Pen Name Bio

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Pen Name Bio

Post by longknife » March 4th, 2010, 5:29 pm

Maybe a wierd question but: if you write something under a pseudonym or pen name, what do you do when providing a bio?.

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Re: Pen Name Bio

Post by Holly » March 4th, 2010, 5:45 pm

Send your query letters with your real name and real bio. If an agent wants to represent you, tell him or her you want to use a pen name.

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Re: Pen Name Bio

Post by polymath » March 4th, 2010, 6:29 pm

A hillarious question with serious implications. I'm amused.

Kurt Vonnegut's imaginary character Kilgore Trout is the author attributed to Venus on the Half-Shell. The entertaining mystery continued from 1974 unitl 1983. Philip José Farmer came out and spoiled the mystery after a gentlemen's agreement between him and Vonnegut broke down. Trout's fictitious bio accompanied several early editions.

On a more practical side, a fictitious bio can have unforseen consequences or advantages. James Frey's fictitious history came back to haunt him. Word on the grapevine is he's still publishing but under a rash of pseudonyms. Readers don't like to be deceived. Hobby critics expend inordinate efforts tracking down authors' histories when they don't ring true.

Perhaps a fictitious bio for a pen name persona might be clearly presented as a fabrication by use of overstatement. In the time of Venus on the Half-Shell's author mystery, the patently overstated biography was generally taken for granted as fictitious by Vonnegut fans. Discerning fans loved being in on the joke. The delight came from a form of dramatic irony where popularity rises from being among the group that's in on the joke and toying with persons who are not.

To maintain the veil of illusion, a fully, legally constructed alter-ego identity could be created. Freelance authors are essentially sole proprietors in the business sense. Registering a legal alias for a sole proprietorship doing business as--DBA--or also known as--AKA--at the municipal records office isn't a costly process. Then a bank account can be opened in the alias name for cashing royalty checks. Copyright registered in the alias name. Not even an agent would have to be in on the know. Tax authorities would though. An employer identification number, EIN, is required for filing tax forms under a business alias. Talk about a split personality!
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Re: Pen Name Bio

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » March 4th, 2010, 7:08 pm

Note: James Frey is still publishing under his own name, as well. See: Bright Shiny Morning.
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Re: Pen Name Bio

Post by longknife » March 5th, 2010, 5:19 pm

I guess I needed to make the question clearer.
I have a contract with a publisher for a novel about American Indians. They've shown i8nterest in a sequel.
I also have three other novels I want to submit to them and my editor pointed out that readers expect an author to stick to one genre. One is SciFantasy, another adventure/thriller and the third historical espionage.
The publisher has my bio, both short and rather extensive. So, is it up to me or the publisher to decide what to do about it?

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Re: Pen Name Bio

Post by bcomet » March 5th, 2010, 5:38 pm

polymath wrote:A hilarious question with serious implications. I'm amused.
I totally agree. Perhaps you should *Ask Nathan.*

My own sense is to use your own true biography and keep the details that would separate the pen name from the true name out,
i.e. went to same University; has published, under several pseudonyms, in the following literary journals: naming them and not the pieces published or the pseudonyms. And avoid using anything that would give you away.

In other words: be truthful, but not overly revealing.

(The other thing I have seen done is to avoid any credentials: Mike the Sleuth lives with an ornery black cat that is known to bite illiterates and conducts underground workshops in a makeshift garage in blizzard conditions to ensure only the most thick-skinned of dedicated students ever attend his writing seminars.)

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Re: Pen Name Bio

Post by linguista » March 12th, 2010, 1:03 am

Sophie Kinsella, who wrote the Shopaholic Series, is actually a pen-name. When Madeleine Wickham decided to change her voice and direction, she sent the books into the publisher under the pen name. So there is a precedent for writign different genre under different names. For years, she kept it a secret that they were one and the same, but there's no reason you can't disclose that you're both.

I think the idea that you should stick to one genre may come from wanting to keep your fans happy. If you write 5 vampire YA novels and then write a family saga, people who picked up your name looking for VampYA will be disappointed. If the family saga is written as Jane Doe, but mentions under author info that Jane Doe is also Mary Smith, then that doesn't happen.

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