Lately, I’ve been thinking about pen names. It’s something I’ve toyed with using, a little bit, and there are a lot of reasons for it. Unfortunately, I also like my name and some day, when I get there, I want to have it connected with ME and not a name I made up like I make up my character’s names.
Why Use a Pen Name?
However, depending on the genre you right in, using a pen name could be expected. A lot of women, especially, used to use pen names because they were working in a male-dominated industry. Romance writers often use pen names because they have other responsibilities to their children, their communities, etc. and they don’t want their bodice-ripping novels brought up while they’re trying to help out at their kids’ schools or run the church bake-off.
Another reason to use a pen name is because someone else has a name that’s the same or similar to yours. Your name is your brand and if it doesn’t stand out, your sales could suffer. Also, if that’s the case, you’ll probably have an editor or an agent make that suggestion somewhere down the line. You might also choose a pen name if your name is hard to pronounce or otherwise unremarkable.
Many people discourage writers from writing in more than one genre. If you do, you will need a pen name for one or both of them so that you can keep them separate, keep your readers separate and keep your sales separate.
Why Use YOUR Name?
First of all, one of the reasons I think many writers choose to use their name is it’s a super thrill to see your name in the byline of a story or article or, presumably, on the cover of a book. Shallow? Maybe. But still awesome.
People who know you, who you’ve lost touch with, could buy simply because they recognize your name. Also, it’s a connection. You know who you are and you’ll have YOUR name attached to something you wrote. That’s exciting and empowering.
It makes marketing easier. Think about it. You can, if it’s appropriate, go to local places, such as bookshops or high schools for book signings, or your former high school or the library in the town you grew up in for events. People will know who you are and that can draw interest.
You could also consider using your real name if you have writing credits to your name, because people could recognize your name and it could help further sales.
Choosing a Pen Name
So, say you need or want a pen name. How do you choose one?
1. Choose a name that’s distinctive, but pronounceable.
2. Choose a name with some connection to you – keep your initials or use a family name (mother’s maiden name, for instance) or keep your first name.
3. Choose a name you like.
4. Think about a name that fits your genre that your readers will like