A Writer's Guide to Pen Names & Personal Privacy | Mike Allred | Skillshare

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A Writer's Guide to Pen Names & Personal Privacy

teacher avatar Mike Allred, Writer | Speaker | Educator

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

14 Lessons (31m)
    • 1. New Pen Names Intro

    • 2. You Simply Don't Like Your Name

    • 3. Your Name Is Hard to Pronounce

    • 4. Same Name As Famous Person

    • 5. So You Want To Write Erotica

    • 6. Political Views

    • 7. Writing For Opposite Genders

    • 8. You Want Total Privacy

    • 9. Previous Work A Writing Disaster

    • 10. Age Discrimination & Perfect Pen Name Tip

    • 11. The Hazards of Exposé Writing

    • 12. To Protect & Shield Your Family

    • 13. First Steps To Your Pen Name

    • 14. Pen Name Final Thoughts

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About This Class

For the new freelance writer, one of the most important decisions you'll make is whether to write using a pen name, or your real name.  In this class we'll cover eleven important decisions you might face, as a new writer, involving your name.  Should you write using a pseudonym, or pen name, or should you write using your real name and true identity?

This class is meant to stimulate your thinking about what you should do, when faced with these eleven naming situations.  As a new writer, using a pen name is an important decision you should make early in your writing career.  This class will help you make the decision.


Meet Your Teacher

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Mike Allred

Writer | Speaker | Educator


Writer, speaker, storyteller, narrator, video/voice spokesperson. 


