Friday, July 06, 2007

Lying to Agents is NOT All Right

Dear Rejecter,

What if you write a great query letter, but you don't want to sign your real name to it because in the craftless days of your writing career you threw up a zillion sites and there are very bad samples of your writing floating around the web under that name. Is it OK, to use something else and only tell the agent after they read a partial?

There's no reason to do this. First of all, we only use a search engine if we're checking up on some weird or suspicious credential. Second, even if we did in theory actually find your writing and look at it, if it was totally different from your query, we would assume it was either another person or some old, unpolished work. Heck, I've got fanfic from when I was 15 still up on a website somewhere. If a older, bad version of your manuscript is online, do try and take it down, but you're probably worrying over nothing.

You should ALWAYS sign your real name in a query letter unless you have valid legal or political reasons not to do so.

18 comments:

Chumplet said...

I write under a pen name, and my online presence is also under that name. Not Chumplet -- my pen name is in my profile on my blog.

Should I then sign my query with that pen name or my real name? I don't consider using my pen name lying. I want to keep things simple.

Another agent expressed her irritation when writers sign their queries 'so and so writing as so and so.' Would such a practice be better or worse?

Dave Kuzminski said...

I used to believe my name was quite unique. I found out just over a decade ago that there are 17 people in the US with the same name as myself.

Thomas said...

This is the second time that you've talked about real vs. pen names of late.

This leads me to ask about legal names vs. names of address. Is it best to use one's birth certificate name or what one is called? Should a letter be addressed to "Bartholomew," "Bart" or "Barty?" Does it matter if one goes by their first or middle names? What if one goes by some nickname that is seemingly unrelated to the related Christian name?

Names say a lot about people in day to day life. How do they affect one's chances at publication?

Anonymous said...

Speaking of real names and such, do you have a legal or political reason for not using yours?

BuffySquirrel said...

After all, if there is any damage control to be done, your agent can't help if they don't know about it.

The Rejecter said...

Man, people are taking this WAY too seriously. Someone just asked, "Should I put my pen name on my query letter?" and the answer was, "No, you should put your real name; the agent will help you decide whether or not to use a pen name." Use common sense to decide what your "real name" is - it's generally the one that people call you by and what your addressed mail goes to and what you sign contracts as. If your legal name is Diana but your 10-year-old driver's license says Dwight because you had a sex change, I guess you can leave that out.

As for the question about my name, I had behind a fake name because I don't want a ton of queries addressed to me, and there's all those hate comments I get that I don't publish.

MaryK said...

I have also created a whole persona around my pen name chumplet. I have never used my real name online.

My pen name is a homage to my Grandmother.

In an effort to minimize confusion, I have also registered it as a business name and plan to conduct all my writing business through it. That is of course if I ever get any writing business.

ORION said...

Many writers put the cart before the horse.
I second what rejecter said. Writing is a business. I queried with my real name and intended on using my real name but then after a lengthy discussion with my agent -- my name was modified (with compelling reasons given by my agent).I ended up opening a separate checking account and becoming a sole proprietor.
This is something that does not have to be addressed until after representation.

Anonymous said...

"and there's all those hate comments I get that I don't publish."

I find your blog useful and entertaining and it's sad to think that there are crazies out there that feel compelled to say hateful things. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that not one of the hate-mail commentors can write worth beans. Even if they could, I doubt they could get/retain an agent as their anger management issues will surface sooner or later.

Dwight's Writing Manifesto said...

Dang. Busted.

Twill said...

With the exception of gender switches, I don't think that there is any difference between using a consistent pen name and using a personal or legal name.

"Twill" obviously wouldn't do, but whether I go by Teresa or Trace at the query stage shouldn't matter at all. It's my writing and my personality, at this stage, not my name.

astairesteps said...

William Shakespeare had this exact problem. He was like, Should I go by Willy--which my wife calls me, or should I go with Will--the name I've personally always fancied, or should I just stick with William--my christened name? His agent told him it didn't really matter because the world centuries hence would usually just refer to him as "Shakespeare."

So calm down, people. If your work is that good, it doesn't matter what your name is. After all, wouldn't a rose, by any other name, smell just as sweet?

Anonymous said...

And then there's J.T. Leroy. I'm surprised no one, including the rejecter, has brought her up. Had a good run as a fake former child prostitute author of a soul baring novelist, until she became unmasked as someone quite ordinary and wound up in court.

http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/people/features/14718/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JT_LeRoy

http://www.radaronline.com/exclusives/2007/06/forget-about-that-jt-leroy-refund.php

Anonymous said...

Twill--I agree with you. In my case, it's maiden name v. married name. I prefer to write under my maiden name. This isn't "lying" to me. I'm baffled why Rejecter--hi Rejecter|! I like you! Not being argumentative here, just talking!--titled this question about pen names as "lying" to an agent.
I think I would tend to agree that choosing a name that is completely fabricated would do well to wait for your agent's input. But if, as Chumplet (and Maryk) said, she has an online presence under that name, even that I wouldn't consider "lying" to an agent. I would probably consider it being extra-truthful, because it gives access to her online presence.
Anyway, it's not so much that I disagree with the advice that I disagree with the classification of using a pen name as "lying".
And also the vagueness of what constitutes a pen name. Maiden name, nickname, family name, made-up-but-consistently-used-already names... they're all varying degrees from being "real".

Anonymous said...

I think the point is using a pen name on a query is unprofessional - just as it would be to mention your preferred cover art at this stage - or dedication, or availability for bookstore signings this October. It's jumping the gun. You could simply say "Googling my online moniker P.N. Name will bring up writing samples".

Anonymous said...

I can understand not needing to choose a pen name until after you've signed with an agent/editor, but what if your pen name has become your name?

For instance, my pen name is also the nickname that I go by. I've been introduced as my pen name even to agents and editors. A lot of the writing world knows me as my nickname. My qualm is when I'm writing the query letter, am I to use the name they know me as, or use my real name? Perhaps I should put my nickname in quotes?

Kattt9 said...

In addition to my "normal" writing, I enjoy posting hardcore porn on a popular members-only social website (I'll not tell which one). I'm already using a fake name. Incidently, you'd be surprised at how many people read my porn "lit": over 20,000 views in the first 10 days! Holy shit!

Anonymous said...

what was the fan-fic about?