I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a blog post about pen names for a while, but, to be honest, there’s not much I can say that hasn’t already been said somewhere else about them. I will say that, when I was trying to make myself feel better about using one for my cozy mysteries, I discovered that some people hate them vehemently, while others assume that writers who use them have something to hide. I’d like to set the record straight on why I use them, and start a whole ‘nother debate about one of my other pet peeves, indie authors who argue amongst themselves.
I never set out to write books, at least, not at first. When I wrote my first non-fiction book about saving money by ditching cable television, I sold a handful of copies and thought I was hot stuff for writing a book that was probably 10,000 words long, if that. I used my real name, or at least my initials and real surname, because I was convinced that I was on my way to building a career as an internet marketer.
Later, I used my real name, no initials, on my children’s books, but linked to all the non-fiction books as well on my Amazon author page. I didn’t even consider things like Googling my name to make sure that nothing embarrassing came up when I typed it in, but lo and behold, I later saw some topless model with the same name as me, and I just hoped that if my children’s books became a hit, no one would confuse the two of us. (Though, to be fair, I’d kill for her figure, lol!)
When I decided to try my hand at writing grownup fiction books, I knew I wanted a different image and name for my books, so I set about choosing a pen name. My pen name, Ruby Blaylock, is my mother’s maiden name, and Ruby was just a name I liked that sounded sweet and southern. My grandmother’s name was Shelby, and Ruby always reminded me of that, so that’s how I landed on that particular moniker.
I know some people want absolutely everything they write to be under their one, true name, but I plan on crossing several genres, and to me, that wouldn’t be good business. I mean, would you trust a children’s book author who also wrote steamy romance or gruesome horror stories? Well, you might, you cheeky thing, but others might not. To me, some instances just call for a pen name, but I can’t fathom why some people get so wound up about NOT using a pen name.
I’ve heard authors say things like, “It’s more trouble than it’s worth,” and “it’s cheating or lying to the readers.” Um, hello…it’s not. For many authors, writing isn’t our only day job, and if bosses or coworkers were to find out about our writing habits, we might be called out or even lose jobs because of it. (For the record, I don’t have another job. I also have very little money, but that’s neither here nor there, lol!)
It just annoys me when indie authors bicker among themselves about best practices, like “you’re not a real author if you’re using a pen name.” And it irks me to no end when indie authors try to undercut each other, complaining about the way they do things.
I have had several other writers comment to me that they don’t feel ebooks are “real” books. They are so mired in the myth of traditional publishing, even though they self-publish, that they convince themselves that ebooks are just not worth it. Let me tell you, they most certainly are.
While it’s probably the dream of every indie author to see their books gracing the shelves of places like Barnes & Noble, the reality is, unless you are really good and really lucky, it’s hard to get noticed by these big bookstores if you are an indie author. For those of us just starting out in our journey, writing and publishing ebooks offers us a chance to grow and hone our writing skills in front of a “live” audience, improving with every book that we write.
I do offer my books in paperback, because I’m a sucker for a physical book, but the majority of my sales (and many other indie authors’ sales) are in ebook format these days. Ebooks are great for so many reasons, but I’d never stand up and say people are foolish if they choose to publish only physical books as an independent author.
I’ve begun to realize that this post is a bit of a long rant, so I’ll wind it up. I just wanted to remind you, my fellow authors, that we need to stick together. We’re all in this together, this storytelling lark. And we should be helping and encouraging each other, not bickering like my kids over whether cats or dogs are better pets. (And while we’re at it, we should stop bickering about things like which religion, sex, race or social system is better, but that’s a whole ‘nother set of pet peeves for another post, lol!)
So, whether you publish paperbacks or ebooks, use a pen name or lay it all out for the world to see, I invite you to comment and share your own links to your work in the comments section below. Let’s support each other and slowly make the world a better place, one word at a time.