Pen Names and Other Problems

So my name is not Bluestocking. Did I just blow your mind?

Blogging under an alias is something I started for a variety of reasons, including the fact that:

  • I was unpublished.
  • I was uncomfortable with labeling myself a writer.
  • I wasn’t sure if this whole blogging thing was for me.

All those things made sense back in February 2010 when I first started the blog. But now:

  • I am slowing getting publishing credits.
  • I’m growing more comfortable calling myself a writer.
  • I’m still blogging – less as an experiment and more for a platform.

So having a blogging alias is not so necessary any more. But I’m still using it. Why? Well, as I was telling my CP Lori M. Lee the other day, it’s complicated, and it mostly comes down to what I write: historical romance and speculative fiction. Two very different genres, with different expectations and readerships. It’s not so bad as say picture books and erotica, but the gulf between the two is still there.

Despite whatever level of success I attain in either area, these are the genres I see myself writing in for the long haul. Considering the prevailing wisdom out there about author branding and platform-building, I should have an author persona for each genre I write in. Some people like Kristen Lamb predict that pen names will eventually go away in the digital era, but for now, like a lot of other things in publishing, pen names are still around.

Since I have three stories either published or forthcoming under my own name (and two of those are specfic), it makes sense to put out my historical romance (if I ever do) under a pen name:

Historical Romances —> Pen name
Speculative Fiction —> Real name

So now the question is where does my blog fit in?

Now occasionally I will talk about my historical romance or my speculative projects on the blog, but to me, these distinctions don’t really matter since ultimately this is a blog about writing and writing-related things (putting aside the whole writing blogs are bad argument).

I used to think I’d figure it all out when I had to. But when it comes to blogging or any social media presence, it is important to have a strategy. I want to know how I will handle my online presence now even though it’s rather self-indulgent to assume I’ll succeed in any genre let alone both. At the same time, I don’t want to make a wrong choice at this early start of my career, and have it haunt me later on down the line.

I don’t know. But after blogging for over a year and a half, after putting together so many posts I’m proud of, losing this blog or starting over isn’t appealing.

I don’t have any easy answers here. I’m still Bluestocking for now. We’ll see how long that lasts.

What are your own thoughts/concerns about the pen name debate? Here are some other resources for you to peruse if you are considering a pen name:

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7 thoughts on “Pen Names and Other Problems

  1. You know Elizabeth S. Craig's blog, right? She also has the pen name Riley Adams and maintains her blog wonderfully. Her pen names are both for mysteries (just for different publishers) but still, that shouldn't matter. I don't see why you can't keep “The Bluestocking Blog” as the name of your blog, but just have your real name on your profile. Then you can create another page for your pen name so people can see the other published works you have. Whatever you decide, it's definitely doable to maintain this blog with both your names!

  2. I got great advice from the always helpful Roni Loren and Jody Hedlund when I was considering coming out of the blogging closet last year. Their input convinced me without a doubt to go public with my real name. A real name lets people relate to you SOOO much better; like right now I feel odd addressing you – not sure what to call you, etc. And a picture lets people see you as a real, relatable person and not just a distant alias. That's just my opinion!

    I've seen most authors who write with pen names blog under their real name and just tell people what their penname is.

  3. eta: And you do dumb things like that when you have separate blogs >_>;;

    Great advice from Sophia and Laura. I always chose to remain anonymous in fandom while writing fanfiction so blogging under my real name was a scary thing. I'm sure it will feel that way as well at first 😀

    I like Laura's suggestion about the blog and penname page!

  4. Thanks, Laura! I do follow Elizabeth Craig and she is a great example of an established author managing pen names successfully. I'm not sure how much I want to emulate her though given where I'm at currently (ie, with only a few credits and no books).

    Sophia, I too recall reading Roni and Jody's posts about pen names, particularly Roni's decision to change the name on her blog when she landed an agent for her erotic romance. And yes, I do think the day is coming for the real name and headshot…but I think that's the scary part for me.

    Lori — Ha! I was wondering if that was you 😉 I think I would fail if I ended up having more than one blog/persona at a time to manage. I think I'm just going to have to go for it. Eventually. I keep saying one more credit, one more credit, to put it off. That's already getting awkward as I want to share my publications and new with my readers. Grr.

  5. I think what finally pushed me away from using a pen name (despite so many other authors out there with my name) was that it's out of your hands.

    Tahereh Mafi, who is the current author darling of YA, originally went under T.H. Mafi until for some reason she decided to no longer use a pen name. I think that reason probably was either her agent or her publisher asked. Not sure. So go with what's comfortable for you.

    If you're not ready, that's fine. There isn't a manhunt to unveil your identity (unless you've secretly been JK Rowling all this time!).

  6. Thanks, Steph! I definitely know there's no manhunt to ID me 🙂 But I often struggle with how disingenuous it is to blog anonymously, especially when my initial reasons for doing so are starting to erode…

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