Friday, August 5, 2011

Pen Names-Should You? Would You? Could You?

At some point in every writer's career, the issue of whether or not to use a pen name arises. (Spoiler Alert: Anna Banks is my pen name! Muhahahahahaha!)

Here are some good reasons to use a pen name:

1.) Privacy. This is not one of the reasons for my own decision to use a pen name. Here in Small Town, Florida, everyone knows you, your business, and whose cows you tipped when you were thirteen years old. So they already know that you slipped on a cow pie and fell flat on your back in it (which you completely deserved, because tipping cows is evil). Yup, if you came to Small Town right now and asked around, you could probably get my address and blood type quicker than an ice cold sweet tea.

2.) Real Estate. Meaning location on the shelf at a bookstore. Books are stocked on the shelves according to author last names. My real last name begins with a Z. No bueno. 

3.) If your last name is absurd. Like, if my last name were Banana...Enough said.

4.) If your last name is common. Like Smith, Johnson, Frufugutzen. You might not want to be lost among the other Smiths, Johnsons, and Frufugutzens. Which is perfectly fine.

5.) If you plan on writing in different genres. For instance, if you intend to write erotic romance as well as eye-twitchingly sweet YA, possibly you'd want to consider a pen name for one (ahem, or both) genres.

What other reasons are there for using a pen name? What are the cons? You tell me.

And don't forget, today is the last day to enter my Swag giveaway for the month of August. Don't miss out on a chance to win Maggie Stiefvater's The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, in hardcover. For the official rules, go here.


  1. Hmm . . . you make some good points ;o) I hate how common my last name is ('Cook'), but at least it comes with prime real estate, hehehe . . . (rule #2). I throw my middle initial (the 'V') in there to make it a little different, but still, if you google my name, you come up with a crapload of people--none of them me, lol. So, I guess it's one of those bridges I'll have to cross once/if I get there :o)

    Great post!

  2. I think you listed all of the reasons I've ever heard to use one. And Anna Banana?? That's just silly! Who would ever think of such a name? ;) I like the one you chose. It ROX. Have a great Friday!

    *waves to sweet Ms. Angela*

  3. Having the last name 'Taylor' this is definitely something I've considered. Now, I'm off to look at your contest!

  4. I always wonder about pen names, since I feel like my last name sounds more suitable for an accountant than for a writer of paranormal fiction/urban fantasy. BUT, I'll worry about that later! For now, trying to make sure my MS doesn't suck. :D

  5. Another good reason for a pen name: If your initials, or any combination of your name and initials spell something out.

    Case and point: my name.

    Rena L.


    yeah, you really don't want your writing associated body parts...

  6. Amen! I've always known I would need one as, in real life, I'm a Smith. And it totally sucks. At first I thought about keeping my first name and just using my maiden name, but how often if life do you get to choose your own name? So I made one up in honor of my two favorite literary characters Maid Marian of Robin Hood, and Queen GuineVERE.

    I did a bad job with the real estate though, you're right... :)

  7. I was just thinking about this the other day. Although my name is not the epitome of originality, there are only 2 reasons I can think of to justify using a nom de plume: 1) if you write in multiple genres and want to have a distinct identify/audience for each; and 2) if your name is so incredibly common (e.g., John Smith) you are virtually anonymous. But even on these points, I would take the advice of my agent/publisher.

    It seems to me, the advantage of keeping your real name is it creates interest among those who know you. They will, hopefully, buy your novel, even if it's just to see their friend/relative's name on the cover. And perhaps even those who used to know you but have lost touch--they may see your book, read the bio on the back, and think "I wonder... is that...?"

    Another thought: if you're afraid that your name will be confused with other more famous people with the same name, how about writing a novel so mind-blowingly awesome, that everyone else with the same name will be confused with "that cool author that wrote that mind-blowingly awesome book"! :)

    Just a few thoughts--I told you I was thinking about this! :)

  8. This is awesome! We were actually talking about pen names the other day! I want a pen name! Can't think of one I love. I just don't think mine rolls of the tongue! hmmm. This is a great post! Muchas Gracias!

  9. My name isn't common but it's long. I would definitely consider a much shorter pen name when the time comes!

  10. Agree on the privacy side...but I wouldn't knock having a last name starting with "Z" sometimes it's more fun for me to go looking for a new author to read starting at the end...I've found many treasures that way! However, I know more, um, normal people like to start at the beginning. PJ Parrish was at our writers conference last year and she, very coincidentally, chose a pen name that stuck her right in the middle of two very huge authors...I say yeah for pen names!

  11. Angela, I'm sooooo happy that you're a "C" girl already. I think the V does make you stand out from all the other boring Angela Cooks! :)

    Anita, I know right! Who would've thunk of a dumb, stupid, nerdy, pukey name like Anna Banana? :)

  12. Hey Becky! *waves* Thanks for stopping by, girl.

    greenwoman-Yup, priorities first. Non-sucky MS, THEN pen name. But just to let you know, we all think our own MS sucks at some point... :)

    Renal! Need I say more??? :)

  13. Marian-I love how you came up with your pen name! I was actually going to do the same thing, but my favorite character is Scarlett O'Hara. In fact, up until about three weeks ago, this blog was called Scarlett Prose!

    Ahhh, Colin, but you must think like a girl sometimes. Many of us have already changed our names when we tricked our hubbies into marriage, so we know how spread the word about name changes... ;)

  14. Abby, it took a long time, and many hours of irritating my friends and family, for me to come up with mine. Don't worry, though, it WILL come to you.

    Melanie- How about Melanie Mac? Just sayin'. :)

  15. Heather- That's a pretty good "coincidental" strategy, if you ask me! But yeah, I'm one of the normal people you speak of, attracted to shiny things at eye level....

  16. I knew there had to be more reasons for choosing my husband than a fast metabolism & long legs (that my girls are now benefiting from--thanks gene pool) but his last name: CRANDELL -- ah, yes. My maiden name was close by on the shelf, DYKMAN...but that has it's own issues. I'll leave it at that.

    Bethany Crandell: AUTHOR. I LIKEY!!
    Banks is a good one, by the way. It reminds me of George Banks from FATHER OF THE BRIDE--and I love Steve Martin :)

  17. I think I'll use my real name, since I don't know if I could think of a cool pen name! lol And my name is pretty different. Different first name, different last name. It works I guess. ;)

    Congratulations on your book deal and everything! Your posts on the publishing process are SO awesome. :D

  18. But ...but ...but I'm a Smith ... Now I gotta get a better name, thanks. :)

  19. AH! I missed this post! All for using pen name...cause, uh, I DO! :0)