Authors generally publish under their own name, and that is usually the best way to go, since to sell your books you have to market your books and yourself to readers. But there are several instances where having a pen name is useful and even necessary. Let’s dive into those reasons, as well as how to use a pen name.
Why Use a Pen Name (or Pseudonym)
- If your real name is the name of a famous author, you may choose to use a pen name (even if it’s just going by your initials or adding a middle name).
- If your real name is difficult to spell or pronounce, a pen name may be the answer.
- When you write different genres, a pen name is a good way to differentiate between them so your fans can tell at a glance what genre the book falls into—and what books will match their interests.
- When you write vastly different content ratings (such as sweet romance and erotic romance), a pen name is a good way to keep them separate so fans of one don’t accidentally pick up the other.
- There may be a reason to write anonymously, such as when writing an exposé, or even a piece of fiction you don’t want your friends and family knowing you wrote.
How to Use a Pen Name
Using a pen name is fairly straightforward, but here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Choose a name that isn’t difficult to remember. A very unique name may look cool, but if no one can remember it, how can they recommend your books or look up more of your books?
- Choose a name that isn’t the name of a famous person, public figure, or author.
- Search the US Trademark office site to ensure the name doesn’t infringe on any existing trademarks.
- Choose a name that you can buy a domain name for.
- Try to choose a name that fits in with the genre you write under that name.
- You can choose a name that is completely unrelated to your name, or you could choose your middle name, or use just your initials (even when using your full name as a separate pen name).
- If you’re having trouble thinking of a good name, go through each letter of the alphabet and list all the names you can think of for that letter until you hit on “the one.”
- Create a website for your pen name. If the books you write under two pen names are similar enough that you think there will be crossover in readers, you could set them up as one website (with the second one redirecting to the first website, which does require buying both domains), and let the reader on the home page what the two pen names are. For example, Teyla Rachel Branton writes under the names Teyla Branton and Rachel Branton, and both rachelbranton.com and teylabranton.com redirect to teylarachelbranton.com, and the banner on the home page announces both pen names. If the genres or content ratings you write are very different, or you don’t want readers to know the pen names are connected, you can create separate websites. (But it adds more work!)
- Use the pen name on your books—and if you have more than one pen name, be sure to double-check that you’re using the correct one everywhere it appears (cover, running header, title page, copyright page, about the author, etc.).
- If you want to keep the pen names separate, be sure to write unique (but still honest) author bios for each pen name. If you think there can be crossover between your pen names, then you can use the same bio or give information about the other name in each bio.
Do you use a pen name? Why? Let us know what you’ve learned about using a pen name in the comments below!