To pen name or not to pen name?

03-biccristal2008-03-26As part of my decision to self-publish I also decided to retain my pen name of Jade Reyner primarily because I feel it runs off the tongue better than my actual name, AnnMarie Wyncoll.

Discussing this with a friend recently, she felt that I should keep my own name to allow the reader to identify with me as a person, rather than use a name for someone who does not actually exist. She went on to say that part of her loyalty to authors lies in being able to feel that she knows them in some small way and she did not feel that would be the case if a pen name was used. I guess knowing that the author is who they say they are allows the reader to build a connection with them which, if you are hoping for longevity as an author, must surely be critical?

I considered this and agreed that it is a valid point – after all, how confusing is it that I am known by my given name and yet I create a whole other persona to write under? – but countless authors and actors do it.

So, what are the pros and cons of a pen name?

Pros:*

  • It can enable you to write under a name that is more memorable or easier to spell than your given name, for example – hardly anyone spells my first name correctly. AnnMarie is not that unusual but the way that it is spelled with a capital ‘M’ in the middle and no space means that even my driving license has to be returned numerous times before it is correct. Similarly my surname of Wyncoll is challenging to spell and pronounce. Most people want to spell it ‘Wincoll’ and, depending on who you are talking to, it can be pronounced anything from ‘win-coll’ to ‘win-cool’ to ‘wine-coll’. Having spent my entire life spelling my first name out and since marriage my surname, I quite like the idea of having a simple name that doesn’t need any clarification.
  • If you are afraid that fans – good and bad – can track you down, then a pen name can help with this.
  • If you want to write in more than one genre then it can be beneficial to use different names – some names would not necessarily ‘fit’ if you are writing a heavy crime thriller and then a lighthearted romance.
  • Sometimes authors use pen names if they are writing for different publications in order to keep their work separate and to distinguish between the publications.

Cons:*

  • Using a pen name can be seen as a way to hide behind someone else. If you are not comfortable putting your own name to your work, then it may appear that you do not value it.
  • It can become confusing for the reader and the author alike. Should you, for example, have a social media presence in both your given name (AnnMarie Wyncoll) and your pen name (Jade Reyner)?
  • Having a ‘better’ pen name will not necessarily guarantee a more impressed readership. The quality of our writing should be what we are judged upon and not what name we publish under.

There are many more pros and cons but these are a snapshot of the dilemma that I now find myself in. I am proud of my work and am more than happy to put my name to it but, is a less catchy name that is tough to both pronounce and spell, going to be a stumbling block?

I thought I had this decision made but now, having spoken to my friend and looked into it some more, I think I am wavering. Should I just forget about the difficulties surrounding my given name and publish under it anyway?

AnnMarie Wyncoll or Jade Reyner?

What does anyone think?

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*Source: Should You Use a Pseudonym by Moira Allen

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14 thoughts on “To pen name or not to pen name?

  1. I have been using my real name all along. I am a real person who wants to help others see certain truths in this world and I must be “open kimono” to do it! Good luck with your book!

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  2. I have often contemplated using a pen name, something I suppose is still under consideration. Part of me wants to see my real name attached to my work and part of me has romanticised using an exotic pen name. Thank you for the post… has got me thinking 😉

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    • You are more than welcome and yes, it is definitely something to think about. I have been pondering it for a while and have now decided I will publish under my own name (I think!) but it hasn’t been an easy decision. Good luck with your choices 🙂

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  3. I use my own name, but I know a lot of people who use pen names. There are a variety of reasons, which usually come down to comfort. So many authors, actors, and musicians use alternate names, so I think it’s all about personal choice. Though, Pros 2 and 3 (fans and multiple genres) are very strong arguments for the concept.

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      • I never really thought about it. On one hand, it can be memorable. On the other, I always run into people who think it’s hard to pronounce or spell even though a child can do it phonetically. There is the benefit of not being mistaken for another author of the same or similar name, which is nice.

        A pen name was brought up when I started writing, but somebody pointed out a reason why it doesn’t work as well as it used to. Unless you put a lot of work into erasing your own Internet footprint, people will figure out you and the pen name are the same person. That kind of defeats the purpose of having an alternative identity in a way.

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  4. I was wondering why you have a pen name. To be honest, I really like your real name. Jade Reyner does indeed roll off the tongue but AnnMarie Wyncoll actually sounds rather authory (if that’s possible) and is very memorable.

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