potential client Googles my name, I would much rather they land on my professional website that gives them the information they're looking for.
When the time comes (and I hope it does)to decide about which name I want to use, I can make a decision about which name to use.

JeffO said...

My plan is to use my real name, but who knows? We had a local author appear at a somewhat-local library last fall. She used a pseudonym, and part of it was about placement on the shelves and recognizability. She worked with either her agent or publisher (or both) on a name that she liked and that would get her in just the right spot on shelves -- not too high, not too low. For some it's about marketing.

Susan Roebuck said...

I write under my maiden name. And that's because I'm married to a Portuguese and my current name would be difficult for readers to relate to. I do know people who have pseudonyms because they write under different genres. I'll keep to just one though!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I know a lot of author who write clean romance under their real name and erotica under a different name.

Even though my married name is different from my maiden name, I knew anyone who saw the L. Diane would know it was ME.

Donna K. Weaver said...

This is a great one. One of my favorite name scenes is the one from Star Trek The Next Generation. It was in the second season and they had a new doctor (Polaski). She kept calling the android Da(y)ta Daata (I hope that makes sense). He finally challenged her on it. She said Data/Data, what was the difference. His reply: One is my that, the other is not.

Love Data!

Donna K. Weaver said...

*stupid finger*

One is my name; the other is not.

Bish Denham said...

I write under my maiden name. And Bish is a nickname I've had since I was an infant. It is the name everyone knows me by. So yes, I use my real name.

Chris Fries said...

I use my real name. But sometimes, it would be easier to accept rejection under a pseudonym. ;^)

Tracy said...

I use my own name, but I suppose if I wrote for different genres, I might consider using pseudonyms.

However, it's challenging enough to keep up on social media channels under one name. Imagine if you had to give attention to 2+ blogs, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, emails, etc. That would be a lot of work!

Sara said...

If I get published I'd use my name, but I can understand wanting to use a different name to switch Genre.

Although with all the social media stuff out there, I cant imagine having to do double social media. I'd probably get lazy and have the accounts secretly linked or something and hope no one notices. Or if I was hugely successful get an intern to do it for me.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I hear you! I use my real name and I want people to know it's me. Of course, the hyphenated last name might throw some things off a bit but we'll worry about it if - when! - it becomes an issue. :)

Happy A-Z!

Kathy said...

Maybe they feel it's 'safer' to not use their own names, in case their writings don't work out. If you're a good writer, then you'd be proud to have your own name associated with it.
But as a 'rose is still a rose by any other name', good writing stand the test of time regardless of who's name is under 'Author'.
Visiting on the A to Z Challenge. Nice to meet you.
Kathy at Oak Lawn Images

Julie said...

If I'm able to get published it will be under my real name. I totally agree with you.

I read about your book being published over on Lisa Regan's site and wanted to say congratulations!! It sounds excellent and I can't wait to read it. I love psychological thrillers. :)

jp said...

I would write under my own name if what I wrote was fiction but to do so when writing an autobiography would make people in the story istantly recognisable and that could lead to difficulties in some cases.

Stephanie said...

Darn it! I was #375! LOL!

Anyway...i agree...I work damn hard on my books and i want MY name on the cover, not some made-up name! BUT I do understand the need for others to use them. I have several friends who write erotic romance and it just wouldn't bode well for them to use their real names. One is a elementary teacher. Another just does not like her last name...not a good name for a romance author.

But if someday i decide to write a different genre, or if I ever decide to try my hand at YA, I would use a pen name, to keep it separate from what I have already published.

Carrie Butler said...

Great post, Nancy! I'm sticking with my real name, for now. :)

M Pax said...

Sometimes I wish I chose more of a pen name. I use my maiden name. Why? Privacy reasons. Most writers have day jobs, so I can understand why they might want to keep those two spheres separate.

KC Weldon said...

I haven't written much and an nowhere close to publishing, but I've thought a lot about this. I have extended family members who don't claim me now while I'm not glamorous and important, and if I ever am glamorous and important I don't want them being all "That's my whatever. She's a great writer." So I've decided to use a pseudonym for that reason. If I'm not good enough for them now, then I'll be way too fabulous for them when I'm published. I blog under my real name though.

Joylene said...

When I first started, I thought of using an pseudonym. It's been so long now that I can't remember why I didn't. And what's even funnier is I forgot that I can't remember why I published in my own name. Except I do remember I wanted my dad's name to live on. But why I wrote under Joylene. I've always thought it was a dorky-girlie name. I'm not what you'd call girlie. You've got me thinking, Nancy. That's always a good think. LOL

Melodie Wright said...

