Reasons, Reasons, and More Reasons

Reasons for Authors Using Pen Names Might Include:

  1. If the author’s real name is similar (or identical) to another well-known person, an author might want to change it so as not to be confused with the “other person.”

2) To keep their writing career separate from their “occupation.”

3)  To have a more memorable name.

4)  To make certain one has access to the URL and social media handles they want.

5)    If one’s real name is hard to pronounce or is easily misspelled.

6)   Writing under different names may help to avoid readers’ confusion if the authors writes in several different genres.

7) If they are writing about something controversial and fear reprisal.

8)  If their real name suggests something negative. (I remember being afraid of our family doctor when I was a child. His name was Dr. Slaughter!)

9) Just for fun!

“Faking” It

Last week, I said I would publish the titles of my most popular blogs from the last six years. However, I have been learning a lot about pen names in the past few days, so I have decided to share that with you instead. (I’ll get back to previous blogs at some point in the future, I assure you.)

I have long been thinking about writing in a different genre from Christian Fiction and when I heard that authors who decide to change genres often change the name under which they publish, I started to dig for information.

Most authors are already aware that a pen name is one which an author chooses to use in place of using their real name. Often called a nom de plume or pseudonym, the author’s real name is likely not known to the public.

For a host of reasons, authors may want to keep their real identity a secret. This is especially true when they want to write in a different genre than they normally do, targeting an entirely different audience. 

You may be interested to know that it is perfectly legal to use a pen name and there is no cost to do so. All major publishing houses allow the use of pen names. 

Something to consider:  If you are trying to keep your identity secret, you must remain incognito at events, festivals, conferences, in press releases, and so on. 

**Want to know more about Pen Names?  Next week’s blog post will delve deeper into the subject. 

Pseudonyms

What’s in a Name?  I asked myself this question not too long ago, reasoning that the name Brenda Poulos might not be so memorable. Maybe I’d need something shorter, flashier, similar to some other well-known person… I’d piggy-back off of their fame…

Some writers use pen names. I was curious to find out why, so I decided to do a little research. Here’s what I found out:

1)   Most well-known authors write in a certain genre. They become known as a Suspense Writer, for example. Then, perhaps they want to add another genre to their writing repertoire. Publishers may not like this for several reasons. Same with their fans. So, they write in the “new” genre under a pen name.

2)  Some writers, I found out, start writing under a pen name when they are looking to switch publishers.  (The internet article cautioned against doing this. I can see all kinds of legal reasons why this wouldn’t be a good idea.)

3)  Writers, whose earlier work(s) may have bombed, might want to use a pen name when they publish something “new.”

4)  Pseudonyms are often used by authors who have names similar to someone else. (Hum, opposite of my earlier idea…)

5)  If a writer thinks his/her name doesn’t suit the genre, he might want to choose a pen name. This happened when Pearl Gray changed his name to Zane Gray to appear more like a western author.

6)  Women who write in a genre that is usually written in by men, often use their first initials and last name.  (For example, in westerns).

7)   Sometimes several authors write books together. They choose a fictitious  name, making their audience think the books are written by one person, when they actually are not.

8)   Sometimes writers want to protect their identity if they are writing in a genre in conflict with their main profession. For example, a surgeon who writes a murder mystery about a killer who dissects his victims. Yikes!

9)   Some of us are shy and just don’t want publicity. It’s possible to conceal one’s true identity by using a pseudonym.

10) Finally, if you want your name to be catchy and memorable, start making your list of possible pen names.

There you have it. Ten reasons to use a pseudonym—or not.

Do you currently use a pen name? I’d be interested in learning why you do so and if it has worked out well for you.

Brenda