NEWSFLASH! The winner of the Summer Survival Kit is Andrea S. (posting as Chicks of Characterization) Congrats to Andrea and thanks again to Kerri!
From time to time, I turn over the reins of my blog to one of my writer friends. My guest blogger today is Kerri Nelson, author of paranormal and romantic suspense and she's talking about pen names. Since I am among those who answer to more than one nom de plume,(Emily Bryan and Diana Groe) I'll pay close attention. Take it away, Kerri!
Let’s talk about pen names. When I first got published, I decided to use a pen name. It’s not that I have a really terrible “real” name but more that I wanted to keep my legal name private. The other factor was that I’d already become established in several author groups and other organizations using this name. So, even though I’m happily married I don’t use my married name when I put on my author hat.
Interestingly, my hubby cannot stand this fact. He brings it up quite often as if I might have rejected his family name. I keep reminding him that I just want to protect our privacy. Particularly since I write a good bit of erotic fiction! Also, since my daughter attends a very strict Christian Academy, I don’t advertise my pen name around the school. They know I’m an author but they’d have to really look to find me.
Is that just being paranoid or is it sensible?
On the other hand, I’ve just completed my first young adult novel and I’m working on my second. I’m seriously contemplating using a different pen name for those books. If they were to get published (fingers crossed) and I had some young, teen fans looking me up on the web…would I want them to find links to download my erotica as well? Probably not.
As a parent of multiple kids, I won’t even let my own kids read my work until they are grown!
Besides privacy and parental concerns, what are some other reasons why you might want to use a pen name?
From an online article entitled “How to Choose a Pen Name” by author Jamie Hall (www.jh-author.com), here are some other reasons you might want to use a pen name:
1) Your real name is hard to remember and/or spell correctly.
2) Your real name sounds silly, stupid or obscene. If your real name suffers from any of these problems, you'll have a harder time getting readers to accept your work.
3) Your real name is the same as, or similar to, another author or a famous figure.
4) You are reclusive or fear fame, and want to make sure that regardless of how famous you might become, people won't recognize your name everywhere you go.
5) If you are already an established author, you might want to use a pen name because of issues similar to brand name loyalty. For example, if you are a woman and have a change of name because of marriage, you might want to continue using your former name as your pen name. Also, some authors find that their work sells better if they have a different pen name for each genre. If you have built a reputation for writing standard detective fiction and you now want to put out a fantasy detective novel, loyal readers may smear the new book because it disturbs their expectations. Readers of detective fiction don't normally like fantasy elements mixed in, so in this case you need to attract a new audience from the fantasy community without the burden of your prior readers giving the new book a bad name. Also, you need a separate pen name for any subject with a "taint" to it (such as erotica) if you want people to take your literary fiction or nonfiction seriously. Even Anne Rice uses a separate pen name for her erotica, though her more usual vampire novels always sit close to the border between horror and erotica.
6) You are working in a field (such as romance) where books written by a certain gender sell far better, but your name is obviously the wrong gender. Also, some female authors want a gender-neutral pen name because sexism can still impact sales, in any genre.
Here are just a few of my fave pen names:
--Tori Carrington, husband and wife romance novelist team (Tony and Lori Karayianni)
--Dr. Seuss, children’s book guru (Theodor Seuss Geisel)
--Mark Twain, American classics author (Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
--Nora Roberts (romance) a/k/a J.D. Robb (futuristic suspense)
--Jayne Ann Krentz (contemporary romance) a/k/a Amanda Quick (historical romance) a/k/a Jayne Castle (futuristic)
--Lori Foster and her darker side L.L. Foster
I’d love to hear from you on your thoughts about pen names. Today I’ll be giving away a door prize to one lucky participant. The winner will receive a “Summer Survival Kit” which includes all the little things you’ll need for the hot summer months ahead (including a hot novel for beach reading) & a promo goodie bundle from me! All you have to do to enter the drawing is one of the following:
If you’re an author, I’d love to hear your thoughts on pen names. Do you use a pen name? Do you use more than one based on the genre you write? How did you choose your pen name?
Readers, give me your best pen name creation! Design one based on the genre you like to read. Make ‘em funny or scary! Here are some funny fake name examples I found around the net: Samantha Sexpot (writes erotica); Jackie Saddler (writes western); I.M. Scooby (writes mystery); Jolie Rodgers (writes historial/pirate romance).