I have thought of using another name, but only because my last name places me at the end of the shelves. :) Conventional wisdom is that the best place for a book is in the middle. My maiden name starts with 'G', which is much higher in the alphabet than 'W' so when it comes time, I may decide to use a nom de plume for marketing purposes.

Melodie Wright said...

I have thought of using another name, but only because my last name places me at the end of the shelves. :) Conventional wisdom is that the best place for a book is in the middle. My maiden name starts with 'G', which is much higher in the alphabet than 'W' so when it comes time, I may decide to use a nom de plume for marketing purposes.

Chuck said...

Unfortunately I write everything under my real name...even things I wish I hadn't.

Tracy said...

Nancy, I always wondered why writers would want to have a psuedo name...not me, I'm proud to have my name attached to my book. Congrats on yours...love psycho-thrillers so I can't wait to read yours...
great 'n' word...

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

I've considered using initials or my maiden name at different points. I'm still not sure what I'll settle on. My last name is difficult to pronounce, so that's why I considered my maiden name ... and it's so long, that's why I considered initials. Also, my sister-in-law, up until a couple weeks ago, had my exact same name.

I can definitely see if a person were to write picture books under one name, they'd want to choose another name if they began publishing erotica. It might hurt their picture book sales if their erotica started doing well. ha ha! Not that I'm considering such a career path, but.... :)

Al Penwasser said...

I'm not sure.....while they may smell swell, somehow I don't think Mrs. Penwasser would cotton all that well to "Hey, I got you a dozen turds."
Of course, Al Penwasser is a pseudonym, but I don't deny my real name.
It ain't turd, though.

Carrie-Anne said...

I've been writing under the name Carrie-Anne for 19 years next month. I chose my pen name when I was 13 (and added -ian to the end of my pen surname at 15 when I became an Armenophile). I know had I been older, I would've chosen a more unique name (something like Octavia, Zenobia, Morwenna, Lysandra), but I just feel like Carrie-Anne is my other name after so many years of claiming it as my pseudonym. My real name, Anna, is as common and boring as dirt, and people are always mangling my Slovakian surname into an Irish or Scottish name, or sometimes even more off the mark. If I decide to write erotica, I'll be writing under the pen name Khanada (pen last name TBD).

Maryann Miller said...

Thanks so much for stopping by my blog for the A to Z Challenge. So nice to meet you.

Enjoyed your post and your lovely letters. I write under my own name for all the reasons you mentioned, although I do understand why some authors choose to write under different names in different genres. One author, Evan Hunter, wrote the 87th Precinct series as Ed McBain, and I never really understood why as all of his books were mysteries and thrillers. Perhaps he just wanted to set the police procedural books apart. Or perhaps it was the publisher who insisted on the name change.

Jessie Humphries said...

The problem with using my real name is that it sucks. And my maiden name is no better: Coon. So I go from a racial slur to a Humper (Humphries). It sucketh.

Robin Weeks said...

I'm with you--I want to be in a store someday and have the clerk look at my credit card and be all "Oh, wow! You're Robin Weeks! I love your books!"

Yeah, I skipped the line where they passed out humility.

Lisa Regan said...

Well as you know, I use my real name, my maiden name. It is a point of family pride. I want to make my family proud!

Aldrea Alien said...

I'm writing under a pseudonym. (Really, I ain't called Aldrea K. Alien, though it would've been nice.) And I'm toying with the idea of publishing under this. It’s been with me for just over half my life, like a nickname (I even had kids calling me alien at school, but that’s a different story).
I've a reason for this: there's already two authors with the same first and last name as me (my real one). One uses her middle initial, but the other does not. The second also writes paranormal erotica.
I've got nothing against the genre (my writing can get pretty steamy too), but I don't want people to get the two of us confused.

Empty Nest Insider said...

I go back and forth about including my maiden name or just using a middle initial. I don't think it's a sign of vanity to use your real name, but everyone has to do what they're comfortable with. Julie

Saturday Sadie said...

I don't put my real name to things I write, either. My first name is wretchedly common and dull; my last name is (apparently) difficult for others to spell and pronounce correctly, and doesn't flow with my first name at all.

idiosyncraticeye said...

I think it's embarassment! :)

idiosyncraticeye said...

I think it's embarassment! :)