You Faker – kinda, it’s a Pseudonym

As a writer have you considered using a “pen name” or “nom de plume” it’s a pseudonym.  It’s the fancy way of using a fake name.  It’s interesting how many authors do choose to use a pen name and their various reasons for the need of a pen name.

mark_twain_finalI have a soft spot for the author Samuel Clemens (1835-1910), better known as Mark Twain, which is probably the most famous of pseudonyms.  He chose a humorous pen name from his days of working as a pilot on the Mississippi. “Mark twain” was a common riverboat phrase often heard called out, meaning the water was two fathoms, or twelve feet, deep enough for safe passage.  For all his southern humor and charm Mark Twain just fits and rolls off the tongue in a sweeter fashion in my humble opinion.

Pen names have been used throughout history, most likely from the moment people began to write and get published. In early history, women often wrote as men. Famous satirists and critics of the government often wrote under false names to avoid harassment and criticism. Francois Marie Arouet wrote under numerous pen names besides the most famous one of “Voltaire”

In some cases new authors need to separate their day job from their budding careers as authors.  Authors often use pen names when writing for more than one publisher or when writing in different genres. Many authors use one or multiple pen names, see some current beloved authors and their nom de plumes.

Mona Lisa MustachedJR Ward: Jessica Bird

Michael Crichton: Michael Douglas, Jeffrey Hudson, John Lange

Nora Roberts: J. D. Robb (mysteries)

Dean Koontz: David Axton, Leonard Chris, Brian Coffey, Deanna Dwyer, K.R. Dwyer, Leigh Nichols, Arthur North, Richard Page, Owen West.

Stephen King: Richard Bachman (most well-known), John Swithen

Sometimes, two authors who collaborate choose to use a pen name to represent both of them as one person. This makes it easier for the reader to associate the works with only one name rather than two.  One such example is Pitticus Lore for the Lorien Legacies series of books, authors are Jobie Huges and James Frey.  Theirs is a tale to warn as well, because after the first 2 books (I am Number Four and Power of Six), James stepped out of the partnership and is no longer writing in the series.  As a fan let me say, I certainly noticed in the next book.  Authors do have a distintic tone and style in their writing, but I digress.

If you’re using a pen name in an attempt to remain anonymous, be aware that people are often curious creatures and may find you out. In some cases, this can lead to great publicity, but if your client or publisher suspects you of trying to conceal something, it may backfire. Therefore, ensure your client or publisher knows the ‘real’ you upfront this is key when using a pen name.

It can be confusing to a reader to some degree when publishing companies get involved and re-releases of old work in pen names are now under the author’s legal name. I’ve heard great debates on this topic as a fellow fan of many authors.  I suppose in the end, I just enjoy the work regardless of name – for me just don’t raise prices to steeply on me because of new notoriety due to a name.

The important thing is to make your name simple and easy to find whether it’s your legal or pen name.  Or in the case of my blog, maybe you just need the preverbal mustache to remain anonymous if that is your intent!

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Curious anyone using a pen name now or planning too? Looking forward to the discussion.

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