for the Bookworms, for the Writers

What the L’s in a PenName: Cont.

What other factors do writers think of while considering a pseudonym?

Last week I wrote a brief synopsis of how I came up with my pen name. Inspired by a couple great questions from Josh in the comments, this week I wanted to bring up 3 things writers think about that we have little or no control over.

1) “Keep Your Hand Book at the Level of Your Eye”

Last week I mentioned not being hidden next to a big author name, like Neil Gaiman or George RR Martin. But there’s something else writers think about in terms of shelving, and that’s the hope that our book ends up at eye level. Perusing a shelf, a reader is more likely to catch great books at eye level than above or below.

Sure, we could come up with a pen name that slots our book at eye level on a local bookstore shelf perhaps, but with all shelves being different and constantly changing, writers don’t really have control over this one.

2) Creepy Stalkers, the Torment of the Famed

Many novels, movies, and even real-life instances in the vein of Stephen King’s “Misery” have got a melodramatic writer (and face it, we’re all melodramatic) wondering about their own kidnapping, torturing, and escape right before death in some unlikely but clever fashion.

But if us writerly types could be reasonable for a moment (I know, I know, boooooring….), the likelihood of that is slim. Even slimmer considering that I would probably be able to identify less than a handful of writers if I crossed paths with them in real life. Let’s face it, even if we’re a popular author, we’re recognized more for our words than our faces.

Even if kidnapping were a possibility for you…a pseudonym will more than likely NOT save you. Everything is public nowadays, everyone is findable with the thorough records of the interwebs. You can’t hide, unless maybe you’re a mountain man or Amish or recluse or something maaaaybe.

For your own protection, skip the pen name, try jiu jitsu instead 😉

3) I Thee Wed

For us single gal writers, we of course think about our potentially impending name change. Not only do we have to decide if we’re keeping, changing, or hyphenating our surname; we have to decide what we’re doing with our author platform name as well. Talk about pressure.

If we change our name to match the new hubbie, there’s the potential of confusing or even losing our current following to the change. If we take the new hubbie’s name but use our maiden name for the author platform, legal issues and payments and such will be more complex with the two different names. Then of course there’s ya know, the whole hubbie and what he thinks deal, as well as the general “what do I want?” dealio. So many questions.

And of course, the whole process from the last post would have to be re-done with the new hubbie’s last name if the pen name changes.

And don’t get me started on autographs. I’ve already determined it’d be most convenient to marry someone who’s last name begins with an S, since my signature is scribbled enough I might be able to get away with keeping my same signature then.

Okay, I’ll stop with that ramble now. You see, pen names aren’t so simple. But that’s some of my thoughts. What are yours?

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for the Bookworms, for the Writers

What the L’s in a PenName?

To pen-name or not to pen-name – for any writer, that is the question.

There is a lot of factors that go into choosing between one’s own name or a pseudonym, and I thought I’d give you a brief sneak-peek at the process.

(Writers: Kristen Lamb has a post discouraging use of pen names in most situations. Rachelle Gardner has a post on problems to consider if using a pseudonym.)

So how’d I decide on mine, on keeping my own name, but adding the middle initial?

Step 1 – Default Setting

If you can’t find a really really good reason to use a pseudonym, you should be using your own name. That’s the default. I thought I might have good reasons until I read the blogposts mentioned above. (Writers: read those if considering a pseudonym.)

Step 2 – Google That Name

I googled myself. You know what comes up when I google “Amy Sauder”? Not me. “Amy Sauder – Peoria area photographer” shows up. That’s right, there’s an Amy Sauder, also in Peoria, also an artist, who has a perfectly legit photography business. Seriously, check her out.

With someone else topping the google charts, I can do one of the following:

  • compete for “Amy Sauder” space on google by creating alot of internet content with great Search-Engine Optimization
  • rely on readers to type “author” when googling me and photography clients to type “photographer” when googling her (a completely legitimate option that many choose, and it works)
  • find a different name so she has her google space and I have mine

Step 3 – Devil is in the Details

Sharing google space is not enough reason to choose a pen name.

With a pen name, everything is more complicated. Marketing is more complicated, because you lose the audience you already have with your own name. Paychecks and legal documents are complicated. Remembering the little details – like how easy/quick signing an autograph is with a chosen pen name – is complicated. I toyed around with pen names, sure. But it didn’t seem like a good option even still.

In order to avoid the sharing of google space and to avoid using a pen name, I tried my middle initial.

What happens when you google Amy L Sauder? Well now, you have a whole bunch of me, though not much popped up at all when I originally googled it. “Amy Sauder, photographer” still tops the google “Amy Sauder” charts – and I’m there too a little lower – but if you remember the L, I fill that space mostly.

Picture a Bookshelf

The final step, at least that I’m discussing at this point.

Imagine a bookshelf….where’s your book fall on the bookshelf? Usually books are ordered by genre and then by author’s last names.

In an ideal world, I don’t want my book crowded out and hidden next to the Stephen Kings or James Pattersons of the world. Can I see a place for my book under my name on the shelf? You bet I can! No overcrowding here.

And so, Amy L Sauder was born. And in the grand scheme of things, I think I might actually like it more than just Amy Sauder.

What’s In Your Name?

What about you? Do you have a pen name? Do you think you’d use a pen name? What are your thoughts, ideas, questions? Let me know in the comments!

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