The winner will be selected by random draw and I’ll post the winner here in the comments on Monday. So, you’ll have all weekend to play!
Thanks to Emily for this great opportunity to hang out! Don’t forget to check out my debut release Miss Taken now available wherever e-books are sold and stay tuned for my first paranormal romance entitled Soul Searcher coming in September from Whispers Publishing! You can find all the details about my books and my current contest on my website at www.kerrinelson.com
Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on pen names, Kerri.Here's a taste of Kerri's novel, Miss Taken.
Tabby was dreaming. She knew she was dreaming but she couldn’t make herself wake up. She dreamt that she was in a straitjacket and the harder she struggled to free herself, the tighter her restraints became.
She shook her head from side to side and realized that something was over her mouth. It was gagging her and she suddenly felt as if she couldn’t breathe. She fought the urge to panic and began to cough frantically. Her tongue protruded from her lips and she felt something rough and unnatural there. What was going on?
As her eyes opened and tried to focus, she saw blurry images of unfamiliar furniture and she had the chilling sensation that she was in a strange place and that someone was watching her.
Suddenly it came back to her in a flash. She remembered leaving work and her missing car. She remembered the black Mercedes and then…and then she remembered nothing.
Where was she? How had she gotten here? Who had grabbed her out of her office parking deck and what were they going to do to her?
She felt panicked again and her stomach rolled with nausea. Her eyes darted around the dim room and then she saw him. She saw a beautiful man sitting in a chair across the room from her. He watched her with a mixture of curiosity and something else. What was it? If Tabby hadn’t been such a social recluse the last few years she would have been more certain but still she thought he looked at her with lust.
She blinked her eyes rapidly to help clear the remaining fog that seemed to be blocking her vision. She tried to reach up and rub her eyes and realized her arms were bound behind her back. She looked down to see that she was still wearing her work clothes, which felt like only a small relief when she saw that her ankles were also bound to the legs of the chair.
She shook her head from side to side and felt tears begin to well up in her eyes.
“Settle down now.” She heard the smooth voice of the mystery man.
Something about his voice did seem to calm her slightly but those words weren’t enough to stop the tears from spilling over her eyes and down her cheek.
* * * *
He rose slowly from his chair and reached out to her with just one finger. She felt herself automatically flinch as his hand reached for her. He stopped his hand in midair and her dark green eyes looked up at him with what she knew was a look of pure fear.
He seemed to consider her look and then said softly, “I won’t hurt you. I promise.”
In her mind, she knew this was a promise she shouldn’t believe, but something in her heart ached to try.
He began reaching for her again and touched her cheek delicately with just his fingertip. He wiped the tears from one cheek and then the other. As he leaned over her, she could smell his scent and it smelled like evergreen trees. It smelled like back home in the country, where she’d spent her childhood. It smelled like home.
He took a step back and his eyes moved over her. “I’ll take the gag off of your mouth if you promise not to scream.”
Thanks for sharing today, Kerri. All right, everybody! You heard her. Leave your funniest pen name in a comment for a chance to win Kerri Nelson's Summer Survival Kit! Have fun!
How did I choose my pen name? The government helped me do it.
I'm not kidding. I checked the Social Security Administration which keeps track of the most popular names by year. Emily was in the top ten for the last 10 years.
Bryan is my DH's name, so now he complains that at writing conventions he accompanies me to he'll have to introduce himself as Brian Bryan! I told him everyone knows him as Emily's DH and that should do.
I'm here, bright and early. About to go send out an invite to all the e-mail loops!
Thanks for a great opportunity today.
Too funny about your pen name! I used my husband's first name as my heroine's last name! He likes that his name is all over the books! LOL
My first book comes out this summer. I used my "real name" but now I wonder if that was a mistake. I live in a small town and write about a similar small town. I'm quaking in my boots. What if the small town I live in doesn't like the small town I wrote about? However, coming back to earth here - they'd know about the book regardless of if I used a pen name or not. There are no secrets in a small town!
I've heard that most publishing contracts give your current publisher first bash at your next book. Using a different pen name can allow you the freedom to shop your book to publishers you think might be more receptive, especially if you are writing in more than one genre. I'm not sure if you can do that if you are first published in your real name and then switch to a pen name.
