Monday, 3 March 2014

Guest Post: Pros & Cons of using a Pen Name by Ally Shields



Hello Everyone and welcome back to another guest post featuring the lovely Ally Shields! A friend and I have been discussing pen names for a while and I thought - Who better to ask that someone who uses a Pen name!!

Should Writers Use Pen Names?


Ally Shields is a pen name. I've made no secret of it. It works for me, and I'd make the same choice again. It's an issue of branding. Ally Shields is the author of paranormal books. When you hear that name, that's what I want you to remember.

But not everyone feels that way. I have a writer friend who wishes she'd never used one and is worried she's only confused her readers. I think it all depends on why you made the choice and how you use it. Let's look at the issues.




Pros:

1. Consistent branding. The reader associates the name with a certain type of story and a certain style. This works well for romance author Nora Roberts who writes a mystery series set in the future under the pen name of J.D. Robb. (I love them.)

2. Meeting reader expectations. Male writers write romance under female names; women write espionage under male names. I think this has become less frequent over the last ten years but still happens.

3. Anonymity. While there may be any number of reasons for writing secretly, the most common use is by those writing erotica. Sometimes it's best if the day job and the in-laws are blissfully unaware. :)

Cons:

1. People who know your real name may have trouble finding your books.

2. Reader confusion over what name to google.

3. Financial records, keeping things straight with the publishers and IRS.

4. Author recognition can be poor or non-existent.

If an author is using a pen name to promote a brand, I believe all the cons can be overcome or minimized by transparency. My current books covers say Ally Shields, but my contracts and financial records are in my legal name. And if you look closely, you'll find the name Janet Buck often appears in my author bio, including the version in the Guardian Witch books. If I eventually publish any of my thriller/espionage books under my real name, I will again connect the two. I'm not trying to fool the reader. In fact, I hope to make it easier for them to find what they want by establishing a "brand" they'll recognize.

As a side note, I recommending selecting a pen name that's comfortable and easily remembered. My pseudonym was borrowed from my mother's maiden name. It feels right and is a way to acknowledge my family. I now answer as readily to Ally as I do to Jan.

So that's how using a pen name has worked out for me, but I'm interested in how you feel. Are there pros and cons I haven't considered?

Love
Ally

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So what do you think?? I really enjoyed the points Ally has made and it has definitely given me some things to consider when I do publish my novel one day (soon)!




8 comments:

  1. I am cool with pen names. When I see Nora Roberts on a book, I know what I am going to get. When I see JD Robb on a different book, I know what I am going to get. I do prefer knowing if an author writes under other names though (even if they are all pen names), so I can find more by that author. For example, I didn't know Amanda Quick was Krentz's pen name and that she wrote other romances that I might enjoy. I used to gobble up Quick romances like they were going out of style. I would have liked to have known that there were other romances I could have sampled.

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    1. That is very true! I have been contemplating Pen names for a while and that is why I asked Ally to give us some insight into it. In some way it seems like an alter ego almost. I do wonder about putting a face to a pen name thought, what do you do when you go to these big book events?

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  2. I think pen names are a great idea. Sometimes our own names are just not catchy enough to work as a brand. Or, like you said, anonymity. Not everyone wants their personal life to be out there for all to know about, so there is a layer of protection in using a pen name.

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    1. Hmm another point to consider. But on the flip side it must be awesome to be recognised for you and your work! What happens if your book makes it so big it becomes a movie...

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  3. I personally think they are a good idea especially if you are writing different genres. Look at Jayne Anne Krentz she writes contemporary in her name, and uses Amanda Quick for historical and Jayne Castle for futuristic. She even tied some of those name together through a series called the Arcane Society. I read across several genres and I am always trying new ones..but some people won't cross them, and thus branding occurs. Another reason some peeps think woman cannot write science fiction absurd I know, but by using a male pen name they are more readily accepted. Great topic!

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    1. That is very interesting about people thinking woman cannot write Sci-fi.. but I guess the markets talk and each market has it's 'what works and doesn't' guidelines as such. I love trying out a new genre and totally loving it! Thanks for the great feedback and visiting <3

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  4. Yeah, I never liked the idea of pen names. It's not hard to find out people's real names now-a-days. But I do like pen names when authors write in different genres. It makes sense.

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    1. hmmm seems like quite a debatable topic. It does make sense in the branding way. I haven't personally come across one person who wrote in many genre's except Nora Roberts, but I have not read JD Robb.

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