Join us in this episode as we delve into the fascinating world of pen names. We discuss the definition of pen names and explore the various reasons why authors choose to use them, such as protecting their identity, exploring different genres, and maintaining privacy. We also highlight how pen names can help separate writing styles and target specific audiences, while overcoming bias and stereotypes. Tune in to hear the intriguing story of Stephen King’s pen name, Richard Bachman, and be inspired to share your thoughts and funny pen names with us. Don’t forget to rate, review, subscribe, and share this podcast!
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episode 105 transcription:
[[00:00:00] Gena: Should you use a pen name?
[[00:00:01] Christopher: Hey, we can help with that.
[00:00:06] Christopher: Hello and welcome to the Writing Momentum Podcast. I'm Christopher Maselli. I'm here with my wife, Gena. How's it going, Gena?
[00:00:11] Gena: It's going really good.
[[00:00:12] Christopher: Oh.
[00:00:12] Gena: It's going good.
[[00:00:13] Christopher: Yeah? What have you been up to?
[[00:00:14] Gena: What have I been up to?
[00:00:15] Christopher: We didn't rehearse this part, so I'm putting her on the spot.
[00:00:19] Gena: Let's see. Our family is finally healthy. After about two months of fighting flu and I don't even know what else. So we just had a visit from our daughter came home from college and brought a friend. So that was really fun and Let's see. I've been setting up music lessons for our kids and working on.
[[00:00:40] Christopher: Writing projects, yes.
[[00:00:42] Gena: Yes.
[00:00:42] Christopher: Yes that's good. All those are good things.
[[00:00:44] Gena: What have you been doing?
[00:00:45] Christopher: I don't know. I was sick. I'm now over it. Enjoyed having our kids home and all that. And yes, we're back.
[00:00:52] Gena: And we've spent a good portion of today talking about future plans for writing momentum and things that we're working.
[[00:00:57] Christopher: We have a lot of big plans and
[[00:00:59] Gena: lots of big [[00:01:00] plans
[00:01:00] Christopher: So we will talk about it for a long time. So yeah, you'll hear more about those in the near future.
[[00:01:03] Gena: Never short on ideas over here.
[00:01:05] Christopher: Never short. But today, if you're like, hey, I've got some ideas, but I don't want anyone to know that I'm the one who came up with them, you might use what's called a pen name. Gena, what is a pen name?
[00:01:18] Gena: A pen name, it's a pseudonym. It's a name that you use, that you write under, that is different from your legal name.
[00:01:25] Christopher: And there's a lot of reasons that you might use pen names and we're often asked, hey, should I write my novel or my book under a pen name? And so we thought we'd talk a little bit about that today, about some instances where you might want to use a pen name, because believe it or not, there's actually a lot of reasons that you might want to use a pen name.
[00:01:42] Christopher: That said, I haven't seen the statistics, but I am sure that the overwhelming majority of people do not use a pen name. Most people use their own name and that's perfectly fine too. Gena and I use our own name on most of our books, in fact I think pretty much all of our books.
[00:01:57] Gena: I think all of our books. But we have definitely had some [00:02:00] conversations about different projects that we have talked about doing and we've wondered about changing and using a pen name under those. And there's some pros and cons to it. We're going to talk about the reasons why you would use a pen name. But what are some of the reasons where pen names can come back and bite you?
[00:02:18] Christopher: One of the main reasons is because if your book does really well, people may never realize that you're the one who wrote it. And so it's a little harder to do things like, you might be able to do podcasts and that, but it's a little harder to do personal appearances where people might see you on video and recognize you as someone else.
[00:02:35] Christopher: If your pen name is different. So there's things like that can be a challenge. But one of the main reasons that you might want to write under a pen name is because you want to write in a different genre than you normally write in. Now you don't have to, right? You can use your same name under all kinds of different genres, but sometimes it's really helpful.
[00:02:54] Christopher: For instance, I have written a lot of children's books, right? So these are for ages eight to 12. [00:03:00] But if I were going to write a gritty thriller for adults, It'd probably be a good idea to use a pen name so that I don't get any 8 to 12 year olds reading my gritty novel thinking that it's the same thing.
[00:03:13] Christopher: Because we do that, don't we? We see an author, there's an author we like, and so we want to read everything by them. And if you're writing in one genre like that, you may want to change it for another genre.
[00:03:23] Gena: I think there's that and you have to think practically because most books are sold through Amazon right now that when you write under one name and you write in multiple genres then what happens is if you have someone like if Chris has someone who is ordering his children's books one of the great keys or one of the great marketing tools on Amazon is the "you might also like". And so for Chris, if he's writing in multiple genres, then that "you might also like" could get a little muddy so that it wouldn't maybe pull up all his children's [[00:04:00] books. It might also, if he were writing thrillers, might also pull up thrillers down there.
