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What's In A Name?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I'm using a pen name, a nom de plume, a pseudonym for publishing purposes. Everyone asks me why, so I thought I'd try to explore that with you today. Jillian Kent is a name I came up with after my awesome agent, Rachelle Gardner, asked, "Have you ever considered using a pen name?" With a smile on my face, I said, "You mean you don't think Jill Nutter will sell as many books as Jillian Kent?" I had to smile because I've worked in the mental health field for years and you can't imagine what adolescents on an in-patient psychiatric unit can do with a name like Nutter. Rachelle was being very professional and I was thinking how I would go about finding the right name for my writing career. It's neither as difficult or easy as it may seem.

This didn't surprise me or alarm me for I had considered it, but not seriously because I didn't have a contract yet. All of us have to take into consideration what our brand projects about us these days. Your name and my name are a big part of our brands. For instance, did you know: British Slang for Nutter is an insane person. And even though my first two books have insane asylums featured in them I didn't want to scare of any British readers with the last name of Nutter.:)  Kent, England is a place you might well find in a Regency set historical novel. My first name is Jill so expanding that to Jillian was a no brainer, especially since I have friends who call me Jillian.

Also, I work full-time as a counselor. I'm not concerned at all that my clients/students find out that I'm writing under a pseudonym (in fact the college newsletter is publishing an article about my writing journey) When I publish within the counseling world I will use the last name, Nutter. After all I've been a licensed Social Worker for 30 years.


Does the name enhance the genre you write in?

If you are writing speculative fiction and your name is Judy Romance you might want to consider a pen name. 

Do you write in another genre?

For instance, Nora Roberts writes romance, her paranormals are written under her pen name, J.D. Robb.

How unusual or common is your name?

If your name is difficult to pronounce or you just don't like it, you may want to consider a pen name. If your name is extremely common like Smith or Jones, you may want to choose a name that helps you stand out in the crowd.

Famous people who used or use pen names.
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)Photobucket

Richard Bachman (Stephen King)

A Lady Photobucket

Choosing a pen name can make you feel a bit bonkers, but it doesn't have to be that way.

Okay, who would you like to add to this list? What other reasons might a writer choose a pen name? Would you be angry if you discovered that a writer was using a pen name? If you are thinking of using a pen name for yourself, do you want to share your ideas?


  1. I like your nom de plume! I thought it sounded so British even before I read the article. Very interesting. And the house is gorgeous!

  2. Hi Margo,
    Thanks for visiting. Wish I lived in that house, wouldn't that be fun?! Glad you like the nom de plume, it took a while to figure out but I think it's perfect for me.
    Have a great day!

  3. Great article that helps explain the nom de plume concept.

    Hey, love having you at Spanning Seas & Secrets! Thanks for taking the time to drop by!


  4. Hi Patti,
    I love to visit as much as possible. But you know how crazy life gets. Visit anytime. Love your blog.

  5. Jillian,
    I finally found your blog on your new site (which I love by the way)!!!

    Anyway, I don't use a pen name but I did manage to sneak my maiden name into my WIP--I gave it to my female lead :)

    Christi Corbett

  6. Hi Christi!
    So glad you found me. I'm still working out a couple glitches here and there, but I love my new look. One of the fun things about writing is being able to do whatever you want, like using your maiden name in your WIP. Have fun! :)

  7. I was directed here by your comment on Rachel's blog. Your reasoning for changing to a pseudonym makes absolute sense. If you ever start writing zany gonzo fiction you should definitely go back to your real name.

    I have a very, very common name: Robert Lee Jackson--look in your phone book and I'm sure you'll see a few to many depending on where you are. Even the variations like Bob or Lee Jackson are fairly common and a Google search will show many individuals under these names.

    I began to recognize this back in the 70s when I was in college and began experimenting with names. I began using R. Lee Jackson. Eventually I changed it to Arlee.

    When I started an entertainment business in the 80s I decided to go under the name Arlee Bird and came up with a cute logo to match. When I began writing my blog last year I went back to using the Arlee Bird name and now any writing I do bears that name. My Google presence is growing under that name so I guess I'm keeping it until I hear otherwise.

    This is the first place I've made that admission in writing and I probably won't be really telling this story too many places unless circumstances warrent it.

    Pen names can be very practical to a writer and it doesn't bother me if they want to use a pen name. If I buy a book, I buy it to read what's between the covers and not what's on the cover.

    Tossing It Out