Thursday

What's in a Name?

This post falls under the "somewhat random" category; however, I have recently been thinking about pen names.

Pen names intrigue me. They can be powerful marketing tools for branding a series or even a particular style for an author. Think Lemony Snicket. They can allow an author famous for one type of book to publish in another genre without alienating existing fans. They can be clever characters in the novels themselves like Vordak the Incomprehensible or even allow a first person book to be "by" the character in question.

However, most of the time pen names are used by book packagers with ghost-writing teams to provide a cohesive author name for a series. (The most famous would be Dixon for the Hardy Boys or Keene for Nancy Drew. Neither of these people exist. Both series were developed by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. A more modern example would be James Frey's new projects.) And this I understand as a logical marketing tool. It is confusing to read 14 books that all sound exactly the same but have 12 different authors. It also can be nightmarish from a shelving perspective since books tend to be alphabetical by author. (39 Clues was a real pain this way.)

What are your opinions of pen names?

8 comments:

B.N.Lippy said...

I decided to go with a pen name for a couple of reasons. The first was to honor my parents and my husband. I'm not one to use maiden (Newell) and married (Lipscomb) names in my signature. The other was inspired by my own children. It is to honor every creative child who is yet to figure out how to control themselves and is constantly told their "being lippy". From these two things came B.N.Lippy. (Becky Newell Lipscomb)

The Storylady said...

Not that it would happen to many of us, or even a few, but if I were a huge best seller, I'd like some anonymity. I'd hate to sign my name, or pull out my credit card and every time have someone say, "YOU'RE J. K. Rowling?!!"

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

I guess I doubt that I will ever be the next Stephanie Meyer, so I never wanted to use a pen name. I wanted family and friends, as well as old friends I haven't seen in years, to be able to go into a bookstore and see the book with my name on it, knowing that I wrote it. I don't have anything against other people for using pen names and I understand their resoning, but to me its a bit like lying. Not that it's a bad lie, but still. And who cares really what my name is? If I AM famous one day, they will see my picture and know who I am either way, by whatever name, it will still be me.

But, I do have a question (since I hate writing out my signature), what do you think about ONLY using initials? Just to make quick work of it? K.P.R. is what I write on all my artwork, so why not on a novel. Or would that be wierd? Just curious.

The Buried Editor said...

I've never seen anyone do just initials although I have seen initials and a last name or if they publish under say AB Cast only signing the AB.

I've also seen signatures that basically just look like initials. After all his success, Rick Riordan's signature has changed from a recognizable full name to a more doctor like scrawl with only the two Rs fully identifiable. Of course, when he's signing for us he signing thousands of books at a time . . .

Moonlight Writer said...

I thing a pen name is a good idea. I agree with you that this gives the author the freedom to change styles or genres. Unlike actors who can easily be type cast, we as authors don't have that limitation. I say let's take advantage of it.

NolaGirl said...

I think a pen name is fine, especially since I have such a l-o-n-g last name, I would probably seriously consider it, if and when I'm published! Also, I would take my editor, or agent's advice on the subject into consideration. It would be nice if it was at least something recognizable to friends and family.

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

Hey 'Buried', thanks for you answer. I've also been trying to get a hold of you (because it seems I won that Twitter contest at the beginning of the month) could you email me? kathrynroberts at hotmail dot com. Thanks! And I will send you my address.