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1. New Pen Names Intro: Hello, Mike Allred here. Welcome to the class. In this class, you will discover common situations where a new freelance writer may prefer to write under a pen name instead of the real name. Well, look at 11 situations you might face as a new freelance writer. And in each of these situations, you'll need to make the decision of whether toe identify yourself or write under a pseudonym or pin name. Many years ago, a face some of these situations as the newbie freelance nonfiction writer in college, I discovered that I enjoyed writing, nonfiction, instructional and how to materials rather than creative fiction. But even though it was nonfiction, I found myself in some awkward, uncomfortable situations that I never expected to be in simply because I chose toe identify myself as the author. You'll learn how expressing your true feelings own certain matters as a writer or a speaker can be hazardous to your job and future career opportunities. I'll tell you the story of my first job out of college and how casually speaking about politics ended my promising career and a future for me in one specific industry, both fiction and nonfiction freelance writers can benefit from this class, and if you're a newbie freelance writer, you'll find nuggets of wisdom and warning. In this class. This class is meant to stimulate your thinking about what you would do if you find yourself faced with any one of these situations that will be covering. You'll also find helpful advice on how to choose a pin name. What to do after you've decided on your pin name or dames and the actions you can take to secure and protect you and you pin name when possible, will cover tips on how to do this and MAWR in this class. Welcome to the class. Now let's dive right into this intriguing topic off whether you should reveal your true identity in your writing to use a pen name or your real name. That is the question. I'm so glad you're here, and I thank you for taking this class. Now let's get started 2. You Simply Don't Like Your Name: you might consider writing under a pen name if you simply don't like your name. This is a common feeling among many writers, and while many might say that a name change isn't really that important, I personally firmly believe that if you're not comfortable in your own skin with your name , a name change should be considered, but simply not. Liking your real name just by itself should only be one reason. Among other reasons, writing under a pen name is necessary. Remember, writing even for freelancers involves marketing yourself and your writing. And choosing an appropriate pin name should be considered a business decision as much as a personal decision. And it should involve much careful thought an advantage, of course of ah, carefully chosen pin name. One that feels right to you is the control that you'll have over your writing options in your writing career now and in the future. So if you simply don't like your name and you don't feel comfortable in your skin with your name, use a pen name 3. Your Name Is Hard to Pronounce: a second reason that writers often decide to use a pin name is their name is difficult to pronounce. It's hard to remember, or you have to give people directions on how to pronounce your name. This seems to be another common reason that many authors prefer the use of pin names. Your name might be hard to spell or pronounce where it might be visually confusing or visually unattractive. In other words, it simply doesn't look good to the eye on paper or on a book cover or a computer screen. These situations can be a problem in your marketing campaign and building your brand As a freelance writer. You might also have a name that could be politically in appropriate for the location or the country where you live. For example, if you have the same name as a terrorist whose name and face has been all over the news, or if you have the same name as a criminal or a crooked politician, these are definitely good reasons to choose an appropriate pin name to use in your writing . Avoid the consequences of a politically tainted sounding name with an appropriate friendly feel, good pin name and make sure your pen name is easy to say. Easy to spell friendly sounding and, if possible, easy to remember. 4. Same Name As Famous Person: Another reason you might consider using a pin name is when your name is the same as another famous or infamous person. Now, this is another problem I face for years when writing under my real name. My real name is the same as a famous comic book cover illustrator. Many years ago, when I started writing articles under my real name, I always ended up buried on Page eight or nine in Google Search Results and even further back in some searches. I was always many pages behind the famous guy with same name, and having the same name didn't help me a bit and being found on Google searches. Somehow the Google computers knew the difference between the famous guy and me. So if you're thinking that having the same name as someone famous might help you in the Google searches, well, not likely. If you have the same name of someone super famous like a famous actor, a celebrity or a sports figure, you might as well give up now and pick out a suitable pin name because you'll never get ahead of the famous people in Google searches. Another good reason to use a pen name 5. So You Want To Write Erotica: Another good reason for using a pin name is if you write adult erotica or you write violent blood and guts materials. Imagine for a second you're happily married. You have a job you love. You have a spouse you love a couple of nice kids in school. Ah, fun loving family pet and life is good for you. Oh, and you're a freelance writer, part time. And then one day you decide on a new genre to start writing erotica. You decide your new riding genre will be adult erotica. How do you think your Children's teachers or the P t a chairwoman or your fellow church members are going to feel once they discover you're writing racy, downright pornographic material? Now, in literary and riding circles, your genre might be referred to as classical erotica. But out in the real world, what you'll be riding is more commonly called porn. Just for the heck of it. I just googled the word erotica. Google returned 138 million results. Then I Googled the word porn is four little letters, a whopping 1,000,000,826 million results. There's no question sex definitely sells And if you have a real talent for writing erotica , it can be a very profitable genre for you, both in print and videos in the movies online and many media. So writing porn is profitable, but it definitely takes a talent for doing it. Now, if you right under your real name as an erotica writer, you going to suddenly find yourself referred to as the weird guy down the streets that writes dirty books. And then you might be stuck with that unfortunate label for a long, long time. And once you're stuck with that label is going to be almost impossible to get rid of, especially when the news hit your local neighborhood gossip circuit and own line in the social media sites. And you know, soon your family will find out that you write erotica or porn. How will Aunt Mary and Grandma Jeannie feel knowing you write dirty books for a living? I suggest you pick out a good pin name right now before you start writing in the erotica genre, 6. Political Views: you might consider writing under a pen name if your political views, both in writing