Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! I’ll be discussing career topics for the next several months. For writing craft topics, see the Labels list in the left sidebar as you scroll down the page or check out my handbook in e-book or print.
Your book is written, critiqued, and polished. You’ve begun researching your publishing options. You may have even started submitting and pitching.
Before that contract offer, you have to make another decision—to write under your real name or to choose one or more Pseudonyms. Some authors prefer a different pen name for each genre or sub-genre they write. Others stick to a single pen name.
Writers choose to have pseudonyms for a variety of reasons. Perhaps your non-writing or your spouse’s career would be adversely affected by using your real name. Maybe you want to protect your privacy. Do you write erotic and inspirational romance? Thrillers and children's picture books? Whatever your reasons, choose your pen name wisely.
Avoid choosing the name of a well-known author. Ignorance is not an excuse. Whether your intentions are above board or not, you risk people seeing you as trying to ride the coattails of another author. And, yes, some writers and publishers have used this method to get noticed and gain sales. Not only is it unethical, you may find yourself in a legal battle. At the very least, your peers will likely judge your choice tasteless and laughable.
Something else to keep in mind—pseudonyms and real names typically are not copyrighted. If you decide to use a common name, you’ll find many other authors with the same or similar names. Should everybody sue? Of course not. Use your best judgment in picking a pen name. Conduct a reasonable search on Google or another search engine to see if someone in your genre is using the name. Chances are you’ll find someone with the same first or last name or both. If a match appears for an unusual name (both first and last), I recommend going back to the drawing board.
Remember, you don’t own your first or last name. Names are simply part of language. If another author has the same or a similar name, she probably wasn’t aware of your pen name. Unless you’re a huge name in publishing, let it go. Rather than threatening legal recourse or bullying another author, recognize that your work will stand on its own. Use your brand to create uniqueness and interest. Spend your time writing instead of nursing your ego.
Above all, be professional.
Romance...With A Kick!