Friday, August 19, 2011

Question from a Writer - Do I Need A Pen Name?

Ahhh, the old pen name question?

If you are one of those writers out there juggling this question around in your head, let me tell you there really is no single answer for this. Considering this is publishing, that shouldn't shock you. Still, let's take a look at situations surrounding this pen name issue.

Some authors use different pen names to keep different elements of their writing apart. For example, an author writes erotica and inspirational (yes, their are authors that do this). If they want to make sure their readers stay on their own side of the room when out there buying books, then different names would be great.

I have heard some people say they use different names because they want to keep their identities secret. I am always wondering about this one. I heard an editor once say that if your neighbor doesn't know you write, this is a sign of bad marketing. Some use this because they are in a profession that might be a conflict of interest. I don't know about this, but that is what some say.

Other authors who write for different publishing houses may also use different names. This is more of a record keeping purpose and it helps them know "who they are" when they are writing stories.

Finally, many change their names because they don't like their own name. Personally, I feel this is a shame. Still, this is something you might want to consider.

In other words, this is entirely up to you. There is no fixed rule, but you have to do what will make you happy.



  1. Another thing Kristin Lamb pointed out that made sense to me: With search engines, the importance of having a 'Q' name to get your book on the shelf next to Amanda Quick isn't as relevant.

    Even if you have a difficult to spell name, it's not like you're looking it up in the Dewey Decimal system. Type in something close to, "Sherri Shackelford, author," and the magic search engines do their work. *hopefully*


  2. As a translator I sometimes run into this problem too. If I'm translating business and technical documents and also for example romance novels I'd pick a pen name for the romance novels, because my more conservative customers wouldn't take me serious otherwise. Versatility isn't really appreciated. Pick your niche and stay in it.

    It would be the same with writing: serious literature would probably be accepted, maybe also crime, but specific genres like fantasy or romance not so much.

    A friend of mine also uses a pen-name as a means of self-protection so that she doesn't have to deal with the fans of the writers she's translating. Better safe than sorry.

  3. I totally get the inspirational vs erotica one. I was a pastor for 10 years and now write erotica. The pen name was originally created to keep the my new 'passion' a secret - until I realized it was pointless. I still have the pen name for my epub books but I'm very vocal about it (shrugs). You can't keep much a secret anyways.

  4. I'm struggling with whether or not to use a pen name. I do like my given name but when I started writing I used the nickname given to me by my dad when I was a kid. That name is the name people who've read my stuff know me as. My thinking now is that I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

  5. It does complicate things but sometimes it's necessary. I write for adults and also Dharma lessons under my real name, Bonnie Tittaferrante. I write for children and YA as Bonnie Ferrante. I've also started writing some hot and heavy romances so I have a third name now. I never know who I will be when I wake up in the morning. ;-)

  6. I am one of those who uses a pen name for children's writing versus adult writing. I interviewed other writers and why they use pen names - the article is here:

  7. I'd be interested in your thoughts as an agent about the implications of using a pen name.

  8. What do publishers and agents think of pen names? At what point in the process should the author make it clear they're using a pen name? As an agent, do you roll your eyes when you see someone using a pen name? Does it make your job harder?

    Oh, the questions I have...