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Authors' Forum => Writers' Cafe => Topic started by: JRTomlin on June 27, 2018, 11:59:43 am

Title: I do not consent to the current ToS which was modified without my consent
Post by: JRTomlin on June 27, 2018, 11:59:43 am
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Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: skylarker1 on June 27, 2018, 12:08:06 pm
Mark Twain is a pen name. George Eliot is a pen name. Louisa May Alcott used the pen name A.M. Barnard. Stephen King used the pen name Richard Bachman. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte used the pen names Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Alice 'Alli' Sheldon used the pen name James Tiptree Jr. Some people consider the practice of many women using initials, including myself and the rather better known Joanne Rowling, to be a form of pen name.

There have been accusations that using a pen name is always unethical but obviously I disagree. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using a pen name. Fraud on the other hand is wrong whether you use a pen name or not.

No argument here. I use a pen name to distinguish between my stories for adults and those of middle-grade age. I want readers to have some idea what to expect.

There are many other legitimate reasons for using a pen name. One of my friends is a professor who does not want her students distracted, knowing she's also writing romance novels.

Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Shane Lochlann Black on June 27, 2018, 12:09:59 pm
Pen names are important when your given name is both unpronounceable and unspell-able.   ;)
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Rob Martin on June 27, 2018, 12:11:34 pm
IMO, using a pen name is not unethical in the least. It's a long tradition that has spanned more time than the accumulated years of active board member. What is unethical is when you misrepresent yourself to your readers. There was a thread on here a while ago about a writer who used his female pen name to worm into the confidences of women on his facebook or some such.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Lydniz on June 27, 2018, 12:11:52 pm
I've never published under my real name and don't ever plan to.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: JWright on June 27, 2018, 12:14:30 pm
I haven't ever seen anyone say using a pen name is unethical, but if so I disagree, lol. 
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Cebelius on June 27, 2018, 12:15:25 pm
My use of a pen name was predicated on the fact that I want to write a variety of things over the course of my career and being eclectic isn't necessarily a blessing when it comes to keeping an audience happy.

It would also be silly to presume the audience of one genre wouldn't judge the audience of another for their tastes. NOT using pen names while diversifying across audiences would be akin to taking a poison pill.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: David VanDyke on June 27, 2018, 12:24:02 pm
Only a couple of people here on KBoards seem to disagree with the basic contention that a pen name mainly to obscure one's identity is fine.

There's a little more disagreement about using a pen name that implies fundamental differences between the real author and the persona. Using a stereotypically opposite-gender pen name is the usual example, in genres where one gender seems to have a marked advantage. A few more people seem to think that's unethical.

Most of us agree that actively using a persona to deceive others for specific gain (as opposed to merely avoiding disadvantage), e.g., catfishing, is unethical.





edited, PM if you have questions -- Ann

Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: unkownwriter on June 27, 2018, 12:50:32 pm
Quote
Most of us agree that actively using a persona to deceive others for specific gain (as opposed to merely avoiding disadvantage), e.g., catfishing, is unethical.


Edited this quote. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca (https://www.kboards.com/index.php?action=pm;sa=send;u=59615)

Yes.

I have a gender neutral/male pen name myself. It's tricky doing bios and stuff without coming right out and saying I'm actually spreading girl cooties all over some dude's SF, or without claiming to be a guy and saying guy stuff. But I'm not exactly hiding it. See below. I'm also not going around talking to men as if I were one, and then using what they say to me for whatever reason. That's just icky.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: WHDean on June 27, 2018, 12:54:20 pm
I can imagine people having ideological complaints against pen names, but I fail to see what the ethical reasons would be. A romance writer saddled with name like "Johnny Killstorm" will use "Samantha Davenport" as a pen name for roughly the same reason that a woman named "Samantha Davenport" writing military SF might use "Johnny Killstorm." The author's name is part of the aesthetic, much in the same way the MC's name is--it's pretty obvious why 007 is "James Bond" and not "Dewey Carbuncle." 

Pen names are good.

What JK Rowling did with Galbraith that kicked up a stink? Not good.

Author bios are "biographies" and most reasonable people (am I right?) think that bios are a nonfiction element of even a fiction book. Therefore, lies in biographies are fiction of the lying kind.

There's a very fine line between acceptable and unacceptable deception with something like that.

My preference? If you want to lie in a bio, then be upfront and tell me not to trust a word of it. In that case, I'd probably just laugh and move on, because the assumption becomes that you're telling me a lie and I'm in on the joke. Otherwise, it's just a joke at a reader's expense.

I do have a beef with phoney author bios too.  Rowling also came to mind.


Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: SomeoneElse on June 27, 2018, 01:16:20 pm
I have a pen name for a single non-fiction book. I think there are varying degrees of lies in bios (for the record, there are no lies in my pen name's bio - aside from the name.) If I write an anatomy guide and pretend I'm a doctor, that feels unethical. If I invent a cat or a significant other or a goldfish, then, not so much (unless of course my book is about cats, significant others, or goldfish.) It's the difference between making the pen name seem like a person and lying about your expertise on a subject.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: JWright on June 27, 2018, 01:17:38 pm
Yes.

I have a gender neutral/male pen name myself. It's tricky doing bios and stuff without coming right out and saying I'm actually spreading girl cooties all over some dude's SF, or without claiming to be a guy and saying guy stuff. But I'm not exactly hiding it. See below. I'm also not going around talking to men as if I were one, and then using what they say to me for whatever reason. That's just icky.

I like your bio and I think that's a good way to go about it.

I also like gender neutral names.  It actually fits me personally.  So when it doubt I could always go with initials, or a name like Kelly or Pat or something that could go with either gender.   I consider my name to be gender neutral and I don't ever use the legal more feminine version of it.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: JWright on June 27, 2018, 01:52:48 pm
If I found out a writer lied about having a cat and was using stock photos I wouldn't think it's the worse crime in the world, but I would much rather prefer to read and support honest authors, and the same is true with other artists and businesses.  I don't think it's necessary to lie to be successful, and I don't like being lied to no matter who it is or how big or small the lie is.  So if I find out someone is being dishonest then I'd rather find another writer's books to read.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: EJ Jurich on June 27, 2018, 03:40:06 pm
I wrote my first book using my real name. Considering the book is founded on 40 years of professional work, writing under my real name might have its merits. Folks who could connect my real name to my profession is such a small number that it really does not matter. Using my real name leaves me vulnerable to privacy invasion. I've recently seen my personal email posted in connection with my book, something I never associated with the book. Future books will be under a pseudonym.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: jb1111 on June 27, 2018, 06:07:06 pm
It's all part of the "brand", isn't it?

People choose pen names to promote their works. And they usually choose something that either is memorable or fits the target genre somehow.

I have no problem with the dudes taking on female pen names to write their romances. I don't do it (I don't write in that genre), but I don't care if they do it.

It must work as a tactic, or they wouldn't continue to do so. It's the same with the phony bios used. It's all part of the marketing, all part of the branding. If it didn't work, they wouldn't continue to do it.

Some of the other stuff mentioned here on KBoards -- male authors using female pen names and asking female readers to tell their secrets -- yeah, it looks creepy. But that goes above and beyond writing/branding/marketing.

Oh yeah, and to the OP: You left off George Orwell.  :)
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: unkownwriter on June 28, 2018, 04:18:51 am
I like your bio and I think that's a good way to go about it.

I also like gender neutral names.  It actually fits me personally.  So when it doubt I could always go with initials, or a name like Kelly or Pat or something that could go with either gender.   I consider my name to be gender neutral and I don't ever use the legal more feminine version of it.

Thank you! I thought long and hard about how I was going to present my "self" to the world, and decided it was best to tell the truth, but in such a was as to fit with the pen name persona. It just wouldn't feel right for me to claim to be something I'm not.

I know others don't feel the same, and if they want to "enlarge" their bios, then that's their choice. But keep it to the bio. Don't go around pretending to be gay/straight/white/POC/male/female or whatever it is and use people's trust to wring personal details from their lives. That's just nasty. Especially if you're going to use it to further your disguise and/or career.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Nic on June 28, 2018, 07:24:11 am
It's all part of the "brand", isn't it?

People choose pen names to promote their works. And they usually choose something that either is memorable or fits the target genre somehow.

I have no problem with the dudes taking on female pen names to write their romances. I don't do it (I don't write in that genre), but I don't care if they do it.

It must work as a tactic, or they wouldn't continue to do so. It's the same with the phony bios used. It's all part of the marketing, all part of the branding. If it didn't work, they wouldn't continue to do it.

Some of the other stuff mentioned here on KBoards -- male authors using female pen names and asking female readers to tell their secrets -- yeah, it looks creepy. But that goes above and beyond writing/branding/marketing.

It's rare, but I do agree with all that.

I draw the line at the same place, though I don't think it's just "a brand". Online personae have been existing ever since Arpanet.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: cecilia_writer on June 28, 2018, 09:47:10 am
I usually just say something like 'this is the mystery writing pen-name of a database manager from Edinburgh.' But my pen-name is one I invented for my first ever NaNoWriMo in 2006 and is silly enough not to work as an actual name.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: sandysocks on June 28, 2018, 01:55:31 pm
I'm actually pretty surprised at the amount of people I've seen say it's unethical to have a persona for a pen name. That pen name isn't a real person. That's not my real name. Why does it have to be me? It's not, after all!

I've found it helps me in my writing. Being able to get into this name's persona actually helps me. sandysocks is heckin' boring, people. But Sandra Sockenburg isn't. I just find I do all around better when I know it doesn't have to be little old me presenting my work to the world.

And honestly yeah, if I'm writing something dark, I'll use my sultry bond girl name. If I'm writing something interracial, I'll use my pen that's more fitting with that audience. If I'm writing something sweeter I'll use my nice, gentle, flowery name. It's what the reader expects! I'm going to write what I want, but I also have to tailor it so people will actually want to buy it! Like, art for arts sake is great but I have bills to pay and I have to market these books in a way that's going to make the target audience interested.

 I'm not e-begging for money on patreon or go-fund-me or whatever under these personas. I'm not taking anyone's experiences away and pretending they're my own in the real world or being anyone's champion or speaking from any authority. I just have stories to tell and at the end of the day they're going to have to be marketed correctly because every single piece of this is a fantasy that the reader wants to be a specific way. It's got to meet that criteria for them to buy your book.

I'm not going to spend countless hours crafting something and then stick a mismatched, ugly bow on top. That would be insanity.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Not any more on June 28, 2018, 06:08:22 pm
When a friend beta read my first book, which is pretty sexy, she said, "I'll never be able to look at you the same way again."

If people are going to equate the author with the content of the book, I think it's perfectly understandable that they don't want their co-workers, students, minister, or the people doing security checks to equate the author with the guy in accounting.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Cebelius on June 28, 2018, 06:12:42 pm
When a friend beta read my first book, which is pretty sexy, she said, "I'll never be able to look at you the same way again."

If people are going to equate the author with the content of the book, I think it's perfectly understandable that they don't want their co-workers, students, minister, or the people doing security checks to equate the author with the guy in accounting.

This exactly.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: KelliWolfe on June 28, 2018, 06:13:46 pm
I'm actually pretty surprised at the amount of people I've seen say it's unethical to have a persona for a pen name. That pen name isn't a real person. That's not my real name. Why does it have to be me? It's not, after all!

I've found it helps me in my writing. Being able to get into this name's persona actually helps me. sandysocks is heckin' boring, people. But Sandra Sockenburg isn't. I just find I do all around better when I know it doesn't have to be little old me presenting my work to the world.

And honestly yeah, if I'm writing something dark, I'll use my sultry bond girl name. If I'm writing something interracial, I'll use my pen that's more fitting with that audience. If I'm writing something sweeter I'll use my nice, gentle, flowery name. It's what the reader expects! I'm going to write what I want, but I also have to tailor it so people will actually want to buy it! Like, art for arts sake is great but I have bills to pay and I have to market these books in a way that's going to make the target audience interested.

 I'm not e-begging for money on patreon or go-fund-me or whatever under these personas. I'm not taking anyone's experiences away and pretending they're my own in the real world or being anyone's champion or speaking from any authority. I just have stories to tell and at the end of the day they're going to have to be marketed correctly because every single piece of this is a fantasy that the reader wants to be a specific way. It's got to meet that criteria for them to buy your book.

I'm not going to spend countless hours crafting something and then stick a mismatched, ugly bow on top. That would be insanity.
I am Kelli Wolfe/Olivia Blake, and we approve of this message.  ;D
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: OnlyTheGrotesqueKnow on June 28, 2018, 06:25:03 pm
When my best friend read my first book he called me up crying. He knew it was threaded with my personal stories, that the darkest parts of the story were blood dripped from the pages was birthed from my life. While I use a pen name it's just a slight change from my real name, using my middle name instead of my first.

I get why people use pen names. Marketing, anonymity, protection, they're all good reasons and I respect that. But for me it comes down to a simple thing, I don't write that way. What I write is what I've lived, its who I am, the things I bled for and the ideals I fight for. In life we are butchered by the world into mockeries of who we were meant to be, we spend our lives with misshapen hearts trying to get back to the purity that is our birth right. So caught up in fitting in or making a buck we miss out on being fully, truly, who we are. I just ... can't do that. I won't.

I had a friend say to me once 'business is business'. It's such a common saying that it sickens me. Business is people, it's lives lost, children going hungry, broken souls and homeless mothers. There is nothing that we do that isn't part of the world. What's the difference between a pen name and your real name, only the truth. I'm not calling anyone out, or even saying you're wrong, but for me ... its too high a price to pay. Telling my story as me is the point of it.

Writing has made me happy for the first time in my life. It healed what no one had ever been able to, reaching places that I'd walled off with scar tissue and hate. If I can't be honest about that ... then what am I going to be honest about?
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: DarkScribe on June 28, 2018, 09:49:53 pm
Mark Twain is a pen name. George Eliot is a pen name. Louisa May Alcott used the pen name A.M. Barnard. Stephen King used the pen name Richard Bachman. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte used the pen names Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Alice 'Alli' Sheldon used the pen name James Tiptree Jr. Some people consider the practice of many women using initials, including myself and the rather better known Joanne Rowling, to be a form of pen name.