Mostly, I'm glad I used my real name because I have enough trouble remembering that!
Good morning! Thanks for sharing your pen name woes with me this morning.
I, too, am from a small town and everyone who knows about my writing is extremely supportive and proud of me. I'm sure your town will feel the same way. As you know, getting published is no easy feat. Best of luck to you on the new book!
As far as shopping around to other publishers. I can't speak for your particular contract but from what I've seen a publisher usually only owns the rights to the one book for a particular amount of time. Unless you made some deal to the contrary, you should be able to sell to multiple publishers regardless of the name you choose to use!
humm lets see if i had a pen name
Aria Dea Darkstar
Wow! That's some pen name. Makes me think of sci fi fiction.
Thanks for playing along! Have a great weekend.
I picked a pen name because my real name is the same as a porn star. I thought it might be confusing in a Google search...
I picked Bryn because it was short (my last name is long) and because it was the name of a song I liked.
Here are a few I came up with:
Celseste Holliday (for scifi/futurisic romance)
Jenna Jones (comteporary romances)
Roxy Peters (erotica)
Alexi Adams (paranormal/fantasy)
Vivian Carmichael (historical romance)
I write under a pen name because of my job. I work in an extremely conservative political environment and just didn't need the headaches that might ensure should one of the politicians discover my books. My boss knows and some of my coworkers know, but I'm happy that more don't.
I chose my pen name by combining mine and my husband's middle names. Unfortunately, I didn't google it before I decided to use it and there's another author with an almost identical name that comes up when you search for me, too. (She writes children's books.) But, by the time I figured that out (yeah, I was VERY new when I landed my first contact), it was too late.
LOL about the porn star name! Too funny! I think pen names are great. If nothing else it allows you to try on an alias from time to time.
Who knows, maybe sometimes it actually allows you to step outside reality and make your fiction even better?
Thanks for stopping by!
Love the names that you came up with! Great! Alexi Adams is my favorite.
Maybe I should use this as a forum to come up with new baby names as well? LOL
Thanks for participating today!
That is a great reason for choosing a pen name. I once heard about an author whose employer found out about her romance novels and surprised her during a staff meeting by having one of her covers pop up on the big screen during a work related slide show! Eeek!
I recently did some Google searching myself when trying to come up with a pen name for my young adult books. The name I wanted to use was all over the net with some high school soccer star and she had a bunch of MySpace and Facebook stuff. I just thought it would be a conflict. So, I came up with something different.
Great to "meet" you here! Enjoyed hearing from you.
Re:Contractual obligations. Check your fine print. Often publishers slip in a right-of-first-refusal clause for authors they'd like to keep, regardless of the name they write under. It usually specifies genre, word count, completed or partial for all the work they want to see and reject before you are able to legally shop it around. You may reject an offer and then look elsewhere, but the boiler plate says you can't accept less from someplace else.
Some reasons you might be tempted to accept less: Better distribution, more marketing dollars behind you, editorial conflicts, etc. (These are all 2nd hand anecdotes. I'm thrilled with my publisher Dorchester and my fabulous editor Leah Hultenschmidt)
Just wanted to toss out that a name change doesn't exempt you from your legal obligations, so go over your contract carefully before you sign.
My real last name is a long Filipino surname that is usually spelled and pronounced incorrectly (although it does sound romantic!)- so I chose Penny Watson. Easy to remember, and elementary, my dear. Sorry, I couldn't resist!
You are exactly right! The devil is in the details. Luckily, all of my contracts allow me to retain full rights to all my characters and all future stories without exception...but not all contracts are created equal.
If in doubt, check it out. Don't be afraid to get a legal opinion if you are unsure. I have a degree in Criminal Justice and worked as a contract negotiations Paralegal for a major corporation. I'm lucky that I have this background but it is all about your specific deal.
I have a friend that has a "first right of refusal" deal with a major publisher but it is only for any "medical themed" novels that she writes. So, she sells her paranormal & other fiction to whomever she chooses. Her contract is just that specific.
Great! A penny earned is a penny saved! Or something like that. LOL I couldn't resist.
