What do Samuel Clemens, Charles Dodgson and Eleanor Marie Roberts have in common? They are among the many writers who use pseudonyms or pen names in their books. Clemens writes under the name Mark Twain; Dodgson is Lewis Carroll; and Roberts uses Nora Roberts when writing romance novels and J.D. Robb when writing suspense.
Using a pen name is legal when writing a book. You need not worry about being accused of identity theft or fraud. In fact, not only are pen names legal, but an increasing number of authors are choosing to make use of pseudonyms. The reasons driving them in this direction vary from the personal to the professional such as:
- if you write under more than one genre
- if your name is not marketable
- if your output exceeds what your publisher can use
- if you have a day job and don’t want to get fired
- to hide gender (a male writing in predominantly female genre)
THE PROS AND CONS OF USING PEN NAMES
There are both upsides and downsides to using pen names when writing a book. Whatever personal or professional factors might be driving you to use one, there are considerations that you should keep in mind. Some of the pros and cons attached to this decision include the following:
PROS OF USING PEN NAMES
The most attractive element of writing a book using pen names is the privacy it affords. A lot of professionals in various industries choose to publish their books using pseudonyms in order to separate their careers from their writing endeavors. This is especially true when the subjects they often tackle are of a controversial nature. What surgeon would want his or her clients to know of his preference for writing erotic bondage fiction?
Pen names are a powerful branding tool for anyone thinking about writing a book. They allow writers to evoke the right tone and appear more authoritative or mysterious. It is easier to associate authors with their work if their names accurately evoke their field. Think of that author that adopts a flowery pseudonym in order to better mirror the romantic nature of his or her works.
Pen names allow authors to distinguish themselves in the publishing arena. This is especially true for writers with very common names who do not want their works to be confused with another author with a similar name. Writers with very long and complex names have also shown a predilection for using simpler pen names.
Pen names are often crucial for authors living in oppressive societies. These authors would like to publish books without attracting undue penalties from the governments they might be criticizing. Pen names are essentially tools that empower authors to express themselves freely.
Pen names enable individuals to remain separate from the controversies of friends and family relations. If you do not want your brand to be debilitated by the negative publicity of those individuals with whom you associate, pen names allow you the ability to publish works free of such complications.
CONS OF USING PEN NAMES
By using a pen name when writing a book, you are choosing to surrender any credit you might have normally enjoyed for your literary successes. No one will associate you with your pen name right away. If you are looking for the popularity that comes with writing bestselling books, pen names may strip you of this opportunity in the early stages of success.
Once you make your mark using a pen name, making the transition to writing under your real name can prove difficult. When people begin to associate your work with your pen name, your chances of successfully shifting the focus to your real name begin to diminish.
Pen names tend to complicate the issue of money. Not only will you face additional complexities when processing your advances and royalties, but you are bound to encounter difficulties when trying to resale reprint and subsidiary rights.
Most authors today must promote their work personally in order to reach new readers and achieve the peak of their success. Executing this sort of personal marketing, especially via social media, becomes difficult when you are not writing under your real name. It’s a good chance that you’ll encounter difficulties relating to your audience and convincing them that there is a real person behind your name.
Long-term loyalty is very difficult to establish with a pen name. Because you have to hide your identity to maintain your pen name, readers cannot relate to you. In fact, some readers are outright suspicious about pseudonyms.
Using a pen name when writing a book is neither good nor bad. It is simply a tool that is only as effective as the author exercising it. For all the writers in the world that have achieved phenomenal success under their pseudonyms, the number of authors that have blundered and misused the anonymity pen names afford them is even greater. The final decision is yours.