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Choosing a pseudonym - what makes an author's name click?

Discussion in 'Original Fiction Discussion' started by Zenzao, Apr 24, 2014.

  1. Zenzao

    Zenzao 500 Club King Prestige

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    This is something I've had on my mind for a couple of weeks now.

    Back when I sent in my contract to the first Anthology, I simply ran with my given name. Same with the second. I felt rather... diminished, shall we say, when I saw some of the other guys(C.M. Carter, Brian X. James, in particular, which sound fantastic). It reminded me of some of the big names in fiction - J.K. Rowling, J. R. R. Tolkien, George R. R. Martin, Robert Jordan, so on and so forth. While I have no doubt their writing prowess is the majority behind their successes, the name itself has to have helped - they roll off the tongue rather pleasingly.

    With the third Anthology looming, I've been wondering if I should change the name attached to my story from Brandon Bundy to something more... appealing. Two stigmas come to mind regarding my last name - a serial murderer, and an idiotic sitcom family. I plan to keep on writing and turn it into a profession one day in the coming decade. Do I really want to be tagged by that particular name? Am I complaining over nothing or should I really invest the time into coming up with a proper pseudonym from here out?
     
  2. Agayek

    Agayek The Chosen One

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    Personally, author names have never really stood out to me, unless it's an obvious pseudonym trying too hard to sound edgy or whatever. It's never affected my decision to look at, or not look at, a book. In my experience, as long as your name doesn't happen to be "Adolf Hitler" or whatever, cover art and the title is vastly more important than author name.
     
  3. Tinder

    Tinder Seventh Year

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    This is a joke, right?

    I think it even has a TvTropes page now.

    EDIT: Ok, I should probably address the topic seriously as well. There's nothing wrong with a decent psuedonym, especially if you don't really like your name, or you don't feel like it would look right on the cover of a book, but rather than pulling something out of your ass, I suggest working with elements you already have a connection to.

    So, for your first name/initials, you could use your middle name (if you have one), or perhaps a regional variant of your real first name/middle name. If you prefer initials you could go with your real first two initials (three is pushing it a little IMO, only Tolkein really pulls that off).

    Then for a surname have a think/look back through your family tree. Your mother's maiden name is a good start, go a generation further and you have three more surnames to pick from, one more and you have another four (unless you have amusingly rural near ancestors).

    Mix and match those two elements and I'm sure you can hit on something you like, without totally abandoning your own heritage.

    P.S. I actually found George R. R. Martin's name pretty off-putting. I know (now) that it's actually his real name but when I first saw it in a bookshop I assumed he was yet another third-rate hack pathetically ripping off Tolkein for a few sales.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2014
  4. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast Prestige DLP Supporter

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    The story behind "JK Rowling" is an interesting one. Her editor believed that boys (the target demographic) wouldn't want to read a book written by a woman, so they disguised her gender with initials. And "J Rowling" didn't look quite right, so they invented a middle name for her to get the nice sounding JK.
     
  5. Chime

    Chime Dark Lord

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    There's nothing wrong with a psuedonym but it should be picked such that enhances the work you're trying to publish. Like, if I were writing a realistic horror story, I might choose a psuedonym which closely aligns with the name of one of the major characters? I'd always had this silly idea too, of writing a cult-horror kind of book and having the author's name connect with the story in a scary way.

    Maybe I haven't thought about this too deeply... What's stopping someone from just using any psuedonym? Is it legal to publish a book with the author as 'George W. Bush' when you clearly aren't him? Maybe in the US it'd fly under the grounds of parody, but...
     
  6. Zenzao

    Zenzao 500 Club King Prestige

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    Fair enough, thank you.

    Yeah, I'd heard that before. Certainly interesting.

    I considered that, and this is one of the things behind why I asked. Thanks.

    To be fair, I've never seen an author with an X in their name before, so yes, I thought it stood out in a good way. Its certainly memorable, and I haven't opened Unbowed etc for months now.

    This was exactly what I'd been hoping for. I think my middle name might be stronger going forward with something else from my family tree. Thank you!
     
  7. Chime

    Chime Dark Lord

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    Maybe this is a little off the thread topic, but I've never had a chance to indulge in explaining my cult-horror story idea. Basically, what I wanted to do was write something amazingly "realistic" - a realistic horror in a similar vein of the Blair Witch project. I'd take this book, find an online publisher, make a few hundred copies out of my own pocket, then meander into bookstores and libraries and sneak a copy onto the shelves. Of course such an idea would not be profitable and there's a chance nobody would ever care or even read the story, but such a twisted idea seemed so wonderful in my mind. "This book was never published by anyone! How does it exist? Why does the book suddenly end? Why is the author's name so damning?" Someone who'd read it might say...

    To get more on topic, I don't think enough authors consider the "meta" of their book/fanfic.
     
  8. Perspicacity

    Perspicacity High Score: 3,994 Prestige DLP Supporter

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    I used to write under the pseudonym Brian James (selling several stories under the name) and then jbern pointed out that a YA fantasy novelist was publishing under the same and Amazon.com was getting us confused.

    The X was contextual for the story in the first antho, which was about a nuclear weapons designer at Los Alamos. X Directorate does nuclear weapons design at the Lab. Also, the chances of another Brian X. James writing in a similar genre are tiny, another bonus.

    In the end, it's no sillier than "Mark Twain," riverboat slang for "two fathoms" to denote a guy who worked as a boat pilot and whose signature work featured a rafting trip on the Mississippi.
     
  9. Lyrium

    Lyrium Sent Back to India

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    There's many reasons to use pseudonyms.

    There's already people with the the twitter handle, etc. for my real name, which seriously annoys me so I have to slightly change it to make it work.

    In terms of marketing that's a reason to use one. A name or variation of your name that the domain\twitter\etc is a available (but then you could also just do what John Green does : johngreenbooks.com).

    I only remember author names if I really really like what I read, and even then as time goes I remember the story\plot.

    Certain names also just have sound "feelings\colors kind of thing" that make them sound right or give a certain effect.

    R.L. Stine vs. Sara Shepard vs. Lemony Snicket
     
  10. Joe

    Joe The Reminiscent Exile Prestige DLP Supporter

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    I stuck with my own name purely for egotistical reasons. ;)

    Actually working on a series of spy thriller novels under the pseudonym Rick O'Shea (you get it? Because bullets ricochet... :awesome). First draft is with my agent. Should be good!
     
  11. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter

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    Rick O'Shea -- clever, well done then.

    If I ever get anything good enough to publish I intend to use my real name but with initials (I go by my initials most of the time anyway). I also have a tentative pseudonym selected in case I need to use a male name for whatever reason. Joe has inspired me to come up with something creative as an alternative female pseudonym.

    ...but seriously, 98% sure I'll just use my real name. I'm fortunate that it's a pretty good one in terms of how it sounds (at least imo). Edit: If I didn't think my name sounded decently alliterative or whatever I'd be more inclined to use a pseudonym.
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2014
  12. Doctor Whooves

    Doctor Whooves High Inquisitor

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    Despite my lack of writing talent, I do have excellent authorial intials: JRJR, so I can do a Tolkein and have three initials then my last name a la J. R. J. Rickman, or just a Rowling and have J. R. Rickman. Either way, I appear to have a winning combination of J's and R's, and I already go by one of my middle names in real life. I'm sorted.

    As an aside, I always really liked Lemony Snicket as a pseudonym.
     
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