The following article was originally posted November 2012 on my Not Enough Time in the Day blog. I've updated it to reflect what had happened to myself and my fellow author friends since then. ~Tammy
The very first post I did for our Writer's Words of Wisdom group was about using a pen name or not. In that article, I pretty much said the decision to use a pen name is a personal one and is made for a variety of reasons. Writing in different genres/subgenres was the biggest reason for me, but for others it was to keep their private life separate from their author life. Unfortunately, for a few authors, having a pen name hasn't given them the protection they desired.
This week, another one of my author friends had her job security threatened by her employer. Apparently the employer isn't too keen on my friend's choice to write erotic romance. As a writer of erotica and erotic romance myself, I know first hand the prejudice we face so it's no surprise my friend decided to go with another name to do her writing. The shocker to all of us was that it wasn't enough to protect her from possibly losing her job.
Earlier in the year one of my dear friends also had her job threatened by someone who went out of her way to find her using her pen name to write erotic romance. In fact, this one jealous, vindictive soul took it upon herself to break company policy and use the work computers to do her "investigative" work. That part didn't come out until after my friend had to meet with the board of directors of the company to determine if she was in fact doing anything that would reflect poorly on them or their business. They UNANIMOUSLY found my friend had indeed protected them and kept everything separate. The matter was dropped until they found out the "tattle tale" had been using company time to dig up dirt on my friend.
The proof was overwhelming against her and after a write up in her personnel file and a counseling session from Human Resources , she decided to quit before they investigated any further in her own bad behavior. Goes to show you the old proverb is true. "He (or she!) who lives in a glass house shouldn't throw stones."
Thankfully, I have an employer who is supportive of my writing as long as I keep it separate and not promote on work time or post my covers on the wall over my desk. Do a few of my long term client's know about my books? Yes they do and they are happy for me too. Unfortunately, many of my author friends don't have those people in their corners.
How can you or any other author protect yourselves from this happening to you? That's a tough one. Writer's these days have to not only crank out the books, they have to promote themselves and their work. This entails using social media like Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. It also means getting your own blog and website. I've talked about this before, but here's another twist. You have to do all of this using your pen name and DON'T promote any kind of link between it and your real name.
Yes, that's the exactly the opposite of what I'm doing right now, but I'm not surrounded by people in my "evil day job" who will complain to my bosses about what I do in my private life. Other's are not so lucky in their work life or their family lives.
If you write subject matter that can be labeled offensive by your employer, fellow employees, church groups, school, family members, nosy neighbors, the PTA...well...keep your alter egos completely separate. Don't talk about what you write in front of these people. It's not worth the headache, getting kicked out of the social groups, or even losing your job.
There are a hell of a lot more people out there to introduce your alter ego to. So go ahead and create the social media accounts and blogs to promote and share your work. You will build a following and maybe even those folks who publicly ridicule you, will in fact be your biggest fans. That's where you get the last laugh!
Until next week,