“To Be Or Not To Be?”

“To be or not to be?” Okay, maybe that’s not exactly the question. The real question is whether to write under your own name or under a pen name?  Well, there seem to be a lot of differing opinions to that ever-important question.

First, let’s start with why someone might write under a different name. Well, why would a super hero have an alias? For privacy of course. A lot of people choose to write under a pen name for the same reason. I mean think about what would happen if everyone knew you were a super hero? Fans hassling you all the time to sign autographs, take pictures with them, begging you to make public appearances so you can rescue their cat out of a tree. I’ll be honest, I suck at getting cats out of trees but it might be nice if someone, someday thought I was fabulous enough to ask for my autograph. 🙂

Or maybe you work in a position where you would rather people not know that you are also a superhero book writer by night. If, for example, you were a kindergarten teacher and you write erotica you may not want the parents of the kids in your class to know that. We all know that writing erotica does not a pervert make, but there are those small-minded individuals out there who might think that it makes you less qualified to teach their little angels. Those same people seem to forget that those little angels wouldn’t be here if they weren’t occasionally turning up the heat in their own lives.

For someone else it might be because they write in different genres. If you have built a reputation for writing in a specific genre, like say historical romance, under one name, and you want to branch out and write in a different genre, YA for example, you might want to do it under a different superhero name. Readers tend to develop certain expectations when they pick up a certain author, so if you are going to be giving them something completely different you may want to do it under a different name.

Another reason to write under a superhero name may be in an attempt to appeal to a more diverse audience. Joanne Rowling for example, was asked by her publisher to pick a more androgynous pen name in hopes of appealing to a wider audience. She does not have a middle name so she borrowed her grandmother’s name, Kathleen, and writes under J. K. Rowling.

I considered using a pen name but ultimately chose to write under my own name, as do most of the writers that I know. Why you ask? Because I think your name is unique to you and brings with it a certain amount of your heritage. I don’t work in an overly judgmental career, so I didn’t see any reason to hide my identity. I am fortunate to be surrounded by so many supportive friends and family, and honestly most of them don’t care that I’m a writer, unless it means I can get them an autographed copy of a book. 🙂 And basically, I want to take credit for my work under my own name. I think it would be wonderful to have someone think enough of my writing to travel to an event to get my autograph or have their picture taken with me. I mean really, how cool would that be? There may come a time when a pen name might be beneficial if I decide to take my writing in an entirely new direction, but for now I will write as Dana Rodgers.

Now it’s your turn. Do you write under your own name or a pen name, and why?


Project: Untitled

Deadline: None

New words written: Not nearly enough, but it’s early

Present total word count: 7,987 words


20 thoughts on ““To Be Or Not To Be?”

  1. Good post on a question I find very interesting, too. I write under a penname because I own a marketing and PR business, which uses my birth name, and I like keeping my worlds separate:). Now I’d like to mention Beyonce Knowles and Jennifer Lopez who have released albums under the names of their alter egos. And no not exactly comparing myself to Sasha Fierce and Jay-lo (or however it’s spelled) but I think I understand the why of it on several levels. It’s freeing…if that makes sense, for me. Even though my family supports me, and all of my friends and family, and most of my colleagues and clients know my penname, it helps me put on the thinking cap of the author me vs. the business woman me – if that makes sense:). Sorry for the long response, but as I said it’s a topic that I am interested in.

  2. No worries Denny! I think that makes total sense to want a business you and an author you. I think there are a lot of sides to this issue. 🙂

  3. I have been writing under a pen name–Loni Lynne. Though I am pre-published (as of this date) my husband and I have discussed this to great lengths the past few years since I’ve become serious about my romance writing. My scenes are very sensual and we were both concerned about the connection with our activities within our community (police, Girl Scouts, PTA, etc.) how it might interfere.

    But more than that, it is still a bit of who I am–yet I can be a bit different from my status of Super Mom/Volunteer. Kind of like Denny–a step out of the normal business. Again, you mentioned a great point about the different genre’s too. I have a seperate name for my erotica’s that I am working on and I have other ideas brewing for some YA in which I don’t want the names to blend. It will probably become a real hassle keeping up with the three different names (when I become published in the various genre’s) but it keeps me straight and hopefully keep my audience straight too. My question is how do you do book signings under three names? I’ll have to keep them seperate I guess. LOL Great blog post!

