Pseudo-Noms

Why do authors take a pseudo-nom?  This has been a question that many readers have asked me.  My answer has always been that it was a matter of privacy.  At least it is for me.  I don’t want someone being able to dig through a phonebook (or doing an internet search) and finding where I live, what my phone number is, or whatever other private stuff they can locate.  However, I wanted my writer’s name to also be close enough to my real name that if someone calls out to me across the room, I won’t look like an idiot if I don’t answer.  So “Liz” really is my first name, and “Kreger” is close enough to my real last name to avoid any faux pas.

Another reason authors may take a pseudo-nom is because she writes under different genres.  We all know … or at least most of us know … that Jayne Ann Krentz is also Jane Castle and Amanda Quick.  All three names represent very distinct genres.  Jayne Ann Krentz for her contemporaries, Amanda Quick for her historicals and Jane Castle for her romantic science fictions.  Makes sense to differentiate between the three.

Then there’s the author who might write erotica but perhaps has a day job teaching second graders.  (This has happened recently.  Don’t recall the author, but it was a big stink).  I know it should make absolutely no difference what a person writes in her spare time, but you can bet that there will always be closed minded people who will kick up a stink because Mrs. Jones writes “smut” and how dare she teach my darlin’ little seven year old.  Pfft.

Well, this past Saturday, I learned of yet another reason for using a different pen name … and this is one I’d never heard of before.  Okay, say you wrote historicals under “Jane Smith” and because traditionally historicals don’t do all that well, your print runs aren’t all that great.  Well, “Jane Smith” decides to write a paranormal and it turns out to be a terrific, fascinating, page turner that promises to blow everything out of the water.  The publisher fears that the bookstore buyers will take a look at “Jane Smith’s” print run and see that she didn’t do so well … regardless of the fact that she originally started out as a historical author … and not order the number of books that this paranormal is sure to sell.  So, the publisher tells “Jane Smith” that she needs to use a new pen name.  For her paranormals, “Jane Smith” becomes “Jasmine Smithers” … or some such name.  She will need to recreate herself under the new pen name, but at the same time, there’s no reflection of a small print runs to influence bookstore buyers.  She’s free to establish a whole new track record for herself.  Don’t know ‘bout you, but that makes perfect sense to me.

Anyone else know of another reason to use a pen name?  I’m now writing an urban fantasy and wonder if I should use a different pen name to keep it separate from my romantic science fiction books, or if the genres are close enough to each other that it makes little difference.

‘K.  I’m doing a giveaway to a commenter today.  I have a hardback copy of Darynda Jones’ first urban fantasy … and her Golden Heart winner, by the way … “First Grave on the Right”.  Fabulous book.  I’ll announce the winner tomorrow on Amy’s blog.

About Liz Kreger

Liz Kreger writes science fiction/romances and to date, has two books published by Samhain Publishing ... FORGET ABOUT TOMORROW and PROMISE FOR TOMORROW. Liz is presently branching out to contemporary paranormals and is experimenting with urban fantasy.
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16 Responses to Pseudo-Noms

  1. Jeff Clough says:

    I think with the advent of the internet and the astonishing ease with which you can find people, a pseudonym provides less privacy than it used to. I’m sure an author can take certain steps to make it harder to play connect the dots, but I don’t think any popular author will keep their anonymity for long in our current age.
    Myself, I debated (and passed on) using a pseudonym simply because I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life correcting people when they get my real one wrong. Clough is an English name that rhymes with rough. Simple, you’d think, but I have heard no less than six different pronunciations, some of which are truly amazing. Going in the other direction isn’t much easier, with most people arriving at “Cluff” when they try to spell it.
    Jeff Clough`s last blog was …Review of Scrivener

    • Liz Kreger says:

      Okay, right off, I see that I spelled pseudonym wrong. What a ditz. Thanx for the correct spelling, Jeff.

      I can see where a lot of people may pronounce your name six different ways. Hell, before I got married, I heard a whole myriad of pronouncations of my birth name. The good thing is that this usually weeded out sales calls because they never got the name right. :wink:

  2. Edie Ramer says:

    If someone uses a different first name from their own, I always wonder if someone calls them by their pseudonym name, if they’ll recognize it. I don’t think I would.

    More and more writers are putting all their books under the same name, hoping for crossover readers. If I love an author in one genre, I hope to love it under another. I can see having another name for an erotica book, or perhaps even children’s. Not so much YA and adult. They probably get a lot of crossover readers.

    • Liz Kreger says:

      Actually, my pseudonym gives the correct pronounciation of my real name. :lol: So I’m more inclined to respond to it than I would if someone yelled out “Krooger” across a room.

      If an author is successful at one genre, then using the same name in a similar one makes sense. You do want to attract cross-overs. But often, if I like one genre and this author has a second one … then I’m probably not going to check it out. I love Charlaine Harris’ Sookie series, but I have little or no interest in her mysteries. They could be wonderful, for all I know, but I’ve never been inclined to read one.

