Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Why Use A Pseudonym?

Sometimes a writer decides to publish a book under a pen name. One of those writers is best-selling author Mary Connealy. After reading another post Mary wrote, I asked her to repeat her own humorous take on why a writer might want to take this step.

"You publish your historicals under Mary Connealy and your mystery novels under the name Mary Nealy. Besides switching genres, what other reasons might a writer choose to use a pseudonym?" - Sandy

Mary: Hi, Sandy. To answer this question I wrote:

The top ten reasons you might want to publish 
under a pseudonym

10) You write romance and your name isn't romantic. Gertrude Hogg might wanta think about a pseudonym. (Please, Dear Lord God in Heaven don't let any readers of this blog be named Gertrude Hogg) Part 2 of #10, related, because your name is possibly stupid. So Myrtle, you really married a guy named Snarfblatt? Wow, that’s so wonderful. You must be MADLY in love. Pick a pseudonym, sweetie.

9) You just got a contract for erotica and you don't want your mother to find out. (You should never publish ANYTHING your mother can't find out about. That ought to be a law.)

8) Your name is Nora and you’re married to the love of your life, William Roberts. Give up. Your name is never gonna come up first in a Google search. NEVER

7) Your name is twistable into something that sounds like a porn site. Ask my friend Carol Cox about that one. And no, she didn’t change her name, but it’s been interesting at time.

6) You work somewhere at a day job where your privacy is important. Though I suspect any effort you make to write with true anonymity is a failed effort.

5) To hide your gender. See Leigh Greenwood and Alex Kava on this one. Yes their gender is out now but not at first. In fact I met Leigh Greenwood, a very successful romance novelist, at RWA and he said he’d come out of the closet and admitted he was a man several books ago.

4) Because you’re prolific. And you want to write more books a year than your publisher will let you.

3) Because your name is generic. Ask my sister Linda Swenson about this one. A lovely name and a lovely woman. But go google her name. It didn’t even come up. I got ‘narrow search’ instead of hits.

2) Your name is impossible to spell. Hello Mary Connealy. HOWEVER, the upside of an odd name is that the website for your name is most likely not taken. AND I picked Mary Nealy but it was by no means my first choice. I found naming myself surprisingly embarrassing.

1) You are changing genres. Yes, if you’re going from western romance to romantic thrillers you probably ought to warn your readers. Same goes for romance to women’s fiction. And Christian fiction to Vampires.

Go see the suspenseful side of ME.
And for the 'regular' Mary Connealy who writes romantic comedy with cowboys, I'm out there too.

Mary Connealy writes romantic comedy with cowboys. She is a Carol Award winner, and a Rita, Christy and Inspirational Reader's Choice finalist. Her newest book is in bookstores now. Swept Away, book #1 in the brand new Trouble in Texas series. She is the author of bestselling Kincaid Brides Series: Out of Control, In Too Deep, Over the Edge, also, Lassoed in Texas Trilogy, Montana Marriages Trilogy and Sophie's Daughters Trilogy. Mary is married to a Nebraska rancher and has four grown daughters and two spectacular grandchildren.

So what about you? Have you ever considered using a pen name? What made you decide for or against doing so?


  1. I am published in non-fiction as Julie Hilton Steele. But there are tons of Julie Steele's out there plus there is an awful lot of "l"s and "e"s in there.

    So I am pondering.

    Peace and thanks for the laughs to start the day, Julie

    1. Hi, Julie. I love your name, very distinctive. I'd keep it unless it's already taken for sure.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I wanted to pick a cool pseudonym, it's sort of a kid's dream right? To name herself? Well here was my chance. But it was just weird and NOT COOL. My maiden name might as well be Mary Smith, that generic. If I'm writing romance it seems like my name should be romantic, like Desiree L'Amour or Franscesca D'Light or something like that. I just gets weird, I'm telling you.

  3. I just finished reading one of Irene Hannon's novels, which dealt with the Witness Protection Program. In it, she said people chose new names based on the initials of their old names to help keep them from becoming confused. Something to put to use in choosing a pen name? :-)

    1. I also wanted to be first in the alphabet, it'd put me first on the bookstore shelves right? Abbie Aaronson, Ada Aahlmon, something like that. But it just wasn't working. People see Mary Nealy and think, DUH, boring. But it was HARD!

