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Friday, January 29, 2010

Pen Name

Hello Fellow Writers! (post written in January 2010)

So I'm still waiting to hear back from both Ellora's Cave (my erotic romance "The Art Thief's Punishment" went past the initial editorial review and is being considered by the acquiring editors) and Silhouette Desire (they requested a partial based on my synopsis for "The Movie Star's Very Personal Assistant"), which is to be expected.

I've been working on another erotic romance called "Taste of Candy", which is targeted towards Ellora's Cave theme "Musical Madness". It's about a rock star and the woman named Candy who he falls in love with.

I decided that when I'm writing erotic romance, I will use the pen name "Shoshanna Evers". Not because I plan on being anonymous - I just don't think that my real name is particularly appropriate sounding for erotic romance. I also don't want future readers of my category type romances to accidentally pick up one of my erotica books and get surprised by the content! This way it will be easy for readers (ahem, future readers, that is) to know what sort of story of mine they are about to read.

UPDATE, 2014: Well, after 4 years of using the name Shoshanna Evers, I've been blessed to build up a following of awesome readers, and guess what? Readers are extremely smart. They don't need you to have a different name for different genres - there's plenty of crossover between readers who enjoy erotic romance, and readers who enjoy contemporary romance. The cover of the book, and the blurb are what tell the genre to the reader - so just make life easier on yourself, and use the same pen name across genres! Otherwise, you'll need to have two websites, two Twitter accounts, two Facebook pages, etc etc. Unless, of course, you're writing erotica, and say... inspirational Amish romance. Then maybe use two names. ;)

Look how different these titles and covers are, for example (one for an erotic romance, Punishing the Art Thief, which did end up selling to Ellora's Cave, (recently I got the rights back and re-released it!), and the other for a contemporary romance from Entangled Indulgence - The Tycoon's Convenient Bride...and Baby.


I don't need different author names because my readership already knows me as Shoshanna Evers. The different genres tell them what they need to know.

Back to 2010:

I found an interesting article by Michael Pollick entitled "Should a Writer Adopt a Pen Name?". Here is an excerpt, click here for the whole article.
PRO: Pseudonyms can increase an author's overall marketability. If you write action/adventure novels, you may want to adopt a name that is more suited to the genre. "Rivers of Blood" by 'Tank McThunder' may appeal more to the readers than "Rivers of Blood" by Murray Fishbinder. Not that there is anything intrinsically wrong with the Fishbinder name, but in a promotional sense you need to hook your readers from the beginning. Other pseudonyms may take on even more significance, such as "Trevanian" or "Phaedrus". As a marketing tool, a good pseudonym can boost sales and create enough positive buzz to give your 'name' some strong selling power.

CON: A poorly chosen pseudonym can hurt your chances of acceptance. As a beginning writer, you have very little leverage with publishers as it is, so you may not want to muddy the waters further by using a pretentious or gimmicky pen name. Insisting on a blatantly obvious pseudonym may make you a one or two hit wonder, but won't give you staying power. If your own name is reasonably marketable and your work is meant to be taken seriously, you should not resort to a meaningless pen name. Later in your career you may feel the need to use a pen name for works outside your established genre, but you need a name and reputation first.
PRO: Pseudonyms can make artistic statements for the author. Sometimes a writer takes on a subject that is highly controversial or threatens to expose secrets. Rather than remain anonymous or risk personal injury as the named author, you may want to use a pen name for protection. The pen name you choose may reflect some element of the controversy, or establish your credibility as an expert on the subject. "Secrets of the Emergency Room" by 'Dr. Dread' may sound like a gimmick, but it does establish that the author is a doctor and that his or her information may jeopardize careers. In a different vein, you may choose a pseudonym based on a character you enjoy from literature or history. A well-chosen pseudonym can add an air of mystery or intrigue.
CON: Pseudonyms can create 'identities' from which there is no escape. In the same way that an actor may be linked forever with a popular character, an author may be linked forever with the character created by a pseudonym. Some authors may create elaborate backstories to give dimension to their alter ego pseudonyms. In essence, the pseudonym's fantasy personality may overwhelm the actual writer's persona. Many authors who use pseudonyms discover that they must keep using that pseudonym long past its usefulness. Efforts to publish works under their real names may be met with rejection or reluctance. If you are comfortable with the idea of perpetuating a character that writes your books, then a pseudonym can work. If you are concerned that a gimmicky pen name will take away your future credibility, then don't use one.
Additional insight, from 2014: While I use a pen name, there is no false "persona" at all. I am my pen name, my pen name is me. Everything about me is real. I meet my readers at book signings. I don't hide myself. And, personally, I don't like what Pollick says about how you should use your own name "if your work is meant to be taken seriously."

Whatever. I write romance, and heck yeah I expect to be taken seriously! It seems Pollick thinks that pen name = silly name, like the aforementioned examples Tank McThunder or Dr. Dread. Not the case. You can just use your real first name or a nickname (unless you hate your first name, in which case, use your favorite name!), and pick a last name randomly that works well with your first name, or is your maiden name or something. I think pen names are essential for privacy. Think about it.

Back to 2010:

This week my focus will be on finishing the first draft of "Taste of Candy". I expect it to be between 10K and 15k words. (UPDATE: Taste of Candy sold to The Wild Rose Press, then I got the rights back when the contract ended, and I released it myself as a freebie! Enjoy!)

Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
Yours Truly,
Shoshanna Evers

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