What’s in a name?

“Someday I am going to publish my book.”   A lot of work happens with that goal.  A story is inside and must escape onto paper, or word processor, or something.  Plot, setting, theme, characters, genre, the list goes on and on.

My fellow contributors on this blog have been giving a lot of good advice on writing.  Today I want to take a moment and look at the business side of writing.  We all enjoy the art side, and talking about books, movies, the stories and what we like and didn’t like.  However the business side of writing is also a large arena full of decisions, and in today’s market a lot of decisions need to be made.

Self publish, large publisher, indie, e-pub, and POD.  However, I want to focus on something even more basic.  Your name.

Why stage and pen names?

John WayneMark Twain, John Wayne are two examples of a pen and stage names.  Mark Twain is the pen name for Samuel Langhorne Clemens.  Marion Mitchell Morrison, better known by his stage name John Wayne, was an American film actor, director, and producer.

There are many reasons writers chose to have a pen name.  It keeps their worlds separate.  As a writer, you want to become famous. However, fame has a price.

No privacy.

Look at many famous people today; the paparazzi follow them everywhere.  Your name is your identity.  Your family and friends know you, professionals know you.  Some people want to keep family and friends separate from the professional side of things.  Now Samuel Clemens doesn’t sound like too bad of a name, but he liked the Mississippi River.  Mark Twain was a depth call used on riverboats.  The Mississippi River was a prominent part of his works.  Those who rode the river were familiar with the river culture would immediately identify a book by Mark Twain as being a part of that life.

Today the publishing world has genres and sub genres that a name will be forever associated with the genre the author writes in.  However, a good writer may want to try a hand at a different genre.  Thus, a pen name would allow the writer the ability to explore a new area of writing.

Your pen name becomes your identity.  If you go to a writer’s conference, sign in as your pen name.  Introduce yourself with you pen name.  You are that persona.  Think of it as your writing business.  Thus in today’s world it would be Mark Twain, LLC.  The LLC is not part of the pen name, but think of it as part of it.  Your writing company so to speak.

Some of the contributors to this blog are using pen names.  So it isn’t as uncommon as you might think.

Using Your Own Name


You can also use your own name.  Just be careful where and how you do things online.  It is you.  For me I want to see my book cover with my own name on it.  However, that choice has pros and cons to it as well.  How do I separate my writing life from my personal life?  It all blends together, but I am comfortable with that.  Other people are not, so a pen name would work better for them.

Now with all that said before here is the take home point.  Before you begin to build a platform, (I’ll blog more about that in the future).  Before you send out query letters, you need to decide on a name.  What will that name be under (or over) the title of that best seller you are working so hard to write?

What do you think?  Is a pen name for you?  Why or why not?


About Dean C, Rich

I write fantasy. I've four completed manuscripts, but I've learned I've approached this the wrong way. I'm sharing what I've learned so I can help others avoid the mistakes I've made.

6 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. My pen name is actually my maiden name & current married name. I wanted to use my maiden name in honor of my father. I write many genres but have decided not to have a difference pen names for each. It might work in my favor or it might not – it is the story that counts

  2. writingbeard says:

    I used to write under a pseudonym because i wanted to distance myself from the critique as if somehow if i wasn’t using my real name i was less responsible for the work. Now i take the opposite view, i want to take full responsibility and be fully associated with my writing whether good or bad, exposing yourself and your work is one of the key ways of developing as a writer.

    If you have a truly terrible name though like Philbert rufflebottom I could excuse you for wanting to write uder a false name.

  3. tjloveless3 says:

    As you can tell, T.J. isn’t my given name. But since so many mispronounce it, even in their heads, I keep the nickname LOL Otherwise, I want my name on the cover. It is also my way of thumbing my nose at all the people who tell me, “You’ll never make it.” One day I’ll point at a book cover and go, “Oh yeah?”

  4. My pen name is my first name spelled differently and a surname based on a fabled character in a book I was reading during my extensive search for pen names. I didn’t create a pen name to separate my writing life from my real life. They’re one in the same for me. I did it because my real name’s extremely plain and unmarketable.

  5. […] What’s in a name? (dragonsandaliensandwraithsohmy.wordpress.com) […]

  6. […] What’s in a name? (dragonsandaliensandwraithsohmy.wordpress.com) […]

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