Although this was not a question I struggled with, I have found that many aspiring authors don’t know whether they should use a pen name. I’ve also seen authors change their names after starting their writing careers. There are group discussions where I’ve read that some authors think pen names are overrated and not a necessity. So, here are my thoughts on whether you should use a pen name or not.
First, Google your name and see what comes up. Then go to Goodreads, Amazon, and other social media sites and do a search on your name. I also want you to see if you can use your name for a website or if it is already taken. When you become an author, you will be marketing your name, and if it is common and already found all over the place online, it will be more difficult for your readers to find you.
Next, you need to decide whether your name is easy to remember and easy to spell. Since most marketing is now done online, you want people to be able to remember you if someone mentions your name in a conversation. They will also need to be able to go home and search for you online. I love unique names. However, there’s no benefit to you if people can’t spell your name.
The next question you need to ask yourself is what kind of writing you will be doing. Almost all the erotica writers I know use a pen name, and if they also write in another genre, they use another pen name for that. They keep their erotica names strictly to that genre. Not all of them do this, but most of the ones I know do.
When deciding upon a pen name, you need to remember that you will be signing this name often and quickly in front of people. From experience, I know this can take some getting used to, and it’s easy to get confused while you’re trying to talk and sign a new name at the same time. Therefore, you need to make sure it comes easy for you to sign. Practice writing it out a few times to see how comfortable it is.
As for me, there was no question on whether I would use a pen name or not. When I Google my real name, thousands of sites pop up. It is very common. Although Tianna Holley is similar to my real name, the small change I made makes it easy to find me online. When you type in my pen name, I show up. I’m not competing with hundreds or thousands of others on the web.
I have learned that signing under my pen name can be somewhat problematic at times. In fact, there’s a story behind the first time I signed in public. It was completely unplanned, and I was caught off guard. I had just received the first shipment of books and went to the post office to mail out some of the signed copies. The woman behind the counter noticed the extra book I had accidently brought in, and she asked about it. Then she pulled out money and plopped it on the counter and began to spell out her name for a signed copy. As I happily complied, much attention was brought to me, and everyone soon started talking about me being an author. It did not help that I was in my workout clothing and no makeup. I was trying to hold a conversation with the people, spell the woman’s name behind the counter (which was unique), and sign a new name. Although I consider my handwriting to be messy, my handwriting under pressure is even messier, and I felt horrible at the scribbling I had done to that woman’s book. I tell you this to let you know it takes a little getting used to sign a new name, and you will have to do it under pressure at times.
Since the change to my name is very subtle, I also have another small problem to deal with. When I have spent a weekend at a book signing, I find that it is hard for me to remember to sign my real name for a while after that. I will sign my pen name on school documents and such. I’ve had teachers ask me which is my real name. I send letters to them on notes I’ve bought with my author name and web site at the bottom, yet I sign my real name beneath my message.
There is a benefit to having a pen name. It would seem strange for me to market myself. It’s much easier for me to become Tianna Holley when I need to sell myself in front of others and online. Although I’m still talking about myself, it makes it better to do it under another name.
I hope this helps and forgive me if you find any faults in today’s post. I’m typing this out fast, as I have a child that has to be at a doctor’s appointment shortly. When I get back, I will do a better check, but I did not want to miss today’s post on this topic. If you have any questions or comments, I do welcome them.