Thursday, September 9, 2010

In Which She Ponders the Use of Pen Names

This is only my second blog post, but already I’m thinking about a pen name. Because after my first post, I Googled myself to see if this blog came up. It didn’t.

Almost all the links were for the other Kelly Andrews.

Not the one who is the head of the Green Party in Northern Ireland. I wouldn’t mind being confused with her. And not one of the 257 other women (and probably men) who share my name in the United States alone.

Kelly Andrews, the pr0n model.

I thought to choose your pr0n star name, you were supposed to take the name of your childhood pet and combine it with the first street you lived on. Turned out my real name was perfectly adequate.

I wouldn’t mind getting some extra traffic on the site from the other Kelly Andrews’s fans. This blog is new. We can't be picky about how readers find it.

But the problem goes the other way. Should I some day have future fans, they are likely to be middle-graders. And t0pl3ss photos on the search page aren’t a good way for a kid-lit writer to endear herself to parents, teachers, and librarians.

My agent tells me I shouldn’t worry about a pen name just yet. I should worry about writing books, she’ll worry about selling them, and then if I someday get a contract, we’ll think about a pen name. After all, writers potentially have longer careers than pr0n stars, so eventually my actual links may crowd hers right off the first page. And at the rate I write and this business moves, we have plenty of time.

But now I’m contemplating a change, maybe adding my husband’s name in combination, or using a made-up name. I like the sound of Kelly Andred, which is almost my name, but uses the old English word for “woods.” I came across it in The Children’s Book, which is a book about a children’s writer by my favorite grown-up author, A.S. Byatt.

It would make a great story to tell interviewers someday. Ah, someday.

Which makes me realize that my agent is probably right, as always. Thinking up pen names without a book contract is rather like filling up my notebook with doodles that read Kelly Andrews, NYT Bestselling Writer, or Kelly Andrews, Nobel Laureate – right next to where it says Mrs. Robert Pattinson. (Just kidding, silly. I would be Mrs. Taylor Lautner. )

It’s all just daydreaming. Which can be a writer's best friend, except when it's really procrastination.

But still, if I’m going to switch, might as well do it now. If I change later, I could end up confusing my tens of readers (although most of friends and family would probably figure it out).

What are your thoughts on pen names? Anybody famous (or infamous) have your name? What’s a good reason to write under an assumed name?

And in the spirit of writerly helpfulness, here is an article from Rachelle Gardner, who actually knows what she’s talking about:

Should I Use a Nom de Plume?


  1. OMG that's hilarious. Do a Google image search for Matthew Rush and you'll see why if I ever get published I'll have to use a pseudonym as well. It's quite funny actually.

  2. Haha Matthew! Our alternate selves probably hang out at adult conventions. The perils of a common name...

  3. LOL Matthew! Especially if you were going to write children's fiction.

    Great Post Kelly. You had me lol-ing.

  4. Wow- this must be a common problem! My name-twin (I'm sure I have several, but I mean the one I have the most competition from on Google) is a voice actress. I guess she wants to be a whole actress, so that's cool. One of us is going to have a lucky break after all our hard work. Is it wrong to hope it's me? :-)

    I had a pen name all picked out once, but a published author stole it! Stole it! I'm over it. My real name will do me just fine until the Nobel Laureates start rolling in.

    Great post, Kelly! We'll get writer-Kelly over-running those yucky search results in no time!

  5. Haha. Great post, Kelly.

    I have an alternative name to write/blog by, but it's only because my surname is so common here in the UK it's silly. lol.
    Although, I see it as an advantage having a pen name and a real name I can write under if I want to write a different genre later on :)

  6. I posted about this on my blog not too long ago. My name is insanely common, and when I Googled it a while back, a professional photographer came up, along with a singer, and once a *you know what* star from some other country came up in the search results too. So after much deliberation, I decided on choosing the pen name Snippy Snuffalupakins (Snip for short). Because really, who's going to be named that? Right?

  7. Great post. I use my maiden name for writing since my last name was very uncommon. It's funny all those years I hated it but now I'm happy to use it.:)

  8. Wow, these posts make it sound like pr0n stars are taking over the world. I like Kelly Andred. I think unusual is good! And you don't want it too long, because then it makes cover design tougher.

  9. I read recently about a writer who chose a pen name cuz she didn't want prospective employers Googling her and thinking that, because she's a writer, she wouldn't stay at her job if her books took off! I'd never heard that reason before.

  10. You know that myth that everyone has a doppelganger somewhere in the world? These days that person is likely to be an adult entertainment performer. Darn Internet!

  11. Tim, someone on AW got laid off from her job, partly with the rationalization that she had her writing career. And she hasn't even been published yet (but if you're reading this, friend, you WILL)!

  12. Another reason you need a pen name: the other Kelly Andrews' books will be fake, while yours will be real. ;)

    It seems almost de rigueur these days to write in more than one genre, and therefore, require more than one pen name. People adapt.

    I do like Kelly Andred, though. The front of the alphabet's supposed to be a plus.

  13. Try having Lola as your name!! I will definitely have to use my middle name or something. ;)

    Fun post. I needed a good laugh. :)


  14. I'm lucky in that my name is unlike most people's. When I google myself, I'm almost embarrassed. But I agree with you that if you're going to do it, now's a good time.

  15. Haha, Jan!

    Having a name that starts with A wasn't so great in school -- always sat in the front corner desk, first to give presentations -- but my books would be right there with the Andersons, Laurie and MT. Hmm, I think I feel a daydream coming on...

  16. I still find it hard to believe someone else has my name. I mean, how many weirdo parents with cruel intentions are there in the world?? ;)

    Love the pr0n jokes, Kelly. And I totally think you should use a pen name if you believe in one. Your work will not suffer for it one bit.

  17. That is so funny! And that You and Matthew have a similar problem. Coincidentally, I was at a concert last night and the guy in front of me proceeded to tell me that he had to do p0rn for three years to make money. I was OMGing behind my hand to my friend next to me. I also made it certain he saw my wedding ring so he wouldn't talk to me or get any ideas! Yikes!
    My husband's last name is pretty rare so thankfully I don't have an excon or adult moviestar namesake!!

  18. I've been wondering about pen names too. I want to use one because my name is just too common. I've actually wanted to change it since I was maybe 13 (I just don't think it fits me).

    I was going to just wait until I had an agent and discuss using a pen name then. The only problem is I'm starting a blog now and trying to build a platform (I want to start a website by the end of this year). Basically, I'm trying to get my name out there -- which agents suggest you do. But if I get my name out there and change it, it could cause problems later.

  19. My pen name should Stephanie Ross so please im only 14 so can some body buy my book its called
    "It's Only a Dream"


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