      An exception is Molly Harper’s books. She writes very funny paranormals and has a women’s fiction out there. I read it and thought it was hilarious. Hmm … perhaps I should be a little more open-minded. ;-)

  3. Liz, or whoever you are, those are the usual reasons for using a pen name. I debated with this issue because I am writing in different genres. I also intend to do traditional and indie pub and want to have a separate name, for legal reasons regarding publisher’s current restrictions on digital books, and for the simle reason, I’d like to keep the work separated.

    I took an RWA workshop and the instructor has written over 120 books in 25 years. She has three names and three traditional publishers, and is also beginning to pub her backlist with two of them.

    A problem? No, as Jeff mentioned, in this day and age of internet connections, I don’t see this as a problem, but as an asset. An author page on amazon, your “about” page on your web or blog site … the two line blurb on the bottom of reviews or guest posts … all of these lead back to your lists of books. Jane and Amanda we all know. Nora and JD we also know. Then there is Sophie Littlefield who writes in three genres under one name, at one web page. In this regard, many publishers do not dictate, and the decision becomes ours alone.

    It all dove tails and brings readers to your other work, whether under another name or genre. If the books are good, readers will like them and take a change on another “type” of work. Readers become attached to good books, as well as author names.
    florence fois`s last blog was …Writer’s Life … To buy a plum bun

    • Liz Kreger says:

      This is true, Florence. Most authors want to attract readers across the genres and will often keep the same name for whatever genre they chose to write. My only problem is as I mentioned above … I’m not a mystery reader and would be ticked off if I were to pick up a book expecting one thing and getting something entirely different. Sure, I might find I enjoy reading this other genre … but given my reading schedule, I’m very stingy on what type of books I read. I have just so much reading time and I prefer to spend it reading something I KNOW I’ll enjoy.

  4. Honestly, I hate it when authors use another pen name, but yet, I get why they do it. The problem I have is I won’t follow them to their new genre unless they make it stark-staring clear that they’re “both” of these people.

    As for other reasons to use a pen name? Stalkers and assinine kin folk who take pleasure in destroying you. I kid you not. :sad:

    • Livia Quinn says:

      Exxxactly the reason I decided to use a separate pen name. SO now I have two pens, one for each genre and I’m right in the middle of trying to straighten out the various google accounts. And I’m thinking have I gone to all this trouble just so that Google could tie them all together and make the whole plan moot? Oh well, eventually I may be like Jayne Ann Krentz – trying to get to just one name. As far as pens, I finally found my my soul name, Livia. Honestly, I feel more like Livia than the real person. Oh boy, what does that say about me?

      Bottom line – more pen names means a lot more work.

      • Liz Kreger says:

        Hopefully in the long run it’ll be worth it, Livia. Didn’t think of the hassle of Google, though. I can see where trying to tie the two names together is a PITA. On the other hand, a lot of authors deliberately take a pen name to keep the two genres apart.

  5. Liz Kreger says:

    I agree, Colette. Sad though it may be, there are people who are freaks and weirdos. I’ve heard of several authors who were “stalked” by rabid fans … whether via the internet or in person. It’s a scary world out there.

  6. Liz, sometimes real names are difficult to spell or pronounce or, sometimes, a famous writer has a name that’s very close to your own, so you want to use something different to distinguish yourself. I’ve also heard that a few writers have used a pen name when their real name didn’t suit the genre they were writing in. Like having a very flowery sounding name when you’re a writer of chilling thrillers. I know, in one case, an editor highly recommended that an author change her name for that reason.
    Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …Are You Pinteresting?

    • Liz Kreger says:

      Ooo. Good reasons, Marilyn. Thanx for the info. Didn’t think about it making a difference if an authors real name didn’t suit the genre. I can see where the name Penelope Truheart wouldn’t suit a horror writer. ;-)

  7. Na S. says:

    As a reader sometimes it’s obvious to me when an author has used a pen name. There are cross-advertising on their books or it’s readily mentioned on their website. One of those authors is Nora Robers/J.D. Robb. Other authors, it comes as a complete surprise to see they have a pen name, with the pen names being completely different.

    It does get confusing and I would rather an author stick to one name. I read a lot of genres and don’t mind trying an author’s book from a different genre. In the case of an author writing adult fiction versus young adult I can understand the need for differing pen names. All in all, it’s the story that counts most, whatever the name :)

  8. Misty Evans says:

    Liz, I love having a pen name and keeping my writing career separate from my real life. My last name is difficult to spell and pronounce , so I also have a pen name for that reason.

    I’ve found my pen name to be my alter ego. When I write and promote, I turn on that persona. When I’m not in that mode, I can be plain old Misty. :)

    • Liz Kreger says:

      Humph … good reasons, Misty. I know of a lot of authors who are actually quite shy and for some reason, when they’re in their writer’s persona, is a totally different person. I also like the fact that it gives you a degree of anomonity (I’m sure I butchered that spelling).

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