Pen Names: To Use or Not to Use

Pen names. Pseudonyms. Author name.

No matter what you call it, it means the same thing: a fake name used to keep the author of a short story, novel, poem, etc. anonymous.

Choosing whether to use a pen name was something I struggled with early in my writing career. I went back and forth about whether I should use my real name until almost a month before I published my first book. Ultimately, I opted to use a pen name, but that’s not for everyone.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, here’s a guide on whether you should or shouldn’t use a pen name!

When You Should Use a Pen Name

1). You Want to Stay Annonymous

This is the most obvious reason to use a pen name. If you don’t want your friends, family, or co-workers to stumble onto your book on their own and know you wrote it, using a pen name is a great option. This way, you can pick who knows about the book you wrote.

Maybe the novel you wrote contains family secrets or goes against your family’s belief system. Or, maybe you write a genre where you’d rather keep your identity private. No matter the reason, if you don’t want everyone to know you wrote a book, using a pen name is a great way to keep your personal and writing life separate.

2). Your Legal Name is Difficult to Spell or Pronounce

If, throughout your life, you find people often stumble over pronouncing your name or can never seem to get the spelling right, a pen name could simplify things for everyone. This way, when your fans recommend a book to their friends, they can say your name with total confidence.

This also helps when future readers search for your book(s) online. If they can’t spell it, they probably can’t find it online.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to use a pen name if you have a unique name…just something to consider.

3). You’re Branching Out

Perhaps you’re an established author who’s looking to branch out and write in a new genre. Using a pen name is a great way for your fans to easily differentiate between the various genres you write.

When You Shouldn’t Use a Pen Name

1). You Want Everyone to Know you Wrote It

Don’t care who knows you wrote a book? Want the world to know about your book? Then have your legal (or nickname) printed on the cover of your book, and scream it from the rooftop that’s you!

2). You Don’t Want to Confuse Names on Paperwork

As an indie author, there will always be paperwork. Whether filing for a copyright or filling out tax information, it’s 100% inevitable. Sometimes, this can be confusing enough without mixing a pen name into the mix.

If you’re the type of person who wants to keep things as simplified as humanly possible, then not using a pen name may be the way to go.

3). You Don’t Want to Learn a New Signature

If you don’t want to bother learning how to write a new name—and make it look legible—or, maybe you love how the signature looks that you took years perfecting, using your legal name instead of a pen name may be the best option for you.

Why I Chose to Use a Pen Name

At the end of the day, I decided using a pen name was the best choice for me. I did so for a variety of reasons, but mostly because my surname is always an issue for people. But, since I love my first name, I only changed my last name.

And, recently, I picked up a second pen name to differentiate between my horror/thriller writing and my rom-com.

Is Using a Pen Name Right for You?

Ultimately, it varies from author to author if a pen name is the way to go. The best thing to do is weigh the pros and cons of each option.

If you have questions about pen names, just let me know. I’m happy to help!

Happy writing, all!

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