Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pen Names: Good Idea or Bad?

I've been toying with the idea of creating different pen names for different genres of stories I write (or intend to write). It seems like it might function as a way to keep things organized. I'm the type of person who has folders and subfolders for organizing email or documents on my computer. And yet, in real life, I'm pretty messy. Go figure.

There are my Veronica books, and I'd probably include Broken Ones in the same genre. Modern day, involves ghosts. Those have been around for a year, with "Sophia Martin" as the author name.
As a writer, you wear many hats. :)

Then there's The City Darkens, my current WiP, which is a serialized novel and in the genre of decopunk, sci fi/fantasy. So... I could put my same name on it, or something like S. D. Martin, or M. R. Tinn (= Martin, get it?) or something else. The idea isn't to disguise who I am at all. I'll be posting all about the book here and putting it in the margin with the other books, etc.

And I've been thinking about writing some Georgian or Victorian romances, because there just aren't enough Jane Austen novels, you know? I love them. A lot of people love them. So why not attempt to approach the brilliance of Austen--ha! good luck, Sophia--or at least capture some of what makes those stories so wonderful? Anyway, it seems incongruous for Sophia Martin to write ghost stories, sci fi, and Georgian romances. So some other pen name for that.

The problem is, would using pen names destroy any value my platform on Twitter, Facebook, etc. provides to Sophia Martin? Ultimately, I'm not really convinced those do all that much for my book sales anyway, but what do you think about it? If I'm not going to hide that all the pen names are one person, does that make a difference? Do you think using pen names would be useful or frivolous?

I'm really curious. I hope you'll comment.


  1. I'm not sure about how it would help or hurt if you don't hide your identity, honestly. But I have many identities, for several reasons. I do freelance work (biz writing) and don't like clients to have any more info than they really need to (and a surprising number never ask; all they care about is whether I can do the job). There's also that crazy factor, and I work locally. But most importantly, I do it for legal reasons I won't go into here (actually, that's a whole book in itself!). I actually wound up with my online writing ID because I would call a client and say, "Hi. This is Sue, the writer." Thus my identity was born. :)

    Then there's my fiction-writing self, who used to indulge in writing fanfic under one name, but obviously I want a professional pseudonym for a novel that's unrelated to an existing franchise. I got a lot of egoboo out of the fanfic, which encouraged me to write my own, original work.

    But yes, I think if I do more than one genre, I will probably use different pseudonyms. I suppose it's increasingly rare, but if someone picks up your book (remember those? as Craig Ferguson describes them, "they're like blogs, but longer, and on something called 'pa-per'") and doesn't know anything about you, you don't want to give them a reason to put it down. Like a Victorian Romance psuedonym on a skiffy novel.

    BTW, I also tweet under an entirely separate name (in addition to SUe The Writer), because I don't want my political views to turn off any potential clients or readers.

    So there are all kinds of reasons why I think pseudonyms are useful things. I don't see why you can't make *your* best use of them, whatever that is. Or, maybe I just have a fragmented personality. :)

    1. Hi SUe! Thanks for responding! I had a whole conversation on twitter with someone who hates pen names. His (?) take was that when he likes writer, pen names make it harder for him to find all of the writer's works. But I think as long as I'm clear in my bios etc. that the books are all mine, I would avoid that pitfall. You make excellent points about how pen names can be useful.