Ask Daphne! What’s in a name?

April 23rd, 2008 • Kate

S.L. asks:

If a writer publishes both fiction and memoir, and wants to publish all of her writing under one name, must she use her own name rather than a pseudonym? Or is it considered acceptable to write “memoir” with a nom de plume?

I’m not sure if there’s a hard and fast RULE about this, but I’m sure you’ve noticed the recent spate of memoirists outed for untruths and outright lies in their books (see: James Frey, Margaret Seltzer). Given this, and the pretty strict language in contracts about non-fiction, I would recommend using your own name for a memoir. Industry newshounds are on high alert about memoirs, and you don’t want to give off any scent of impropriety by hiding behind a fake name.
Pen names are more acceptable in fiction, I think, but if you want to write everything under the same name, just use your real name (or some form of it1) — it’s easier.

1By which I mean if your real name is Kate Schafer Testerman, for example, you could publish your memoir as “Kate Schafer” or “Kate Testerman” or pull from your middle, nick or other names and go with “Katie Elizabeth” or “Katie Daniels”, etc. (Yes, I have a lot of names.)

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4 Responses to “Ask Daphne! What’s in a name?”

  1. Sarahlynn Lester Says:

    Thank you!!
    The name I've been using on my short stories is Sarahlynn Peyton (First Middle) and the name I've been using on my personal essays is Sarahlynn Lester (First Last). I would love to write everything as Sarahlynn Peyton, but wasn't sure that was kosher.
    I really appreciate you answering my question on the blog.

  2. Jean Says:

    Thanks.
    I, as a woman of many monikers, was also wondering about pen names as well as the many variations of my name(s) and what was 'acceptable' when I hit the streets in publishing.

  3. Stephanie Says:

    Hi, Kate! I just wanted to thank you for the great workshop in Bellevue last weekend. Your advice was friendly, intelligent, oh-so-helpful. It was to meet you & chat about Suite Scarlett and Spencer. (I'm the girl with the blue streaks in her hair). Hope you had a wonderful honeymoon and good luck with everything!

  4. Stephanie Says:

    Er, it was NICE to meet you. That's what that was supposed to say!