[00:04:04] Gena: Which that's not what your audience on that page at that moment is really looking for. So you want to think about if it's going to get muddy on Amazon or Barnes Noble or wherever else you might be ordering and you don't want your people to get confused, your writers to get confused of, Is that the same Christopher Maselli?
[00:04:27] Gena: Is that the same person? If they're used to seeing you in one genre and then they see something else, it could cause some confusion. If you're trying to alleviate that confusion, then that's one reason why you might use a pen name.
[00:04:41] Christopher: That's right. Another reason is because you may want to protect your identity or even just maintain privacy, right?
[00:04:47] Christopher: And when we think of protect your identity you think of hey, I'm gonna go underground I don't want anyone to know that I wrote this because I'm revealing deep secrets of some organization or something, and that [00:05:00] may very well be a reason you'd want to use a pen name. But also, there's, in today's age, when there's a lot of things like identity theft, a lot of people are just like, you know what?
[00:05:09] Christopher: I don't want anyone to actually know my real name if my book goes big. I just, I would rather have a separate name that I put out there that I use on my books just to protect my identity. And there are quite a few authors that will do that. They're just saying, look, for just privacy reasons, I'm going to go by a different name in the book and writing community.
[00:05:27] Christopher: And this is where you'll find a lot of people use their middle name and their last name or something like that, just to make it even just a little bit different, right?
[00:05:35] Gena: I think about that scene in it was one of the Lethal Weapons where Danny Glover's character, he starts buying all this really fancy stuff and they start thinking he's on the take and they start questioning is he on the take?
[00:05:48] Gena: No, you come to find out his wife is selling these really hot, sizzling romance novels that are going big under a pseudonym. And so it's just this funny plot point, but in reality, [00:06:00] There may be some reasons why people don't necessarily want their name associated like what you're talking about.
[00:06:04] Christopher: Exactly. And another reason is maybe you want to write on a controversial subject, which is a little bit what we were just saying. But there may be some subjects that you're like, you know what, I'm going to write about this, but I don't think I want anyone to know that I'm the one who did it.
[00:06:19] Christopher: Or there may be some other reason, maybe your career you feel could conflict with the subject that you're writing about. In that case, pen name is a good idea.
[00:06:29] Gena: Definitely. If you're someone who's in the public eye, maybe you're a teacher but you want to write romance novels or you are a police officer and you wanna write crime dramas, there may be some reasons there why you're saying, I don't really want these two professional worlds to overlap. So I'm going to keep some separation. Okay. So the next one is when you want to do so for branding purposes. And Chris, one of the, one of your favorite authors does this, doesn't she?
[00:06:58] Christopher: Yeah. So I really like an author. Her name [00:07:00] is Minka Kent and she writes very light, Thrillers. And I like her writing, but I discovered after I began to read more of her books that she actually has a couple of different pseudonyms that she uses for different styles of books. So for instance, she has an entire series that's more like romance and she goes under the name Winter Renshaw for those because she doesn't want People who are into the thrillers to jump over to romance because they're two different, again, this is like what we were talking about at the very beginning, where you may not want people to jump genres with you because the people who want thrillers don't want romances, the people who don't want romances generally don't want thrillers, so she uses two different names to separate those two different worlds.
[00:07:42] Gena: And I think that could even work for different Styles of writing. We're not necessarily talking about genres, but if you've got one that, that one style where maybe you like short chapters, super quippy, fast paced writing, and then maybe on the other one, it's more literary. Those [[00:08:00] might be two different styles.
[00:08:01] Gena: They may both be under the romance genre. But maybe they're reaching two different people and maybe you like both of those you want to write for both of those.
[00:08:09] Christopher: The key there is two different audiences, right? Yeah, the styles are based on the kind of audience you might get So if you're gonna write under two different audiences, that could be a time to consider having a pen name.
[00:08:20] Gena: Yeah, because you can get the problem is if,what can happen is you can disappoint your reader and if you disappoint your reader You're more likely to get a lower rating on a review Which you don't really want because if somebody's wanting thriller, they're not wanting maybe romance or they're not wanting Something else some kind of light hearted Chick Lit or something like that.
[00:08:45] Gena: And so you want to keep those audiences pure so that they don't get discouraged and they don't think, Oh I loved her one book, but I'm not crazy, I hated the second one. Just because it's not their cup of tea and that's okay. So you wanna keep those [[00:09:00] separate. Alright, so our next one is when you want to overcome bias or stereotypes.
