Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Pen Names Vs Real Names

I'm writing a book. It's almost complete. It's under a pen name. These are three facts about me. I love my pen name. I created it and it's an amalgamation of me :) So what's the problem right?

I created a pen name for several reasons. One, and the most important, was safety. I see a lot of authors get treated badly by readers when a book doesn't hold up to their expectations. When I wrote Fanfiction I was a victim of serious bullying and threats. To have a pen name seemed like a no brainer for me.

The second reason was security. What if I fail? What if nobody likes my books... WHAT IF! I can just disappear and me, my family and friends will never be affected.

I know you are all reading this and saying, "I don't see her issue. She seems to have a good reason for using a pen name."

Okay, okay... So, last night I was tagged on Facebook to talk about my WIP (Work in Progress). I was tagged under my real name not my pen name. I wasn't sure what to do. I went back and forth. I talked to a good friend who knows me and my pen name we debated it and in the end I talked about my WIP under my real name.

A little while later one of my proofreaders/BETA messaged me saying, "Are you sure you wanted to do that? People will put 2 and 2 together when it releases." I was at the "I'll deal with it then," mind set. For all I know nobody was paying attention.

More people know me as the real me because I love the genre I'm writing in and I talk to a lot of authors and such. NO ONE aside from a few know me by my pen name.

From a business stand point would my pen name or my real name sell my book better? Do I say YEAH I'M BOTH? Does it make having a pen name moot at that point?

With my book on the cusp of completion I find myself at a cross roads. So I blog and I'm hoping to hear from anyone and everyone about this. What does a new author who doesn't want to lie about who they are but also wants to keep herself and family protected do? Is it a thrive in business or thrive in life sort of choice?

PLEASE weigh in!!!!


  1. Oooh, you are in a pickle. I think it would have been easier, and probably more typical, for you to have your real name be the secret, and your pen name be out. That is what I and a lot of others do (Amelia Bishop is not my real name) But you are in this situation now.
    I guess the best bet would probably be to create a facebook account under your pen name, invite the people who you trust and don't mind knowing both to like your new persona, and take it from there, keeping the two identities separate.
    Or, you know, just be out and proud and tell everyone your pen name and don't worry about it? I know that is hard to do, though. I haven't done it.

    I keep my real name secret for the reasons you posted. I have kids, and while they know what I write, I don't necessarily want them to face any teasing or judgement from other people in their lives who might not approve of me. I'll take that heat, but I don't want it for them. Still, the people in my critique group know my real name, and I think that is fine. I don't care if people who I know in the m/m world know my real name, it's people in my "real" life who I'm hiding from (wow that sounds sad)

    I guess I am the worst person to give advice on this! Good luck, and I'm sure whatever you do will be okay. We worry more than we need to most of the time :)

  2. I think that as always it's personal preference. I know I write under a pen name: Cam Kennedy. I'm on facebook as Carrie Ann Kennedy (my real name, with all my hs friends, my family etc) I am very open about what I write, why I write, and it's pretty much all out there.. BUT I chose a pen name to protect my kids.. I really don't need my kids friends looking me up on amazon, and then my kids either being ostracized etc..

  3. This was me two years ago. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do about my pen name. When I first decided to publish, I was going to use a pen name. I wasn't sure if I wanted anyone to know it was "me" writing. You touched on the "what if I fail" thing. I think that was my biggest fear, and I'm pretty sure it's a fear all artists have. Your work is very personal, and you don't want to have that failure linger. But, the more I talked about writing--out loud--to people outside of the writing community, I found a lot more acceptance than I expected. Most of them were more proud that I wrote a book PERIOD. I'm out all over. I use my first and middle name, and one day will use my entire name to write YA. I have yet another that I use for my more taboo books, the ones I don't want my mama to read ;) I guess all in all, you need to do whatever is best for you. What works for me, may not work for you. What I learned though, is the more you over analyze it, the worse it gets. I think you're doing it for the right reasons--for your family.

  4. I never liked the attitude that having a pen name means you're lying about who you are. You're not. It's absolutely no different than going by a handle online. It's no different than putting on a uniform and going to work.

    For a lot of authors, a penname is just that, I think: their uniform. Some do it for privacy, some do it just to help get that 'author mode' frame of mind. Nobody is lying about anything. They're saying 'this is professional me, real name is off the clock me'.

    Some don't mind those blurring (like me), others want or need to keep them firmly divided (I can think of three LT3 authors who are very very strict about it, all for completely different reasons).

    The only thing that matters is the author's comfort. If you're comfortable with the lines blurring, willing to take on any possible challenges/headaches/whatever that come with it, cool. If you're more comfortable with a hard divide, cool.

  5. Thanks ALL of you! You are so helpful and have made this easier for me to make a decision!!!