Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Pen Name By Any Other Name ...

Writers have adopted pen names almost since Gutenberg made books available to the masses. Emily Bronte once wrote as Ellis Bell, her sister Charlotte as Currer Bell. Among Washington Irving's many pen names was Jonathan Oldstyle. And you may know Josef Teodor Korzeniowski better under his pen name of Joseph Conrad.

Most everyone knows that Stephen King wrote as Richard Bachman, and that Nora Roberts writes as J. D. Robb. The Ed McBain mysteries were penned by Evan Hunter, who was born as Salvatore A. Lombino. The list goes on and on, and you can find a long Wikipedia list here.

Writers assume pen names for different reasons, the most common might be to not confuse an audience of readers when the author begins a totally different series. One extreme example might be a successful children's author deciding to write erotica. It could happen. Others might feel their real name is too ethnic or difficult to pronounce, as with Joseph Conrad or Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum, aka Ayn Rand.

All of this musing comes from my decision to publish my mystery/suspense novel, Matanzas Bay under the pen name of Parker Francis. The name has some family connections, but it was done to keep these adult mysteries separate from my Windrusher books, which have a wide audience of young adults.

Upcoming posts will unveil more details about Matanzas Bay, the release date, and perhaps a sneak preview of the cover.

Let me hear your thoughts on pen names and some of your favorites.


Dixie Lee Joyner said...

I like the idea of your pen name. I hope you will not be so anonymous that your younger readers cannot find you!

Vic DiGenti said...

Hi Dixie,

Thanks for the comment. I'll always be available to my readers, both younger and older. My Parker Francis books will be aimed at a more adult audience, but Windrusher will ride again.

Anonymous said...

Your suggestion to change names when your subject matter makes a drastic jump is a good one. Thanks for the tip. Julia French

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Jaycee Adams said...

One other good reason to publish under another name is if your real name is too common that no one would be able to find you. I have one of the most common names in America, making it almost impossible to find me. But by making a small change, I've cut the competition drastically, and even though I'm not every result in the top 20, I'm most of the results.

Another reason would be if your name is the same or very similar to someone who has already popularized that name. In the beginning, it may help you get noticed out in the real world, but in the search engines, it's practically death because you never show up in the results.