  4. Hi Sandy and Mary:

    I’ve used one pen name. You should have seen them at the bank when I tried to open a checking account under that name. The bank president came out to talk to me. I sold jokes and I would get checks for $10, $25, and once $200 from Reader’s Digest. They didn’t think I was much of a writer at the bank. What better reason for a pen name: you’re terrible writer! ☻☻☻

    1) you want a name that has the best marketing potential for the genre. For westerns, Max Brand is a great name. Louis L’Amour flaunted convention when he changed his real name from LaMoore to the really romance genre-friendly name of L’Amour. He was good enough to carry it off.

    2) your mother writes erotica under her real name and you don’t want to be confused with her.

    3) your mother writes erotica under a pen name and you do want to be confused with her.

    4) your name is a distraction you don’t need --like a disreputable Hollywood star.

    5) you're already more famous for doing something besides writing and it will make it seem like your writing can’t stand on it’s own.

    6) Your name is hard to pronounce and spell so buyers are too embarrassed to try to pronounce it or spell it. Not good for word-of-mouth advertising.

    7) Your real name would seem too fake like Rhonda Romance – and it’s your real name.

    8) Your last self-published book was so bad you never want to be associated with it again!

    9) Everyone pronounces your real name wrong and it drives you nuts! You just can’t take it anymore.

    10) You don’t like the name you were born with and you’ve always wanted to be named something else. It’s fiction! Now you can do it.


    1. I've always thought Max Brand was a great name for a western writer. And "Louis L'Amour" rolls off the tongue. Mmmm....

      Ah, numbers nine and ten from your list almost convince me to give it a go, Vince!

    2. Vince, LOL on #8--you wrote a book so bad you don't want to be associated with it.

  5. Mary!!! What fun to find you here!

    I've certainly given pen names some thought. I mean, Johnson is right up there with Smith and Jones. But it's too late now, at least for the CBA market, which I'm currently writing for.

    However, my agent told me if I wanted her to try subbing my mss. to ABA publishers, I would definitely need a pseudonym. If and when that EVER happens, then you can ask me what my "other" name is.

    1. I'm not good at waiting. Think I'll ask the next time I see you. :-)

    2. I recommend Jyra one would get that!!!

  6. I just had a masterful comment and when I hit publish, Google told me it encountered an error and didn't now why. SHEESH. Anyway, I will start again. Filly sister, you have me laughing out loud as usual. Seriously, I do wish I'd used a pen name since there IS a porn star with my name. She spells it HansEn but then again, so do most of my relatives. Sheesh. I do have a pen name for a YA I wrote but that's just one book. Ah well, hind sight LOL. Congrats on the new release, and good luck with all the new little calfies. Love ya!

    1. How about Hanya Tanson, you know it is EASY to name other people.
      I wanted (seriously) to name myself Merica Nealy....that is actually how my real name is pronounced, sort of. Plus it sounds patriotic and is pretty unique. But when I pitched it my editor write back with it badly misspelled and said it wasn't a good they'd spelled it Merrick Smelly or something. So I decided that might happen again and gave up my patriotic pseudonym.

  7. Mary, LOVED your post today! still laughing...

    Vince, you're a hoot!

    Tanya, isn't that the luck? Blogger's eaten so many of my comments, now I copy before I hit publish. It's been a bear to work with today. Thanks for sticking with it.

    Seriously, though, now that tax season is upon us, are there any tax implications with assuming a pen name?

    1. I don't know for sure, Dora, but I don't think there are any tax complications. You "do business as" the pen name but are still you. I think LOL. xoxox

    2. The pen name was strictly for the book. I got all my contracts and checks under my real name. No problem there. At some point in the process, the publish just says, "What name do you want on the book."
      And you tell them and they use it.

  8. I've always used a pen name. Choices of my birth, maiden and married name weren't lovely to the tongue--if they were pronounced or spelled correctly. I have lots of reasons for choosing starr, but the main reason for forgoing the capitals as much as possible is a love of e.e. cummings.

    And every starr needs a * :)


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