Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere

A case of (almost) mistaken identity



See how I did that? Made you look! ๐Ÿ™‚

One of the decisions an author makes during the process of getting published, either traditionally or self-published, is what pen name to use. Most writers will use their “real” name, which makes sense. Some authors choose to use an alias, or pseudonym, as their pen name.

Writers with well-known pen names include Stephen King (Richard Bachman), and his son, Joe Hill (instead of Joe King. Heh, I never noticed that. Joe King. Get it? ๐Ÿ˜€ ). Others off the top of my head are J. D. Robb and Nora Roberts (which isn’t her real name either), Jayne Ann Krentz and Amanda Quick, and the (in)famous Robert Galbraith version of J. K. Rowling.

So, why do authors choose to use pseudonyms? Sometimes when an author is established in a particular genre, and they decide to write in a different genre, they will use a different pen name, like Nora Roberts and J. D. Robb. Nora is known for romance and romantic suspense. J. D. Robb writes futuristic police procedurals (which are great reading, by the way ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). According to my editor, in her experience an author’s readers will read the author’s work no matter the genre. Well, except, I suspect, if the author strays waaay away from their usual genre, like a middle-grade author writing romance, or a horror writer getting into picture books.

Sometimes authors use pseudonyms because it may make their book marketable to a wider audience, though I suspect that isn’t like it used to be. I’m referring to the discrimination experienced by female authors in certain genres, notably mystery. I suspect the same thing would apply to male authors writing in genres such as romance. Gender expectations, I think they call it.

What if you have the same name as another author? I personally know a writer who uses a pseudonym because there is already an established author (in a different genre) with the same name.

Then there are the collaborative authors who write under a single pen name, like P. J. Tracy, a mother-daughter team (daughter only now, since Patricia passed away in 2016).

And a small percentage of authors may be concerned about privacy, but that might be more relevant if writing something highly controversial, or in the erotica genre. Look at the Fifty Shades books: E. L. James. I can see her not wanting to be immediately recognized at the annual church picnic.

The obvious question for a new, soon-to-be-published author is whether to use his/her real name. If the author’s name is something almost impossible to pronounce or spell correctly, or it just sounds weird (like Joe King ๐Ÿ™‚ ), it might make sense to change it to something more reader-friendly.

It’s easy to search author names to see if your name already exists out there. Sure, your name might be Sue Grafton, but you probably don’t want to use that as your pen name, especially if you write cozy mysteries or women’s fiction. You might decide to use Susan Q. Grafton, or maybe your grandmother’s name (I know a writer who did that as well) of Lucille Cornish.


Seriously, get on with it…

Now to my story (sorry it took so long to get here ๐Ÿ™‚ ). Because of the whole female writer in the mystery genre thing (gender expectations), I chose to use my initials. (Okay, there was some influence from my other half, who has an eye on privacy. I thought about using my maiden name, but that can be hard to pronounce correctly).

I searched Amazon, and no other authors used J. M. Holmes. Oh, added bonus: a mystery writer named Holmes. Never thought about it until a fellow writer mentioned it. Anyway, I established that with my publisher, set up a FB author page, Twitter account, yada yada. Just waiting on the cover art to really go gangbusters. My debut novel, Murder in Plane Sight, is being released in March 2019, and I don’t have cover art yet so I haven’t set up an Amazon author page or Goodreads author page.

Last week I got a notification that my FB author page has a mention. What?! So I go check out the post linking to my author page. It was a review/recommendation page for five summer reads, and a book by JM Holmes was on the list.

Except it wasn’t me. That JM Holmes is a male author in a more literary genre (story of African-American young men growing up in Philidelphia). His book is also a debut novel, to be released this month.

No wonder I didn’t find him in my author search last fall.

I can’t release a book under J. M. Holmes now. I asked the poster to remove the mention of my author page since I’m not the author she was looking for (she obviously didn’t look at my page, just probably searched for it).

I contacted my editor after getting reassurance from my agent that yes, I should change my pen name. I searched for my name, and no other authors popped up. Whew! My editor also assured me that the whole women mystery author thing is pretty much history thanks to authors like Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton.

So, I will publish under Julie Holmes (much to my husband’s chagrin despite my promise not to embarrass his (my) name with shoddy writing and to keep as much anonymity as I can). So, change the FB author page, the Twitter handle, and at least I haven’t set up an Amazon or Goodreads page yet.

The benefits of a pseudonym are legit, but were more relevant years ago, I think. According to my editor, a lot of authors she knows wish they would not have used pseudonyms. I remember an article some time ago about how pseudonyms may be more trouble than they’re worth in a lot of ways. Using your real name simplifies a lot of things.

Sorry for the long post today (but I did include cat pics ๐Ÿ˜€ ). Have a great writing weekend!

zoey nap

Finally! I need a nap.

Author: Julie Holmes, author

A fiction writer since elementary school (many years ago), and NaNoWriMo annual participant for over a decade, I have been published in small press magazines such as "Fighting Chance" and "The Galactic Citizen". I write adult mystery with a touch of romance, mystery with extrasensory elements, contemporary fantasy, and epic fantasy, and I'm represented by the fabulous Cynthia Zigmund of Second City Publishing Services. My debut novel, "Murder in Plane Sight", has been released by Camel Press (an imprint of Coffeetown Press/Epicenter Press). In real life, I am a technical writer and empty-nester with a wonderful hubby, one cat (what writer doesn't have cats??), two dogs, six chickens, and more chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits than any garden should have to deal with. My garden, our hobby farm, and Nature's annual seasons are some of my muses.

