Thinking of adopting a pen name. Thoughts?

This isn't specifically about web fiction, but if I do it, I'll be using it here as well.

The problem: "Christopher Wright" is a very common name and my books are getting associated with other writers with that name instead of me.

My solution: come up with a pen name that is distinctive enough to avoid that problem.

My specific solution: start using "The Baptist Death Ray," which is the name I used back when I was publishing music online.

The whole story is here

But you don't need to read that to tell me if you think I'm crazy or not. :)

I have the same problem - there's actually a fairly famous Canadian poet with my name, who was born in the same province (only 5-6 hours away from where I live). John McCrae - the author of 'In Flanders Fields'. Not sure if that has any traction in the states, but it's something you hear several times during every Remembrance Day in Canada (inspiring the poppy pin, which many will wear). Will people mistake me for him? No. But it does muddy the water some.

That was only part of my motivation to write as 'Wildbow' versus my real name. There was the fact that every conceivable variation of John McCrae was taken on Wordpress (including John C. McCrae, JMcCrae, JohnMcCrae, etc) and I sort of wanted to see what conclusions people would come to as to my gender, nationality, etc.

Really, though, I'd like to be taken seriously. I wouldn't stick with Wildbow if I was releasing an ebook. I wouldn't go with a silly name there either. I'd probably just assume a pseudonym with a legit first/last name. For the same reason, I'd be leery of suggesting you take Baptist Death Ray.

I can see how it would work against me. The question is how much it would work against me, and whether it can be turned into an unlikely advantage.

Self-publishing already works against me. The act of self-publishing already puts me at a negative in the eyes of a lot of folks. There is probably considerable overlap between the people who consider self-publishing a negative and who consider the name a negative.

The question is, among the people who are OK with self-publishing, would they consider the name a negative, or a curiosity? Curiosity could work for me. The second question is, for those who consider the name a negative, is it an additive or a concurrent negative? What I mean is, if they already think self-publishing is negative, does using TBDR increase the over negative or is it "just another reason?"

That's important because if they're against self publishing in general AND against the name, but the name is a lower threshold, then because it's a more distinctive negative I could focus energy on turning *that one* around. If someone said "I read this book written by 'The Baptist Death Ray'" and someone else says "you can't be serious" and the response is "well, yeah, but it was really good." (I'm thinking best case scenario here) then, depending on the listener's opinion of the person who read the book, I've potentially attracted a reader both in spite of AND because of the name.

(Keep in mind this is all hypothetical. I could be utterly off base here.)

Well, take this for what it is: the opinion of a single person.

But I don't consider self publishing to be a negative, per se, and I would consider a name like The Baptist Death Ray to be a point against you.

Fair enough!

@Wildbow: For a long time I assumed you were a woman, because you wrote from the point of view of a teenage girl so convincingly.

@ubersoft: You could be Mr. B.D.Ray.

Fiona, I *love* that. :D

Thanks, Fiona.

I think.

Though I joined a writer's circle in May, meeting monthly, trying to go over Worm's early chapter when it's my turn to be critiqued, and they give me flack for not writing a teenage girl so convincingly.

It does make me think about what conclusions & biases come into play when you know something about the author (even just the name). Food for thought, given the current discussion. How will people be biased towards the writing of a Baptist Death Ray vs. author B.D. Ray?

I once showed a very early draft of the first nine chapters of The Points Between to a writer's group and their main complaint was that they thought the southerners sounded like stereotypes. They were all Yankees of course. ;-)

A pen name works for me :)

B.D.Ray is much better than "The Baptist Death Ray."

I'll third (fourth?) that. :-)

"Baptist Death Ray" would be so much *fun*, though... yeah, I know.

It would be fun.

That said, I find myself wondering whether it's a death ray that specifically targets Baptists, or a death ray made specifically for Baptists to use?

Not being a Baptist myself, it's not really relevant, but I wonder.

I get that question a lot. My answer is usually "given how well Baptists traditionally get along with each other, both could be true." :-D

I thought I mentioned it, but I'd put my vote in for B.D. Ray. It won't turn away people who are liable to think silly names from internet writers = crap work, and it's something you can explain at a later date to anyone who might be interested.

I like B.D. Ray.

I've had a few pen names, and they've gotten linked lately. An interesting thing I've noticed is that linkage, where a quick websearch can make it clear that Alexander The So So , The Leaking Pen, and Alexander Hollins are all the same people. So I think that using a pen name ALONGSIDE a real name might help that going forward.

I have also found that pen names that include part of your real name to have a really good response.

On Baptist Death Ray, I would definitely put it B.D. but then in about me sections, write it out full. It becomes a little joke that can't act as a turnoff on first glance of your works, but then becomes an in joke from those that have delved deeper into your career.

At this point I'm more ambivalent about the process. Mostly in order to do this I'd have to go through the process of getting Amazon, B&N and Kobo to update their accounts to display the new name, and I'd have to re-issue the five ebooks I have so far showing the pen name, which means new ISBNs for each... ugh. But it would be better to do it NOW than LATER. It really would.

But all that hassle. God Almighty, all that hassle.

Why reissue? Add it on going forward. It will help tie the two names together, search wise.

Because the only reason I want to do this is for the database searches. Which means I want all my work searchable under one name that isn't the same name as five other writers.

mmm, gotcha.