Just how important is a name? I’ve been thinking about pen names a lot lately, and whether I need another one, so I thought I’d chat about it a little today.
It’s a decision every author needs to make: to use their own name or to make one up. To stick to one, or have a whole load of pen names for the different things they write.
I’d known all along I wanted to use a pen name. But as with most things, I left deciding on the actual name right up until the last minute, and ended up frantically searching the internet.
There are a lot of names out there. I was drowning in names. In the end, purely to narrow my search, I decided to stick to the same initials. Then I dived in, picked a name, and was amazed to find it already existed on Amazon. And the next and the next. I finally came up with Nina Croft, short and sweet, with the added bonus that the domain name ninacroft.com was still up for grabs. And so Nina was born.
My reason for using a pen name was quite simple—I just didn’t think my real name sounded very authorly. But there are a lot of very good reasons for using a pseudonym.
One is a desire to keep your life as a writer separate from real life for whatever reasons. Maybe you don’t want your mother, daughter, boss, local church group… to know that you write really racy stories.
Another good reason is if you write across a number of genres and you want to keep them separate and not mislead your readers. Say Nora Roberts and JD Robb. This is particularly important if they are very disparate, say erotica and children’s stories.
Or to appeal to your particular audience. There are numerous male romance writers out there, and I’m betting the majority of them use a female pen name. From my experience women writers tend to go for being gender neutral rather than changing gender. For example JK Rowling (who believed boys might not want to read a book about a wizard written by a woman.) I’ve been considering writing something a little different for Nano this year, basically science fiction but without the romance. And I’m thinking of using NJ Croft (my middle name is Jane) to appeal to a wider audience but also to be familiar enough to tempt my romance readers to try something different.
And finally, how about to become somebody new…just because. Recently a member of another writing group posted that they were going to reinvent themselves. New name, new genre, leave the old self behind. And I thought how fabulous that we can become someone new. Sadly, I didn’t really do that with Nina Croft. She’s just Nicola Cleasby under another name. But maybe NJ Croft can be an astronaut or something wildly exciting.
So do you/will you use a pen name? If so, how did you come up with it and what are you hiding?