Pen-names

Names are interesting. They create persona; they set up expectations. We might not like it, but they do. Names can get you mocked at school. Names can give an idea of your class, your background, even your ethnicity.

They can be wrong, of course. We know we should not judge on a name alone: but we do.

It is traditional in the UK and some other countries for a woman to change her surname on marriage. Not everywhere does this. Finland doesn’t, for example – nor does Iceland, or Iran.

When I got married I eyed the list of organisations I had to inform about my surname change, and realised that it was the perfect time to change my first name, too. I’d always felt “Sarah” didn’t quite fit me. So, changing to Autumn was symbolic and also practical: it’s usually the first thing people comment on, and it certainly sticks in people’s minds! I have heard of other Autumns, so I’m not unique. But I’m rarer than I was!

So, I write for magazines under my now-legal name, Autumn Barlow, and it helps with the paperwork. Cheques come to this name. There’s no faffing about.

I have other names though. There’s no secret that I write for loveyoudivine Alterotica as Jay Lancaster. I wanted to keep it separate from my other works – not out of shame but as a practicality. It is an advantage if you write in different styles. “Ahh, today I am Jay Lancaster!” and it’s a new hat I put on. I specifically chose it as being gender-neutral.

Some writers find it quite freeing to have different names. And it doesn’t confuse the readers.

It can confuse issues if you’re self-publishing, though. I have a third name which I keep to myself, as I use it for rather bold romances. Uploading to Amazon is easy enough, as with KDP you add in the author name with each ebook. Kobo has more difficulties – I’ve heard a lot about people having their remittance made out to their pen names! I haven’t had this issue… yet. With Smashwords, you can use a few different names under your main account. With these outlets though it is important you make sure your account details are correct, as you’re dealing with large faceless organisations. It’s far easier with magazines to explain “I write as… but the cheque/bank account is in the name of…” by phone.

And here’s a fun game: if you wrote erotica, what would your pen name be?

See also: BBC News Magazine article about having a “foreign-sounding” name in the UK.

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  1. #1 by gfenton on November 26, 2012 - 4:45 pm

    When I started to think about having my erotic stories published, I didn’t even consider using my own name. Any potential future employer would find it instantly on Googling my name!

    I selected the pen name G Fenton for the erotic fiction that I write for two reasons.

    Firstly, it’s non gender specific, as I wanted the stories to attract the attention of both genders.

    Secondly, it was the pseudonym adopted by two brothers, Fenton and Ralph Griffiths when they published “Fanny Hill – Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure” in the 18th Century. It seemed appropriate for the genre.

  2. #3 by Nimue Brown on November 25, 2012 - 11:14 am

    I’m being Nimue Brown for both Druid stuff and the graphic novel, and people seem to cope with that, but I do the smut under another name – again, not a shame issue, I was someone else when I started writing that, I wanted to reflect the new legal name in the current work and we get the joy of back covers that just say ‘Brown’ which is a bit sweet. I think daft pen names can put readers off – plenty of those in the smut world and I stay away from people called stuff like Saucy Melons. (I think I made that one up).

    • #4 by autumnbarlow on November 30, 2012 - 3:46 pm

      I’m afraid I just googled, desperate to discover an erotica author called Saucy Melons. Sadly you’re right, none exist.

      Yet.

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