20 thoughts on “A case of (almost) mistaken identity

  1. What an interesting discussion about author names! When I s tarted writing, I had to decide whether I was going to use my own name or a pen name. There were several people who urged me to use a pen name, but I decided not to do that. In the end, I settled for my own name, and I’ve not regretted it at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s great, Margot! One of my thoughts about using my name is that it is fairly common; there are even two Julie Holmes’ in the family. Then again, that could be a benefit: when people search the name, mine will come up!

      Have a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, Julie. I’m sorry that happened. At least you caught it in time.

    I didn’t want to use a pen name because I thought friend and family name recognition might lead to more sales. (It did, but the results are negligible.) Even though I’m mulit-genre, I didn’t want to use a pen name when I switched between them. I thought it would be too much identity maintenance. Now I’m managing three identities. Just goes to show you never know where your career is going to go.

    I’m sure you won’t be sullying the family name, and I for one can’t wait to read your work. (Looking forward to the cover reveal, too.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad I caught it, too. If that reviewer hadn’t linked to my author page, I probably wouldn’t have caught it until it was too late to change things on the publishing side. And my editor said multi-genre doesn’t make much difference to an author’s “fan club”. I love the brand you’ve developed; I’m still contiplating mine.

      Psst, I’m looking forward to a cover reveal as well; I haven’t seen the latest mockup. Crossing my fingers it will be almost in final form ๐Ÿ™‚

      Have a great weekend, Staci!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks. I spent the last two days in graphic agony, redoing my whole website to accommodate the pen names. That time could have been better spent on other things, but it had to be done.

        Now I’m really excited about the cover. I hope you reveal it soon!

        Happy weekend. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Long but interesting post, from start to finish Julie. Joe King–I will be spreading that around! I did what you did–use my first initial J. Murray–on my debut series because it is military fiction, which isn’t a women’s genre (and this was recommended to me by several folks). In historical fiction, I use Jacqui Murray. I mostly wanted to differentiate genres, though.

    I don’t think the same name matters. There are just too many.

    Did you ever consider S. Holmes as a pen name? Might have attracted attention!

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL! No, never thought of that, but that would be a great pen name ๐Ÿ˜€ My writing teacher suggested that when I do author events I can talk about my cousin Sherlock ๐Ÿ˜€ I do see the point in military fiction, though. Some genres just aren’t ready for female writers, like military thrillers.

      Have a great weekend, Jacqui!


  4. Interesting and very true. I put a lot thought into my name having a real name that no could pronounce. I did the research and couldn’t use my maiden name or my middle name so I got creative! Good catch with your name! I made my new name a business to help on the legal end. So many things to think about when you write. Have a great weekend Julie:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, I never thought about making a pen name the business name for the legal end. That makes sense. And you are so right about the number of things to think abut when writing. Wouldn’t it be nice to just have to think about writing the next book/story?

      Have a wonderful weekend, Denise!


  5. I’m so glad you discovered that there’s a published JM Holmes before you published! Phew! I think it makes sense to go with your name versus a pseudonym, though you give some valid reasons for shying away from it. And I agree that the gender differences become less and less an issue for most genres. How fun to be getting close. March isn’t far away!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I loved the Zoey photos (especially the comments, LOL).

    Wow–talk about catching something in the nick of time! I do agree that the stigma of women writing mysteries and crime stories is pretty much a thing of the past. I’m so glad you were able to resolve everything before your book publishes. That unsuspecting FB poster did you a huge favor with that unsuspecting mistake, LOL. I think you will do just fine as Julie Holmes. I can’t wait for Murder in Plane Sight! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know, right? I keep wondering how things would have gone if that FB poster hadn’t linked to my author page. I did notice just before I discovered that mention that I had more views than usual. No wonder!

      Hey, how about some Raven pics? And don’t forget you can announce your cover reveal here anytime ๐Ÿ˜€

      Have a great week, Mae!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for the Zoey pictures!!! You know they made me smile. And drool a little. Thank you, also, for this informative read. I’ve had enough trouble with my current last name pronunciation (probably people trying to spell it too), on top of wanting to go way way way different genre with my novel, to take to the maiden name of Russell. I mean, Russell. Come on. How much easier can you get? I’m so bummed for you that someone else got J.M. Holmes first, but like you said, being a woman mystery writer ain’t no thang anymore. You go girl. Way to take care of all that bizness.
    Did you worry I’d disappeared from the blog world? (Nearly have.) Were you trying to lure me back with cat photos? I’m on to you. And of course it worked. I could look at that orange fluff ball all day. When I finally post again, I’ll have to include a pic of that big ball of fluff at the house where I stayed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know I was thinking about you when I put those in ๐Ÿ˜€

      I did notice youโ€™ve been a bit quiet, but I also know youโ€™ve got a deadline youโ€™re working on with your nonfic book, and four kids (one not even potty-trained yet), and catsโ€“er, wait, no cats. Chickens. Thatโ€™s it. ๐Ÿ™‚ YES, post a pic or two of the cats that were at the house where you stayed. Too bad you didnโ€™t get a pic of Peter the rabbitโ€ฆor did you?

      And now schoolโ€™s starting back up. Nothing like being busy, right? Iโ€™ll have to post more Zoey pics just to keep luring you ๐Ÿ˜€

      Have a great week, Betsy!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I use the name Mickey as my cartoon name, sort of a pen name for the cartoonist part of my warped and mutated creative brain. But that is better than Ronolfo Doofusblatz, which fortunately isn’t my real name either, but that is how cartoon names work … I think.

    Liked by 1 person

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