Pen Names and Pseudonyms

“Versatility is one of your outstanding traits.”

typewriter

One of my UCLA writing professors told me that it’s wise to be established in one genre before branching out. Like the rebel I am, I’ve decided to publish a cozy book (confession: my previous book was categorized as multicultural women’s fiction). My solution? Use a pen name.

Pseudonyms help readers to easily figure out what genre they’re buying. For example, J.K. Rowling first published her mysteries under the name of Robert Galbraith. However, after reading Toby Neal’s excellent post about changing names (and potentially losing readership), I’ve opted to use my initials (J.J. Chow) for my Asian-American mystery. It helps folks understand that I’m writing a different type of novel (and I can still use this website domain!).

What are your thoughts on pen names? Do you have any favorite authors who use them?

Also, I’m excited to be celebrating three years with Wordsmith Studio! These online writing friends helped me establish my blog, build an author platform, and encouraged me in my writing career.

 wordsmith year three

Foodie Friday: Fried Shrimp Ball
Foodie Friday First: Loganberry Pie

Comments

  1. If I wrote outside of my typical genre, I think I’d use a pen name. But if I was famous like JK Rowling or Stephen King, I don’t think I would. It seems their fans will read whatever they produce. I like your idea of keeping your last name but using initials instead of your first name. It’s still you, just presented differently. :)

  2. It’s interesting because I regularly think that I should have used my maiden name, much easier to remember and pronounce than my husband’s name. I am currently working on manuscripts that will be for adult readers and wonder if I should use the same name or not. For your mystery book I think it’s a good idea to have J.J. Chow. Saddly I also read that it helps to be perceived as a man or at least to keep your gender less visible. True or not, I don’t know. However, several female writers have opted for this option and since you mention the great J.K. Rowlings, I believe that’s what she did for her Harry Potter Series.
    In any case I’m looking forward to reading your cozy mystery soon, J.J. Chow.

    • Jennifer J. Chow says:

      I’ve heard the same thing about using “male” names for mysteries…or science fiction, thrillers, etc.

  3. I like J.J. Chow-sounds mysterious whenever someone uses initials. I’m using a pen name, which is my mom’s maiden name and my surname from marriage (well, my ex-married name). I’ve thought about whether I would use a different name for other genres and decided I’d use the same one.

    • Jennifer J. Chow says:

      I like the combo name, Mona–it’s like trying to piece together different identities. I’ve always wondered about how to navigate the maiden name/married name thing.

  4. Romelle Broas says:

    I use my married name for magazine pieces and my maiden name for my picture books. My love for creative writing started as a child, hence my maiden name. Writing NF for magazines is new for me so i use my married name which, to me, represents my new journey. I do like to keep my genres separate. Btw, I like JJ!

    • Jennifer J. Chow says:

      That’s interesting, Romelle. I also have a few pieces under my maiden name, but my novels are all under my married name.

  5. elissa field says:

    Jen, that sounds like a good approach. I usually write adult but have one manuscript I’ve been encouraged to revise as YA, so had gone through the same line of questioning. I like your idea to have a slight difference to your name without using a completely different name. For me, I’ve always written fiction in my maiden name (Field), but I use my married last name when I teach — I wondered about using that name for YA…. but I prefer your idea to keep the same last name, so there is more continuity in the fan base you create. I’m excited to see how it goes for you.

  6. I called my long time bicycle “Cleopatra”, but never considered giving my writing utensil a na…oh, wait, that’s not what you mean! Sorry, it’s 8am and I just woke up. :-D

    Everyone is different, I suppose, and reasons can vary, just as with actors in film & TV.

    My name is, especially the last name, can give folks fits, but it is unique to me so when I eventually get a book published (Yes, when, not if, as I am not giving up on the notion) I plan to keep it.

    As a writer of blogs, since 2002, however, I DO have several distinctive creative identities, 3 of which could lead me to use those names as the “author” or “co-author” of any books, just as several fellow pet bloggers have successfully done.

    Mr. Nikita (1998-2013), Elvira Mistress of Felinity and Sneakers the Texian Tuxedo are my cats and my creative muses for The Opinionated Pussycat (http://www.opinionatedpussycat.com)

    • Jennifer J. Chow says:

      Haha, Kiril! It’s nice having such a unique name because no one will mistake you for somebody else. (By the way, love the feline names!)

  7. I like the solution you came up with for a pen name, Jen.

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