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Monday, June 27, 2011

"Real" Name vs. Pen Names

So, who am I? What name should I use when penning my novels? Should I use my "real" name or a pen name? Pros and cons involved? How do you decide what your author name will be?

I thought long and hard about this in 1999 when I sold my first book, a nonfiction ebook to Online Originals. The book is a ghostwritten autobiography of a speaker for a women's shelter and almost all the names in the book have been changed to protect my subject.

What about me? Did I need to protect myself? After considering some factors involved using my own name, I chose to use a pen name. Protecting myself, along with the subject of my book, seemed the wiser course to take.

My "real" last name is an Italian name and usually mispronounced and/or not spelled correctly. People seem to add extra letters/accent the wrong letters all the time, even if I've pronounced it for them. So, eliminating any confusion about my last name also appeared to be a smart career move.

Marianne Stephens has served me well, both as the name for nonfiction works and mainstream romance books. One drawback...it's kinda long to put on promotional items, email address, website, business cards, etc. And, one thing I noticed at book signings. Authors are seated alphabetically. At one big book signing I went to, I was in the second row from the back of the room. That meant people started at the "A's" and some never got to the last few rows before their arms were already full of books.

Hmm. Having a last name towards the end of the alphabet didn't work well for me.

When I started writing erotic romance books, I decided to use a different pen name. Separating my mainstream romance books from my erotic romance books seemed to be a positive way to keep readers interested. Some people don't like erotic books so would have a choice of visiting my two websites for my two names.

The pen name, April Ash, didn't take long to formulate. I wanted a short last name at the beginning of the alphabet...so I'd be in that front row at major book signings and Ash works for that. April, a shorter first name, compliments the last name. And, this name is a lot easier to put on those promotional items, etc., I mentioned above!

That's who I am. Me, myself, and I. All three names suit my purposes and lifestyle.

If you're an author, what name do you use and why?

7 comments:

Janice said...

Hi Marianne,

My first name is really Janice. I didn't want to go to a book signing and someone yell, something like maybe Aurora, and I'd looked behind me.

My last name Seagraves is my maiden name. I use it because someone is using my married name to write YA Vampire romances.

And Seagraves is memorable and easy to pronounce.

The only thing is, like you, I'll be at the back of the line, just like in school.

Maybe Aurora isn't so bad after all.

An Open Book said...

I use my name....Dawne Prochilo- I had thought of using a pen name but just couldn't do it. Why? Not sure. I've come to the sole conclusion that my name is me...and I am proud of me. I write erotic romance and do adult themed content online and always use my name. One major downfall- I am the only Dawne Prochilo in the world which can wreak havoc on me for odd fans and stalker situations- Some days I wish I had formulated a pen name but...sigh, too late now. My name is out there. I may chose a pen name as I want to write YA and..well, YA and erotic are completely different ends of the spectrum.

Marie Rose Dufour said...

I write erotica, so I use a pen name because of the day job as a teacher. We all remember the chaos that that can cause. The name is connected to me though. It actually part of my first name with my middle name. The last name is a family name.

Amber Skyze said...

I decided to use a pen name because of my school aged children. I didn't want the parents of their friends to find out what I wrote and hold it against them. :)
When I make the jump to straight contemporary romance I plan to use my real name.

Molly Daniels said...

When I first began trying to get published, I chose MJ Stein 'in case the book bombs...I don't want anyone to know it's MINE'.

But when I got my agent, he told me women preferred romance books by women authors, so after some discussion, I kept my real name, Molly, and turned my husband's first name into a last name. Thus, 'Molly Daniels' was born.

And in 2008, when I began writing the steamier, 18 and older books, I decided my teen readers didn't need to be exposed to it. Since I'd used the first names, I decided to revamp the last names. I couldn't do anything with my married name, but my maiden name morphed into 'McKenzie' which was shortened to 'Kenzie'. And then what to put with it? I wasn't fond of my MIL's maiden name, so I went with my father's first name instead. And 'Kenzie Michaels' was born.

My hubby says it's amusing to be married to three women, lol:)

Sandy said...

When I first started writing, I worried about my name. Right before I became published I just decided to go with my real name.

jean hart stewart said...

I didn't know enough when I was firt published to even think about a pen name. I use my full name since there's another Jean Stewart out there writing. Probably I'd use a catchier pen name now, but am now sure. I'm proud of being an author.

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