Long and ethic last names can be tough in the market place. I've been to bookstores before in search of someone and didn't have the correct spelling available. There is nothing more frustrating for a reader than to be unable to find a book you're looking for because you can't spell the author's name!
Great choice on a simple but effective name!
When I write I use my own name and a pen name. It depends on what genre I am writing in. For my young Adult MS, I use my own name, but for my historical stories, I use a pen name, which is my maiden name. I agree sometimes it is better to protect your privacy, especially when some of the writings are not meant for everyone's eyes!
This was a great post. Thanks for sharing!
Hey, hon! Thanks for stopping by on a rainy Saturday. At least, we are having one of those summer thunderstorms right now.
Yep, I totally felt it was the right thing to do when writing Young Adult versus Adult Fiction. Kids these days are all over the Internet. It is best to try and keep them separate if possible, IMHO.
Glad you could make it by!
Hi Emily and Kerrie,
I'm using my real name because the pen name I wanted to use was my mother's middle name and maiden name, and it was already taken. Alice Walker. lol
One day on a plane, a guy dumped a book by James Patterson saying he'd never his books again. He called it trash. I picked it up and read it. What the guy didn't like was that it was futuristic, and that wasn't what the reader expected from him. It still had the mystery there, but the futuristic elements had turned that reader off.
Alice Walker! Love it! Too cool that you have such an infamous family name. Yep, I know a lot of authors that do use their real name. They are the brave type. :-)
You know, I think it can be shocking to some folks when an author goes outside their genre. I find it so wild how Jayne Ann Krentz has so many pen names for all her different genres. I know Sherrilyn Kenyon is also Kinley MacGregor for her historicals. Some folks only read one or the other. Amazing, isn't it?
I chose to find a pen name because of privacy. You never know these days... My mother's maiden name is Kirkpatrick and since it is Scottish (one of my favorite haunts in the world) I chose a Scottish site to go with it. My great, great grandpa was born in Paisley and my favorite hunk was raised there. Perfect!! Most of my heros are Scottish anyway. :)
Very interesting conversation. I also have a pen name for my "less steamier historicals."
An author recently mentioned that having "pen names" or writing under two different names is SNEAKY.
I never thought anyone would think that since so many authors choose multiple psuedonyms.
I hope it's just an aberrant thought on this author's part. Many like to keep their real name undercover or use different names for different genres. I see nothing wrong with it at all.
Nice blog, Keta Diablo
Hello, doll. So glad you stopped by and you know I love your name. I named my heroine in my most recent novel after you! Her name is Paisley Barton and I'm posting the story on www.textnovel.com in weekly installments.
You should check her out. She's one hard core Momma!
You are so right! I think it is totally acceptable. I mean if the privacy and parental issues are not enough...it totally makes sense that you might want a "sales friendly" name. Or one that suits your particular genre.
I once heard that the best names are those in the middle of the alphabet so that when readers look through the book shelves it will be right at eye level.
Now, it really depends on what shelves you're looking at so I doubt this is true but now that I think of it...I don't think I have one book where the author's last name begins with "Z". LOL
Thanks for playing along today.
Having a pen name is NOT sneaky. But if it is, then Steven King is sneaky. So are Lewis Carroll, Joseph Conrad, Moliere and Dr. Seuss!
Hi Emily and Kerri !
When I sang, I sang under my married name, which is hyphenated and rather long.
I live in a small town in Alabama where everyone knows EVERYONE! If you don't know what you are doing ask someone they'll tell you! I felt it would be easier to go with a pen name. It keeps my private life private and the little old ladies who happen to pick up one of my novels (once I get one published!) and read as far as the sex scenes before declaring it to be one of those "sex books" won't know that it's me!
My Australian buddy, Anna Campbell, actually helped me pick out my pen name. I sent her a list of female names in my family - mother, grandmothers, great grandmothers - and she came up with Louisa (my Mom's name is Louise) and Cornell (my maternal grandmother's middle name was Cornellia) and voila! Louisa Cornell was born.
I read an interesting story about Stephen King's son when he decided to become an author. It wasn't until his book was about to come out that he went to the publisher's office and said "I have something to tell you. My name's not Joe Hill. It's Joe Hill King. My father is Stephen King." He wanted to get into the family business on his own merits, not his connections. And if you haven't read his debut novel THE HEART-SHAPED BOX you should. It's a treat!
