When to Use a Pen Name

Pen

Another question I’m sometimes asked is whether or not I write under my real name, or a pen name.  I actually write under both.

There are many reasons why authors sometimes choose to write under pen names.  These would include:

  • The author wishes to keep his or her privacy.
  • The author writes controversial or sensitive subject matter, such as erotica.
  • There is, by coincidence, another author who happens to have the same name, or a similar name.
  • The author as a name that is confusing, hard to pronounce, or has an unusual spelling.
  • The author writes in more than one genre, and wishes to build a separate brand for each.

The latter two were applicable to me.

When I wrote my first book, Anna’s Kitchen, I naively thought my legal name, Gayle Martin, was perhaps too common, so I included my maiden name, Homes, to make it unique. However, before I was married to Mr. Martin, I spent my life with both a first and a last name with unusual spellings. Gayle Homes. People were always getting my name wrong, thinking I was, “Gail Holmes,” and no, it didn’t exactly do wonders for my self-esteem, but I digress. Once Anna’s Kitchen was published, I soon realized that the troubles of the past were coming back to haunt me. The name, “Gayle Homes,” with or without the name, “Martin,” simply left too big of a margin for error for a keyword search, and had I not picked up the name, “Martin,” along my life’s journey, I would have used a pen name from the get-go. That said, we learn from our mistakes, so when I published Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, the first book in my Luke and Jenny series, I dropped the name, “Homes,” since I wasn’t using it anymore, and published it under the name, “Gayle Martin.” It worked, and I successfully built my brand as a children’s book author. Then came the next problem.

As much as I love my Luke and Jenny books, I’ve wanted to write more adult material, and to branch out into the romance genre. And while I’m not writing erotica, readers in this genre do expect some steamy, if not somewhat graphic, love scenes. This would present a real problem if, by chance, a youngster, or a parent, who was a Luke and Jenny fan, came along and bought my latest book, thinking it too was written for younger readers. So I created a pen name, Marina Martindale, which is simply a play on my middle name and my last name, and I’ll have to create a whole new brand. It’s fun, yet challenging at the same time, since “Marina” cannot ride on the coattails of Luke and Jenny. Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad.

Ultimately, it’s up to each author to decide whether or not to write under a pen name, and if you should opt to do so, I highly recommend coming up with one that’s easy to spell, easy to pronounce, and memorable.

My tip for the day.

GM

or is it

MM