Friday, May 11, 2012

Branding: By Any Other Name

Should you write under your own name or select a pseudonym? If you do choose to go with a pen name, why? It can be personal, or it can be part of your marketing strategy.

 Making the choice is an age-old dilemma. The Bronte sisters, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, jointly published a volume of poetry in 1846 under the pseudonyms Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. One of the reported reasons for this decision was the concern that no one would buy the book as penned by women. A similar decision was faced by Mary Anne Evans who wrote under the pen name George Eliot around the same time as the Brontes. Some women did write under their own names, but were not taken seriously and it was assumed that they could only write lighthearted romances. Eliot wanted to be taken seriously as a novelist. Fortunately, that is not the case any longer. Or is it?

Many male authors who write romance novels will do so under a female name. The perception of the book-buying public is strongly biased in favor of women writing romance. This is a similar sentiment that is still going strong more than 100 years later.

The choice can depend on what you write, but not necessarily for reasons of gender bias. Some writers will choose to use their real name for one genre of writing and a pseudonym for another. This is basically what is known as branding in the marketing world. You choose one name to become synonymous with one product, in this case, books, short stories, essays, or even articles. Perhaps you  write mysteries under your own name, but you also write science fiction. To keep you mystery "brand" solid, so that readers everywhere associate your name only with mysteries, you then select a pen name for your science fiction work to give that body of work its own brand.

Another possibility is that you write somewhat graphically explicit books and stories. In such a case you may want to use a pseudonym for reasons of propriety. This may be to shield your children until they are old enough to understand. Or maybe you don't want other relatives weighing in judgmentally on how you are making a living.

When I was younger I toyed with using a pseudonym. I think that at that point I was just enchanted with the idea of being someone else. After several years and a very short stint being published as Skye Meredith, I decided that I wanted to just be me and be known by my real name. Then I chose to also use my middle name. As a child I was actually called Laurie Kay, like Mary Kay, but outside the family it never took. This has caused some unwanted opinions from some family members who thought I shouldn't use it, but I stuck to my guns. Somewhere along the lines I found a great reason for using my middle name. My mother's name is Dawson, a sept name for the Davidson clan in Scotland and I discovered that Kay is also a sept of Davidson. By using my middle name I honor both sides of my family, father and mother. A side benefit of this is that when people google my writing name, I am Laurie Kay Olson. I am the only Laurie Kay Olson with books on There are tons of Laurie Olsons out there. There is only one me. It is my brand as well.

I recently started writing as a paid blogger for a website. The people running the website liked my work well enough that they gave me a second beat to write. So they wanted me to come up with a pen name for the second beat to keep the beats separate as to what I am writing. So now I write animal news under my own name and under the name Kitty Devine to review cool animal-themed stuff. For this my pen name is purposely tongue-in-cheek due to the more lighthearted nature of the beat. Kitty probably won't live forever, but that's okay. It's a limited-time only brand.

No comments:

Post a Comment