There have been accusations that using a pen name is always unethical but obviously I disagree. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using a pen name. Fraud on the other hand is wrong whether you use a pen name or not.

Something that many people fail to realise is that the author's name on a book is as important as the cover, the title and the blurb. A difficult to recall or spell name will cost sales. A female name on a book aimed at male readers or a male name on one aimed at female readers likewise. It is all a part of making a sale. In a world where Islam is a part of regular negative headlines an Arab name will not sell as well as an Irish name. This shouldn't happen, and in an ideal world, wouldn't. We don't live in an ideal world and have to allow for biases if we want to maximise sales.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: KelliWolfe on June 28, 2018, 11:29:22 pm
I have mentioned before that I had a hard time forgiving a female author who writes M/M romances who for more than a decade presented herself a gay man. It waltzes right on the edge of unethical, but I don't think quite crossed over it. It wasn't the male part but the gay part that I hated.
I don't see how it's any more unethical than for a male to use a female pen to gain access to the vast majority of the M/F romance market. Either way you're presenting yourself as someone you're not in order to gain access to a market where readership bias might otherwise prevent your books from being read.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Nic on June 29, 2018, 12:03:17 am
I have mentioned before that I had a hard time forgiving a female author who writes M/M romances who for more than a decade presented herself a gay man. It waltzes right on the edge of unethical, but I don't think quite crossed over it. It wasn't the male part but the gay part that I hated.

If you are talking about who I believe you are talking, then they never stated that they were gay. No, failure of contradicting people who assume this, isn't a lie. Not even close to one.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Nic on June 29, 2018, 12:07:40 am
I don't see how it's any more unethical than for a male to use a female pen to gain access to the vast majority of the M/F romance market. Either way you're presenting yourself as someone you're not in order to gain access to a market where readership bias might otherwise prevent your books from being read.

Agreed. The whole hassle about pen names of the opposite gender or another sexuality is very hard to understand. That's like saying Robin Williams' movies have ceased to be watchable now that we know that he wasn't as funny inside as he pushed outside.  Williams' smiling facade is what sold his movies to the majority of people.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: jb1111 on June 29, 2018, 01:38:24 am
I don't see how it's any more unethical than for a male to use a female pen to gain access to the vast majority of the M/F romance market. Either way you're presenting yourself as someone you're not in order to gain access to a market where readership bias might otherwise prevent your books from being read.

If readership bias is the problem, why should authors be blamed for working with/around it?






Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Goulburn on June 29, 2018, 02:03:10 am
I simply liked to separate my private life from my public life. You don't always want to be asked questions about your creative work in a private life situation, or the reverse. I like using pen names, but make no secret, where it matters, that they are all me.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: DarkScribe on June 29, 2018, 02:13:53 am
I have mentioned before that I had a hard time forgiving a female author who writes M/M romances who for more than a decade presented herself a gay man. It waltzes right on the edge of unethical, but I don't think quite crossed over it. It wasn't the male part but the gay part that I hated.

I can see a woman who is attracted to men being emotionally/sexually similar to a man who is attracted to men. Physical mechanics aside, is there really a problem with the romantic/sexual aspects?
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: unkownwriter on June 29, 2018, 04:03:23 am
I think what it all comes down to is, what is the intent? The line from okay to icky is probably a fine one in most cases, might depend on the situation, and in the end comes down to personal opinion.

If you're not bothered by lying and using a persona to get intimate details of  stranger's personal life, and are prepared to take the heat when you're discovered, then continue on. If not, might be time to rethink the whole thing. That's pretty much the same with almost any situation. If it works for you, great, but if not, regroup.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: DonovanJeremiah on June 29, 2018, 04:40:56 am
I think what it all comes down to is, what is the intent? The line from okay to icky is probably a fine one in most cases, might depend on the situation, and in the end comes down to personal opinion.

How does one determine intent when looking at a pen name?

Usually, this conversation crops up after someone has been outed.

Yet I have seen how this whole debacle (not on kboards but out there in socialmedialandia) has managed to point accusatory fingers at people who simply use pen names for business or personal protection, accused of being dishonest and disingenuous and gross for having a pen name at all.

They try to choose names that point to obvious choices of pen names, and they're smeared.

They try to choose normal sounding names, and they're smeared.

Their business practices are called into question and they're accused of acting with ill-intent. They are immediately conflated with people who did use pen names for bad intent as if they all are doing it.

Do pen names need to carry a disclaimer?

"This is a pen name and is not intended to present as a real life person. This pen name was chosen specifically to appeal to the current segment of genre readers the writer wishes to write in. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental."

If you're not bothered by lying and using a persona to get intimate details of  stranger's personal life, and are prepared to take the heat when you're discovered, then continue on. If not, might be time to rethink the whole thing. That's pretty much the same with almost any situation. If it works for you, great, but if not, regroup.

Sadly, this sort of behavior is not solely in the purview of writers. It's also the risk we all take when interacting online. As people who engage in online social activity, seems to me we hold some self-accountability to be careful who we give our personal information to begin with.

What gets me is that when I first started on the internet, this was par for the course. Don't give people your real name or identifying information.  On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Internet,_nobody_knows_you%27re_a_dog)
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Talbot on June 29, 2018, 06:31:34 am
I'll always use a pen name, simply because several writers, a porn star, and a seafood restaurant chain share my real name. (Yikes. My poor name.) I gotta differentiate myself somehow.

Meanwhile, the experiences that shaped my writing are still mine, my style is still mine, the soul of the stories I'm telling are all mine, mine, mine, whether I use a pen name or not. It's called being practical. Anyone that says I'm 'hiding' or accuses me of dishonest wrongdoing is a ding dong.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: jb1111 on June 29, 2018, 07:04:51 am
Meanwhile, the experiences that shaped my writing are still mine, my style is still mine, the soul of the stories I'm telling are all mine, mine, mine, whether I use a pen name or not. It's called being practical. Anyone that says I'm 'hiding' or accuses me of dishonest wrongdoing is a ding dong.

I use a pen name, and I feel the same way as you expressed here. I also draw from my own experiences at times. A lot of what I write about comes from real life, mixed with total fiction and made up fantasy elements.

I don't think one using a pen name necessarily mean everything about that person is phony. Like anything, any field, it's a mixed bag. There are un-genuine people out in the world with real names.

I chose to use a pen name because of the genre I write in, plus I needed a name that was more memorable than my own. After all, you want people to remember the name of the author in case they have trouble finding your books using the regular search functions. A memorable name will make it easier for them to find your work in that case.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Not any more on June 29, 2018, 07:28:40 am
I'll always use a pen name, simply because several writers, a porn star, and a seafood restaurant chain share my real name. (Yikes. My poor name.) I gotta differentiate myself somehow.

Wow! You are the real Olive Garden?!? ;)
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: KelliWolfe on June 29, 2018, 11:29:34 am

Reverse discrimination is every bit as evil as discrimination. Trying to have it both ways is pure hypocrisy. As long as groups of readers are heavily biased against outsiders writing in "their" genres writers are going to adopt whatever personas they need to successfully write in the genres they love, just as women and PoC did back when science fiction was considered a playground for White Men Only, and men have done in romance since Mills&Boone first started. It simply isn't fair to blame the writers for a situation created by reader bias and prejudice which either shuts them out of the market completely or holds them up to an unfair higher standard in order to be even moderately successful. It's wrong when it's done to female science fiction writers, it's wrong when it's done to male M/F romance writers, it's wrong period. But the reality is that it exists, and writers are going to do what they have to do to get around it, as they have done ever since the invention of the novel.






edited, PM if you have questions -- removed content subsequently deleted-- Ann
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: JWright on June 29, 2018, 11:33:58 am
Reader bias?  Yes, as a lesbian I am much more likely to pick up a lesbian-themed book that is written by a lesbian than a straight person.  Why shouldn't I?

Someone profiting off a community when they get sit back and enjoy their heterosexual rights and pretend to be something they are not is not cool with me at all.

If a straight person writes a good book with LGBTQ characters I am all for it.  If someone wants to put up an author bio that doesn't claim sexual orientation in any way in lesbian romance go for it.

Obviously I don't get to dictate what others do, but yeah I think it's wrong to try and profit off a minority group that doesn't have the same rights and privileges that you do.  You get to make money but not have to  take both the bad and good that comes with being a member of that community.


Reverse discrimination is every bit as evil as discrimination. Trying to have it both ways is pure hypocrisy. As long as groups of readers are heavily biased against outsiders writing in "their" genres writers are going to adopt whatever personas they need to successfully write in the genres they love, just as women and PoC did back when science fiction was considered a playground for White Men Only, and men have done in romance since Mills&Boone first started. It simply isn't fair to blame the writers for a situation created by reader bias and prejudice which either shuts them out of the market completely or holds them up to an unfair higher standard in order to be even moderately successful. It's wrong when it's done to female science fiction writers, it's wrong when it's done to male M/F romance writers, it's wrong period. But the reality is that it exists, and writers are going to do what they have to do to get around it, as they have done ever since the invention of the novel.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: JWright on June 29, 2018, 12:24:47 pm
I don't know about the specific author ShelleyK mentioned but agree with everything in the post. 

I am white and I would never try to claim I was African American, Latina/Latino, Asian, Native American, or any other ethnicity other than being white or just not saying anything.  I think that would be totally wrong.  I have faced homophobia including being denied service and direct physical threats along with other things and now many of my civil rights are directly on the line, but I do not live my life as a person of color every day and face what they have to face.

I would never claim military service.  Have I ever faced the horrors of war directly or come home with PSTD or face other issues that veterans do?  No I haven't.

I wouldn't claim I was in a wheelchair or any other physical disability.  Do I know what it is like to not have use of my legs or face physical challenges every day of my life?  No I do not.

I don't know where people's life experiences and the things they face every day trumps trying to make money off of them by claiming you are like them when you really aren't to try to increase your sales in a niche that you think might be less crowded.

I don't think pen names are wrong at all but when you try to start profiting off of people who live lives that you do not by claiming to be like them I do think that is unethical.     


Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Queen Mab on June 29, 2018, 12:50:48 pm
I particularly love Josh Lanyon's writing, so I was disappointed when I found out, but I had suspected. Her writing has changed, too. It's darker now and less sexy. It's like she enjoys it less.

But what really got me was I remember being on a forum, I can't remember where, unfortunately, and one of Josh's female writer friends piped in to angrily say that she knew and could confirm JL was a man! I presume she knew she was lying. It was an unhealthy masquerade, in the end.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Ann in Arlington on June 29, 2018, 12:55:16 pm
some purely political commentary has been excised from the thread . . . .
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: R.U. Writing on June 29, 2018, 01:09:08 pm
We are talking about fiction, correct? If the entire book is make-believe, then why does it matter if the name is real?

Nonfiction, where the author's ethos is an integral part of the book's credibility, is a different story.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: AuthorX on June 29, 2018, 01:24:53 pm
I only write under one name nowadays, but if I ever have the urge to write under a pen name again, Iíll use whatever gender, race, and sexuality I want for my fictional pen. Iíll claim to have cats or dogs or like hunting when Iíve never shot a gun in my life.

If someone reads my book, loves it, and then suddenly changes their 5 star review to a 1 star because they find out *gasp* Iím not having sex with the people they thought I was and I havenít had a cat in years, then thatís their own personal demons they can deal with. Talk about first world problems... lol

I wouldnít ever lie about my background if I were writing non-fiction, because that can be seen as fraud. But when Iím writing fiction, I can be Dr. Suess, Dr. Suzette, or Dr. Whatever-I-Wanna be.

Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: GPB on June 29, 2018, 01:37:32 pm
I've had two novels and novella with a female protagonist in the urban fantasy category commercially published by a Harlequin imprint. My very well-known editor pretty much required a more gender-neutral pseudonym (I'm male). For them, it's just branding and marketing strategy. I still listed my legal name on the copyright page and in my author bio. Almost no one notices. I get referred to as "she" in online discussions all the time, though there's usually that one person who will inevitably chime in with "she's a he" if the discussion goes on long enough.

I think the vast majority of readers don't care, and another fraction is accepting of some ambiguity. If you construct a fictional biography to deceive the remaining fraction that does care that you're someone you're not, especially if that someone is part of a marginalized group, then I think you've crossed an ethical line. Not that crossing ethical lines is uncommon in marketing, of course.

I don't really judge people for their biases. I have some. I enjoy SFF written by men more often than I enjoy SFF written by women, and yet some of my favorite SFF authors are women. If Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden puts "Robin Hobb" on the cover of her excellent SFF novels to save me from my own biases, I should probably just thank her for it. If she'd constructed a whole fictional male persona and biography for "Robin Hobb," I'd feel differently about it.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: boba1823 on June 29, 2018, 03:31:48 pm
Those feelings of deception are not feelings I ever want to put any of my readers heads. But if that's okay with you, then I guess that's just who you are.

The trick is, don't let the readers find out that you've never had a cat  ;D

Really, though, if an author is going to go through the trouble of creating a fake persona to go along with a pseudonym - something I wholeheartedly endorse - it's kind of self-defeating to subsequently reveal to your readers that it's all fake.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: boba1823 on June 29, 2018, 03:58:27 pm
I'm sure it's not happening by choice. Most of the stories I've come across are similar to the Josh Lanyon story. It comes out, whether you want it to or not.

Things really don't just come out by magic though. Things come out when people let them out. Yeah, some people just aren't any good at keeping a secret I guess. But if someone is privacy minded to begin with, it's not really that hard to not let things come out.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: MyraScott on June 29, 2018, 05:10:04 pm
I'm actually pretty surprised at the amount of people I've seen say it's unethical to have a persona for a pen name.

Who are these people? Are they the ones with the straw man factory?  They are never around to speak up for themselves.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: NedMarcus on June 29, 2018, 05:32:56 pm

Nonfiction, where the author's ethos is an integral part of the book's credibility, is a different story.

