Identity Crisis: Changing Pen Names

©Igor Borodin, via Bigstock

©Igor Borodin, via Bigstock

Those of you who’ve been following this blog for a while know that I’ve recently changed my pen name despite the fact that I’ve spent the last few years trying to make Jenna Blue mine… Crazy, right?

Oh, it is, though I didn’t take the decision lightly. First, beyond the practicalities of switching everything over, and the extra effort to re-build a brand, if you will, I chose Jenna Blue for a good reason. It had meaning to me. Unfortunately, it meant something entirely different to most everyone else hearing it for the first time. I can’t tell you how many people respond “that sounds like a porn star name.” Uh, really? Why? Crystal or Amber, it is not. I brushed off that same reaction over and over, thinking hey, all stage names and pseudonyms sound weird, until suddenly they don’t. If you manage to become successful enough, the name loses any other connotation but yours, right? Still, concern took root. My stories aren’t exactly sweet, but if readers are expecting erotica, they will be disappointed.

In the meanwhile, I’ve become friends with a fantastic suspense author named AJ Scudiere (ReadAJS.com) who, after an accidental experiment, discovered that a less feminine-sounding name got a far better response from agents representing her genre. No kidding—in this day and age. Lesson learned, however: perceptions do matter in this business. We talk and talk about branding, right? From book covers to your online platform, you need a consistent message. Readers want to know what to expect…and you guessed it, the first clue you give them is your name.

Currently, I write romantic suspense (RS), although my stories don’t fit into the tidy corners of that genre’s usual box. Also, my writing has been repeatedly called out as gritty. That word isn’t, perhaps, quite right, but there is a weight or a heft—maybe a gash torn from that expected cube—that speaks to both my voice and my subject matter. I am, I feel, writing RS with some women’s fiction in the mix. But even my contemporary romances—when I get to them—will still have my voice. Hmmnn. Jenna Blue was feeling more and more wrong.

Two other practical problems presented themselves in the meanwhile. First, another author has come onto the scene in other romance: Jenna Black. Yep, dang my slow start, her name is a little too similar for comfort—both for her sake and mine. Even more important, however, is my day job. I design as Julie Schroeder. But I’m not on social media that way—only Linked In, which I prefer to reserve solely for graphic design work. Nearly everything else was under Jenna Blue. Pleased authors who wanted to say thanks had to tweet with my Jenna Blue handle…uh, oh. How to grow a business when you aren’t easily findable, when you’ve made your multiple identities rather too separate? Yet, doubling my social media obligations simply wasn’t an option either.

I considered just using my real name for everything, as I’m sure anybody who really wants to find you, can, but while I was debating, someone close to me plastered a picture of me—one I hate, and not remotely recent (yes, I’d rather look current than young)—on facebook. And I realized by my swift, horrified, and somewhat unreasonable reaction, that retaining control of my online author persona, was important. I needed, for myself and my family, a level of separation, no matter how sheer. And yet, my names needed to be close enough, to allow both halves of my life to work together.

After much thought, I settled on JB Schroeder. Beyond the sense that it has a more appropriate feel for what I write (yes, audience?), I also thought I just might be able to answer to it. I still don’t even blink when someone says Jenna. There are a few people who do occasionally call me JB (my initials once upon a time), so it’s not like it doesn’t have meaning and history for me.

Still—submissions pending, contests entered—I had to wait. What if I wiped out Jenna Blue and one of those editors or judges decided to check out my presence online? Finally, when I made a decision to switch tracks on my writing career, the time was right to bring JB Schroeder to life. My apologies for the confusion in the meanwhile. And if you’ve got a pseudonym story of your own, we Femmes would love to hear it.

JB Schroeder
JulieSchroederDesigns.com

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16 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your journey JB. I’ve been fortunate enough to read your manuscripts and I think the new pen name is a much better fit for your fearless, spine-tingling writing style. Good luck with the switch 🙂

    Reply
  2. JB, I think this new name suit you fabulously. And with the genre you’re writing in, it fits! For readers who doesn’t follow Le Femmes or know you, JB will be mysterious to them. Like what does JB stand for? Teehee 🙂

    Though Jenna sounded great, the Blue part of the name just didn’t work. Yes it would have made for a great erotic author name but RS? Errr Not really. It did make me think of sad stories but if I say the name over and over again then it sounds good.

