In the olden days before the Internet, the fact that some authors used pen names rarely seemed to be questioned. But in the digital age of social media, lines are being increasingly blurred, and some folks are wondering whether or not a pen name is necessary.
Kristen Lamb recently posted about it, and Heidi Cullinan then shared her largely opposing thoughts. I definitely agree with Heidi that it’s a personal decision and not one that should be judged by anyone, and I think using terms such as “Crazyville” don’t help make a potentially touchy subject less contentious.
I also think Lamb’s assertion that “95% of the time” it’s unnecessary is, well, wrong. She raises some great points for new authors to consider, but it’s couched in rather dismissive judginess that unfortunately doesn’t do anyone any favours.
I use a pen name for the simple reason that when I started publishing in 2006 I still had a day job (and I only gave that up in 2013), and I didn’t want a potential employer judging me for writing erotic m/m romance novels. Because some people do judge, whether you want to accept it or not. For me, separation of church and state just made sense. And at this point, I have brand equity in this pen name, and no desire to change it.
I’m also rather puzzled by this:
You will probably have to look into the legal aspects of using another name and will likely require a DBA (Doing Business As) because, if you have any amount of success, you will need to be able to cash the check under another name, do taxes, etc.
It does me no good to use the pen name Fifi Fluffernutter because I want to hide that I write erotica, but then someone goes to buy a book and can only make out the check to Kristen Lamb.
1. Publishers and book sellers (Amazon, B&N et al.) have an author’s legal name and payment info. I get paid via check or direct deposit into my bank account. No one pays “Keira Andrews.”
2. I don’t do taxes as Keira Andrews. I claim my writing income on my tax return filed under my real name, just like any other self-employed person would claim their income from whatever goods or services they sell. My pen name is irrelevant.
3. Not sure where or how Kristen buys her erotica, but no one who buys my books writes a check to me!
I’ve never found it difficult to be myself on social media or my blog, and having a pen name is really not that hard, honestly. Now, having *two* pen names is definitely more of a pain (although often necessary when writing in two very different genres, or for any number of reasons). When I wrote my YA book, I used a different name since it wasn’t erotic and was aimed at teens. But I didn’t last long blogging and using social media as K.P. Kincaid, and now that the book is out of print, I’m going to revise it and make it new adult so I can publish as Keira Andrews. (The characters are 18 and 19 anyway, so it really will only be a matter of making some tweaks and adding in more sex. Since I love sex, that isn’t a problem!)
But overall, having a pen name hasn’t been a challenge or a hindrance to me, and if an author wants to–or needs to–use one for any reason they deem necessary, I say go for it. I don’t see that it’s anyone else’s place to judge.
What do you think about pen names? Let me know!