I can't see why it would make any difference.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: NedMarcus on June 29, 2018, 05:36:35 pm
Who are these people? Are they the ones with the straw man factory?  They are never around to speak up for themselves.

They don't seem to be here, but I've seen heated discussions on FB about this in the past.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: R.U. Writing on June 29, 2018, 07:39:29 pm
I can't see why it would make any difference.

Uhh..cuz I'd prefer not to read a book about brain surgery written by a brick layer.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Hoop on June 29, 2018, 07:57:19 pm
I think what it all comes down to is, what is the intent?

No, that's not what it comes down to.

It's no one's business why an author uses a pen name.



Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca (https://www.kboards.com/index.php?action=pm;sa=send;u=59615)
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: DarkScribe on June 29, 2018, 10:59:31 pm
I think that was the issue with Lanyon. She created a fake gay male persona. You may not see any harm in it but when it came out it lost her a lot of fans. Considering the large number of women who write in that genre (for those who don't know, she is mainly known for M/M romantic mysteries), I find the pretense a bit puzzling. She was more hurt by being exposed as having lied than she would have been writing as a woman.

Maybe there is nothing wrong with creating a 'persona' for your pen name, but it's a good idea to be aware that fans can end up angry/offended when it is exposed.
I have a long term close association with a hetero guy who writes as a Lesbian and is very successful with his work. I have sometimes heard him mutter "They'd lynch me if they found out." He does have - and is very close to - a Lesbian sister.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Kwrite on June 30, 2018, 05:23:01 am
Wow. I guess I never thought this topic could be so controversial. I write under a pen name. I want my writing separate from my professional life. There are people at work that I don't want knowing that I write books. A Google of my real name brings up things in my professional life and I want my books separate from that. What I have not done is create a pen persona. When I post a picture of a cat on social media, it's my cat. My author bio is authentic to the real me. Not all of us using pen names do so with nefarious intentions.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Evenstar on June 30, 2018, 08:52:07 am
If I found out a writer lied about having a cat and was using stock photos I wouldn't think it's the worse crime in the world, but I would much rather prefer to read and support honest authors, and the same is true with other artists and businesses.  I don't think it's necessary to lie to be successful, and I don't like being lied to no matter who it is or how big or small the lie is.  So if I find out someone is being dishonest then I'd rather find another writer's books to read.

Hmm, I lie about my cat. The cat died and I didn't want to tell my readers because I have posted lots of pictures of my real cat with my books in the past and even written blog posts from his point of view. The cat lives on in my mind ... it doesn't feel dishonest, but I guess it is on the premise above?
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Sam B on June 30, 2018, 09:11:14 am
Hmm, I lie about my cat. The cat died and I didn't want to tell my readers because I have posted lots of pictures of my real cat with my books in the past and even written blog posts from his point of view. The cat lives on in my mind ... it doesn't feel dishonest, but I guess it is on the premise above?

Aww, that's so sad.

I think they're more talking about making up a cat, though, not failing to disclose a death.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Evenstar on June 30, 2018, 09:24:06 am
Uhh..cuz I'd prefer not to read a book about brain surgery written by a brick layer.

Maybe not if it was non-fiction. But in fiction... well, we make stuff up for a living!
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: KelliWolfe on June 30, 2018, 09:59:33 am
Personas are an attempt to have it both ways: Don't give anything away, but get to interact with people as if you're sharing lots of stuff.

I don't think pen names are unethical in the least. But author personas that are made up of fake facts are meant to deceive other people so that the author can get or maintain a market position for personal financial gain. There's just no reason for them to exist that doesn't hinge on deception for profit.

(I originally wrote so much more, but decided why bother. The people who do it aren't ever going to see the side of the people who feel deceived by it. It just doesn't mean anything to them.)
It's no more deception for profit than using a male pen name to write military sci-fi or a female pen name to write romance. Unless the author uses the pen/persona in some other way - to elicit information from readers they wouldn't otherwise give, to ask for donations, etc., there is no harm to the reader. You either enjoy the book you buy or you don't, same as it would be with any other writer's. It's just branding. Companies do this all the time - releasing products under a spin-off company or label with different branding and advertising so it will sell better.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Usedtoposthere on June 30, 2018, 10:14:57 am
It's no more deception for profit than using a male pen name to write military sci-fi or a female pen name to write romance. Unless the author uses the pen/persona in some other way - to elicit information from readers they wouldn't otherwise give, to ask for donations, etc., there is no harm to the reader. You either enjoy the book you buy or you don't, same as it would be with any other writer's. It's just branding. Companies do this all the time - releasing products under a spin-off company or label with different branding and advertising so it will sell better.
She's talking about personas, not pen names per se. Big, big difference.

My own test--would my readers care if they knew? Or, to go back to my gold standard--how would I feel if the truth were published in my hometown newspaper? If my kids knew? If my friends knew? If my mom knew?

Or, if you're just focused on profit, you can stick with, "would my readers care if they knew?" In romance, at least feel-good romance--you bet. They are interacting with you via your newsletter, via social media, because they feel a connection based on what you write. If I didn't actually have gardens, baby chicks, a sick sister, it would be a huge betrayal, because I write feel-good romance about honorable people. My characters would seem cynically created, and my readers would feel like rubes. They'd feel cheated and lied to. They have given me a wonderful career. What kind of ingrate would I be to betray them like that?

Everyone will choose for themselves. Perhaps if you write abuse romance, or thrillers of the more conspiratorial sort, your readers will be more cynical. Mine are looking for a cynicism-free zone, and so am I, so that's the path I follow. I know and they know that real life is full of liars. That's why I write books where good guys win.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: KelliWolfe on June 30, 2018, 10:35:40 am
It is definitely the interaction aspect that does it. But I cannot honestly think of one persona that isn't meant to interact with other people except for maybe Galbraith. And the fact that Galbraith claimed military experience set a lot of people off for reasons other than the interaction issue.
I personally keep my fan interactions to a minimum. I no longer post my email addresses, and I don't do FB or Twitter or anything like that. I have basic blogs set up for my pen names, but the only posts I do are for new releases, cover reveals, and other announcements of that sort. I do respond to comments on the blogs, but since they are public it keeps the topics mainly related to "When is the next book coming out" type questions. I *love* my fans, and I love it that they're excited about my books, but my books are fiction - they aren't *me* - and I don't feel the need to get involved on a more personal level. I write in genres that I like and I do my very best to write books that readers will like, and I don't really think I owe anyone more than that. YMMV, of course, but that's where I'm coming from with my viewpoint on this. I realize a lot of people operate very differently, and that's where the gray areas start cropping up.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: cecilia_writer on June 30, 2018, 10:36:05 am
I can't say it really bothers me if a man writes under a female pen-name etc. However as someone who uses a pen-name I definitely can't put on a different persona from my real one - I would be too afraid of making a mistake, like a spy behind enemy lines! (Not that the readers are my enemies by any means)
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: JWright on June 30, 2018, 10:50:35 am
KelliWolfe your last post to me sounds like a pen name not a made up persona.

I listened to a podcast not that long ago where a military science fiction writer had corresponded with one of his readers and named a character after him.  He later found out that the reader had passed away and had been bed ridden for several years and had actually mentioned the writer in his eulogy.

Two hard core ex-military men who had a genuine connection and where real human connection, along with the books, really did matter and make a difference to both of their lives.

I really wish people did not screw with readers. At least stop pretending and claiming that it doesn't matter. If it didn't matter then people wouldn't make up personas in the first place.  Making up a fake persona to make people think you are more like them or someone who they will emotionally relate to, elicit sympathy from, etc. is not the same thing as a pen name.   

It matters and you think it will make you more money.  Own it.


p.s. "Purely political" - heterosexual marriages are not in legal jeopardy so no reason to get ever get "political"- and yes it very much does relate to pen names and the topic of this thread when people blithely talk about how a-okay it is to masquerade as LGBTQ but they don't face the same consequences in real life.   I guess I'm not supposed to mention a real life political event that just happened and pretend we live in a bubble.  All I did was mention it.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: KelliWolfe on June 30, 2018, 11:00:28 am
She's talking about personas, not pen names per se. Big, big difference.
I know exactly what she's talking about, and saying that you have a cat or that you live on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in your bio is no more deceptive or harmful than creating a pen name of a different sex. It's branding. It doesn't cause any harm to the reader. Claiming to be a male in order to sell military sci-fi books doesn't harm the reader. Claiming to be a doctor or nutritionist in order to sell diet books could harm the reader, so there's a difference. But readers' personal feelings of bias, prejudice, or distaste are not our problem. Those are their issues to deal with, not ours. If those issues didn't exist, the vast majority of us wouldn't need to create pen names and personas to write under in the first place.

Of course pens and personas can be used in unethical ways. But as with anything else, it's the person behind them that's behaving unethically. It doesn't mean that there's anything inherently wrong with either.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Usedtoposthere on June 30, 2018, 11:11:52 am
I know exactly what she's talking about, and saying that you have a cat or that you live on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in your bio is no more deceptive or harmful than creating a pen name of a different sex. It's branding. It doesn't cause any harm to the reader. Claiming to be a male in order to sell military sci-fi books doesn't harm the reader. Claiming to be a doctor or nutritionist in order to sell diet books could harm the reader, so there's a difference. But readers' personal feelings of bias, prejudice, or distaste are not our problem. Those are their issues to deal with, not ours. If those issues didn't exist, the vast majority of us wouldn't need to create pen names and personas to write under in the first place.

Of course pens and personas can be used in unethical ways. But as with anything else, it's the person behind them that's behaving unethically. It doesn't mean that there's anything inherently wrong with either.
I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. I think lying and betrayal causes emotional harm, causes a person to trust less, to view the world more cynically. That's damaging. Sure, there's a scale. Pen names do not fall on that scale, even if they're pen names of the opposite sex (personally I would go gender-neutral, though, or initials, because I don't like lying even in that sense). Once you start interacting as that person, though--specifically leading a reader to believe you are male/female, you're lying.

I also think lying hurts the liar's soul, for that matter, but the people who are lied to matter more.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: boba1823 on June 30, 2018, 11:28:14 am
Here's the way I look at it:

My readers are my customers. The defining element of our relationship is that I create products, fictional books, that they purchase (and hopefully enjoy).

If I deceive them about my product, then I'm not behaving ethically. For fiction books, the potential for concern in this area is significantly lower than it is for many other products - particularly since readers can preview a decent portion of a book in advance, to ensure that it meets their expectations for quality and the like. There are some ways one might deceive readers about the book itself, of course: presenting a short story as if is a full-length novel (by manipulating the displayed page count), etc. These are things I wouldn't do, and don't think other people should do either.

As for the identity, background, personal history and so forth of the individual who wrote the book - these are not things that should matter. In an ideal world, a work of fiction would be judged on its own merits; readers would not reject a book because of the author's gender, race, sexual orientation, whatever. It isn't fair to judge a work of fiction based on such facts about the author - though that does not necessarily make it unreasonable, at least in our less-than-ideal world.

In any case, because a person cannot truly know anything about a work of fiction just by virtue of knowing various categories/groups in which the author fits, the author's persona is essentially irrelevant to the product itself. So I don't have any particular qualms about presenting readers with a fictionalized persona, especially when the persona is a good match with what readers are likely to expect - based on their prior experiences and/or personal biases - of an author who writes the kind of book that is in question.



Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: R.U. Writing on June 30, 2018, 01:21:01 pm
But in fiction... well, we make stuff up for a living!

Exactly.

When someone writes a work of fiction, they have NO obligation to get their facts right. They can describe CPR anyway they want to, mangle police procedure, or invent new traits for vampires. The readers will decide whether or not they want more realism in their fiction and purchase accordingly. Because the entire work of fiction is a lie, I see no problem if the name is a lie too.

In nonfiction, however, you are publishing under the assumption that you are a purveyor of "truth." A pen name to hide your identity is fine if you deal with delicate subject matter or whatever, but you darn better well have some experience in what you are writing about.

If you are a fiction or nonfiction author who befriends your readers and interacts with them on a personal level, then I think you have an obligation to be who you say you are, or else risk the consequences of being deceptive. I certainly wouldn't want my friends lying to me about who they are.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: OnlyTheGrotesqueKnow on June 30, 2018, 02:06:09 pm
If you believe lying is bad then it's a pretty simple equation.

Pen name = lie.

Everything else is just fluff. For me the fact is that I work damn hard at writing and I won't write something I'm ashamed of. I also won't lie to my customers, more than that I'm not going to lie to people. You know that's what customers are, right? People, brothers, lovers, sisters, mothers, etc, if you wouldn't lie to someone on the street than you probably shouldn't lie to someone about your art.

I don't get how that's difficult. No one likes being lied to, everyone feels that sense of betrayal when they're faced with the truth. And yet we think because it's business that it excuses the betrayal. Sorry, but life isn't that way. You still lied to them to make a buck. You betrayed the common bond that existed between you. You might have had good reasons but you still lied to get over them. Lying is always the easy answer, but it's rarely the right one.

Creating a persona is just an extension of that lie. Do you enjoy it when people make up stories about who they are? Are you a fan of online dating or forum's in general where it seems truth is the one thing no one is selling? Or do you hold yourself to a higher standard, one that believes what's right is worth doing?

For me I vote with my wallet. I don't buy books with obvious pen-name's. I don't feel that starting a relationship with a person who lies to me as hello is a good thing.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Kwrite on June 30, 2018, 02:14:32 pm
Well, you are entitled to your opinion. I'm sorry it's so harsh since there are valid reasons to write under a pen name. (Note: I didn't say make up a fake persona to go along with that pen name.)
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: DarkScribe on June 30, 2018, 03:43:10 pm
If you believe lying is bad then it's a pretty simple equation.

Pen name = lie.

Everything else is just fluff. For me the fact is that I work damn hard at writing and I won't write something I'm ashamed of. I also won't lie to my customers, more than that I'm not going to lie to people. You know that's what customers are, right? People, brothers, lovers, sisters, mothers, etc, if you wouldn't lie to someone on the street than you probably shouldn't lie to someone about your art.

I don't get how that's difficult. No one likes being lied to, everyone feels that sense of betrayal when they're faced with the truth. And yet we think because it's business that it excuses the betrayal. Sorry, but life isn't that way. You still lied to them to make a buck. You betrayed the common bond that existed between you. You might have had good reasons but you still lied to get over them. Lying is always the easy answer, but it's rarely the right one.

Creating a persona is just an extension of that lie. Do you enjoy it when people make up stories about who they are? Are you a fan of online dating or forum's in general where it seems truth is the one thing no one is selling? Or do you hold yourself to a higher standard, one that believes what's right is worth doing?

For me I vote with my wallet. I don't buy books with obvious pen-name's. I don't feel that starting a relationship with a person who lies to me as hello is a good thing.

A pen name is NOT a lie. It is a writer's tool. One of many.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: GPB on June 30, 2018, 03:43:17 pm
Claiming to be a male in order to sell military sci-fi books doesn't harm the reader.

A male pseudonym is fine, and to some extent it constitutes "claiming to be male." On the other hand, creating the persona/bio of a combat veteran in order to sell military sci-fi books is disgusting (IMO). It's stolen valor. Likewise if you create the persona of a member of a marginalized group in order to sell books that would be informed by that experience to readers who live that experience (LGBTQ, POC, etc.).
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Ava Glass on June 30, 2018, 04:30:33 pm
I'm actually pretty surprised at the amount of people I've seen say it's unethical to have a persona for a pen name.

Who are these people? Are they the ones with the straw man factory?  They are never around to speak up for themselves.

I have to wonder if MyraScott didn't see "persona" in sandysocks' post. Plenty of people have issues with fake personas.

However, I do know that many straw men get put through a game of telephone and turn into "Kboards hates x" repeated as fact.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: DarkScribe on June 30, 2018, 05:03:21 pm
KelliWolfe your last post to me sounds like a pen name not a made up persona.

I listened to a podcast not that long ago where a military science fiction writer had corresponded with one of his readers and named a character after him.  He later found out that the reader had passed away and had been bed ridden for several years and had actually mentioned the writer in his eulogy.

Two hard core ex-military men who had a genuine connection and where real human connection, along with the books, really did matter and make a difference to both of their lives.

I really wish people did not screw with readers. At least stop pretending and claiming that it doesn't matter. If it didn't matter then people wouldn't make up personas in the first place.  Making up a fake persona to make people think you are more like them or someone who they will emotionally relate to, elicit sympathy from, etc. is not the same thing as a pen name.   

No, false claims re background and pen names are not the same. Currently there is one writer (no names mentioned) who claims to be trial lawyer and writes books with a trial lawyer as his protagonist. It becomes very quickly apparent that he is not a lawyer and has no real clue about law or courtroom procedure. This irritates me. (I'm not a lawyer either, but my early Journalism career involved several years with Police and Courts.) If a false bio didn't intrude into the writer's work - I would have no idea and no objection.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: OnlyTheGrotesqueKnow on June 30, 2018, 05:43:48 pm
A pen name is NOT a lie. It is a writer's tool. One of many.

Ummm... yes it is. By definition. It might also be a tool but it is still a lie. Don't mean to be confrontational but if you say your name is something it's not, then you are lying. If you engage in a deception that mischaracterizes a subject, then you are lying. The one way you might get around this is to announce that you are in fact not using your real name and that this is a pen name. In which case, I as a reader can chose another book.

We can talk about good lies vs bad lies and whether we believe lying is justified. These are all worthy subjects but the basis of that conversation is what lying is and is not. Until we agree on that we don't really have anything to talk about.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: MyraScott on June 30, 2018, 06:49:09 pm
Ummm... yes it is. By definition. It might also be a tool but it is still a lie. Don't mean to be confrontational but if you say your name is something it's not, then you are lying.

It's interesting logic.  Do you also not listen to music by anyone who uses a stage name?   I suspect Mr and Mrs Gaga didn't name their little girl Lady. 

Although I did hear Sir Mix-a-lot inherited his knighthood...
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: OnlyTheGrotesqueKnow on June 30, 2018, 06:59:59 pm
It's interesting logic.  Do you also not listen to music by anyone who uses a stage name?   I suspect Mr and Mrs Gaga didn't name their little girl Lady. 

Although I did hear Sir Mix-a-lot inherited his knighthood...

That's actually an interesting point. Granted it's put forward as a way to detract from the actual topic and doesn't even remotely address my logic but still a fun tangent. I would put forward that the art forms are different. Singing is far more a performance art than writing. We expect singers to be larger than life and to dazzle us, after all they are the modern gods we live and die by.

Although the definition still holds, they are lying about their names. However this is deception without teeth as no one thinks those names are real. A far cry from authors trying to gain acceptance into groups they wouldn't' have access or those looking to hide from their own works.

If you were wanting to extend my logical argument it would need to apply to both lying and books. It's the meeting of these two subjects that is the point of my argument.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: JWright on June 30, 2018, 07:08:39 pm
No, false claims re background and pen names are not the same. Currently there is one writer (no names mentioned) who claims to be trial lawyer and writes books with a trial lawyer as his protagonist. It becomes very quickly apparent that he is not a lawyer and has no real clue about law or courtroom procedure. This irritates me. (I'm not a lawyer either, but my early Journalism career involved several years with Police and Courts.) If a false bio didn't intrude into the writer's work - I would have no idea and no objection.

Yeah, not too bright to try to claim you are a lawyer if you aren't one.  The "secret" will probably not last long.

Personally, I don't have a problem with someone using a pen name.  Some people do it to separate their work/professional life, for other privacy matters, or they could just have a name that is extremely hard to spell or want a name that matches their genre.  So the name itself doesn't bug me at all.

Funny talking about stage names.  I was thinking about that earlier today.  One of my grandfather's cousins was Patti Page.  She was a fairly well known singer in the 1950s.  That was her stage name and not her real legal name.  My grandparents always referred to her as Patti even though they grew up with her long before she had her stage name.  When she came to my grandfather's funeral everyone, including my grandmother, called her Patti.  So she had become Patti in real life too.

My legal name is Julie but the only one that calls me that is my mother.  I much prefer Jules and that is what I always go by. 
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: R.U. Writing on June 30, 2018, 07:15:36 pm
If you believe lying is bad then it's a pretty simple equation.

Pen name = lie.

Everything else is just fluff. For me the fact is that I work damn hard at writing and I won't write something I'm ashamed of. I also won't lie to my customers, more than that I'm not going to lie to people.

But if you are writing fiction, you are lying to your customers. Fiction is made up. It's a falsehood, told deliberately. Nobody (unless delusional) buys fiction thinking it's true. Nobody (unless delusional) goes to the movies thinking they are real. For fiction, it's inherent in the contract between writer and reader.

Lying is not universally bad. It all depends on the situation. Sometimes a lie is the most moral course of action.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: KelliWolfe on June 30, 2018, 07:19:07 pm
That's actually an interesting point. Granted it's put forward as a way to detract from the actual topic and doesn't even remotely address my logic but still a fun tangent. I would put forward that the art forms are different. Singing is far more a performance art than writing. We expect singers to be larger than life and to dazzle us, after all they are the modern gods we live and die by.

Although the definition still holds, they are lying about their names. However this is deception without teeth as no one thinks those names are real. A far cry from authors trying to gain acceptance into groups they wouldn't' have access or those looking to hide from their own works.

If you were wanting to extend my logical argument it would need to apply to both lying and books. It's the meeting of these two subjects that is the point of my argument.
You mean like all the rappers and hip hop artists who invent false personas to give themselves street cred so they sell more albums to people who think they gangsta? Or Bob Dylan changing his name from Robert Zimmerman and creating the whole train-hopping balladeer background from thin air? And any number of musical artists have changed their names mid-career to distance themselves from the work they did in their past, much like creating a new pen name for a new genre.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: OnlyTheGrotesqueKnow on June 30, 2018, 07:30:22 pm
But if you are writing fiction, you are lying to your customers. Fiction is made up. It's a falsehood, told deliberately. Nobody (unless delusional) buys fiction thinking it's true. Nobody (unless delusional) goes to the movies thinking they are real. For fiction, it's inherent in the contract between writer and reader.

Lying is not universally bad. It all depends on the situation. Sometimes a lie is the most moral course of action.

If I buy a book on fiction, I know it's lies told to entertain. There is no deception, a qualification for being a lie. While a false name is meant to deceive as a pen name. Like with Sir Mix-A-Lot, the name was never meant to deceive, but many pen name's are designed with that in mind.

Lying is always a moral wrong. This has been held up by every major religion in the world and every society that exists today, excepting very narrowly defined areas, none of which apply to authors. How morality effects life choices would be 'applied ethics', or how moral judgements are made in real life. Such as lying to save a life, or prevent a crime from happening. In these situations you have two moral wrongs and must decide between them to find the least wrong. These would make up the bulk of the Socratic Dialogues.

None of that applies here. We are talking about lying to make money. Nothing more, and certainly nothing less.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: KelliWolfe on June 30, 2018, 07:34:33 pm
If I buy a book on fiction, I know it's lies told to entertain. There is no deception, a qualification for being a lie. While a false name is meant to deceive as a pen name. Like with Sir Mix-A-Lot, the name was never meant to deceive, but many pen name's are designed with that in mind.

Lying is always a moral wrong. This has been held up by every major religion in the world and every society that exists today, excepting very narrowly defined areas, none of which apply to authors. How morality effects life choices would be 'applied ethics', or how moral judgements are made in real life. Such as lying to save a life, or prevent a crime from happening. In these situations you have two moral wrongs and must decide between them to find the least wrong. These would make up the bulk of the Socratic Dialogues.

None of that applies here. We are talking about lying to make money. Nothing more, and certainly nothing less.
Except that in practice, pen names have been a completely accepted practice by societies for centuries. They're legally accepted by governments. (https://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl101.pdf) So no, it isn't a moral wrong because the society decides what is moral or not, and pretty much every society for hundreds of years has said that pen names are perfectly okey dokey. Your personal preference may be different, but pretty much the entire world disagrees with you.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: OnlyTheGrotesqueKnow on June 30, 2018, 07:35:35 pm
You mean like all the rappers and hip hop artists who invent false personas to give themselves street cred so they sell more albums to people who think they gangsta? Or Bob Dylan changing his name from Robert Zimmerman and creating the whole train-hopping balladeer background from thin air? And any number of musical artists have changed their names mid-career to distance themselves from the work they did in their past, much like creating a new pen name for a new genre.

I'm actually a hug hip hop fan. So yes exactly like them. Look at the intent to deceive. Sir Mix-A-Lot wasn't' trying to deceive but many rappers do intend to do just that.

Now let me ask you a question. Is lying the morally right thing to do? Because from my point of view that's what you are arguing from. Would you like me to quote the many times pen names have been found out and the readers reactions to them? Or perhaps you'd enjoy if I started naming those rappers that were outed as privileged compared to their colleagues? You know this. You can see the difference between someone lying to entertain and someone lying to hide who they are or make up something about themselves. It's self evident.

If your lying to deceive someone, then you are lying. And that means that everyone that comes in contact with that lie will know you as a liar.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: OnlyTheGrotesqueKnow on June 30, 2018, 07:40:58 pm
Except that in practice, pen names have been a completely accepted practice by societies for centuries. They're legally accepted by governments. (https://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl101.pdf) So no, it isn't a moral wrong because the society decides what is moral or not, and pretty much every society for hundreds of years has said that pen names are perfectly okey dokey. Your personal preference may be different, but pretty much the entire world disagrees with you.

Sorry, but no. Would you like me to look up the instances of morality and laws not conforming? You name the era and I would be happy to list the atrocities. Arguing that the law is the gold standard for morality would condone everything from genocide to genital mutilation.

It's not my personal morality that calls lying wrong ... its thousands of years of humanity. It's threaded through our society from when we give testimony about our crimes all the way to our interactions with our loved ones.

Is a pen name a lie? I say yes.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: DarkScribe on June 30, 2018, 08:19:12 pm
Ummm... yes it is. By definition. It might also be a tool but it is still a lie. Don't mean to be confrontational but if you say your name is something it's not, then you are lying.

No it isn't. An author who uses a name purely for identifying their written work is not lying. They are not pretending to be another person in real life. A lie is a statement that deviates from or perverts the truth. A pen name is their WRITER'S name. Tell it to Dr. Seuss - his real name was Ted Geisel and he wasn't a Doctor.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: JWright on June 30, 2018, 08:23:37 pm
OnlyTheGrotesqueKnow, it's fine if that's what you want to believe, but I do notice you use a screen name here and not your real name. There are authors here who have their name and link to their books on the Amazon store.  So you are choosing to be more anonymous than that and they are showing more transparency.  I realize you aren't trying to sell us something so perhaps you see that as different.  But I would think you would at least on some level understand someone wanting to have a degree of anonymity since you practice that yourself in certain situations.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: KelliWolfe on June 30, 2018, 08:28:56 pm
Sorry, but no. Would you like me to look up the instances of morality and laws not conforming? You name the era and I would be happy to list the atrocities. Arguing that the law is the gold standard for morality would condone everything from genocide to genital mutilation.

It's not my personal morality that calls lying wrong ... its thousands of years of humanity. It's threaded through our society from when we give testimony about our crimes all the way to our interactions with our loved ones.

Is a pen name a lie? I say yes.
I didn't say it was just the legal system that said it was okay. I also said it has an accepted practice in pretty much every society with any kind of literary tradition for centuries. It isn't considered a lie, any more than a DBA or stage name is a lie. Practically every society in the world disagrees with you. That's your prerogative, but to claim it's a lie and immoral when everyone else in the world across the boundaries of many different cultures and backgrounds disagrees with you? Eh, knock yourself out. You can be the lone wolf crying in the wilderness.  :D
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: OnlyTheGrotesqueKnow on June 30, 2018, 08:30:23 pm
No it isn't. An author who uses a name purely for identifying their written work is not lying. They are not pretending to be another person in real life. A lie is a statement that deviates from or perverts the truth. A pen name is their WRITER'S name. Tell it to Dr. Seuss - his real name was Ted Geisel and he wasn't a Doctor.

Would you enjoy me quoting names of those that don't use pen names? Would that prove that you're wrong? A writer is a person. If they want their work under another name they could adopt the same standards of others and clearly state that in their profile. Many don't because they are trying to deceive others into believing that is their given name. To say they do it merely identify their work discards those that use them to profit from the deception.

A lie is a statement that deviates from or perverts the truth.

If I say my name is Jake Strong, then I have deviated from the truth. Dr. Seuss did indeed deviate from the truth but he never intended to deceive anyone as to his real name. No one would rightly believe that was his name.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: OnlyTheGrotesqueKnow on June 30, 2018, 08:35:47 pm
OnlyTheGrotesqueKnow, it's fine if that's what you want to believe, but I do notice you use a screen name here and not your real name. There are authors here who have their name and link to their books on the Amazon store.  So you are choosing to be more anonymous than that and they are showing more transparency.  I realize you aren't trying to sell us something so perhaps you see that as different.  But I would think you would at least on some level understand someone wanting to have a degree of anonymity since you practice that yourself in certain situations.

An ad hominem attack. I refuse to attack you in the same way. I'm interested in the reasons behind this particular inquiry. If a murderer say that it's wrong to kill does that make the statement any less true? Does the character of a man dictate the truth of his words or must his words be weighed on their own.

The answer to your question is that no one would ever think this is my name, there is no deception in using a handle that is obviously not my real name. Everyone can take my words for lies or truth as they please knowing I am nothing more or less than an anonymous person on the internet. My credibility is zero ... just like everyone's else's.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: JWright on June 30, 2018, 08:40:51 pm
An ad hominem attack. I refuse to attack you in the same way. I'm interested in the reasons behind this particular inquiry. If a murderer say that it's wrong to kill does that make the statement any less true? Does the character of a man dictate the truth of his words or must his words be weighed on their own.

The answer to your question is that no one would ever think this is my name, there is no deception in using a handle that is obviously not my real name. Everyone can take my words for lies or truth as they please knowing I am nothing more or less than an anonymous person on the internet. My credibility is zero ... just like everyone's else's.

Well, it wasn't an attack in any way.  You can choose to be anonymous.  I just thought perhaps at some level you would understand the need for anonymity at times since you use it yourself. 

Anyway, I don't see the point in going round and round.  We have different beliefs.



Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: jb1111 on June 30, 2018, 08:41:40 pm
I second JWright here.

How is someone using a fake name on a public internet forum, and a fake avatar that looks nothing like the person, any different than using a pen name and pen persona?

Both practices are arguably a form of misrepresentation of someone to the public. 

In my view, if it's associated with creative art, there's a grey area.







Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: DarkScribe on June 30, 2018, 08:42:11 pm
Would you enjoy me quoting names of those that don't use pen names? Would that prove that you're wrong? A writer is a person. If they want their work under another name they could adopt the same standards of others and clearly state that in their profile. Many don't because they are trying to deceive others into believing that is their given name. To say they do it merely identify their work discards those that use them to profit from the deception.

A lie is a statement that deviates from or perverts the truth.

If I say my name is Jake Strong, then I have deviated from the truth. Dr. Seuss did indeed deviate from the truth but he never intended to deceive anyone as to his real name. No one would rightly believe that was his name.
You are pedantic. Ok, let's say my real name was Stephen King and I wanted to write horror stories. Would it be a "lie" if I changed it to Stephen McIntyre (McIntyre might be my mother's maiden name)? Or, to conform with your rigid criterion re lying, should I be "honest" and publish as Stephen King and perhaps reap some sale benefit from the ensuing confusion?
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: DarkScribe on June 30, 2018, 08:43:49 pm
An ad hominem attack. I refuse to attack you in the same way. I'm interested in the reasons behind this particular inquiry. If a murderer say that it's wrong to kill does that make the statement any less true? Does the character of a man dictate the truth of his words or must his words be weighed on their own.

The answer to your question is that no one would ever think this is my name, there is no deception in using a handle that is obviously not my real name. Everyone can take my words for lies or truth as they please knowing I am nothing more or less than an anonymous person on the internet. My credibility is zero ... just like everyone's else's.

That was NOT an ad hominem attack. It was making a pertinent point.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: OnlyTheGrotesqueKnow on June 30, 2018, 08:45:07 pm
I didn't say it was just the legal system that said it was okay. I also said it has an accepted practice in pretty much every society with any kind of literary tradition for centuries. It isn't considered a lie, any more than a DBA or stage name is a lie. Practically every society in the world disagrees with you. That's your prerogative, but to claim it's a lie and immoral when everyone else in the world across the boundaries of many different cultures and backgrounds disagrees with you? Eh, knock yourself out. You can be the lone wolf crying in the wilderness.  :D

I'm hardly the only one saying so. In fact I think the past few posts show more than words can why more people don't talk about it. But if I was that bedraggled dog in the wilderness howling my truth, I'd be happy I wasn't part of the flock... Although I do feel a certain amount of pleasure in being called a lone wolf by a person with wolf in their name.

Lie
noun
1: a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth; a falsehood.
2: something intended or serving to convey a false impression; imposture:

When seek to deceive you are lying. When you create a stage name that everyone knows is a stage name you are not attempting to deceive or create a false impression. I keep coming back to the same question, why is a pen name not a lie? So far I've heard because the government supports it. That literary traditions back it. And that I won't find a society in existence that isn't okay with it. Yet, I haven't heard one word on why it's not a lie. Only that its accepted.

Would you like me to state the lies that have been accepted the world over? Or the poisoned morality that backed them?
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: OnlyTheGrotesqueKnow on June 30, 2018, 08:52:24 pm
That was NOT an ad hominem attack. It was making a pertinent point.

A pertinent point can still be an attack. Sigh. Good luck, I'm done with this. Arguing with four people about morality is certainly not how I wanted to spend a Saturday and I don't appreciate being called names or being attacked for my beliefs. I've given my reasons and articulated my argument to the best of my abilities all without calling into questions either the morality of the others or resorting derogatory statements.

I may use an avatar here but I still try to interact with people in a civilized manner. That means I don't call them names or disparage them.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: DarkScribe on June 30, 2018, 08:55:59 pm

Lie
noun
1: a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth; a falsehood.
2: something intended or serving to convey a false impression; imposture:

Ok. If you insist that anything but raw truth is a lie, then every woman who wears makeup, a Bra, Spanx, hose, perfume or heels is lying to the world about what she really looks like. Are most women liars?  :o
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: DarkScribe on June 30, 2018, 08:58:17 pm
A pertinent point can still be an attack. Sigh.
Yes, it could be, but in this case it wasn't.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: jb1111 on June 30, 2018, 09:09:04 pm
Ok. If you insist that anything but raw truth is a lie, then every woman who wears makeup, a Bra, Spanx, hose, perfume or heels is lying to the world about what she really looks like. Are most women liars?  :o

Probably not, but it appears that George Orwell and Mark Twain were liars.

So I guess it is time to toss those books and delete them from my Kindle.  :)

Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: sandysocks on July 01, 2018, 01:05:39 am
Okay. It's a lie. It's a big, fat, dirty, completely untrue lie.

...So?

Why do we owe perfect strangers the truth about ourselves? Personally I don't think I owe anybody my truth. I don't know these people and they don't need to know me.

I'm selling a product that's fiction in it's entirety. It's a story. It's make believe. It's not real. Why is it so important that I'm real?



Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Evenstar on July 01, 2018, 01:41:43 am
I like reading author bio's. It's fun. Sometimes they are funny, sometimes they are dull as dishwater. I don't give a monkeys if they are true, I prefer the funny ones.

I write under two names, and the author bio's read completely differently, but they are both still me, just different parts of me. One talks about where I live and my family and the other talks about what jobs I've had and what qualifications. Both true but totally different information.

Apart from the cat.

The cat is dead, long live the cat!

 
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: jb1111 on July 01, 2018, 03:08:27 am
Okay. It's a lie. It's a big, fat, dirty, completely untrue lie.

...So?

Why do we owe perfect strangers the truth about ourselves? Personally I don't think I owe anybody my truth. I don't know these people and they don't need to know me.

I'm selling a product that's fiction in it's entirety. It's a story. It's make believe. It's not real. Why is it so important that I'm real?

In fairness to some here, some authors perhaps put so much of their own experiences into their fiction that total 'persona' integrity is highly important. If I was in that position, perhaps I'd feel the same way.

But not all of us write that way. Probably the majority of us write light fiction which intent is to merely entertain, and nothing more. We're just trying to turn out something that reads professionally, makes a few sales if we're lucky, and entertains people.

Most readers probably don't care who actually wrote the books they read, unless it's somebody already famous. I'm sure they don't care about what is in the bio in most cases, especially with indie authors. They just want to be entertained.

But in some genres or subgenres maybe it has a more serious tone to it.  Some fiction has a more serious edge to it drawn from certain experiences in life. In cases like that, perhaps using a real name may give the fiction itself more integrity.

It just doesn't apply to everyone.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: NedMarcus on July 01, 2018, 04:09:12 am
Uhh..cuz I'd prefer not to read a book about brain surgery written by a brick layer.

Me neither, but what difference does the pen name make? If someone's real name was Hilary Clinton (name already taken) and they loved and wanted to write about goldfish breeding because that was their passion, it would make no difference if they wrote under the name Goldie Fish. Would their writing on goldfish be less credible? I think not.

Eric Blair wrote fiction and nonfiction under the pen name of George Orwell. Does that discredit his nonfiction? No, I don't think so.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: R.U. Writing on July 01, 2018, 04:44:21 am
Me neither, but what difference does the pen name make? If someone's real name was Hilary Clinton (name already taken) and they loved and wanted to write about goldfish breeding because that was their passion, it would make no difference if they wrote under the name Goldie Fish. Would their writing on goldfish be less credible? I think not.

Eric Blair wrote fiction and nonfiction under the pen name of George Orwell. Does that discredit his nonfiction? No, I don't think so.

Agree. The name itself makes little difference. It's the experience that matters. I don't think someone writing nonfiction under a pen name would be less credible, provided he or she could establish credibility without using their real name--which might be more difficult to do.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: MyraScott on July 01, 2018, 06:50:56 am
A pertinent point can still be an attack. Sigh

This is a major problem with the world today.  "I don't like your fact" is not the same thing as "you attacked me, how dare you." 


Facts you don't like are still facts.  You may feel "attacked" by the fact, but that doesn't change it or make it less true.





edited, PM if you have questions -- Ann
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: C Winters on July 01, 2018, 07:02:25 am
I like reading author bio's. It's fun. Sometimes they are funny, sometimes they are dull as dishwater. I don't give a monkeys if they are true, I prefer the funny ones.

I write under two names, and the author bio's read completely differently, but they are both still me, just different parts of me. One talks about where I live and my family and the other talks about what jobs I've had and what qualifications. Both true but totally different information.

Apart from the cat.

The cat is dead, long live the cat!


I wish this was everyone's position. Whatever happened to having a bit of fun with the author bio, really getting into the CHARACTER of your pseudonym?



Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca (https://www.kboards.com/index.php?action=pm;sa=send;u=59615)
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: C Winters on July 01, 2018, 07:47:53 am
Some people think differently than you do. Sorry. But that's just the way it is. I accept that some people won't see the whole persona deception as wrong. How about trying to accept that some people think the other way?



Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca (https://www.kboards.com/index.php?action=pm;sa=send;u=59615)

Using a pen name is not deception. Creating a fake author bio and supporting that with public posts in guise of the author persona is not that either. It's a bit of fun. An expression of creativity. We're not allowed to have that? Why? Cause some people take it way, way WAAAAYYYY too seriously?



Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca (https://www.kboards.com/index.php?action=pm;sa=send;u=59615)
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: JWright on July 01, 2018, 08:33:23 am
Some people lie and then totally convince themselves that they absolutely need to lie to succeed or whatever their reason is. To me it seems we live in a time where this is increasing.  And it's not just writers doing it.

Like the people who have had their accounts closed recently. Some of them obviously are intelligent and resourceful to dream some of this stuff up, so they probably could make decent money by honest means but they would rather be devious and make even more.

People convincing themselves that they absolutely have to make up an entire persona for themselves to succeed when there is plenty of evidence to the contrary of people succeeding by writing great books and just being themselves - which doesn't mean you have to use your legal name or tell people anything about yourself that you don't want to.

People convince themselves that they really do need to lie or cut corners or cheat and that seems to be on the rise in our society.  I know it's always been there, so maybe it's not increasing but to me it feels like it is.

Really, I don't think most writers lead exciting lives and don't think readers expect them to.  I think most readers just want to read great books and if you are just yourself on social media, your newsletter, etc. that's all you need - which being yourself just means revealing whatever you want to.  If you get to the point of JK Rowling level or something and your books are being made into movies then maybe you have something exciting to talk about.

There are people who blatantly lie about being a member of a minority group that they don't belong to knowing full well that if the truth comes out at least some of their readers are going to be p*ssed.  There are some writers who fake military service or other things to sell more books.

I swear Kboards is an interesting place.  Right is wrong, wrong is right, up is down, down is up for some people, lol, and the arguments for it never stop coming.



Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca (https://www.kboards.com/index.php?action=pm;sa=send;u=59615)
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: C Winters on July 01, 2018, 08:41:36 am
Some people lie and then totally convince themselves that they absolutely need to lie to succeed or whatever their reason is. To me it seems we live in a time where this is increasing.  And it's not just writers doing it.

Like the people who have had their accounts closed recently. Some of them obviously are intelligent and resourceful to dream some of this stuff up, so they probably could make decent money by honest means but they would rather be devious and make even more.

People convincing themselves that they absolutely have to make up an entire persona for themselves to succeed when there is plenty of evidence to the contrary of people succeeding by writing great books and just being themselves - which doesn't mean you have to use your legal name or tell people anything about yourself that you don't want to.

