Wednesday, November 28, 2012

#WWoW Pen Names Revisited...The Ugly Side

The very first post I did for our Writer's Words of Wisdom group was about using a pen name or not. In that article, I pretty much said the decision to use a pen name is a personal one and is made for a variety of reasons. Writing in different genres/subgenres was the biggest reason for me, but for others it was to keep their private life separate from their author life. Unfortunately, for a few authors, having a pen name hasn't given them the protection they desired.

This week, one of my author friends had her job security threatened by her employer. Apparently the employer isn't too keen on my friend's choice to write erotic romance.  As a writer of erotica and erotic romance myself, I know first hand the prejudice we face so it's no surprise my friend decided to go with another name to do her writing.  The shocker to all of us was that it wasn't enough to protect her from possibly losing her job.

Thankfully, I have an employer who is supportive of my writing as long as I keep it separate and not promote on work time or post my covers on the wall over my desk. Do a few of my long term client's know about my books? Yes they do and they are happy for me too. Unfortunately for my friend, she doesn't have those people in her corner. 

How can she or any other author protect themselves from this happening to them?  That's a tough one. Writer's these days have to not only crank out the books, they have to promote themselves and their work. This entails using social media like Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. It also means getting your own blog and website. I've talked about this before, but here's another twist. You have to do all of this using your pen name and DON'T promote any kind of link between it and your real name.

Yes, that's the exactly the opposite of what I'm doing right now, but I'm not surrounded by people in my "evil day job" who will complain to my bosses about what I do in my private life.  Other's are not so lucky in their work life or their family lives.

If you write subject matter that can be labeled offensive by your employer, fellow employees, church groups, school, family members, nosy neighbors, the PTA...well...keep your alter egos completely separate. Don't talk about what you write in front of these people. It's not worth the headache, getting kicked out of the social groups, or even losing your job.

There are a hell of a lot more people out there to introduce your alter ego to. So go ahead and create the social media accounts and blogs to promote and share your work. You will build a following and maybe even those folks who publicly ridicule you, will in fact be your biggest fans. That's where you get the last laugh!

Make sure you check out the other authors participating this week

A Smart & Savvy Group of Authors who write a weekly feature for their blog -Writer's Words of Wisdom- each Wednesday. The goal is to impart what we've learned about writing, editing, getting published, book promotion, and more along the way.


  1. I chose a pen name to differentiate the different subgenres I write in, but everyone knows I have a split personality. Frankly, it's a PITA! However, I also have writer friends who never show their pictures online and are desperately trying to keep their identities separate from their pen names because of day jobs.
    It's really sad that we still have to deal with small minded people.

  2. I know an author as well who was let go because of what she writes. Insane! I use a pen name and I think I've done well seperating my real name from it. I could be wrong. But mine is mainly for my families safety. You never know what weirdo is popping by your page.

    Great post!

  3. Here is a question for you wise souls who have been doing all of this a while...when you are a blogger, it is often good to be known by your name, not just your blog name so I have promoted myself and my blog a lot. I am writing and one day want to show it to the world. Suggestions on when (now?) and how to switch to a pen name? I appreciate your thoughts.


    1. Alyson,
      Do you want to keep your writing separate from your blogging? If not, you don't need a pen name. If you don't blog or write anything that would cause problems at your "evil day job" or with your family, then I don't see a need to have a pen name unless you are going to write in different genres. That's the only reason I have a total of three pen names now. I got remarried 6 months ago, so my last name is different than when I first started publishing. Well, now that I think about it, I'm known by 4 names now. LOL

      If you need to use a pen name, then start NOW with a separate blog/website, twitter and Facebook accounts. The time to promote your writing is now even before you are published. You want your pen name to get the recognition you have built as a blogger.

      Now if you want to have a pen name but not keep it secret from your blogger identity, then combine the two into one website, but it might be good to have separate twitter accounts and email addresses so you keep the different correspondence organized.

      I hope that answered your question. Ultimately it's up to you how you want to proceed with it all.

      Have fun with it no matter what you choose!

  4. Excellent post! I am appalled that people would be fired. wow! I am a middle school teacher, so right off, I decided it wouldn't be appropriate to share my writing with the school, students, community unless I wanted trouble. It's hard to hold back when it's a large part of who you are, though. Hopefully, I am keeping the two separated enough.

    This reminded me of a funny story. When I found out my first book was going to be published, I put an announcement on facebook on my personal page at the time. The next weekend at church, my pastor walked up to me and said he wanted to be one of the first to read my book. I smiled and thanked him, but then felt like the devil was looking up at me and laughing his head off. If only my pastor knew what I wrote, I think he would be careful what he wished for. LOL!

    1. Too many people look down on romance writers and especially erotic romance writers. I'm tired of being told I'm not a "real" author or that I write "smut." Seems to me there are too many jealous people out there taking it upon themselves to judge someone else instead of taking care of their own house and home. If it's not involving your day job at all, then they have no right to dictate what you can and can't write under a pen name.

      I pretty much dared my boss to find something wrong with my books. I don't talk about the veterinary hospitals I work for by name. Sure anyone could look me up and complain if they wish, but then I would have to go on the defense...and they wouldn't want to see me do that. I have several lawyer friends who would love to take on my case if I needed them.

      Others are not so lucky and my heart goes out to them. That's why I updated this topic. I wanted to show that even if you do everything you can to keep things separate, there can still be one jealous person who has to ruin it all for you.

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