An Author By Any Other Name…

Currently listening to: Mz. Hyde by Halestorm

Let’s talk names.

Or, more specifically, pen names.

Personally, I’m a fan. Obviously, since I’m using one. Something about me likes the idea of crafting my own name. After all, I’m crafting entire worlds and characters–why not find a name for myself, too? At the same time, there’s something bittersweet about deciding to use a pen name, isn’t there?

I mean, when people see your book, they’re not going to see your real name. They wouldn’t know you from Adam if they met you on the street. Unless you tell them, your own friends and family might not even know you wrote the book. Someone might even suggest the book to you, knowing that you’re interested in the genre. And then there’s a whole other thing to consider: Do you tell them it’s you? Do you unmask yourself, or keep your “secret identity” just that?

I’m not sure, personally. I mean, I have one friend who’s read my MS. She knows it’s real, she’s read, re-read, helped revise…she knows this story, and she’ll know it’s me when it’s finally available, whether that’s through traditional publishing, self-publishing, or me flinging copies of the manuscript into the streets shrieking “READ THIS STORY!” And my parents and sister know that I’ve written a complete MS. Of course, my older sister did that, too, years and years ago. She never edited it, got any beta readers or editors to read it, or did anything at all to take it from manuscript to book. So I’m reasonably sure that my family thinks that my MS will eventually come to the same fate: sitting, rotting in some forgotten computer file. It won’t, but that’s beside the point. A few people know my MS exists, a few have read it. But I’m not sure if I would go on my personal, non-pen-name Facebook account and announce to the world that I wrote a book.

But maybe it depends on why one is using a pen name. I suppose if you’re just picking a name that sounds more ‘genre appropriate’ (like, if your name is Lily Sweetheart or something, and you write serious horror, maybe), then that’s one thing. Whereas if you’re using a pen name because you need to keep your author-life separate from another career or something, the fewer people who know you are your pen name, the better.

NOTE: Remember, boys and girls and everyone else. When you’re querying agents, it’s usually a very good idea to identify yourself by your real name as well. Waiting until the moment you’re about to sign with an agent to say “Oh, by the way, that’s not my legal name…” doesn’t seem to be most agents’ favorite thing. Be up front with people who are dealing on your behalf. Same with publishers.

~Sofia

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