Getting your name printed on the cover of a book is one of the proudest moments for any writer, so why do some choose to use a pen name?
Well, many authors have experienced success with this strategy and here are some of the reasons which I found to be useful.
Why do Authors Use a Pen Name?
Authors mainly use a pen name to become anonymous when publishing their work. They do this for a variety of reasons with the most common being they want to try a new genre without altering the expectations of their existing audience. Established authors use a pen name to mainly to write cross genres. However, there are many other reasons that this could be a consideration for you. Read below for 9 reasons I have come across:
Reasons for Using a Pen Name When Self-Publishing
There are many benefits of using a pen name and the most common reasons for using a pen name, especially in the self-publishing industry are given below. These are:
1. You don’t feel comfortable
This is one of the most heard reasons for using a pen name for publishing a book.
Many writers write about their broken and depressing childhood and how they’ve overcome such situations.
These are authors who went through physical or emotional abuse during their childhood, and later wrote a book on the same.
These authors don’t want their families or friends to know about their struggles, and that’s why they choose to use a pen name for publishing their book.
They want to keep their story anonymous but still want to get the story out of their head.
Many psychiatrists also recommend writing a story to their patients so that they may feel less depressed and can move out from their dark zone and confront their pain. As those were the only conversations they had, between psychiatrists and the patients, they want to keep it between themselves. Thus, choosing to write anonymously for their book.
2. You Need a Fresh Start
Many authors choose to use a pen name for their books because they want to get a fresh start in their writing journey.
They may choose to go with their pen name when their previous works didn’t get a positive response or may be filled with a lot of negative and hatred responses.
So if your initial works gets a significant amount of negative responses, it is better to get a fresh start. There is no harm in this and all part of the learning experience.
A new name gives the author another chance to release their work without worrying about the previous negative responses. A new name offers the possibilities to bypass the fact that their writing will be immediately rejected upon knowing their real name.
And thus they can stick to their writing dream.
3. Your real name is already in use and in a bestseller ranking
Let’s say your name is J.K Rowling and you also want to publish fiction novels. Do you think you can make a name for yourself? It’s a BIG NO.
This is because J. K Rowling is a known name in the industry and is a bestselling author.
Now, if you want to publish under your own name, you will be called copy cat and other terms, like you used this name to gain publicity and so on even though it is your real name.
So it’s really best to use a pen name even if you don’t want to. This will separate you from them. And that’s why some authors use a pen name for their work.
There are so many familiar names that can get lost in the crowd, so having a unique name can give you an edge and stand out from the crowd. You want to be memorable. And when people hear your name, they can make out who is the person behind the novel.
4. Your Job
Nowadays, more and more companies do a thorough background check of their employees as well as monitor their social media activities as well.
So if your job demands your full attention and you are not allowed to work on anything else, then writing under a pen name is the best thing you can do.
Also, if you are working with some government institutions, they don’t want you to work on other things. So using a pen name will be the best way to publish your books.
I saw a teacher who was teaching English and she showed interest in writing a romance novel. When this news reached the student’s parents, her idea was criticized by many parents saying that they don’t want their children’s teacher writing romance novels.
Yes, these things still happen in our so-called modern society.
5. It’s marketable
Many authors use the pen name just for marketing purposes. They kind of choose the name that flows with the genre they are writing in.
You can also choose multiple pen names depending upon the genre you want to write.
Let’s say you want to write a book on pregnancy, and you are a male, so even choosing a pen female name can increase your chances of making amazing sales.
This is a fact. Remember J.K. Rowling not only used initials as a pen name, she used a male pen name for writing her crime mystery series.
So depending upon the genre or audience’s interest, many authors choose their pen name for their book. In self-publishing, it is even more common.
6. You want to write in multiple genres
If you are an established author under one particular genre, trying out a completely different genre can be difficult. Because you have to find a diverse reader base, as well as your existing audience, may not like this decision or get confused about the different books you publish.
So many authors use a pen name to write in a completely different genre without disappointing their existing audience.
Though you can publish anything under your own name, you will definitely get good results when you publish them separately.
And some authors don’t want anyone to know what type of work they do. They may write in some exotic or adult genre, but don’t want all that genre to be associated with their daily life. They don’t want to be known as an adult writer or something else which is entirely different from what they want to be known for.
And due to which they use a pen name for their books so that they can try different genres without being directly associated with them.
Politics being one of the most delicate topics to write a book on. Depending upon the country you live in, writing something which doesn’t relate to the government ideology or majority of people’s opinions, might be dangerous for you.
You should always consider that extremists come in all shapes and colors, and you don’t know who’s going to object your published work.
Though if you write in any political matter, you can gain a fan following as well. But if you live in a country where opposing views aren’t welcome, writing with a pen name will definitely be a good idea.
Again gender-based discrimination still happens in this era. As a female, if you write about something like military, defence, etc. you may get sexist opinions. In some countries, these things happen on a large scale, whereas in some it is only limited for a particular set of orthodox people. Now when a male writer writes about some sensitive topics or sometimes even romance or love, he can sometimes get the same sexist remarks.
Though through self-publishing, many authors step up and break this gender-based approach, still some authors prefer to use a pen name. This is because people assume that the genre should match with the gender.
9. You are just writing for money
Now if you are only publishing in every genre possible for the sake of money, using a pen name will work best for you.
Authors who just want to make money writing eBooks under any genre, they use a pen name based on the genre they want to jump in. They tend to use multiple pen names and publish their books. Sometimes they use multiple pen names for a single genre and publish books under their pen name. What they are doing here is creating competition between their own books. Whichever book a reader is going to buy will make them money anyway. Though it is difficult, many writers who can bulk produce short stories, are making a good profit with this method.
Even though they may have only one genre which they write about passionately, and that’s what they show the world.
So by using a pen name, they can separate their hobby from the money-making machine.
Authors That Use Pen Names
These are the famous authors that use a pen name
- Joanne Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series and better known by her pen name J.K. Rowling
- Stephen King published five novels as Richard Bachman
- Anne Rice
- Richard Matheson
- Agatha Christie
- Dean Koontz
- C. S. Lewis
Apart from these famous authors, there are thousands of authors who use or have used a pen name for publishing.
The reason may be different from author to author, but the fact is that they used their pen name to publish their works.
My Final Word on Using a Pen Name While Self-Publishing
Depending upon your end goal, it is solely your decision to make.
I recommend you to avoid using a pen name while self-publishing if you can.
You should only use a pen name when you want to write fiction or exotic adult books which you don’t want to let the world know about. If writing non-fiction and you have expertise in the area you are writing your book, having authority and using your real name is an advantage.
Even famous authors used like J. K Rowling, Stephen King, etc. used the pen name when trying different genres but later revealed.
Interested in self-publishing? Take a look at these books to help you on your journey: