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JRTomlin said:
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.
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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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
 

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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
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.
 

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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."

Lynn Is A Pseudonym said:
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.
 

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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.
 

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she-la-ti-da said:
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.
 

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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.
 
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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.
 

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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.  :)
 

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JulesWright said:
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.
 

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jb1111 said:
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.
 

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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.
 

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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.
 
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