One of the biggest decisions you’ll face as a new author is whether or not to write under a pen name (aka pseudonym). Pseudonyms are actually very common in writing circles. Eleanor Marie Roberts writes under the name Nora Roberts (romance) and J.D. Robb (suspense); Joanne Rowling uses J.K. Rowling (fantasy) and Robert Galbraith (crime fiction); Samuel Clemens used Mark Twain, and the list goes on.
10 FAQs on Choosing a Pen Name
The decision to use a pen name is a highly personal one. Some are driven to use them as a means of maintaining their anonymity. Others simply want to take a fresh stab at the publishing arena without the baggage attached to their real names. No matter what your reasons are behind choosing a pseudonym, one thing’s for sure – you cannot take your choice of pen name lightly. Pen names stick. People will associate certain books with the pen names under which they were written long after the author stops using them. So the million dollar questions are “should you write under a pen name or not; and if so, how should you go about choosing one”. ChatEbooks lists down the responses to 10 common FAQs to consider when answering these questions.
Are you comfortable having your actual name splashed across various entertainment media?
A lot of people gravitate towards pen names because they are not comfortable having their privacy violated and their names released to the public.
Does using a pen name allow you to attract more readers within a specific genre?
A lot of female authors write using male pseudonyms because they do not think male readers within a specific genre would be willing to read books (primarily fiction) written by female writers.
Is your real name easy to pronounce or remember?
Authors will take on a pen name that sounds more generic because it’s easier to pronounce and, hence, remember than their real name. The simplicity of a name can indeed impact the manner in which a given book is received.
Is your real name so common that you might be confused with another renowned person?
Some people take pen names because the public might associate their real name with other well-known personalities, be it celebrities, renowned authors or even criminals.
Where is your chosen pseudonym likely to be shelved?
Contrary to #4 above, some aspiring writers prefer to choose pen names that are similar to the names of famous authors. This way, their books can be shelved near those more popular authors within a bookstore, increasing the chances of readers stumbling upon their work.
Silly as this might sound, it works. Stephen King can attest to the number of iterations of his name in bookstores today – many of them purposed towards benefiting from sitting next to King’s own books.
How many fictional genres will you write in?
Different genres usually call for the creation of different pseudonyms. Some names are a better fit in certain genres than others. Changing genres might mean changing pen names.
Is your pen name memorable and easy to spell?
There is little point in using a pen name that people will struggle to Google. The easier it is to spell and remember the better.
Are you comfortable with separating your real name and persona from the positive praise and credit associated with your literary content?
If you write under a pen name, any success you achieve will be attached to your pen name rather than your real life persona. Some people do not like this idea even if it means maintaining their privacy. So if you’d rather people associated your name with the success of your writing career, then a pseudonym is not for you. On the other hand, pen names allow authors to avoid the negative feedback stimming from some of their under-appreciated books.
Does your name, real or otherwise, invoke an appropriate association with your genre of choice?
Sometimes, you have no choice but to create a pen name because your real name simply isn’t appropriate for your genre of choice.
Can you market the pen name?
The first question you should ask before choosing a pen name is whether or not you can purchase a domain name for it. This question should thoroughly narrow your choices. Pen names for which you cannot purchase domains or even create unique social media accounts should be discarded because of how difficult they will be to distinguish and market.
Choosing a pen name will be the first of many creative challenges you’ll face as a new author. Your decision to use a pen name will drastically impact the path your career will take. Therefore, this is one decision you should make carefully.