  4. When I get ready to pursue publishing, I will use a penname because everyone knows guys don’t write romance. Well, maybe other than that Nickolas Sparks guy.

    Seriously, I think it might be a detriment to use a male name in a female dominated industry. I understand a number of male writers do the same.

    1. Sadly, I agree Derek. 🙁 I tend to judge what I like by the writing, not by the author’s gender and I think that there is definitely an audience out there for the male romance writer, but I agree that with such a predominantly female industry that a pen name would probably give you a wider audience.

  5. I’m going to publish under my own name. Of course, I’m not married yet so eventually I’ll (hopefully) take my husband’s name and write under my maiden name. Kind of a pen name…

  6. This is a great topic. I write under my real name because in my case I saw no reason not to. I don’t write erotica or anything that would be best kept separate from me or my life. I write paranormal romantic suspense and mysteries. Although they are different, one can actually benefit the other. But I can see where some would need that distance.

  7. Thanks for checking in Loni and Kerri!

    My husband and I have discussed this at length as well. I’m not sure there is really a right answer, only a right answer for that individual and his/her situation. I have interests in several different genres ranging from paranormal to children’s so I could see myself one day utilizing a pen name if the situation called for it. First, I have to get published and develop enough of a following to make that necessary. 🙂

  8. I chose a pen name for a couple of reasons. It moved me to the middle of the alphabet for placing on shelves and after running a fan club for a country singing artist for years, I learned there are people who aren’t so nice that like to overstep the line of decency. It seemed a good idea to put a wall between myself and anyone who might want to stalk. We live in an isolated area so it was just precautionary.

  9. Dana, excellent topic. I waffle back and forth on pen names. One theory I have (an a few have agreed) that living in the world where you are at the end of the Alphabet, people may not be so inclined to seek your books out. After all, the W’s usually end up at the bottom of the book shelf.

    I have casually watched readers coming in books stores and usually they point themselves towards the top two shelves. Who is on that top two? A to M authors.

    Of course this is not an exact science but just an observation. My other reasons for writing a pen name is because I don’t exactly find my own name appealing in terms of ‘I can see your name in bright lights’.

    Yet, I do want people to know who I am. So this continues to be a struggle for me. Eventually I will have to decide but for now, I just need to finish my novel!

  10. Thanks for stopping by Anita! That is a great point that one genre can actually compliment another, depending on what they are and how they tie together.

  11. I write under a penname. I have small children and there are creepy people out there – my biggest reason. Also, the PITADJ (pain-in-the-a**-day-job) is pretty conservative and I like to keep it separate.

  12. First, I would like to say thank you to my brother and sisters from CHRW that have stopped by today. I feel so fortunate to belong to such a wonderful and supportive group!

    Paisley and Lizzie, you bring up very valid points. There are scary people out there and that has been a strong consideration for me in deciding whether to use a pen name or not. I ultimately decided that if someone wants to track me down that in today’s technological age it wouldn’t be that difficult. However, a pen name does put an additional barrier between you and the crazies of the world. And don’t think for a minute that I haven’t considered my potential placement on the shelves…right next to Nora, thank you very much! 🙂 But you are so right, companies have spent tons of money doing market research on product placement and consumers usually buy what is at eye level. I think book sales have the benefit of a reader seeking out select authors they enjoy so those authors placed around them are at an advantage, but only for the selective reader who knows what they are looking for. Thanks again for stopping by!

  13. Great blog, Dana! I plan to use my real name – as opposed to my alias, Trixie, which I use only when drinking Cosmos with my basketball teammates; heh heh – even though I write both women’s fiction and YA. I don’t think my two genres are wholly inconsistent with each other, and the level of sexuality, etc., in my women’s fiction isn’t such that it would be inappropriate for teens to read if they run into it. I do actually know someone who writes both inspirational and erotica, however: talk about needing a pen name! 🙂

  14. Hi Dana,
    Fortunately my parents gave me a great middle name to be a romance writer! I loved reading all the different reasons you gave to have a pen name and then all the comments of others of what’s worked for them. When the day comes, I’ll be so happy to see all of your real names/pen names scrolled across your books!

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