and in person may affect your career and your future. There's no question that the current political climate in our country can be a source of unease for those riders willing to express their honest political views. Considering our country is almost split 50 50 along party lines, your political views will likely both please or offend a sizeable segment of your readership if you're employed in a situation or environment where opposing political views are strongly held. Writing under a pen name is a must. One of the biggest and ill advised mistakes I made on my first job out of college as a young department head. I was 28 of Belief was to volunteer to my employer how I was planning on voting in the upcoming general elections. At the usual Monday morning department head meeting, the CEO of our company ask if anyone present among the 17 department heads would be willing to share how he or she would be voting and why in the upcoming general elections the following week, he even brought a copy of the general election ballot that was printed in the newspaper so we could point out who we would be voting for and why. Please remember, this happened many, many, many years ago. Today, this kind of behavior could get an employer arrested for asking thes things. Well, anyway, thinking that I might win some brownie points with my honesty and being both young and stupid, I fell into his velvet lined trap and with youthful enthusiasm, I stood up invoiced my political views on the upcoming election. After I'd finished with my views, you could hear a pin drop in that room. No other department head said a word. You could feel a chill fall over that room. Well, the CEO looks straight into my eyes, paused, gave a fake smirky smile and said, Well, Mike, it's a free country. You can vote any way you want. Little did I know at the time, but the CEO was a staunch conservative, and at that time, many, many, many years ago, fresh out of college, I was, Ah, hard core free speech, ex hippie liberal from that day forward. Besides being ostracised by the other department heads, my career started a quick and steady downhill slide. That company and I finally resigned a few months later. Another older department had friend in his late forties pulled me aside after the meeting and offered me some life changing life lesson advice, he told me in hushed tones. Mike, you just screwed yourself in there. Your future's over here. Listen, if you want to survive and companies like this always keep your political views to yourself and keep your mouth shut about politics on the job. Remember that and good luck because you're gonna need it. How true, How true that turned out to be. Back then. It was a hard lesson to be learned as a free speech. Always speak your mind ex hippie, but a very valuable life lesson. The take away on this is, and it's simply my opinion. Based on my personal experience. Use a pen name when expressing your written political views, and when you feel the urge to speak your political views on the job, don't just keep your mouth shut tight. Your future may well depend on keeping your political views to yourself. Keep your views to yourself personally and in your writing, unless you're using a pin name. Keep this in mind. When you voice your opinion, when you say words or you write your opinion on any subject, your words are like a puff of smoke. Once spoken, you could never, ever, ever take those words back. You can't unspeakable those words. And no matter how many times you say, Oh, I was just kidding. I didn't mean that. That Freudian slip of yours, those words you just spoke will be floating around the universe for eternity. Think before you speak, Think before you write. And if you do right political or radical commentary, for heaven's sakes, please use a pen name for yourself and your family's future again. Let me point out these are my opinions based on my past experience, but you have to do what feels right to you and what you feel comfortable with. The take away in this lesson. If you'll be writing political commentary, use a pin day. If it was good enough for Ben Franklin, it's good enough for us 7. Writing For Opposite Genders: you should definitely consider using a pen name if you will be writing across gender lines or opposite gender subjects. Writing across gender lines own opposite gender subjects had to be the biggest screw up I ever made in my writing undertakings. Now, this happened many, many years ago, when I was young and just starting to write. I had written a few short articles under my real name on topics that were of interest to women. The ideas for these booklets at the time came from my wife and a few close women friends that I do. And I was discussing with them subjects that they would enjoy reading about. And they gave me a list of subjects that they would like read about subjects such as pregnancy problems, birth stretch marks, menopause and hot flashes type of content. I honestly thought I was writing helpful, informative, well research material that new mothers and women that would soon be facing menopause would find helpful. Well, I learned some valuable lessons from that experience. You wouldn't believe the feedback I received because I was a man. Writing on topics that only women could experience, I made the mistake of writing under my real name. I should have used a pen name, but I was new to this genre and I didn't know better. The take away for this tip. If you're going to be writing cross gender cross genre material, used a pen name. 8. You Want Total Privacy: you may consider writing under a pen name. If you simply don't want any attention or any notice for your writing, you may want total privacy in your freelance writing activities. You don't want your name or your personal information spread anywhere over the Internet or in any media. For many years, that was my feeling. I wanted absolutely no attention or mention of my writing or myself. During my early writing years. I was operating a full time, complicated family business and really had no desire for attention. What I wrote, it's It's simply that at the time I loved putting words on paper. I loved riding. I love the feel of the keys beneath my fingertips. And I love that feeling when you get into the groove while writing where you just lose track of time and the work's just fly off your fingertips. Now, however, at my age, I no longer care about being found or getting noticed or being recognized as a nonfiction writer. The take away tip here, use a pen name for all your writing. If you want privacy 9. Previous Work A Writing Disaster: you might consider writing under a pen name if you're early. Riding was a complete disaster, and you just want a fresh start and you want to forget your writing fiasco. That's exactly what happened to me after my across gender across genre fiasco, where I was writing articles for women under my riel male name. I just want to do crawl into a hole, government head and hide. But at the time, I never considered the simple act of writing under a pseudonym. It was maybe two or three years before actually started writing regularly again, again, being able to start fresh. Being able to forget your past is a big advantage of writing under a pen name. 10. Age Discrimination & Perfect Pen Name Tip: you might consider writing under a pen name if you're too old or too young for a certain niche. Yes, there can be aged discrimination when you write in certain niches. Many years ago, I wrote under a pen name a couple of articles on a subject whose