CircleLable.v2

Why You Should(n’t) Use A Pen Name: 5 Dumb Things

My name is actually Terry Maggert, and I made a conscious decision (a rare event, but still) to use that as my pen name. If you write, you might be faced with a similar decision as more people read your books, and I’ve assembled what I hope to be compelling reasons for the type of name you use when creating a brand. For me, even my brand has a brand. See?

  1. Necessity made you do it.  If you’re a youth minister who writes giraffe-based BDSM erotica, you may consider a pen name. (Note: I have dibs on Lance Goodthrust, and if you think I’m kidding, just watch me). First: congrats on finding your niche, you maniac, and secondly, your choice of a pen name is a defensive movement designed to protect your identity. Which brings me to my second point.
  2. There is no privacy. Occasionally, I meet some adorable writer who thinks that their life isn’t an open book. News flash– our lives are beyond open; they’re a commodity that’s  being sold. Make certain that you create two entirely different identities for your brand and your life if the two aren’t congruent. This goes down to the detail of social media (especially social media), because that’s where you’re going to build the most important part of your growth. Which brings me to my third point.
  3. Don’t Get Cute or Witty with Names. I refer to the social media handles you choose. I use Terry Maggert everywhere, and I do so despite having titles that range from Young Adult Fantasy to Zombie Erotica. (Seriously. It’s a product of my childhood. Leave me be.) People who like my books can always find me. You know who can’t find you? People looking for your name instead of Wordcrusher or PirateWench69 on twitter and Instagram. If you don’t use your real name, then you must build a brand name so that people can find you. Otherwise, you’re creating a barrier between you and your readers.
  4. Pen Names  Can Infer Genre. There’s an expectation within genre fans that their favorite authors, if choosing a pen name, will pick something that dovetails with the style of books they write. If you’re a romance author (and statistically, you might be), then Selenia D’Argent makes a lot more sense than Bill Shotzenburger, who might be a lovely person but has a name that belongs to a guy who manages a tire store. Like buying bananas, choose wisely when picking your name.
  5. Pick A New Variation. Look, we all want the money that big name authors have, but selecting a pen name that’s close to theirs isn’t just poor branding, it might anger fans. You know- those people who stand outside a book store at midnight because some author just released a playlist of things their characters did while suffering from the flu? Yeah, those people. They’re rabid, they’re loyal, and they will absolutely brand you a fraud if you try to rip off their beloved author by name-crowding.

That’s a general guideline and there are many good reasons for using a pen name (organization being one), but just as many reasons to be yourself. Remember– you are the brand, as much as your books, and you must protect that identity every day. Across the spectrum of social media and other interactions, your name will be with you when you break out.

So, pick a good one, or go with the one you’ve had since the start. It’s working so far, right?

Terry

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Cats make me weird(er).

We have somewhere between five and seventy cats. I don’t know the exact number, but it seems to fluctuate based on things like “holding a can of tuna” and “trying to write a book while using a laptop”.

Outwardly, I appear to be a dog person. We have five dogs. I love dogs. I talk to them in silly voices, or as a colleague when they appear to be listening. I run with them, nap with them, and have not gone to the bathroom by myself in nine years. (True Story)

But it’s my cats that really bring out the weird in me. Granted, I’m a writer, so that wasn’t exactly a difficult task.

(side note: every writer lives in fear of dying without clearing their web browser. we call it research, but in truth, it’s generally unhealthy fascinations with things as varied as skin conditions, hiding bodies, and why a tiger might only eat half of a person. stuff like that.)

So when we have yet another litter of rescued kittens, they begin to attach themselves to us like adorable parasitic floofs, worming their way into my daily routine with shocking speed. Naturally, I have my favorites, and naturally, some of the cats only tolerate me– after all, they’re cats. It’s what they do.

Which brings me to my recent conversation with my friend and book advisor, who is also a cat person and thus understands what life is like with miniature, disdainful lions who poop in proscribed locations throughout the house.

“Jess,” I said, not thinking that I might be weird, “I like to nibble my cat’s ears while he sits on my lap.”

There was no recriminating gasp or shock on her end of the phone call, merely, “OH MY GAHD I DO TOO.”

So, there’s at least two of us, thought I think other people will admit it once they know OTHER people are willing to come forward. It’s a circle of affirmation for Cat Nibblers, or whatever the inevitable meetings will be called.

And despite, the efforts of Sugar (he’s the white one, getting fed by my bride, The Cat Whisperer), I can now proudly announce that my tenth novel, Moonborn, is complete. I’ll share the cover soon, and more sample chapters as well.

Cat hair and all.