~ By Jennifer Lohmann
One of the first decisions a writer has to make is what name will adorn the cover of that debut book. This is especially true now that you are expected to build a social networking presence BEFORE your first book comes out. You have to answer the question: pen name or real name?
I decided to write under my real name. I had a little (and by little, I mean tiny) name recognition from being RWA’s Librarian of the Year. My name is fairly easy to spell, the web address was available, Harlequin didn’t have any issues with it, and neither did the library I work for. Also, (confession time) I’m barely able to keep up my personal online social network. Wondering if I needed two Twitter accounts along with two Facebook pages was enough to keep me awake at night. Writing under my own name seemed like the way to go.
It’s been almost a year since my first book, Reservations for Two, came out. If you’re thinking about writing under your own name, here are my thoughts on it, so far.
I find I’m more careful than I would otherwise be in online discussions. Don’t make more of this than needs be, as I’m generally cautious before entering arguments. However, since My-Myself-&-I is the person saying things, I respond only after careful consideration. There’s no anonymity or pseudonym to hide behind and I have to own everything I say in a way I don’t think would be true if I were to say something under different name than what my mother calls me. Related, since author-me is also real-me, I don’t hide my politics. My Facebook fan page is (mostly) apolitical, but my Twitter feed is not. People can subscribe to my personal Facebook page and my profile picture makes my politics pretty clear (the image was chosen both because I believe in the cause and because I hoped when people searched my name on Facebook, they would pick the smiley author photo over the political statement—I don’t know if that has worked out or not).
I do worry about people knowing my real name and deciding to track me down because I’m an author and so make buckets of money (jokes on them!). While this is a legitimate concern, my badge at the county library has had my full name on it for years and that’s probably a bigger safety concern (if there is a concern to be had). Plus, as a librarian, I know just how easy it is to crack fake identities.
Writing under my own name encourages me to be cautious and thoughtful. While this might seem to counteract the previous statement, not having a pseudonym encourages me to be more me and less of a brand. More authentic, maybe, and who you interact with online will be more or less the same person you get in living person. Whether this is a good or a bad thing remains to be seen.
Many writers cannot write under their own name. They have unsupportive family members or a boss who would read a sexy scene and fire that “writer of smut.” Some authors are branching out into a new subgenre and don’t want to confuse their readers. Still (and this is where I veer off from experience and onto a soap box), I think the more of us writing under our real names, the better. Being open about our writing is a demonstration of how we have nothing to be ashamed of—and everything to be proud of. I think it’s one small way to help our beloved genre gain the legitimacy it deserves.
Do you write under your own name? If you’re unpublished, do you plan to write under your own name? Either way, what are your reasons? If you write under your own name, what has your experience been?
Jennifer Lohmann is a Rocky Mountain girl at heart, having grown up in southern Idaho and Salt Lake City. When she’s not writing or working as a public librarian, she wrangles two cats and a flock of backyard chickens. The dog is better behaved. She lives in Durham, North Carolina. Find her at jenniferlohmann.com, on Twitter as @iferlohmann, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/iferlohmann.