When I first started putting my name on screenplays, and manuscripts that I had finished I really hadn’t given much thought to a Pen Name. At the time I remember thinking, my name, is my pen name; later in discussion with friends on the subject, whether or not to use a pen name other than my own, I remember thinking to myself, really—what is the difference? I could see no logical reason at the time for hiding behind a pseudonym. I wanted people to know it was me, Hank Gray, who wrote what they had just read. In my mind I wanted to begin developing my own brand, the way it was suggested in a seminars, on writing, that I had attended.
Then one day I read about a female writer who was busy collecting rejection notices, just like me. Even though her science fiction relate manuscript was really good the male dominated field she was shooting for, and the publishing rep she was in communication with at that moment, which according the article made no attempt to hide their bias when it came to letting her know what they thought of a female science fiction writer. But like the title to an old faux country song, “I keep missing you baby, but my aim is getting better,” she didn’t give up or make any changes to her manuscript. Her confidence in herself and her story impressed me at a time when any encouragement and hope related to weathering manuscript rejections was welcomed.
Her story also held my interest because of her never-say-die-attitude and the way she repackaged herself, the next time, using a male pseudonym (pen name). She offered her finished manuscript again to some of the same publishers, and this time their reaction was different; her story was considered, then talked about and eventually she got an offer from a publisher, which by-the-way, she accepted. I remember focusing on the smaller picture like how would she do book signings, what would her publisher do when they found out, however, by the article about her I realized none of that mattered. She had been published, and her science fiction story ended up on book store shelves where it sold well.
I didn’t do any more research, about the women in the article, so her story ended there for me leaving me to realize that with a pen name change her book had finally made its way to her intended audience, the science fiction crowd, and was selling well so what would the publisher care? I had learned something about a pen name as well, that in some cases the use of an alternate pen name could helped you overcome a bias. Since that time I have learned of several other instances where a pen-name, other than your own, can be helpful to a writer. For example if you write text books, filled with facts not fiction, and intended to be used in school classrooms, your publisher might not take kindly to you branching out and writing on some other topic like comic books or fiction since textbooks are intended to be good at clouding science-fiction-theory with facts.
The way I see it is that with the use of a pen name, your writing diversity can still be allowed to flourish without causing my hypothetical textbook publisher, who might be heavily invested in your textbook pen name, to feel threatened by a science fiction or comic book writing deal that, hypothetically, might come your way. At least that’s my thinking, because I can see where an author, signed to one publisher, might run into some credibility trouble if they mix fact with fiction using the same pen name.
With the use of a pseudonym your writing talent can be expanded enough to bring in several streams of writing income, and that’s a good thing! More recently though I have thought of some more reasons why the use of your real name might not always be the best solution when it comes to a pen name, or a by-name, if you are writing articles; the internet and the twenty-four-hour-seven-day a week personal identification thieves lurking in just out of reach in cyber space.
A determined hacker or information thief just might be unstoppable when it comes to protecting your identity online but there are ways, with the use of a by-name, or pen name, that you can make their job, to rob you of your identification, a lot harder. And if there is one thing I learned from chatting with my writing buddies, each writer will have her or his own reason, and make their own choice when it comes to whether or not to use a pen name, it all comes down to what makes you feel the most comfortable.
There have been cases where even with the use of a pen name an intrepid thief was still able to go from the first page of an author’s new book, where he pen name was printed clearly just below her book title, to the second page where right there, next to the copyright symbol, was the author’s real name which lead to that author’s home address and let’s just say problems with a fan. It is possible to also copyright your work in a pseudonym, especially if it’s also your brand. Every author wants fans of their work but being in control of how some of those fans are able to communicate with you, or gain access to your personal information is worth thinking about. It pays to be mindful of the ways bad guys (the identity thief) work, especially when working and selling on the internet.
Being in control of the information about yourself that you share with your readers, and hopefully fans, is an important part of crafting your author identity and its way more fun when you control that personal information and not the other way around. On most manuscripts the name you place in the upper left hand portion of your manuscript front page is who they send the check to. So have fun using your real name, or one you selection as your writing “by-name/pen -name” to identify your work.
Have a book you’d like to market? Let me help, Hank Gray.