People convince themselves that they really do need to lie or cut corners or cheat and that seems to be on the rise in our society.  I know it's always been there, so maybe it's not increasing but to me it feels like it is.

Really, I don't think most writers lead exciting lives and don't think readers expect them to.  I think most readers just want to read great books and if you are just yourself on social media, your newsletter, etc. that's all you need - which being yourself just means revealing whatever you want to.  If you get to the point of JK Rowling level or something and your books are being made into movies then maybe you have something exciting to talk about.

There are people who blatantly lie about being a member of a minority group that they don't belong to knowing full well that if the truth comes out at least some of their readers are going to be p*ssed.  There are some writers who fake military service or other things to sell more books.

I swear Kboards is an interesting place.  Right is wrong, wrong is right, up is down, down is up for some people, lol, and the arguments for it never stop coming.


Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca (https://www.kboards.com/index.php?action=pm;sa=send;u=59615)

Don't conflate fake bios with LYING. Just don't do it. It's not the same thing. Is there a difference between an author with a fake bio and an author with a real one? Nope. Read and enjoy the books you like. Fake or real bio changes nothing - unless it's non fiction of course.

The fact you mention JK Rowling as some example to behold is telling - everyone knows JK started a fake pen name with a fake bio as a mystery writer well after her success. Did some people have a problem with it? Sure. The minority.


Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca (https://www.kboards.com/index.php?action=pm;sa=send;u=59615)
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: JWright on July 01, 2018, 08:45:06 am
I read an author bio maybe once.  It's not a massive thing to me.  But really C. Winters, if there is no difference between a real and fake bio then why have a fake one to begin with.

Yes, people lie when they absolutely don't have to.

Lol, you are amusing.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: C Winters on July 01, 2018, 08:49:52 am
I read an author bio maybe once.  It's not a massive thing to me.  But really C. Winters, if there is no difference between a real and fake bio then why have a fake one to begin with.

Yes, people lie when they absolutely don't have to.

Lol, you are amusing.

Amazon won't delete print books from an author profile. I had to change my name to disassociate from those books. I wrote them when I was young and inexperienced. Pen names are branding.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: JWright on July 01, 2018, 08:52:28 am
Amazon won't delete print books from an author profile. I had to change my name to disassociate from those books. I wrote them when I was young and inexperienced. Pen names are branding.

I have said numerous times in this thread that I don't see anything wrong with pen names.  One person objects to pen names.  I haven't seen anyone else who has.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: SalaciousStories on July 01, 2018, 09:02:55 am
What's in a name? A genre fiction author by any other name would...write genre fiction, I assume?  ;D

Seriously though, use a pen name if you like. You are lying to exactly zero people, and the vast, vast majority of readers (and authors) have historically been (and continue to be) just fine with it.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: C Winters on July 01, 2018, 09:05:11 am
I have said numerous times in this thread that I don't see anything wrong with pen names.  One person objects to pen names.  I haven't seen anyone else who has.

Right you object to the bio. I disagree with both objections for the same reason, so you can see how I will get confused. I don't care about reasons for creating a fake bio. The biggest argument on the board that I gathered was that it HURTS people. The same way lying hurts people.

Uh, no it doesn't. If you get hurt by fake author bio, that's on you. And readers also don't have the right to a true author bio or whatever and not giving one isn't breaking some unsaid code of ethics.

My general feeling is that with author bios you can just make whatever up and it doesn't matter, period. And readers should know that what they're reading may or may not be true. That's part of the fun.



Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca (https://www.kboards.com/index.php?action=pm;sa=send;u=59615)
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: C Winters on July 01, 2018, 09:07:58 am
What's in a name? A genre fiction author by any other name would...write genre fiction, I assume?  ;D

Seriously though, use a pen name if you like. You are lying to exactly zero people, and the vast, vast majority of readers (and authors) have historically been (and continue to be) just fine with it.

Yes, I wish everyone felt this way.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: JWright on July 01, 2018, 09:10:03 am
I don't think fake personas - notice I said persona not pen name - are in any way necessary to succeed, so yes to me it's unnecessary lying and people convince themselves they need to lie to succeed.

I agree with Usedtoposthere that it contributes to an erosion of trust and an increase in cynicism and I don't want to contribute to that.  Not everything online has to be fake.  Some of us can be real people and still protect our privacy in ways that we need to and still sell books.

Now, you've convinced yourself that making up fake personas and running with them are just fine in your book, so there's no convincing you otherwise. I need to go finish mowing my lawn before it gets 100 degrees here.  Have a great day!



Right you object to the bio. I disagree with both objections for the same reason, so you can see how I will get confused. I don't care about reasons for creating a fake bio. The biggest argument on the board that I gathered was that it HURTS people. The same way lying hurts people.

Uh, no it doesn't. If you get hurt by fake author bio, that's on you. And readers also don't have the right to a true author bio or whatever and not giving one isn't breaking some unsaid code of ethics.

My general feeling is that with author bios you can just make whatever up and it doesn't matter, period. And readers should know that what they're reading may or may not be true. That's part of the fun.


Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca (https://www.kboards.com/index.php?action=pm;sa=send;u=59615)
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: C Winters on July 01, 2018, 09:20:23 am
I don't think fake personas - notice I said persona not pen name - are in any way necessary to succeed, so yes to me it's unnecessary lying and people convince themselves they need to lie to succeed.

I agree with Usedtoposthere that it contributes to an erosion of trust and an increase in cynicism and I don't want to contribute to that.  Not everything online has to be fake.  Some of us can be real people and still protect our privacy in ways that we need to and still sell books.

Now, you've convinced yourself that making up fake personas and running with them are just fine in your book, so there's no convincing you otherwise. I need to go finish mowing my lawn before it gets 100 degrees here.  Have a great day!

Cynicism is healthy and folks shouldn't be so trusting to begin with, but where there's a lack of understanding, it is the understanding of what a pen name and author persona is. To some, they're treating it like it's a big deal, that it's going to have an effect on people, that people can be somehow lured in by it and be consequently crushed later on. I'm of the opinion that an author name, bio, persona is not that important, and in some cases can just be a fun way to communicate with readers on a superficial level. The author doesn't take it seriously, the readers don't take it seriously, everyone has a good time.



Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca (https://www.kboards.com/index.php?action=pm;sa=send;u=59615)
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: JWright on July 01, 2018, 10:36:54 am
Good grief, people should lie to promote more cynicism? No, I'm not lying.  I'm not putting up fake personas.  I'm going to be honest and would rather develop trust and goodwill with readers. I don't have to divulge everything about myself online, I can still build a consistent brand and I feel I can succeed just fine that way. 

I've seen lighthearted bios in cozy mystery for example, and yes they are fun and I have no objection to them.  It's obviously lighthearted.

I object to people doing things like faking military service or claiming to be members of minority groups that they don't belong to and having a full-blown persona to go along with it - especially when it extends beyond the bio.  If they feel they are at a disadvantage as a writer due to "bias" they should try living the life of the people they are trying to fool and take money from and then come  back and tell me who is really the one disadvantaged.

So far there's only one person on the thread who has objected to pen names.  That's it. One.

It's hard to have a conversation with you because you conflate things and go around in circles.  Anyway, it's clear we strongly disagree with each other.  So, that's that.

Now, back to mowing.


Cynicism is healthy and folks shouldn't be so trusting to begin with, but where there's a lack of understanding, it is the understanding of what a pen name and author persona is. To some, they're treating it like it's a big deal, that it's going to have an effect on people, that people can be somehow lured in by it and be consequently crushed later on. I'm of the opinion that an author name, bio, persona is not that important, and in some cases can just be a fun way to communicate with readers on a superficial level. The author doesn't take it seriously, the readers don't take it seriously, everyone has a good time.


Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca (https://www.kboards.com/index.php?action=pm;sa=send;u=59615)
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Becca Mills on July 01, 2018, 10:49:37 am
Seeing reports. Locking to catch up on the thread.

Edit: Reopening, after much clean up.

C Winters, you may not post in this thread again.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: jb1111 on July 02, 2018, 01:51:18 am
Hmm. My author bio is true. But not the whole truth. There are facets of myself not revealed in that bio, some of which might be admirable, others not so much. Is that lying by omission?

I remember a meek, gentle little fellow on one of these writers' forums who wrote action mysteries. For his profile picture he wore a trenchcoat, dark glasses and a fedora, smoked a pipe, and maintained a grim, threatening frown. That picture of him was as far from being the real him as he could get. Was he lying?

Technically, I suppose yeah.

Morally? I don't think so. It's a form of acting, right? Just like people wearing sports uniform regalia (like a Football jersey) and they never played the game in their life, much less in the NFL. There are some forms of behavior that may be technically lying that do not hurt or harm anyone.

I think the problem some may have is when a person's faked persona (lying) may harm others, or harm others by misleading them. I think most of us can agree that something like that is unethical. At the same time, an over-the-top bio by a romance or other light-fiction genre author that doesn't do any harm? = Small potatoes.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: sandysocks on July 03, 2018, 11:23:17 am
The standard of moral/ethical behavior is not whether or not it hurts someone. Something can be immoral or unethical without demonstrably hurting someone.

This is very interesting to me.

If it hurts no one, what exactly makes it immoral or unethical?
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: sandysocks on July 03, 2018, 11:51:28 am
That's a much larger discussion about philosophy and religion. I would say if you don't believe in God and therefore some arbiter of absolute truth outside of humanity, you might not be inclined to agree with me on this point. But that's a discussion well beyond the scope of this thread, I think.

So basically what you're saying is that God said so, so it's immoral.
Okay, that's fine.
I was hoping this might be a discussion on, you know, actuality and real life consequences (if there are any) rather than God says don't lie so it's immoral.

If someone else wants to chime in to answer the question, I'm all ears!
If it doesn't hurt someone, how could it possibly be immoral?
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: JWright on July 03, 2018, 12:17:59 pm
This is very interesting to me.

If it hurts no one, what exactly makes it immoral or unethical?

I don't do anything I think is wrong, whether anyone finds out or not, or whether I think anyone will be hurt in anyway by it.  If I lied about being Asian and no one found out I suppose you could technically say no one was "hurt."  However, I think it's wrong, so I won't do it.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: sandysocks on July 03, 2018, 12:39:01 pm
So basically you're saying you don't believe God exists and therefore my point is stupid. Which is kind of exactly the point I was trying to get across. In order to debate whether something is ethical, the parties involved must have some base level agreement on where ethics even come from to get anywhere in the discussion. We don't. So you simply dismiss my viewpoint because you don't agree with where my viewpoint comes from and demand an argument based on your own viewpoint. It's silly to have this argument on a board about writing. What you want is a college ethics class, I think.

I do believe in God, actually. But I also believe that morality exists because you should not hurt someone. Wrongs hurt someone or something, or else they're not wrongs. Why would they be wrongs if they don't hurt anyone? How could they be wrongs if they don't hurt anyone?

If all you wanted to do was interject with a "because God says so", then that's fine, but don't pretend like I'm dismissing you because I'm questioning you.
If you don't want to debate it, then that's fine, too, but that's also on you, not me.
You're the one who brought up God's morality, after all. Not me.
I'm looking for consequences on how a persona effects the person reading your book.

If I call myself John Robert III and say that I'm writing this steamy gay romance from my beach house in California where my husband and I farm succulents with our four freakin' poodles but really I'm just a lady from Saskatchewan, who's snowed in, living a silly fantasy to get her through the winter, how does that effect literally anybody?

Begging for donations under the persona? Sure. Immoral. You're stealing from people. You're tricking them into thinking this person needs money when this person isn't even real. You're a fraud. You're conning them.
Asking for their personal information and taking advantage of them under this persona? You're catfishing them. You're just being nasty. You're defrauding their friendship in a way. You're conning them out of something that they probably wouldn't have given up otherwise, even if it's a little naive of them to have done so.
Pretending to be black and have black experience and speaking from authority about blackness when you're not black and interacting with "other" black people and asking them for donations and support. That's wrong. That's a big fat lie. You're conning them. You're taking advantage of them. Catfish.

But creating a little persona in your author blurb to match a specific genre so the reader has a nice little cherry on top of their entertainment, so the whole package comes together nicely and looks complete.... Who's that hurting?

I think the other issues are not so much about the persona, but the actions taken after. I don't think that this is about personas, I think this is about con artists.
The VAST majority of people who create fake little blurbs for there pen names are not con artists looking to take advantage of people, so I don't think that it's unethical or immoral to do so.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: WHDean on July 03, 2018, 12:45:12 pm
So basically you're saying you don't believe God exists and therefore my point is stupid. Which is kind of exactly the point I was trying to get across. In order to debate whether something is ethical, the parties involved must have some base level agreement on where ethics even come from to get anywhere in the discussion. We don't. So you simply dismiss my viewpoint because you don't agree with where my viewpoint comes from and demand an argument based on your own viewpoint. It's silly to have this argument on a board about writing. What you want is a college ethics class, I think.

Very well put. If two people don't agree on first principles, the debate is over.

Even the line about bios is hard to draw sharply and straight from ethical principles. I happen to think an author falsely claiming to be "decorated U.S. Marine" falls under stolen valour. That doesn't physically harm anyone, but it violates social conventions around respecting military service. Others will probably disagree, but I don't particularly care.



Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: WHDean on July 03, 2018, 12:56:41 pm
If I call myself John Robert III and say that I'm writing this steamy gay romance from my beach house in California where my husband and I farm succulents with our four freakin' poodles but really I'm just a lady from Saskatchewan, who's snowed in, living a silly fantasy to get her through the winter, how does that effect literally anybody?

And when snowed-in lady gets reader emails, will she keep up the pretense? How far can she go before she steps over the line into conning? The real world doesn't conform to the simple demarcations you assume, as JR Tomlin says above; it can get ugly.

 

 
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: sandysocks on July 03, 2018, 01:14:22 pm
And when snowed-in lady gets reader emails, will she keep up the pretense? How far can she go before she steps over the line into conning? The real world doesn't conform to the simple demarcations you assume, as JR Tomlin says above; it can get ugly.