Fun topic, Emily and Kerri! I know some writer friends who have pen names because they thought that was what you had to do - make up a name at the same time you made up your story. Now, that's the name they use because they're branded that way.
I use a pen name for several of the reasons mentioned. When I first published, I wasn't married and I like my maiden name - which does start with a 'Z' - thought they might pick up my book from the first of the shelves. I was writing for a market where friends and family would know me by that name and my parents were very supportive so that was my thanks to them.
Then I married and used both names together, since I was teaching and writing educational articles and ideas. I wanted both groups to find me. When I published my first sweet romances, I used those names again (not hyphenated, just as a middle name/maiden name deal).
I did choose a pen name with Harlequin, just because I was writing a different type of romance and still have middle school/high schoolers who look up my books - and I was teaching kindergarten then. The change is in the first name - Terry to Tessa. And Tessa does write differently than Terry :). (Both are nicknames from my real first name, which I only heard when I was in trouble or had to fill out legal forms!)
Hi, Kerri. I use a pen name. At one time I had two, because I thought I'd write erotica. That hasn't happened...I used that name for a couple of contemporary stories. And my other for historcials. I finally gave up the one name and write both historicals and contempts under this name. But people still know my real name.
One reason I went with a pen name is because I was going to school to be a school teacher and it's better not to let the kiddies know you write romance. I'm still working on the degree, so not teaching yet.
Anyway, I came up with my name thusly: I have two daugthers, one's middle name is Anne, the other's is Kathryn (also my sister's name). I thought Anna Kathryn sounded better. And since this was my historical name....Lanier is my grand-grandmother's maiden name.
firstname.lastname@example.org (in case I win).
Thanks for the comment on how your pen name was born. I actually worried about my grandmother reading my book because of that "sex stuff" but she told me that she knew all about that stuff way before I was ever born! LOL
Don't let the "older" ladies fool you, they read that stuff too! They just like to be secretive about it.
Thanks for the info. on Stephen King's son. I guess talent really does run in the family.
Wow! What a history you've had with names!
I enjoyed reading about your journey to finding the names that have been successful for you.
I have another author friend that keeps her erotica pen name separate because she's a teacher and her daughter is a teacher and she doesn't want to cause any embarrassment. I think that is a valid and wise choice for sure.
Your real name ends with "Z"?! LOL Consider me corrected. :-)
Thanks for stopping by!
I went to school with a bunch of folks named Lanier. A very popular name in these parts.
I like how you use the word "thusly" in your post. Takes me into a historical frame of mind immediately. LOL
Whenever I see your pen name, I automatically think of you as your real name. Isn't that strange?
I guess when you know both names it is hard not to.
Thanks for playing at EB's blog today.
I use two pen names. My real name is a very commanding, German name. Hardly appropriate for the Historical Romance shelves. For my sci-fi work, I use a variation of my real name because it works for the genre.
Oh, and although I've been married for over 30 years, my dad is still not happy I didn't choose my maiden name (another Germanic name) for my pen name. Sometimes a gal just can't win. *sigh*
I always found many of the Bond Girl names to be very clever. Maybe I could use some as pen names.
-Holly Goodhead could write historical fiction.
-Mary Goodnight could write romantic suspense.
-Plenty O'Toole could write romantic comedies.
-Honey Ryder could write erotic romance.
Jinx could write urban fantasy.
I decided to write under a pen name because in real life, I'm not cool enough to be an author. I thought, as long as I was making up names for characters, I could be someone new too.
Someone who can walk in stiletto heels and still roundhouse kick a bad guy's teeth in ;)
I decided long ago then if I hopefully would be published, I use a pen name. I doubt that my real name - Adila Mammadova - is easy to remember for anyone from the USA/Europe. After a lot of thinking & thanks to my friends from RT Convention 2009 Judi McCoy class, I decided on a nickname - Ada Orani. I think it's OK, easy to remember & short. + Ada is a version from Adila.
Before I thought that if a writer has a different nickname for each sub-genre it's too confusing. However, now I think that it's very thoughtful. I've changed my opinion because I read a topic at RT forum, who (& why) have stopped reading from their favorite authors. Lots of people said something like: the writer switched to new sub-genre & they didn't like it, so when the writer switched back to the old sub-genre they didn't return to reading the writer.
