You Call Me Al by Una Tiers

What’s in a Name?
In 1986, Paul Simon wrote You Can Call me Al. Writers often build a platform that includes a distinct name, known as Pen Names.
Pen names (nom de plume) have been used for centuries. Some create distinct identities to avoid confusion when an author writes both fiction and non-fiction or if an author writes in more than one genre. They can separate two parts of a career such as writing and editing, or fiction writing and law. One of the allures about a pen name is that it may keep people guessing about your identity and generate a little internet buzz.
Some authors write under a pseudonym for anonymity, to stand out with an unusual name or to avoid confusion with other authors who have similar names. Others write under a pen name to avoid repercussions much like the witness protection program. In the past, female authors wrote under gender neutral or male names or an initial to disguise their first name, all for the sake of acceptability.
At least one author has used two or more pen names to have multiple articles published in the same magazine issue. Another author writes under different names since he writes more than one novel a year and thinks people will not buy two books from the same author in one year.
Do you write smoldering erotica with heaving bosoms? Want the neighbors to know? Many writers use their legal name along with their pen name to maintain their followers and to bring in new ones with a name that is sculptured for fiction writing.
Pointers on selecting a pen name include using the early letters of the alphabet to and getting close in spelling to a famous author. Names that fit a genre are another point of pen names: Lana Loving, Amber Asp, Derk Alleys or Sky Cubes. Names at the start of the alphabet and those with one or two syllables seem to be preferred. Try the names out in the beta stage to see how they sound to friends and your writing group. Check existing website availability.
Places to find ideas for pen names include my favorite: obituaries and of course the internet. Once you have your pen name, start branding and use it in your website, social networking and book sites. You are working on a clean slate.
Famous writers with pen names include Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain); Jean Baptiste Poquelin (Moliere); Emily Bronte (Ellis Bell) and Esther Friedman (Ann Landers).
Discussion: If you are choosing a pen name, please tell us the two main reasons you did. Thank you.
A special thanks go out the authors in WriteMindsAuthors Group. They are a hardworking dedicated group.
Una Tiers is the pen name for an attorney in Chicago who writes about corruption in the courts. Her debut mystery, Judge vs Nuts has a female sleuth, Fiona Gavelle, and has been described as a humorcide, a traditional mystery, a cozy and a legal mystery.


9 thoughts on “You Call Me Al by Una Tiers

  1. I use a pseudonym for anonymity. My husband’s job is such that I don’t want to attract undo attention with my real name – which is very distinctive. I wouldn’t mind writing under my real name, but I can pretty much guarantee that there isn’t another with my name in the state – rather not, thanks.

  2. Una, probably not many. Though when my son had to go to traffic court, the young man ahead of him was standing up with his lawyer only to find out the police officer who gave him the ticket wasn’t in court because she’d had an emergency appendectomy. She asked for a continuance on those grounds. His lawyer said, “I would object.” The judge eyed him over her glasses. “You would object to the appendectomy?” Looking flustered, the lawyer replied, “No, ma’am. I object to the continuance.”

    I had to suppress a giggle – it was NOT easy!

  3. Great post, Una, thanks. Timely for me because I’ve switched genres and was debating whether to have a new pen name. My current pen name was my name before I got married. I used my former name as my pen name because I had a writing career spanning over 20 years, so when it came to my bio, it was simpler to use the name by which I’m known professionally.

  4. I have thought about using S. L. Kane or Lee Kane. One certainly could not tell my gender if I used one of these, which could be a good thing or it could be a bad thing. My initials are S. L. and my middle name is Lee. Kane is the last part of my maiden name. I currently write using my married name, Novelly.

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