Quite frankly, not everyone responds to readers. I don't. Even then, a simple "thank you for reading my book!" should suffice. It doesn't need to go further than that and honestly, when readers want to ask you personal questions, like you're friends or something, it creeps me out, like a lot. So I just don't entertain that. Fans get weird and entitled.

So here's my question... is your problem with the persona, is your problem with making a little author blurb or are you taking it one step further and having a problem with conning and interacting with people while using that persona?
Because I think those are two completely different things.

But I actually really don't have a personal problem with any author responding to readers in that persona. I don't think you're conning anybody by pretending to be John Robert III by answering superficial questions about your story or about your persona because that's who the reader is asking. If you take it further than that and are like 'hey I'll let you into the mind of John Robert III for $15 a month', then I do think that's scammy, but I do also think it's an entirely different issue.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: EggMcMuffin on July 03, 2018, 02:55:32 pm
This may be off topic, but I spent my childhood in a dictatorship. A good friend of my parents was an author. He wrote science fiction that could have been interpreted as being critical of the regime. One day, he just disappeared.

I live in a free country now, but even after all these years, sharing anything about myself online makes me sick with fear. Especially in this age of misinformation, every little thing that's freely and innocently shared can be turned against you in a variety of ways. To me, using a pen name is not about hiding, or deceiving anyone. It's pure self-preservation, and it's so deeply ingrained that I don't think I'll ever be rid of it.

So to anyone who thinks using a pen name is somehow unethical or scammy, I want to gently point out that perhaps you're speaking from a place of privilege. Just a thought.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Glis Moriarty on July 03, 2018, 03:27:52 pm
Would you think it was OK for a beggar to claim to be disabled and homeless if that weren't true?
It wouldn't hurt anyone. Just a false bio.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: jb1111 on July 03, 2018, 06:27:36 pm
You are pretending that all authors act like you.

If you blog for years under this persona, frequently interacting with readers on it presenting yourself as something that you are not, and I don't mean just snowed in, is that all right? Let's say you pretend you are a black man from an underprivileged background and much of your blog is about your black experience even though you're a middle-class white woman living in Orange County, CA, have you stepped over a line? I say yes. At the least, every single one of your sales was made under false pretenses, and if you think it won't get ugly WHEN you are found out (and you will be), I promise it is going to get ugly. And you will lose fans.

OK. Point made. But how many authors go to that particular extreme?

Most of the fake bios I've seen (at least the ones that look fake) are in top selling categories, where the fakey looking bios seem to be a non-issue to the readers.

Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: jb1111 on July 03, 2018, 06:36:13 pm
I don't think fake personas - notice I said persona not pen name - are in any way necessary to succeed, so yes to me it's unnecessary lying and people convince themselves they need to lie to succeed.

I agree with Usedtoposthere that it contributes to an erosion of trust and an increase in cynicism and I don't want to contribute to that.  Not everything online has to be fake.  Some of us can be real people and still protect our privacy in ways that we need to and still sell books.

Trust? That seems to be reaching a bit.

Unless you're writing non-fiction, what is there to trust?

No one cares who I am. I'm just a name on a cover of a book of made up stories. I could change the name every other book and it would probably make no difference, except to those few who may enjoy my writing style and look for the name in case there is another book that matches the style. They're not looking for me the person. They're looking for a similar reading experience. The name is about as important as the brand name on a bar of soap.

In your world perhaps it is important, but for most readers? I doubt they give two whits about the author. You're just a name on a cover. A bunch of pixels on a screen. That's all.

Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: WHDean on July 03, 2018, 06:59:12 pm
Quite frankly, not everyone responds to readers. I don't. Even then, a simple "thank you for reading my book!" should suffice. It doesn't need to go further than that and honestly, when readers want to ask you personal questions, like you're friends or something, it creeps me out, like a lot. So I just don't entertain that. Fans get weird and entitled.

So here's my question... is your problem with the persona, is your problem with making a little author blurb or are you taking it one step further and having a problem with conning and interacting with people while using that persona?
Because I think those are two completely different things.

But I actually really don't have a personal problem with any author responding to readers in that persona. I don't think you're conning anybody by pretending to be John Robert III by answering superficial questions about your story or about your persona because that's who the reader is asking. If you take it further than that and are like 'hey I'll let you into the mind of John Robert III for $15 a month', then I do think that's scammy, but I do also think it's an entirely different issue.

So, you don't see an ethical problem, not because there isn't one, but because you think it's unlikely to happen to you. Not very convincing. You could get famous, even in a minor way, drawing the attention of, say, a gay romance blogger. He emails you asking for an interview because he loves your stories and you say what, exactly? "I don't do interviews"? Huh? Doesn't that sound a little out of character for the outgoing persona portrayed in the author's bio? Yes, it does. The act of posting a personal bio in pubic invites attention. And this is where people get into trouble by trying to get out of the trouble they put themselves in by doing something they should have known not to do in the first place.

Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: JWright on July 03, 2018, 07:03:29 pm
Trust? That seems to be reaching a bit.

Unless you're writing non-fiction, what is there to trust?

No one cares who I am. I'm just a name on a cover of a book of made up stories. I could change the name every other book and it would probably make no difference, except to those few who may enjoy my writing style and look for the name in case there is another book that matches the style. They're not looking for me the person. They're looking for a similar reading experience. The name is about as important as the brand name on a bar of soap.

In your world perhaps it is important, but for most readers? I doubt they give two whits about the author. You're just a name on a cover. A bunch of pixels on a screen. That's all.


If it doesn't matter then why do it in the first place?
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: boba1823 on July 03, 2018, 07:08:46 pm
Would you think it was OK for a beggar to claim to be disabled and homeless if that weren't true?
It wouldn't hurt anyone. Just a false bio.

Here's the key difference: People make decisions about whether or not give money to beggars based on this sort of information about the beggar, and this is a reasonable way to make such a decision (because it's essentially a decision as to whether or not the individual deserves help).

When we're talking about fiction books.. people are generally making decisions about whether to buy a given book based on whether they think they will enjoy the book based on its contents. The author's demographic information is not, or should not be, relevant. I'm sure some people make book buying decisions based on information about the author, including "I will/won't buy this book because the author's race is [whatever]." But that's a bad, and unfair, way to make decisions about book buying. I don't think authors are ethically obliged to help readers make biased choices about reading material - which is why I see no problem with using a fake persona.

. . . if you think it won't get ugly WHEN you are found out (and you will be), I promise it is going to get ugly. And you will lose fans.

Public service announcement for my fellow fibbers: Naw, you totally won't be found out, don't worry  ;D Not if you use common sense and understand some basic online privacy practices, at least. The main thing is... don't tell anyone. Some people find this surprisingly difficult. If you feel compelled to share, then trying to maintain a fake persona is probably not for you. Otherwise, it's really not that difficult. The truth does not float to the surface as if by magic.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: jb1111 on July 03, 2018, 07:14:00 pm

If it doesn't matter then why do it in the first place?

1. The same reason I don't put my SSN on my books. Anonymity.
2. Branding. My own name is not memorable.
3. The name may fit the genre better.
4. It can be a form of advertisement. Some names fit the cover better. Some names are too long to show up clearly in thumbnails.

There are a gazillion valid reasons to choose a pen name.

And perhaps you didn't get my actual point. They may care what the NAME is -- whether real or fake -- when searching out your next book.

They do not care who YOU are.

Unless you are one of those rare authors who becomes famous enough that someone decides they want to write an article on you, they don't care.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Usedtoposthere on July 03, 2018, 07:14:29 pm
Trust? That seems to be reaching a bit.

Unless you're writing non-fiction, what is there to trust?

No one cares who I am. I'm just a name on a cover of a book of made up stories. I could change the name every other book and it would probably make no difference, except to those few who may enjoy my writing style and look for the name in case there is another book that matches the style. They're not looking for me the person. They're looking for a similar reading experience. The name is about as important as the brand name on a bar of soap.

In your world perhaps it is important, but for most readers? I doubt they give two whits about the author. You're just a name on a cover. A bunch of pixels on a screen. That's all.


**Note I am not talking about pen names. I have a pen name, largely because my real last name is unpronounceable and unspellable. It starts with three vowels in a row. (My first name is the same; my last name is an Anglicized version of my real name.) I am talking about making up a persona and interacting as it.**

In romance, many readers DO "get to know" the author as a person through her books. That is actually pretty common in such a character-driven genre, where the whole book is about two people's journey to be a better version of themselves. When a romance author sells well, many readers DO care who she is.

I was surprised also, after I published, that people wanted to interact with me on Facebook and so forth, that they wrote to me. I didn't start a newsletter for a couple years (pretty dang stupid of me), partly because I couldn't imagine they'd really be that interested in whatever I'd put in there, beyond "New book's out." But they are. They (not all of them, but a fair number) feel a connection through what I have written. This is not at all uncommon in this genre.

The best part is that those are the readers who will follow you across subgenres. They are not looking for a generic fix of HEA. They are looking for the way *you* write about people, for *your* insight and *your* humor and *your* compassion. Which makes lying to them about who you are in order to draw them deeper into a sort of cult of personality and take advantage of that desire--well, kind of a dick move.

That doesn't mean you have to share all of yourself, or all the details of your life. It just means that whatever you share is authentic.

It is like knowing anybody, I suppose. If you find out that your neighbor's whole story, under pretense of which she has conned you out of time and sympathy and groceries, is a lie--that's a betrayal. And if you find out that somebody you've come to like a lot online is somebody else entirely, that they've been concocting a persona and interacting with you as it in order to sell you something, especially in order to sell you on their worldview that focuses on kindness, generosity, etc.--that feels crappy. The person feels stupid.

I suppose there are two kinds of people. The kind who would feel awful about doing something like that, and the kind who puts the blame on the "buyer." "They shouldn't believe everything they hear about somebody online." "I'm doing them a favor, really, opening their eyes." I can't spin it that way. It's still wrong, even if the person was too trusting. You're taking advantage of their trust, and that's just WRONG.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: JWright on July 03, 2018, 07:15:16 pm
1. The same reason I don't put my SSN on my books. Anonymity.
2. Branding. My own name is not memorable.
3. The name may fit the genre better.
4. It can be a form of advertisement. Some names fit the cover better. Some names are too long to show up in thumbnails.

There are a gazillion valid reasons to choose a pen name.

And perhaps you didn't get my actual point. They may care what the NAME is -- whether real or fake -- when searching out your next book.

They do not care who YOU are.

Unless you are one of those rare authors who becomes famous enough that someone decides they want to write an article on you, they don't care.

Ugh, here we go again conflating pen names with personas.  I've been very clear that I have no issue with pen names.  Only one person in the entire discussion has.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: jb1111 on July 03, 2018, 07:26:25 pm
**Note I am not talking about pen names. I have a pen name, largely because my real last name is unpronounceable and unspellable. I am talking about making up a persona and interacting as it.**

In romance, many readers DO "get to know" the author as a person through her books. That is actually pretty common in such a character-driven genre, where the whole book is about two people's journey to be a better version of themselves.

I was surprised also, after I published, that people wanted to interact with me on Facebook and so forth, that they wrote to me. I didn't start a newsletter for a couple years (pretty dang stupid of me), partly because I couldn't imagine they'd really be that interested in whatever I'd put in there, beyond "New book's out." But they are. They (not all of them, but a fair number) feel a connection through what I have written. This is not at all uncommon in this genre.

The best part is that those are the readers who will follow you across subgenres. They are not looking for a generic fix of HEA. They are looking for the way *you* write about people, for *your* insight and *your* humor and *your* compassion. Which makes lying to them about who you are in order to draw them deeper into a sort of cult of personality and take advantage of that desire--well, kind of a dick move.

It is like knowing anybody, I suppose. If you find out that your neighbor's whole story, under pretense of which she has conned you out of time and sympathy and groceries, is a lie--that's a betrayal. And if you find out that somebody you've come to like a lot online is somebody else entirely, that they've been concocting a persona and interacting with you as it in order to sell you something, especially in order to sell you on their worldview that focuses on kindness, generosity, etc.--that feels crappy. The person feel stupid.

I suppose there are two kinds of people. The kind who would feel awful about doing something like that, and the kind who puts the blame on the "buyer." "They shouldn't believe everything they hear about somebody online." "I'm doing them a favor, really, opening their eyes." I can't spin it that way. It's still wrong, even if the person was too trusting. You're taking advantage of their trust, and that's just WRONG.

If it has happened in your own situation, point well taken, but I still don't think it applies across the board. I don't equate an author on the internet selling eBooks to my next door neighbor. I get your point -- I just don't agree with it 100%. I think it's a different thing.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Usedtoposthere on July 03, 2018, 07:36:52 pm
If it has happened in your own situation, point well taken, but I still don't think it applies across the board. I don't equate an author on the internet selling eBooks to my next door neighbor. I get your point -- I just don't agree with it 100%. I think it's a different thing.
It's an ethical question, and people draw ethical lines differently. I'm older than a lot of people here, and I think that makes a difference. I think trust is a fragile and precious gift, even if it's just trusting that somebody is telling the truth about who they are. I also think that readers can tell, that genuineness comes through. Not that you'd think, "This person is lying," but something would feel "off."

But then, I write a particular brand of romance--a realistic brand. My readers are reading maybe not so much for escape per se, that is, not going to some fairyland, but for more--affirmation, maybe? To have that jolt of recognition, that sense that you're talking about their life. So that author-trust is perhaps more important for what I do than for an author writing something more fantastical.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: jb1111 on July 03, 2018, 07:41:14 pm
Ugh, here we go again conflating pen names with personas.  I've been very clear that I have no issue with pen names.  Only one person in the entire discussion has.

You can apply the same reasoning to personas. Why do authors have bios in the first place? To sell their persona, and to sell their books. It's another form of branding for many authors who don't have obviously fake bios, but still have over the top phrasing and comments in them to try to sell their persona to sell books.