    But JB is wonderful for you so, Congrats on the new name!!!

    Reply
    • JB Schroeder

       /  October 7, 2014

      Thank you, ki pya! I hadn’t thought of the mystery angle here! : ) And I love the support, thank you!!

      Reply
  3. Congrats on the new pen name JB! It sounds like a good name for romantic suspense. I also think it’s sad that people want more masculine names for suspense. Haven’t we gotten past that?

    Reply
  4. JB Schroeder

     /  October 7, 2014

    You would think, Tina, but apparently not! If you ever get a chance to ask AJ about the details, do–it’s crazy. There was a link to a tv interview she did telling the story that I’d hoped to include, but neither she or I could find it. Thank you, Tina!

    Reply
  5. Whatever name you go by, I’ll still call you FABULOUS.

    Reply
  6. RoseAnn DeFranco

     /  October 7, 2014

    Hey, JB. I like it! I can’t tell you how many times I tried a pen name on for size. Nothing felt right and I encountered a lot of the road blocks that you mentioned above. Beyond that, I started to hear horror stories regarding filing for taxes and the worst…publishers claiming they owned an author’s name. Having said that, while my contemporaries are under RoseAnn DeFranco, I decided long ago that when I get around to them, my YA’s will be published under RA DeFranco which follows my twitter handle and website as well, and I feel is better suited to the genre. Congrats. I think this is a keeper! 🙂

    Reply
  7. JB Schroeder

     /  October 7, 2014

    The LLC or DBA issue is on my list for sure, RoseAnn! It’s definitely a concern. I’ve always liked your RA! ; ) And I agree–great for YA! Thanks!!

    Reply
  8. I love JB for your suspense novels…the long-suffering J.B. of the MacLeish play (Job, anyone?) definitely matches your choice of genre. I think it works across to contemporary, too.

    I sometimes have doubts about my pen name, too…although anyone who has said anything about it seems to love it. I think it sounds romantic, it’s just confusing on social media, like RoseAnn said.

    And Joanna’s right…maybe JB stands for Just Bodacious!

    Hugs,
    Jaye

    Reply
    • JB Schroeder

       /  October 11, 2014

      Don’t know that one, Jaye, but after a cabaret last night, I realize there are SO many musicals I’m unfamilar with too. I need to start watching one a month or something! I do think your name sounds romantic! And I’ve always loved the spelling for “Jaye.” ; ) Thanks!

      Reply
  9. Hi JB. I like the new pen name and agree it suites your writing. I struggled with my pen name and whether to use my real first name (which I did), finally opting just to change my last name and to incorporate the initial of my real last name. I mentioned on one of the loops that the name “Al” is popular in my family, so it made sense for me to incorporate into my pen name. I did find it amusing that at the book signing at Nationals, I sat among 5 or 6 authors with the last name “Alexander”. We had almost an entire row!

    Good luck with the new step in your writing career!

    Reply
    • JB Schroeder

       /  October 11, 2014

      That many Alexander’s, Maria! That’s crazy! Who knew? And I love that you found a name that’s both yours and not quite yours, and most of all, has some meaning for you! Thank you–I’m especially glad to hear that those of you who’ve read my writing, think JB fits!

      Reply
  10. I love the choice, JB! I’ve been there, as you know, and can relate. In the end, choosing your author name is truly a personal decision. So long as you’re comfortable, your readers will embrace it, too. Sometimes we have to do what feels right for us. Trust your gut! It will never steer you wrong 🙂 I’m happy you’re in a good place & I can’t wait to read your gritty stories!

    Reply
    • JB Schroeder

       /  October 12, 2014

      Thank you, Kristina! : ) You are so right. Instinct and gut feel play into this whole biz far more than one would think!

      Reply

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