Yeah, I guess name choice is s sensitive topic for a lot of guys. I'm not sure why but I think it is their contribution to the child. I mean, it is the one thing that the Mom doesn't give them. LOL
Thanks for your comment!
LOVE IT! ROFL!
Although, I think Plenty O'Toole should be the hero in my next erotica. Don't you?
Thanks for the comment and the laugh!
You're too cool! I think being cool is all a state of mind. Just like if you feel attractive then you'll look attractive to others. Of course, it is cool to give our characters all the traits that we secretly wish we had. I'd secretly like to be the character Sydney Bristow from the show Alias when I grow up.
Btw, if you happen to come back and read this reply, you should contact me. You won something from me on a blog @ Author's Studio a while back that you never claimed. Lemme know if you want it.
Thanks for the comment!
I like it! I think short is great. It is easy to spell and easy to remember. You did a great job choosing a name.
Yep, I think someone was trying to make that same point earlier yesterday about meeting someone who didn't like a book where James Patterson genre hopped. I guess if he'd written it under another pen name then it wouldn't have cost him a reader. Great point.
Speaking of older ladies who read romance--When my grandmother had a stroke and needed more care than we could provide, she moved to a retirement home. It was right on my way home from work, so I stopped by everyday.
While I visited my Gma, I also got to know a reading circle of octagenerians. They read voraciously--mysteries, thrillers, harlequin romances, single-title romance--anything they could get their hands on. I cleared out my shelves every month and brought them a new stash to divide. You'd have thought I brought them diamonds and pearls!
Enjoyed reaing the comments. I like it that authors write different genres under different names.
My husband says my name, because I write so many, should be Chek Riter
I give my mother my romance books and she shadores them with her bingo buddies. They are always asking her if her daughter has read any more books. I told my mom, I need to read faster.
Hi Kerri and Emily!!
Kerri, tell your hubby he should be grateful. I only changed my driver's license to my married name 2 years ago (after 18 years). I told him it was my identity and nobody knew who I was when I used married name. But that's what you get when you come down south and marry someone from a small town!!
Seriously, it's probably a good idea to have another name, considering your sex scene and your daughter's school. And especially as she gets older . . .
The two pen names that immediately come to mind are Amanda Stevens and Hailey North, or Marilyn Medlock and Nancy Wagner respectively. Both are very, very nice people to meet.
Emily, thanks for having Kerri on your site.
Thanks for coming, Kerri! You've been the perfect guest and led a very lively discussion on a great topic.
Let me remind everyone one last time to check out Kerri's books at www.kerrinelson.com!
"The Hong Kong Connection" is a legal thriller about a gutsy female attorney who takes on high ranking International officials. It's a taut, rollercoaster of a ride from New York to Palm Beach to Washington D.C. to Hong Kong. The plot is expertly woven, the characters persuasive, and the dialogue snappy and spot on.
That is so great that you shared your books with those sweet women. I'm sure your generosity will come back to you ten fold some day.
Thanks again for having me on your blog! It was a wonderful opportunity and I had a blast. I'm thrilled with the turn out.
I'm about to gather up all the names and have one of my daughters draw the winner. I'll be back shortly with the result and I'll e-mail you as well.
Best of luck and hugs!
Chek Riter is hilarious! Thanks for stopping by and keep up the reading!
Hugs to you my friend. Keeping my fingers crossed that my new Young Adult book gets the thumbs up soon. I'll reveal my new pen name soon. Shoot, I'm keeping fingers, toes and whatever else I can think of crossed. Speak soon.
Keeping my fingers crossed for you, Kerri!
We've drawn the winner at random from this weekend's blog.
The winner of the Summer Survival Kit is Andrea S. (posting as Chicks of Characterization).
Andrea, please contact me with snail mail information at kerribookwriter @ yahoo.com (no spaces.
Thanks everyone and have a happy & safe summer!
Thank you, thank you!!! I never WIN anything! This is so cool!!!
Thanks again, Kerri and thanks to everyone who came by and commented!
Don't be strangers! I have some more great guests headed here this week! And they're all in a giving mood! There will be drawings for free reads!
Congrats Andrea! YOu deserve it.
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