I myself do not have a faked bio (my bio is actually pretty boring). But I can see why someone would. I just don't see where trust needs to be part of the equation.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: JWright on July 03, 2018, 07:50:07 pm
Well one minute you are telling me they matter then the next minute you are telling me they don't matter.

Anyway, I don't lie about anything, unless someone takes the extreme position that I cannot use the common nickname for my legal name.  I also don't reveal my deepest most private secrets either. Not even close.

I think people justify and do all kinds of stuff that they don't need to do in the first place.  If you aren't going to have much interaction with readers then I think a fake persona is pretty pointless (notice I didn't say pen name).  If you fabricate beyond that then you do have reasons for doing it, so I think it's b.s. to say it doesn't matter, because people obviously have a reason for doing it.

I think most writers could go much farther having genuine connections with their readers, along the lines of what Usedtoposthere describes, and it can be done while still protecting your privacy.  Then again, some people have made tons of money off of making everything up - until they get caught.



You can apply the same reasoning to personas. Why do authors have bios in the first place? To sell their persona, and to sell their books. It's another form of branding for many authors who don't have obviously fake bios, but still have over the top phrasing and comments in them to try to sell their persona to sell books.

I myself do not have a faked bio. But I can see why someone would. I just don't see where trust needs to be part of the equation.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: sandysocks on July 03, 2018, 07:56:10 pm
So, you don't see an ethical problem, not because there isn't one, but because you think it's unlikely to happen to you. Not very convincing. You could get famous, even in a minor way, drawing the attention of, say, a gay romance blogger. He emails you asking for an interview because he loves your stories and you say what, exactly? "I don't do interviews"? Huh? Doesn't that sound a little out of character for the outgoing persona portrayed in the author's bio? Yes, it does. The act of posting a personal bio in pubic invites attention. And this is where people get into trouble by trying to get out of the trouble they put themselves in by doing something they should have known not to do in the first place.

Not very convincing of what? I don't see an ethical problem. At all. Not even a little. Everything I do is made up. I create entire worlds of entirely fake, not real sh*t. My characters aren't real people. Where they live is not a real place. The situations they're in are not real situations. Not only that, but I don't think that there's a single romance blogger out there who thinks that a pen name and a bio is representing a real, actual living person. So, a little open secret for you... the bloggers are in on it...shhhhhhh.... It's pretty naive to think anything else, really.

There definitely are a lot of people who are very honest. Too honest. And to them honestly all I have to say is "yikes". The obsession of some fans borderlines on stalking behavior and I would never put myself in that situation. Even if it means "lying". I don't owe people myself. But people want something so I give them something.

Doing a silly little interview isn't conning readers. Nor is answering reader emails (though I wont for other reasons as I stated) in your persona.
The reader, my customer, bought my product as it was presented and they were entertained. I don't owe them anything else.
I'm not a beggar on the street asking for money in exchange for nothing. They bought a product. And successful products get marketed.
The pine-sol lady didn't make pine-sol, she was just the face of pine-sol. I have a face for my products, too, they're just not real people and why should they be? Someone else has a better face? Slap it on there. I don't have money to hire someone else's face though, so I'm just going to have to make up my own. Maybe someday, though. ;)
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Usedtoposthere on July 03, 2018, 08:13:03 pm
It is not one or the other. You can draw boundaries while still telling the truth. You choose what you share. I do not share my husbandís first or last name, for example, or my real name. I do not share my address, obviously, or personal, intimate things. I do see authors oversharing (to me), but presumably they are comfortable.

Personally, if it feels like I am sharing in order to make somebody feel sorry for me or sell books, I back off. That is uncomfortable. That said, I try to make my online presence consistent with my brand. I write feel-good books, so getting ugly on social media would be a bad idea!

Everyone draws their own ethical lines. It has been an interesting discussion.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: JWright on July 03, 2018, 08:22:15 pm
It's better for me to think of it from a reader perspective.

How would I feel if I found out my favorite author lied about being a POC so they could write about the experiences of POC?

I would feel like they deceived me for money and no matter what they put in their fake public apology I would still feel that way.

I don't want to acquire a fan base through deception. These people pay my bills, they rave about my work, they suggest it to their friends, they wait patiently for my next release. They've been good to me so why repay them with deception?

Pen names all day long because privacy is important but creating a whole fake person is not something I would do.

Very well said!
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: jb1111 on July 03, 2018, 11:23:09 pm
Well one minute you are telling me they matter then the next minute you are telling me they don't matter.


You seem to be overthinking what I said. But it's not that difficult a concept to grasp. The packaging on a bar of soap is attractive to catch a customer's eye. And often it induces sales. The slogan may be an exaggeration, but it still may help induce sales. That doesn't indicate that the packaging, or slogan itself, has any real meaning to it.

Authors put bios on their books and pages as a form of advertising, PR, and marketing their product. It's part of the packaging, just like the eye catching covers they use. If it wasn't useful for selling their product they would have no bio at all.

Some authors perhaps put bios on their pages because they have big egos -- or it is a combination of ego, PR, and marketing. To the average reader it goes in one eye and out the other. But now and then if it's made catchy a bio may induce a sale, or all that PR would be worthless and no one would engage in it.

You may personally feel that what is in a bio is a profound thing, that it has some meaning, and maybe in your case, and the case of a few others it really is. I get that. But for the most part a bio is merely another tool to try to get someone to buy your books.

So, being that a bio -- for the most part -- is nothing more than a marketing and PR tool, I can understand why false, overblown, edgy, sketchy, artsy etc. bios are used -- even though I don't participate in that sort of thing. I don't find such bios or personas necessarily immoral as some here have intimated. Extreme cases like the white person posing as a POC is probably less than 1% of any of the authors faking up their bios. I'm referring to the ones that are more commonly seen, where you can tell someone probably exaggerated and faked up a lot of their blurb about themselves -- making themselves appear larger than life in some way for the sake of selling their product.

(edited for a little more tact)
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: jb1111 on July 03, 2018, 11:25:33 pm
A few I know of specifically. And the [crap] did hit the fan. I'm just saying it's a good idea to tread carefully.

If they're white and posing as a POC, or hetero and posing as a LGBT person, that is obviously going over the line.

I understand your point especially in those cases.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: JWright on July 03, 2018, 11:38:57 pm
No I don't think an author bio is a profound thing. It's definitely not what convinces me to read a book or not.  I'm more likely to be interested in knowing more about a writer after I have already enjoyed a book of theirs.  I think it's more likely to be deceptive when it goes beyond the author bio but I also see no reason not to have one that is totally honest - which still makes it possible to preserve anonymity. 

I think all the fakery is completely unnecessary but people have convinced themselves it is "good marketing."

For me, the concept that is easy to understand is that most people don't like being lied to.

But for those who say it doesn't matter and readers don't care and then tell me that it's good marketing (which is saying that it's both), um okay. 

Everyone can do what they want, but that doesn't mean I buy the rationalizations.  The thing that bugs me most is people trying to fake being part of a minority group or military service.

I see lots of interesting shades of gray in writer groups that's for sure.

Several of us have already explained that we can preserve our anonymity, have genuine connections with our readers, choose what we want to disclose and not disclose, and still be honest and succeed. That is what I choose to do. I don't have to worry that readers are going to be p*ssed off finding out something about myself that I have been trying to hide.  I want to treat my readers the best that I can. I appreciate them.

Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Evenstar on July 04, 2018, 12:31:09 am
This may be off topic, but I spent my childhood in a dictatorship. A good friend of my parents was an author. He wrote science fiction that could have been interpreted as being critical of the regime. One day, he just disappeared.

I live in a free country now, but even after all these years, sharing anything about myself online makes me sick with fear. Especially in this age of misinformation, every little thing that's freely and innocently shared can be turned against you in a variety of ways. To me, using a pen name is not about hiding, or deceiving anyone. It's pure self-preservation, and it's so deeply ingrained that I don't think I'll ever be rid of it.

So to anyone who thinks using a pen name is somehow unethical or scammy, I want to gently point out that perhaps you're speaking from a place of privilege. Just a thought.

I think this is a very poignant post that the squabblers should have taken a bit more note of!

I get the row is about pen personas is not really about pen names (especially as I know some of you who are arguing about ethics happen to have a different name on facebook).

But personally I think a persona is fine as long as you are also being truthful. Yes, it is wrong to say you are of a different ethnicity, or that you are blind when you're not.  I think we all know that! But it's not wrong to write an enthusiastic blog post about the benefits of grapefruit simply because you know your readers will enjoy it even if you don't really have any personal interest and could care less! It is good marketing, and someone saying it isn't is being silly. That's what marketing is! Just don't lie about 'real' things. Come on... you all know the difference.


(http://www.pregnancyforum.co.uk/images/smilies/soapbox.gif)
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: JWright on July 04, 2018, 01:23:29 am
I don't ever feel the need to lie about anything as a writer or anything else in my life.  If I thought there was something my readers were interested in that I wasn't, I could still write about it without lying about it or pretending I was in love with it.

 It's quite simple.  There is really no reason for me to lie about anything ever.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: boba1823 on July 04, 2018, 05:27:56 am
"Don't tell anyone?' So don't sign contracts or talk to vendors. Don't hire an agent. Never accept an invitation to a writer's conference. Hmmm...

Tell that to Josh Lanyon who got away with it for about a decade -- until she didn't any more.

Yes, exactly - don't tell anyone.

If you really care about maintaining a pen name and persona, you should probably give up on the idea of going to writers' conferences and the like. Or hiring an agent, traditional publisher, etc. You shouldn't be paying e.g. cover designers through your personal Paypal account, either. (Step things up and have a lawyer register an LLC for you, and run things through that. You can probably trust a lawyer. Mostly  ;D) The IRS and your bank will need to know your name in relation to your company (and the lawyer), but that's really it.

You might tell a bunch of people about your pen name and then get lucky. Maybe for a decade, maybe even forever. Or.. maybe not. Telling people is almost always the reasons things get out. The truth ain't magic.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Mr. Sparkle on July 04, 2018, 08:54:28 pm
If you give up ever signing a contract or having an agent, you have then given up on a considerable part of your career, or that would be the case for many authors. And even if only your attorney and your bank know, guess what. They have a lot of employees who can and do gossip.

Legal affidavits allow the use of pen names. Witness Cockygate. IANAL, but when an LLC "signs" a contract, it's often a stamp. (ETA: You don't need an agent to negotiate anything, only an I.P. attorney. Why anyone would give up 15% for someone to mismanage a contract when you could just hire a lawyer is mystifying.)

If your attorney violates attorney-client privilege, that's grounds for disbarment. You sign an NDA clause with a lawyer who specializes in privacy issues.

If your bank releases ANY personally identifying information about you to anyone without a a court order or a national security letter / SRI, the bank is criminally liable. If a teller leaks information to someone pretexting, they could go to jail.
Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: WHDean on July 05, 2018, 06:37:42 am
Not very convincing of what? I don't see an ethical problem. At all. Not even a little. Everything I do is made up. I create entire worlds of entirely fake, not real sh*t. My characters aren't real people. Where they live is not a real place. The situations they're in are not real situations. Not only that, but I don't think that there's a single romance blogger out there who thinks that a pen name and a bio is representing a real, actual living person. So, a little open secret for you... the bloggers are in on it...shhhhhhh.... It's pretty naive to think anything else, really.

There definitely are a lot of people who are very honest. Too honest. And to them honestly all I have to say is "yikes". The obsession of some fans borderlines on stalking behavior and I would never put myself in that situation. Even if it means "lying". I don't owe people myself. But people want something so I give them something.

Doing a silly little interview isn't conning readers. Nor is answering reader emails (though I wont for other reasons as I stated) in your persona.
The reader, my customer, bought my product as it was presented and they were entertained. I don't owe them anything else.
I'm not a beggar on the street asking for money in exchange for nothing. They bought a product. And successful products get marketed.
The pine-sol lady didn't make pine-sol, she was just the face of pine-sol. I have a face for my products, too, they're just not real people and why should they be? Someone else has a better face? Slap it on there. I don't have money to hire someone else's face though, so I'm just going to have to make up my own. Maybe someday, though. ;)


I don't see an ethical problem anymore either because you've walked back from your original claim. You started out defending snowed-in lady in Saskatchewan pretending to be part of a poodle-fancying bohemian gay couple from San Francisco--I objected that such a bio invited unethical behaviour. You then came back with "John Robert III," an example of a type of persona no one has objected to. Now you're talking about Pine-Sol lady. No one raised Pine-Sol lady or, for that matter, Mr. Clean, Uncle Ben, or the Michelin Man because brand mascot aren't real. Nor does anyone but bored frat boys send them fan mail and request interviews.

Once you're talking Pine-Sol lady or the Michelin Man, yes, you can dismiss interviews as "silly." But it's hardly obvious that every interview with a bohemian gay writer is a big gag and everyone is in on the joke. Granted, I don't read up on gay romance writers, but I've never seen an in-character interview outside comedy, so I find it hard to believe it's a widely accepted convention in the gay romance genre in particular. And even if it is in character, I doubt it's common that the writer behind the persona is straight. Putting the on the gay equivalent of blackface isn't exactly tasteful: "Why my poodles are just such cutey-pa-too-tees!" I'm not winning *** of the Year anytime soon, but even I cringe at the thought of it.  :-[


Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: WHDean on July 05, 2018, 06:40:17 am
Well, we must agree to disagree. Because I believe what led him to win in the end was the fact that he can tell a good story that people want to read or to watch. There are lot of sociopaths in the entertainment industry. They don't all win.


You're saying he's famous because he wrote a good story. But back on page 6 of this thread you said he couldn't get any traction until he pitched it as a memoir.

Which one is it? Seems to me your first claim was right. He got famous, not because of the story, but because it was sold as a memoir, the kind of pathos-ridden self-help sob-story that got him on Oprah, and it was conning Oprah into believing his phony memoir and putting it in her book club, not the story, that made him a bestseller.


Title: Re: On the topic of Pen Names
Post by: Andie on July 05, 2018, 07:31:59 pm
One of my penís bios states that I like trying out new recipes. Guys, i donít even like to cook.

Film at 11.


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