Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pen Names - Honesty, trust

Yep. That's my guilty pleasure on Sunday nights. Of course, it's a soon to be over pleasure since there's only one episode to go.

I don't know if any of you have been following the contest but it's been an interesting study of personality/responsibility/integrity this year. Early on, we had two contestants who 'helped' one contestant then tried to make out that she (Melissa) hadn't really prepared her dish because they'd done the work for her. Then another contestant, Debbie, had issues on several fronts -- purchasing ingredients for a team project and shorting one of her team members, giving another team member crappy ingredients to make a dessert, lying about what she did or didn't do. Well, a lot of people weren't happy with her about all that and she was booted off last night. By the way, the first two contestants who stretched the truth about their help, had also been removed from the competition.

On another front, I'm hearing that readers are turning down books by authors who have pen names that sound phony. It seems that this is another trust issue, ie if the author gives what sounds like a phony name, the readers don't trust the author.

In an era when we hear news stories about politicians and clergy being...shall we say, less than honest, these two examples of what seems to me to be the innate desire for honesty is refreshing. The 'bad' guys from the tv show get booted for dishonesty. Authors get spurned for not being honest or forthright.

Mind you, it isn't the fact that authors use pen names that is disliked. It's the 'sound' of the pen name itself that turns the reader off. I guess Stormy Waters for an author might not be good but would do fine for a tv weather man? Or Kitten Lovecraft would be great for a stripper but not an author?

Mmm. I wonder if genre makes a difference? I could see some erotica author using either name. If fact, I've made the acquaintance/read books by some very fine erotica authors with names that are similar. But their names don't seem to hamper their sales so maybe, if this pen name-trust thing is an issue, it's for genres like mainstream fiction or romance or even sci fi?

I think most of us authors try to create a pen name that is easy to remember and pronounce. It should inspire friendliness and embody - somehow - the author's genre. Most of all, it should be a promise to readers, a way to let them know what to expect from the author's work.

Do you remember way back when...there was a saying that a man was only as good as his name? It appears that an author, too, is only as good as his/her name. That's a whole lot of responsibility for a pen name, isn't it?

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