Lisa Burstein

This Be Where I Blog

To Pen Name or Not to Pen Name-Share Your Thoughts

on June 14, 2013


I think you know what this blog post is going to be about. The question many authors come to in their career. Whether or not to use a pen name? You guys all know I am fairly transparent, in my work and in who I am. I don’t shy away from tough issues, from things that might offend people, from language and situations that can be uncomfortable. So why would an author who considers her brand to be “truth” consider using a pen name?

Good question.

I don’t necessarily think pen names are about hiding who you are. Perhaps for some authors they are, but for most it seems like a way to differentiate your work. To shed expectations. To free yourself to write in different ways than you have in the past. To stretch out of your genre.

This is how I am looking at it and why I am considering it. My YA and NA books in the PRETTY AMY series are on the “heavy” side, to put it mildly. (As an example Ben and Cassie’s novella, the main characters from DEAR CASSIE is going to take place at a funeral.)*Spoiler Alert*

I like writing about issues teens really face. I like creating hard, complicated characters. I like making my readers cry and think and feel, but there are other things I’d like to write about too. There are other things I’d like to see if I can write about.

The New Adult book I have upcoming from Entangled in November is completely different from anything I have ever written. The girl in it doesn’t have any particular issue. The guy in it isn’t trying to save her. The emotional tone of it is pretty light as things I usually write go. So, I am considering a pen name. Not to hide that it is by me, but to differentiate it from my other work.

It seems crazy. I’ve spent over a year building my name, my brand. Why would I throw all of that away just to write as “someone else”?

Well, that is my dilemma.

Maybe because I am afraid people will compare this work to my other work. Maybe because I am afraid I will hear even more of what I heard from some readers when The Next Forever came out, “that I was writing it to appeal to a certain audience”. Maybe I just think this book deserves a fresh start because it is so different. It doesn’t need to be mired in the seriousness of my past work.

I don’t know. I go back and forth.

So as I have many times before, I appeal to my readers, my friends. What do you think? How do you feel about authors who use pen names?

Please comment below.

4 responses to “To Pen Name or Not to Pen Name-Share Your Thoughts

  1. We’ve had the pen name discussion in my RWA group before. From what I gather, authors use them for more than just one reason. There were several established authors who wanted to differentiate their contemporary romance novels from their YA/NA novels and such. But there were quite a few who worked in settings where it was simply smart to use a pen name — these tended to be schoolteachers and women who worked in high-profile careers totally unrelated to writing. Me? I was told by The Powers That Be where I work that I had to use a pen name, given the nature of what we do and who I represent. You have to go with what works for you. If your new book is such a departure from the Amy/Cassie/Etc. books, then it might be more appropriate to create a new nom de plume.

    P.S. It’s kinda fun, because you get to give yourself the name that reflects the “personality” of your genre.

  2. I think that pen names are a great way to write in different genres. For people who are already fans they will know that it’s you anyways, but it also makes it so maybe new fans will find you who wouldn’t have otherwise. Sometimes it really shocks me when I read a book and later find out that it’s an author that I already liked but writing under a different name. I don’t really feel strongly one way or another. I think it’s a personal choice and no one should really care whether an author writes under different names. If you like the book you do, no matter what name it’s under.

  3. John Clark says:

    Seems like somewhat the same dilemma actors/actresses like Emma Watson face after being branded by playing a certain character. Some flame out, the resilient are able to change and evolve. Unfortunately they can’t use a new screen name. Advantage: writer. If your gut tells you to try a pen name, then go with it. I’ll buy it and read it no matter what name appears on the cover.

  4. sophifrost says:

    Having a pen name allows for amazing freedom. I could see authors having one for every genre they work in. I am sure there are drawbacks – for example starting anew without a track record. But then again, having a clean slate is a wonderful concept as well. Which ever you choose, you will make the choice that is right for you.

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