Pondering on Pen Names

By this point, most of you know I’m intending on finishing Resurrection and Stronger than the Night and submitting both this year. Hopefully I can have Resurrection in the mail by May. (Perhaps sooner, but I’m not going to hedge any bets on that, what with my health and all.)

This has gotten me thinking about pen names. When I very first started writing, I intended to publish under my legal name, Heidi Elizabeth Smith. My loathing for that name has grown over the years, though, and I’ve since instead used H. E. Smith.

However, I’ve been considering changing my name. At this point, what I’m leaning towards the most is Elisabeth Nonny Morgan, when my male and I are handfasted, married, or whatever we decide to do. If I change my name to that, I’d use it as either Elisabeth Morgan or Elisabeth N. Morgan. Which I like — it looks and sounds very elegant.

There’s other names I’ve considered using for pseuds at various points, but that’s not quite the dilemma I’m running into.

The other day, I found some old notes regarding the world setting for Resurrection. I’d forgotten that I’d connected it with the world for Stronger. Not directly — multiple worlds are connected by portals which powerful mages/shamans/etc can open. There’s a subplot in the book I had plotted involving the MC and a character from the vampire homeworld.

So… Stronger is fantasy/romance crossover. Resurrection and the rest of the books set on the Shifter World will be erotic romance. But they’re both set in the same universe. Do I use the same pseudonym for them, or different ones?

To make it even more complicated… I have an epic fantasy trilogy, Shadow’s Blade, that takes place in the distant past of the vampire homeworld. As in, thousands of years ago. I have another book plotted, A Cry For Elaine, that is set in the same world, about 500 years behind present day, which is fantasy/romance a la Jacqueline Carey. (And this isn’t counting books I have in other unconnected settings.)

So I have three, perhaps four, different classes of fiction all set in the same universe. Do I use the same name for all of them? Do I use different names per series / obvious setting? Like, use one for Stronger and the other books in that series, a different one for Shadow’s and A Cry For Elaine and other books, etc?

Should I use one for the stuff in that particular connected setting and use pseuds for other work? Or should I just give it all up and use one name for everything?

I really don’t know. I’ve heard from writers who span genres that it’s best to use pseudonyms, even if you’re open about them on your website and in author bios in the books. On the other hand, with so much connected, it might make more sense to write them under one name.

… help?

9 Replies to “Pondering on Pen Names”

  1. Nonny, write down the list of names you like, look them over carefully, and go with your instinct. Pick the one you could imagine on the tiny binding area of the book. (Not just the cover.) I like the name Nonny Morgan. I think it’s simple, elegant and just unusual enough to draw attention. It’s a very memorable name.

    I chose Cora Zane for it’s simplicity. Cora is actually short for Corrina. Could you imagine that on a book binding?! Most people can’t remember how to spell it, and half the time people mispronounce it. Not a good name for an author. So Cora it is. Simple is best.

  2. Nonny, I like the Elizabeth N. or Nonny Morgan. Cora is right, the latter is catchy. If the whole works is related, even minutely, I’d go with the same name. I’m using me as an example, so don’t take this as written in stone. When I’m looking for series work, I relate it by the name. If you change your pseudo, you may loose potential readers because they won’t know to associate the two series, even if they aren’t side by side related, a reader will want more by the author they like. Unless they research the book, and the characters, they won’t know the two names are the same author. >

  3. I agree. I actually like Nonny Morgan. It’s catchy, memorable, and hey, it immediately gives you something to talk about in an author interview, if nothing else! lol

    But go through the exercise is writing down names you like. I chose Amanda Brice as my pen name because Amanda is my real middle name and Brice is my husband’s middle name. I kept my own name when I got married and thought about using what would have been my married name, but husband came up with Amanda Brice by combining our middle names and I liked it.

    As for using multiple pen names, I might use two, but only because my two potential genres are so different. I’m writing chick lit under Amanda Brice and might use it for my YA, or I might use something totally different (Heather Holmes) simply because I use profanity and talk about sex in my chick lit and I don’t know if I want 12-year-olds finding it. I don’t know. I might use a juvenile sounding version of my adult pen name and call myself Mandi Brice. But if it was both adult stuff, then I’d use just one pen name.

  4. One thing to remember is you want to build a name for yourself. A lot more people are crossing various romance genres with the same name now days. I’d say go with the one you like the best (also think simplicity and spelling. people will have to look you up!) and go for it! Just my 2 cents.

  5. Ah…yes. Quite a dilemma there, Nonny. There are different ways you can go about this. If you were self-publishing them, you could go with different pen names. It’d be fun to make people think different authors are writing books for this world. Hey! I’ve got a twisted sense of humor. *lol*

    But if you want to do the sane thing, you might stick to one. One reason is that your stories might sell to the same publisher. If all the stories are romance, with perhaps one that’s a bit hotter than the rest, then one pen name sounds good.

    But if you’re going to have one erotic romance, a triology that’s pure fantasy, and others fantasy romance, well, quite ecclectic. There’s such thing as “branding,” (as Jordan Summers called it not long ago in her blog), which is a tricky thing. Sure, your readers will get a sense of you as writer under one name. But you’ll also have a label attached to it. It might not be so bad if all you write is romance. Whether is fantasy romance, or paranormal romance, or chick lit, it won’t affect your writing career. However, if you decide to jump genres, it’ll affect you. Many writers who used to write romances are now into contemporary. What’s happening? Their old readers are dropping them like flies. So now these writers must work hard to gain a new audience.

    In my own convulated way what I’m trying to say is that you have to make sure that if you decide to use one pen name, your romance readers might buy your pure fantasy books, and viceversa.

  6. Diana: Right. At the same point, it gets more complicated the more genres you’re in. I’ve seen writers’ fantasy books shelved with their romances and vice versa — which can screw you over if a romance reader gets something they don’t want, and vice versa.

    Silma: I’d intend on using the same name per publisher. But it’s not a question of fantasy romance vs erotic romance — while some of what I write could concievably be published under Luna or Tor Paranormals (which people seem to categorise into “romance crossover” even though Luna really isn’t), some of it’s not. I always have romantic subplots, but the romance isn’t always the driving force of the book.

    So, yeah … it’s all complicated.

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  8. Greetings, Nonny!

    I was Googling “Heidi Elizabeth Smith” and found this page. Are you the person who wrote Felines in Fantasy: Cliché or Clichéd? for Forward Motion back in 2002? From the domain name on my URL and e-mail you can guess why I wanted to contact you.

    I’ve been trying to define anthrofiction–not only as a word, but as a serious genre of fiction. I’ve got some ideas, and a small cadre of compatriots. I found your essay earlier tonight and wondered if you’d be willing to let me publish it to my website. Attribution, of course, and a link.

    ScottyDM

    PS: In my unfinished novel I’ve a minor villainess named Nonny Goddard. She isn’t human.

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