Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thoughts on Pen Names

Pen names are in the air. Both Roni and Susan have been thinking about them too. And while I'm no expert--mine has been official for less than a week--I do have some thoughts.

First, however, I'd like to thank you for the thoughtful and supportive comments you gave when I announced I'd made the leap. I appreciate it. :)

Things to think about before switching to a pseudonym:

*It sounds obvious, but
pick a name you like. You'll be the one wearing it.

*Is it easy to remember and spell? Ideally, people will be looking for your books at bookstores and libraries, and they'll be wanting to recommend your books to their friends. Make it easy on them. (I realize there are plenty of super successful authors out there with complicated names; I'm just thinking if you're coming up with a new name anyway, why pick a tricky one?)

*Is the domain name available?

*Is there another author with that name? Google it. Even if you find writers, I'm guessing it's not a problem unless they're in your genre or a similar one. For instance, I found a Dawn Simon who is a poet and one who writes medical stuff. No big deal, right? (If it is, please break it to me gently.) Since I'm YA, I also did a search at the SCBWI Web site.

*Have you guys heard that when agents or editors Google our names, it's great if we can appear on the first page--or even better, in the top spot? With my new name, that will require some serious blogging, awards, books, and other positive Internet mentions. I'm totally open to TV appearances and movie cameos, but I'm not holding my breath on those. This was a con on my pro-con pen name list. It relates to the next point. Set your angst-ometers, because you might just pick up on a little bit...

*How many people on social networks have the name you're considering? This I failed to look into until after the fact. Imagine my surprise when I learned ONE HUNDRED FORTY-SEVEN people with my pen name have Facebook accounts. You know when your heart starts beating extra fast, you get really hot, and your blood feels like it's dividing like oil and water inside your veins? Yeah, that was me a couple nights ago. The fact that I could start my own small town populated solely by people named Dawn Simon was a wee bit unnerving. Not to mention creepy. (If any of you write Twilight Zoney stuff and you'd like to take that idea, I'm willing to play one of the townspeople if you'll plug my blog and help get me to the first page of Google. Hee! I
am kidding. I think.) Note to Scott Perkins: I'm feeling your pain. See, I met Scott at the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference, and he said there are Facebook groups of people who share his name.

*Go to a bookstore and find where your books will be shelved. Would the pen name bring you closer to eye level or farther away?

*Bounce it off someone in the industry--an agent, an editor, or a successful author.

I hope I don't sound negative--there's clearly a fun side to pen names, and I'm glad I'm trying out mine. After YA, my second love is MG, so I may end up using both names in the future. Who knows?

My point is, changing your writing name is a big deal, and you'll want to give it plenty of thought. That said, what
really matters in the big picture: our writing.

the coolest pen name in the world + a story that lacks = notaheckofalot

Do you have anything to add to my list of things to consider, any places where you disagree, or any other thoughts on pen names?


Natalie said...

I saw Dawn Simon on my comments this morning and it took me a minute to remember you had changed your name. I like it.

I think the google search and the domain name are the big ones. That's one of the main reasons I've stuck with Bahm (even though it's impossible for people to spell--most people spell it Baum. In fact I should probably register Baum too).

Deb@RGRamblings said...

I'm still doing a double take when I see Dawn Simon pop up, thank goodness we have pictures to go with our names! :)

I'll be going through this at some point in the future, I'm curious--How are you adjusting to the change. Are you comfortable with it yet?

The one thing I might add to the list--we could be missing out on sales from people in our past that would recognize our real names. On the other hand, they might not know our married names either...

Tamika: said...

I love the change Dawn Simon!

For me it doesn't really apply, my situation doesn't fall into any of the mentioned categories.

Dawn Simon said...

Natalie, I think you're right about the domain name and Google. Good idea to register Natalie Baum too. You could just hang onto it, or you could even have it point to your site.

Deb, the pictures do help. That's one thing I like about followers at blogs. :) Regarding the change, I'm adjusting. It's not a big deal, I guess, but I notice it/still feel aware of it. It's kind of fun. I like both names, so I'm really fine writing under either one.

Thanks, Tamika. :)

Dawn Simon said...

Natalie again, I wanted to mention that I like Bahm. It's short and original, and it sounds nice. Plus it's yours! I really don't think the spelling issue is a big deal. I may have put too much emphasis on it, being aware of how many times VanderMeer gets misspelled. If someone is coming up with a new name, though, I think it's something to consider.

Susan R. Mills said...

Great things to consider. And thanks for the shout out.

Sharon Mayhew said...

Have you looked at the book called The Baby Name Survey Book? It has modern names with the public's perspective of the person who goes with that name. I read somewhere that names with a ck in them are more fun to say.

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Dawn Simon sounds great to me!

I considered taking a pen name for privacy purposes, but people have told me before that they think my actual name is a perfect author name. So I decided to just go with the real thing. :-)

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

SOrry I'm just making it to this post. I must have missed it in my dashboard. Thanks for the mention.

This is a hard decision. I'm still deciding. The poll I did on my site was really close, especially for the last name. If I kept my real name, I'd be good to go. When I google Roni Griffin, I'm most of the page:facebook, linked in, my twitter account, and google profile. BUT, like I discussed on my blog, I don't necessarily want everyone knowing it's me since I write sexy romance. Such a dilemma.

Dawn Simon said...

Susan, you're welcome. :)

Sharon, I haven't heard of that book, but it sounds entertaining.

Rosslyn, I agree--it is a perfect author name!

Roni, it's great you have such an Internet presence! I totally understand what you're saying about the decision, though. I think if I were you, I'd keep doing what you're doing under Roni Griffin and have a few names in mind for the future/romance. Then you're set for YA with Roni Griffin; when you get an agent, he or she can help guide you with the romance pseudonym. I don't know, of course, but that's what I think I'd do.

Patti said...

I've never thought about a pen name to start. I've thought about doing it if I want to write in a different genre and like you I'd probably use my maiden name - Henry. It's recognizable, easy to spell and everything else you mentioned.