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Monday, 18 June 2012

What's in a Name?


Pseudonym, alias, non-de-plume, literary double, pen name ~ aka ~ not your real name.

Why do people use names other than those which were whimsically or half wittingly slapped onto them at birth? Why do writers in particular choose fictitious names to write under? The answers to these questions are probably as varied and colourful as the stories of those who use them.

When I married, I thought long and hard about surrendering my maiden name. I was advised not to. But acquiesced with tradition and assumed my husband's surname to the chagrin of many (mainly work colleges and business associates).

From the age of 13, I was reminded repeatedly what a great name I had: it's unusual, it's pretty, wow what an awesome name, you'll end being a movie star with a name like that. I kid you not.

 Have I stifled my chance of attaining greatness simply by shifting from a

Dimity Selina Zee
 to a
Dimity Selina Powell?

Maybe. Maybe not. Let's look at the reasons to change and considerations for picking a pen name that resounds with success.

  1. You need a name easier to spell and pronounce...Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski is a mouthful in any one's language aka Joseph Conrad.
  2. You like your books at eye level on book shop shelves because you believe it will result in greater sales. Choose surnames beginning with the first 13 letters of the alphabet. And they thought Zee was a better option?
  3. You want to be remembered...Oscar Fingall O'Flahertie Wills Wilde. What was his mother thinking? This was his actual name so perhaps not the best example.
  4. You wish to disguise your true identity to increase reader audience. Julie Fison for example writes under JE Fison; her Hazard River series is aimed at young male readers, whom the publisher thought would feel more comfortable believing the author was not a women. Using initials often blurs reader perceptions and therefore assumptions about the book. George Eliot (The Mill on the Floss) was really one Mary Ann Evans who wanted her work to be taken seriously.
  5. You feel it's more genre specific. I'm considering re branding myself as Dimity Dumpty  but Bob Graham has already beaten me to it. (interestingly this link takes you to Powell's book store-no relation) Seriously, pseudonyms can offer authors some degree of superficial protection especially if they write across a number of different genres.
  6. You just think it would be a fun, naff, liberating thing to do. Well so might jumping off a bridge without a parachute but things don't always turn out how we plan. Choose carefully and with cause.
If thinking up a new name is not for you, remebmer to embrace the title that is you and realise that it is just that; a title, a label, a mere moniker, which if you say loud enough and often enough for long enough, people will eventually know you for it (for good or bad).

Do I regret relinquishing Zee opportunity for greatness? Nah. A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet...

What about you? Do you write under a pseudonym? If so why? Have you ever used a different name? Do you regret it or rejoice your anonymity?