Friday, June 26, 2015

To Pen Name, or Not To Pen Name…

I recently had an interesting conversation with fellow authors in my area.  I was asked why I chose to go by a pen name: J. Lynn Else.  It’s a good question.  Why do we choose the names we do?  That is, if you do!

One of the authors said that when he sees initials in a name, he felt it looked very scholarly.  He felt initials gave off an air of knowledge.  That, of course, made me smile.  Of course it’s because I’m so smart!

I actually wanted to go by a pen name because, well, Jessica is not all that exciting a name.  As one of the 2 most popular first names in the 1970s, I’ve heard it a lot.  I was always surrounded by either Jennifers or Jessicas.  So I wanted to pick something that stood out, like I want my writing to stand out.

I actually called upon my friends on Facebook and asked their opinion on a number of possible pen names with various forms of initialed or non-initialed aliases.  There were J.L. possibilities, Jessica Lynn possibilities, and then choices of maiden or married name.  In the end, J. Lynn Else was one of the choices with most votes.  But most importantly, it was also the name I felt most drawn to.  It felt right – like the way I wanted to be represented.  Getting feedback certainly helped, but the end choice was mine. 

So what’s in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  While a true sentiment, Juliet, for your Romeo; however, as an author, its one of the few things your readers will see on your book’s cover.  You get the title, your name, and a pretty picture.  It’s just one piece of a larger puzzle in your efforts to build an audience.  

So what name represents YOU?  Perhaps you have an awesome first name as unique as the style of clothes you wear.  Perhaps not.  But whatever you decide, its just one way readers view your book. 

That person sounds well-educated by their name.
That name is so classy!    
That name is so very ordinary.
That person sounds they come from a rich family in the Hamptons!

Obviously, I’m not option #4.  But I would not mind options #1 or #2.  

So…  to be, or not to be pen named?  That is the question. And what dreams may come once you’ve decided!

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