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
’s greatest writers of all time, Mark Twain. His real name is Samuel Clemens. America
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?