Is an Author Pen Name for You?

When a writer is considering making writing a career, one thing they might consider is whether they want to use a pen name. A pen name, or pseudonym, is a fictitious name, or alias, used by an author to conceal their identity from readers. Some people, or organizations, such as Amazon, or your publisher, will need to know your real name to pay you, but for the most part, you can conceal your identity.

Note: If an organization specifies that you must use your legal name, please follow the law and do so. This isn't something you need to risk legal action or jail time for.

In today's blog post, I will give you four reasons that you might want to consider using a pen name and four tips to help you pick the right pen name.


Why Might You Use a Pen Name?

·      Personal reasons: Personally, I use a pen name because I want my professional life separate from my author life. I don’t mind if others in my professional life know that I am a writer, but I would rather my professional accomplishments and my writing accomplishments be kept separate for now. This may also be the case for you. If you already publish articles under your legal name, using a pen name to write fiction may be something you want to consider. It’s also worth noting that you don’t have to let people know your real name. If you value your privacy, and really don’t want people knowing your first and last name, then you might want to consider using a pen name.

·      Your name is boring or long: Some people just want a cool sounding name. If your name is John Smith, maybe you feel that’s boring or generic, and you want something that rolls off the tongue, sounds exciting, or is gender-neutral. Or, maybe your name is extremely long, or difficult to pronounce, and you would rather use your initials. (For example, J.K. Rowling.)

·      Your genre is…: Some people write gore or erotica. This could be something you don’t want your family or close friends to know you write. Remember, family members are often the first readers of your books. Do you really want Grandma reading a gory or erotic scene knowing you were the author? (Unless you have a cool Grandma who doesn’t care and would support you 100%!)

·      You have the same name as a famous person or another author: Maybe you share the same name as a serial killer in the 70s. Or maybe the same name as a disgraced Hollywood movie star. In either case, you might want to consider using a pen name so your book won’t be seen in a negative light just because of the author’s name gracing the front cover. It may also be wise to make sure you don’t share the same name as another author who has established a fan base writing erotica when you plan to write Spiritual or Christian books. In this case, I would recommend using a pen name to avoid confusion.


The Right Way to Use a Pen Name:

If I could go back and reinvent myself again, (I used to use the pen name Jade Penn, but thought it was too close to author Joanna Penn, so I changed it to Jade Young) I would have used my real-life initials. However, this isn’t necessary and you can choose any name you want to for your pen name; just be sure to follow the following guidelines.

·      Be consistent: When choosing a pen name, you want to make sure you can grab a domain name, and the same handle for all the social media platforms you plan to use. This way readers will have an easier time finding you.

·      Fit it to Your Genre: Browse other novels in your genre. What are the other writer’s names like? Do you see a trend you’d like to follow? Also, be sure to browse your library and local bookstores. Where would your book fall on the shelf based on the last name you’ve chosen? Is it at eye-level or is it all the way on the bottom where readers are less likely to find it?

·      Do Your Research: Try not to pick a name that’s too similar to another popular author. You want to pick a name that will make it possible for you to establish your own identity as a writer, and become famous in your own right.

·      Have Fun: Use random name generators such as this one or this one. Is there a name you’ve always loved? Use it. Do you have a favorite character in a book? See if you can incorporate their name into your own. Ask your friends, or people on social media, to help you. (I created a poll when I was choosing mine.) The point is, don’t stress! Enjoy the process.

Tip: If you do decide to go with a pen name, it may be a good idea to refer to it on your about me page on your website. For instance, on mine, I ask: "Who is the Real Jade Young? Honestly, the world may never know. Jade Young is my author pen name. Outside of the internet, my friends call me Ashley." Another idea is to answer the question, “Why do I use a pen name?” in an FAQ page on your website.

Do you have any other tips for using a pen name? Are you currently using a pen name? Be sure to leave your tips, suggestions, and questions down below.

Happy Writing!