Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pen Names

So, I wanted to talk a little bit about pen names. Some time ago, I didn't understand the reason for pen names or pseudonyms, but now that I'm publishing my own book and am aware of branding, I understand the need for them. This is especially clear when I read an article last week about a teacher who is catching a lot of flack for writing erotica on her free time.

Writers choose to use pen names for various reasons. For me, I write under my initials, which is a moderate pen name. I'm not trying to hide my identity, though, nor am I too worried about people discovering who I am and what I write. My reasons are related to separating my identity from that of another person online with my same name. This person is associated with things I not only disagree with, but also would be very embarrassing for fans or anyone to stumble upon and think it's me. So, I use N.R. Wick (or NRWick for usernames) in order to separate myself and my brand from someone else with my same name.

Pen names can be tricky, though. If you want to really disassociate your real name from your pen name, that makes sense, but I know of plenty of budding writers who believe they need to have a pen name for no reason. This is something I don't understand. Well, actually, maybe I do in a way. For marketing purposes, it seems like a good idea to have a pen name similar to a popular author in order to get your book noticed. For example, if you write horror novels, would you rather have your real name, Aaron Zhan, or your pen name, Craig Kimball? Which would more likely be found closest to popular horror authors' books? The second one, right? But it Aaron Zhan really that bad? But if your name is very hard to pronounce, having a pen name might be the way to go.

[INTERACT: Do you have a pen name? Why did you choose this name? If you are not a writer, what would your pen name be if you had to have one?]


  1. I'm like you. I write under my initials. But there's no big reason for it. There's just another author out there with a name very close to mine.

    If I had to come up with a completely different name, I don't know what I'd do. I have enough trouble naming my characters!

  2. I'll be using a pen name. Especially after that whole teacher mess. But I won't be fashioning it after anybody.

  3. I have a pen name. LA jones. Why did I choose it? LA are my real intitals. Jones is my mother's mother's maiden name. Cute huh? I was hoping I could jazz up a real amazing pen name like Magnum Opus but that's too pretentious.