Sunday, June 24, 2018

When to Use a Pen Name

Sometimes people ask me if I write under my real name, or a pen name. I actually write under both, and there are many reasons why authors choose to write under pen names.  
  • The author wishes to keep his or her privacy.
  • The author writes controversial or sensitive subject matter, such as erotica.
  • There is, by coincidence, another author with the same name, or a similar name.
  • The author has a name that is confusing, hard to pronounce, or with an unusual spelling.
  • The author writes in more than one genre, and wishes to build a separate brand for each.
The latter two were applicable to me.

When I wrote my first book, Anna's Kitchen, I naively thought my legal name, Gayle Martin, was perhaps too common, so I included my maiden name, Homes, to make it unique. However, before I was married to Mr. Martin, I spent my life having both a first and last name with unusual spellings. Gayle Homes. People were always getting my name wrong, thinking I was, "Gail Holmes," and no, it didn't exactly do wonders for my self-esteem either. Once Anna's Kitchen was published, I soon realized that the troubles of the past had come back to haunt me. The name, "Gayle Homes," with or without the name, "Martin," simply left too big of a margin for error for a keyword search, and had I not picked up the name, "Martin," along my life's journey, I would have used a pen name from the get-go. That said, we learn from our mistakes, so when I published Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, the first book in my Luke and Jenny series, I dropped the name, "Homes" and published it as, "Gayle Martin." It worked, and I successfully built my brand as a children's book author. Then came the next problem.

As much as I love my Luke and Jenny books, I wanted to branch out into the romance genre. And while I'm not writing erotica, readers in this genre do expect some steamy, if not somewhat graphic, love scenes. This would present a real problem if, by chance, a youngster, or a parent, who were Luke and Jenny fans, came along and bought my latest book, thinking it too was written for younger readers. So I created a pen name, Marina Martindale, which is simply a play on my middle name and last name, and created a whole new brand. It's been fun, yet challenging at the same time, since "Marina" cannot ride on the coattails of Luke and Jenny. Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad.

Ultimately, it's up to each author to decide whether or not to write under a pen name, and if you should opt to do so, I highly recommend coming up with one that's easy to spell, easy to pronounce, and memorable.


GM
or is it
MM?

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