target demographic was 18 to 23 year old male college students. I made the mistake of including my photo along with the articles. As a result of my photo, I received reader comments about me being an old fart, and I shouldn't be writing about college life. It was difficult not to respond to some of those critical remarks because you see, I waas young once. I did graduate from a university and I was a wartime Vietnam veteran, and I was offering career advice to young men who may have been considering a military career but weren't sure. It took a lot of my willpower not to respond to these critical comments and say something impulsive that might haunt me for years to come. I followed my own advice in that situation. I kept my mouth shut in the face of these criticisms. Now I'll have to confess. I sometimes find myself being discriminatory when reading articles written by young authors and magazines for the mature demographic, the AARP crowd. My thinking would go like this if I was reading an article written for older people, and I noticed that the author of the article might have been young. Here's the way I thought this riders too young. He's only 32 years old. What does he know about retirement or Medicare, or what it's like to be old in America? What does he know about age discrimination now? If he had a pin name like George Marshall and said that he was 57 years old, I would have given his article much more authority and credibility. Now here's a tip on choosing perfect pen names for your target reader demographic. Let's say you're writing for the 40 year old male demographic. Maybe you'll be writing on midlife crises for 40 year old men. And by the way, my midlife crisis when I was 40 was a brand new motorcycle, which I almost killed my cell phone. Now here's what you do. Go to baby center dot com that's baby center dot com. There you can search for the most popular boy names for any particular year that the U. S. Census has data. So if you were searching for a pin name that you wanted to use for articles that you'll be writing for 40 year olds, you go to baby center dot com into the year 1977. That would be 40 years ago. Then you'll get a list of the most popular top 500 boy names in order of popularity based on US Census data. With that information, you have a gold mine of information about what your pen name should be. For the 40 year old reader demographic, by the way, the most popular boy baby name for 1977 was Michael. The number two name was Jason. For girls, the most popular baby name was Jennifer, and the second most popular girl, baby name was Melissa. So a good pin name if you're writing for 40 year old male demographic, would be Jason Michaels or Jason Christopher. Christopher being the number three popular name. Do you wonder what the number 500 name Waas for boys in the year 1977 Jarrett and the number 500 name for Girls Iris. Be sure and check out this website, baby center dot com. It is loaded with valuable data on names from the U. S. Census Bureau. This is a valuable resource when looking for a pen name to use on certain demographics, Yeah. 11. The Hazards of Exposé Writing: you might consider writing under a pen name if you will be writing expose or documentary type material and you don't want to be identified as the author before writing, expose type materials, whether in an article as a post or a book. Remember what usually happens to whistleblowers when they do an expose, and there found out they may be partially protected by government whistle blower laws. But their lives are made miserable after the expose, and whistleblower laws don't apply to all employers and all situations. Please don't put your future in the future of your family in jeopardy. When you write, expose or documentary type material, always use a pen name. 12. To Protect & Shield Your Family: you may consider writing under a pen name when you want to protect your family from unwanted attention or the unfortunate notoriety your writing may generate. Sometimes are riding McCall's unexpected consequences or even unwarranted harm and suffering to our families. For example, take the writer who writes that revealing expose about a local company, and it's unfair employment or operating practices. Once the expose writer's identity is revealed, his family may be subjected to unwarranted criticism, unfair attention or even ostracism. And what follows is an example of the classic guilt by association pattern. Regardless of how sincerely the writer might try to protect his family from unwanted attention, Guilt by association can touch every member of the family and even reach into the schools where his or her Children may attend again. Use a pen name when writing anything that could unpleasantly affect your family. 13. First Steps To Your Pen Name: well, we've looked at many situations where a pen name would be a requirement. So if you've decided to use a pin name, what should you do? Well, one of the first decisions is to decide whether you want a male name, a female name or a gender neutral name. Just using your two initials in your last name and then consider the type of writing and what genre or niche you'll be writing in. Then ask yourself, Does the name feel right to you? Does it feel right in your gut? Does it feel right when you say the name to yourself? Once you've decided on a name, start checking all the name possibilities on Google. Just google the name and see what turns up. Once you find the name that you like and is suitable for you immediately, check if the dot com domain name is available, and then just make sure check on the who is database. Also, if the dot com domain is available, lock it up. Get it now because if you don't someone else might then check to see if a form of the name is available as a Google email address. Open a linked an account under the name if available open YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, INSTAGRAM accounts under the name if available, open social media accounts under the name. If available, the pin name that you choose will be following you throughout your writing career. And unless you write under several different pen names, the pen name you choose will be following you throughout your writing career. Unless you write under several different pen names, the name you choose should be suitable for both fiction and nonfiction materials. Your pen name will establish your personal writing brand in the public eye. 14. Pen Name Final Thoughts: well, I hope you've enjoyed this class. We've covered only a few of the reasons why you might consider writing under a pen name. Some writers just might feel uncomfortable with their real name, while others may have legitimate reasons to hide their writing identities. But don't let a name prevent you from having fun riding. I wrote and self published my first How to Book in 1984 and I followed it with several more in the how to genre. Please be sure and follow me here. Own skill share so you'll be notified when my next class in this series is published, and I think you'll find the next class in this. Siri's very interesting. It's titled How to Turn Your Skills, Talents and Life Experiences Into Money Making, How to Books Anyone. And I Mean anyone can write a money making How to book, and I'll show you how to do it in my next class in this series. Thanks again for taking the class. Please be sure and followed me here on skill share. A positive review and the thumbs up from you would be greatly appreciated till next time on Michael Red with my best buddy Fritz