Should an author use a pen name?

Most authors use their own name when writing a book. However, there are some reasons why an author might want to use a pen name, a nom de plume, rather than their legal name. Think about your needs and goals as an author and decide if a pen name is the right strategy for you. Consider the following:


Do you write books in more than one genre? A pen name can be an excellent marketing tool for authors who write in several genres. Bestselling romance novelist Nora Roberts writes suspense novels under the pen name J. D. Robb, for example. So although many of her fans enjoy her work in both genres, her pen name tells readers what type of book they’ll be getting.


Do you need to cloak your writing work from your day job? For example, you may be writing in a genre that your employer might find objectionable, or that might cast you in an unfavorable light in your career. Using a pen name and related privacy tactics can help you publish anonymously.


Do you want to avoid stereotyping or bias? Sometimes an author might wish to remain purposefully vague about their gender or identity, and a pen name can make that possible. For example, an author writing in a genre dominated by one gender or another might choose to use a pen name to obscure his or her gender. An author who is well-known in a field other than writing may desire to dip his toes in the publishing pool without going public with his identity and risking critiques before people have read and judged the work.


Do you want to publish a book by multiple authors? Sometimes multiple authors wish to collaborate on a book and using a pen name is a way to establish a new brand for that pair or group of authors, some of whom may be recognized under their own names or in another genre.


Creating and using a pen name, rather than your own name, is a personal choice. Your author name is part of a long-term strategy to build trust, giving readers confidence that what you write is something they want to read. Whether you use your given name or a pen name, you’ll be building an author brand through name recognition.


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