Why Do Authors Use Pen Names?

By on June 9, 2021

If you’ve ever had the urge to assume a different identity when writing, you are not alone. Lots of authors decide to use pen names instead of their real names when writing a book.

What is a pen name?

A pen name is a name that an author will assume and choose to publish under rather than using their given name. Doing so is a personal choice and is completely legal. The name you choose would appeal to the book's cover and also be used in any marketing material relating to the book, so if you do decide to do this, it’s important that you are completely happy with your choice!

Choosing a pseudonym can be lots of fun, but it's important to take this seriously. Try to think of a catchy name and one that is relevant to your story and suited to your target audience. 

What are the reasons for choosing a pen name?

You might think it’s a little strange to change your name when writing a book. After all, it was you who put the blood, sweat, and tears into creating it, why wouldn’t you want all the credit? There are lots of reasons why you might choose to use a pen name instead.

To better suit the genre

If you come up with a pen name that perfectly suits your genre, this could make your book stand out. For example, if you are writing a romance or erotic novel you could use a name such as “Scarlett Fox” or if you are writing a horror novel, and a name like “Damien Black.”

To separate your different works

If you write across multiple genres you might consider giving yourself a pseudonym for the books you write in one genre and use your real name for the books you write in another. This helps ensure you don’t confuse fans of your work who tend to prefer authors to pick a genre and stick with it. If you write a popular romance novel and then release a hard-boiled detective fiction as your next book, romance fans might buy it expecting more of the same, and then be very disappointed.

Because your own name is difficult to spell or pronounce

If you have a name that’s difficult to pronounce or difficult to spell, using s pseudonym can help to make it easier for fans to find you and remember you. 

Because another writer has the same name as you

If another writer shares a name with you, you may wish to choose a pen name so as not to create any confusion. 

Because you want to separate your working and personal life

Depending on the kind of novel you write, you may also wish to keep your real identity secret. If you write erotica for example, for privacy reasons you might not wish your family and friends to know you are the author. 

To avoid gender stereotyping

Unfortunately gender stereotyping does still exist and some readers may believe that thriller novels are best written by men and romances are best written by women. While this is a very old-fashioned notion, some authors choose neutral pen names, for example by just using their initials so their gender is not revealed.

Both publishers and self-publishing platforms like Amazon KDP will happily accept authors who want to use a pen name.

Here are some examples of authors who decided to take on a pseudonym for some of their work:

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson — AKA Lewis Carroll 

Samuel Clemens - AKA Mark Twain

James D. Grant - AKA Lee Child

Daniel Handler — AKA Lemony Snicker

Agatha Christie — AKA Mary Westmacott

Stanley Martin Lieber -  AKA Stan Lee

Joanne Rowling - AKA J.K. Rowling & Robert Galbraith

Theodore Seuss Geisel — AKA Dr. Seuss

Eric Blair — AKA George Orwell

Agatha Christie — AKA Mary Westmacott

Stephen King — AKA Richard Bachman

So are you going to use a pen name for your next novel? Let us know in the comments if you are, or already do!

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