Monday, July 25, 2016

The Truth About Pen Names

I never seem to be in the loop when it comes to controversy and drama in the world of publishing, but I have noticed various people talking about author pen names, writer photos, and privacy.

So why do I write under a pen name?

When I started in this business back in 2004 I was writing erotic romance and I still had a day job. Erotic romance was not accepted as a genre as it is today. Plus I was an e-book author. Again, in those days we weren’t considered “real” writers. But that’s a whole other subject for another day.

I’m also a very private person and like to keep my work life and private life separate, mostly for the sake of my family. It took me over a decade of publishing and making a living at it to tell anyone outside of close family and friends what it is I do. When asked previously, I’d say contract work, which is true, just not the entire truth.

My writing is very important to me. It’s also intensely personal. I pour my heart and soul into my books. I didn’t want anyone to criticize or belittle what I was doing. So I kept it private. Once the work is out in the public  domain I have no control over what is said about it, but I can control what happens during the writing process. Also, mainstream publishing as well as a good chunk of the public do not hold romance authors in high esteem, regardless of their dedication to their craft and the high quality books being produced in the genre. This business is filled with rejection and criticism, which is why I didn't feel the need to open myself up for more.

But times have changed. What I write is now considered mainstream romance, spicy hot but still mainstream. E-books are not only accepted but they are the norm for many readers. There are many writers making a living as e-book authors. The popularity of the Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and other readers has opened up the publishing industry. It’s a brave new world out there.

So why not publish under my real name? Because I’ve spent almost a dozen years building up my pen name as a brand. If I used my “real” name I’d be starting all over again.

Besides, my pen name is me. It’s the name I’ve put on over 80 books. N.J. Walters is the woman who gets out of bed in the morning, sits in the corner of the living room after breakfast, and writes. And in the end, all that matters is that the books get written.

So if an author you love has a pen name what does it matter as long as you love the books. For some it’s a matter of privacy, not only for them but for their family. Other authors have multiple pen names because they write in various genres and don’t want readers to buy a book expecting one thing and getting another. Still other authors write so many books, the only way to get them all published in a timely manner is to use multiple pen names.

I don’t think most readers care one way or another. I know I don’t. As a reader, all I care about is getting the books I love by authors I enjoy. Doesn’t matter to me what name they choose to call themselves.


Sonia Forbus said...

Great explanation,and privacy is important as you can see on different sites some people are crazy. i'm with you on names. As long as i enjoy the books I read I don't care what name they go by.

Connie T said...

I don't care about pen names. I want to enjoy the book and whatever the author's name is doesn't take away from that. Even if you did start writing under your "real" name, I'd still think of you as N. J. Walters and I'd still buy your books because I love your stories!! ��

Mary Kirkland said...

That's very understandable. I can totally understand the privacy issues. I used to write articles for Yahoo Contributor Network. I wrote using my real name and so did a lot of other people. Some people ended up being stalked right to their house while other started getting hundreds of comments and emails and even hate mail to their real mailing addresses. If they had used a pen name that wouldn't have happened.

TK said...

A rose is a rose is a rose...and you have always been among the best as far as I'm concerned.

N.J.Walters said...

Thanks, Sonia. A lot of people do prefer to keep their privacy. Sometimes it's for the sake of their family.

Thank you, Connie T! I'm with you about pen names. As a reader, all I care is that I can get the books by the authors I love. And I'll always be N.J. Walters, even if at some point down the road I decide to publish under another name.

It's a wild world out there, Mary Kirkland. Privacy and safety is a big concern for a lot of people.

Ah, thank you, TK. (((hugs))

CYD BlackBrit said...

I am a Christian. I also love reading erotic romances. I've had a few brave souls suggest that I shouldn't read 'those' kind of books but I'll read what I like. If I was an author, I'd write the kind of things I love to read. So yes, I would be writing under a pen name.

N.J.Walters said...

That's another reason writers use a pen name, CYD. And a very good one.

Sabine said...

I agree with what you have written and I think pen names are great for those who want to keep their private and writing lives separated. One thing about pen names that really bugs me is authors who have multiple pen names. It's hard to keep track!

Fiona Archer said...

Whether you use a pen-name or not is nobody's business. Seriously. You have the right to your privacy, especially when authors get crazy-arse fans who think they "own" us to some degree and want to turn up at our houses, or places of work and "connect". There is the real consideration that some people would lose their "other" jobs is their secret super-power author identity was revealed. So again, all power to you, babe. <3

N.J.Walters said...

It can be hard to keep track, Sabine. Some authors have four or five pen names, for various reasons. I used to keep a journal with authors and book titles that I'd read in order to keep track.

N.J.Walters said...

Exactly, Fiona. There is a real safety consideration for some people, while others have to worry about day jobs. Every author has to do what is right for them. Maybe I'll step into the spotlight at some point, but I'm not quite there yet. :)