[[00:09:06] Christopher: Yeah. This is a good one because there are times, and I think you see this a lot with gender, where women who wanna write about more books that are stereotypically for men or men who wanna write books that are stereotypically for women and. They know that by putting their name on these books that it may automatically hinder people from reading it.
[00:09:29] Christopher: For instance, if I were going to write a series of romance books, I probably wouldn't use the name Christopher Maselli, right?
[[00:09:37] Gena: Maybe.
[[00:09:38] Christopher: Maybe I could get away with it.
[[00:09:38] Gena: I think Nicholas Sparks has broken that down.
[00:09:40] Christopher: That's true, Nicholas Sparks has.
[[00:09:42] Gena: But he is the exception.
[00:09:43] Christopher: But often you'll see that romance books are written by At least it looks like they're written by women because they're almost all have women author names on them.
[[00:09:52] Christopher: And a lot of those are pen names. They can be other people who wrote them or women who want to protect their own identity.
[[00:09:58] Christopher: And you know what? I will [[00:10:00] say that you, having written so much for the middle grader novels and middle grade market, that you have come up against times where publishers were not really willing for you to have a main character that was a girl.
[00:10:15] Christopher: You have had that push back where it's you're a man, so you really can't have this main character that's a female. Yeah, so if I wanted to write a book from a female's point of view, even in the middle grade market, I might consider not using my actual name because and even though I don't think most girls that have a problem with it, I think the market in general and publishers might have a problem with that, which is such a strange thing to say in today's age, isn't it?
[00:10:44] Christopher: But people do have those biases and feel like, I don't know, I don't know if if a guy's going to understand this, I don't want to read this from a guy, but they're okay.
[00:10:53] Gena: I think some of that is going away, but I do think, and I, there are definitely some different genres where [00:11:00] there's been a lot of, enough crossover that it's not I don't know that it's as big of an issue, but it, you have definitely faced that before I know that they have mentioned that to you before so hopefully that's changing and then Here's a fun one when the market demands it.
[[00:11:17] Christopher: Yeah, there are times when the market has demanded that authors not use their actual names.
[00:11:21] Christopher: So this is a true story Stephen King has actually published a whole series of novels not under his name. He published them as Richard Bachman And the reason he did that is because he is such a prolific writer that when he was coming out with books in the early days, his publisher said, The market can't take more than one Stephen King book a year.
[00:11:43] Christopher: That's all we can take. So if you want to publish more than that, if you're such a prolific writer that you're going to write more than that, we need you to write your other books under a different name. So he did, and he has an entire series of books under the name Richard Bachman. It's just a Stephen King book, but they Sold it as though it was two different [[00:12:00] authors.
[00:12:00] Gena: Yeah, and I think when you've got especially for the Traditionally published market when you've got this big machine behind you marketing your book They are definitely probably going to want to stagger it if you're in the independent market you're publishing for yourself You have more control over when your books are released and a lot of independent authors are finding That they want to release their books pretty rapidly so that they can get their readers in that pattern of reading whatever they come out with.
[[00:12:33] Christopher: Finish a book buy another one finish a book buy another one. This is the new publishing world that we are in.
[00:12:39] Gena: Yes, that's the, that's really it. And then the final one, Chris.
[00:12:43] Christopher: Final one is, sometimes you just need a fresh start. You've written for a while, you feel like you're not getting enough traction or maybe you've written and you've had a lot of success and you're like, you know what, I just want to start a new, I want to pretend as though I've never published a book before. I want this to be brand new and fresh. [00:13:00] And so you just say, I'm going to go ahead and use a pen name. No one's even going to know it's me. And that is perfectly fine if you want to do that. And just go ahead and put your book out there.
[00:13:07] Gena: And I think some people do that as a challenge for themselves. They want to see, I've done pretty well under my name or under this other name. I want to see if I've still got it, if I can still attract a new reader, and so they'll do it that way. So yeah, there's a few reasons for pen names, but I'd love to hear your reaction. So if you have a reason why you do use a pen name, you want to use a pen name, or you would never use a pen name and don't recommend it, let us know. We want to hear what you have to say.
[[00:13:38] Christopher: You know what I want to hear?
[[00:13:39] Gena: What?
[00:13:40] Christopher: I want to hear if you've heard a funny pen name. What's the funniest pen name that you have heard that's been published? Go ahead and send that in to us here at Writing Momentum. Hey, if you've enjoyed this podcast, please rate, review, subscribe, and share.
[00:13:52] Christopher: And let others know about it so that they can find the podcast too. We appreciate so much that you listen to this podcast. We hope it is helping [00:14:00] taking your writing career to the next level. We're now over well over a hundred of these and we're just going to keep on going. Until next time.
[[00:14:07] Gena: Together we have writing momentum..
[[00:14:10] Christopher: Bye bye.