To have a pen name or not to have a pen name. That is the question.
Many writers just starting out or who are contemplating publishing for the first time (including published authors considering publishing under a different genre) wonder if they need a pen name or not. Well, need is a silly way to think of a pen name. No, you don’t need a pen name. But do you want one? That question could leave writers divide. Yes and no, they’d probably say. So how can they decide? Weighing the pros and cons, of course!
Take a look at the list below. As you read them, create your own pros and cons tally. Do you love a pro? Add a tally under pros. Does one of the cons bother you? Add a tally under cons.
Now, are you ready?
Pen Name Pros:
1. You can tailor your pen name to your brand (the genres your write and your image). Imagine the last name Law for a writer of crime mysteries.
2. Stand out with a unique pen name (if you have a common name). My real name is very common, but Chrys Fey is unique, which is why I love it.
3. Anonymity. No one has to know it’s you. You can even keep it a secret from your friends and family. Or at the very least, it’s anonymous in that no one has your real name.
4. You could use a pen name to publish in a specific genre far from what you usually publish.
For example, say you published non-fiction under your real name, but now you want to publish erotica or paranormal romance, you could use a pen name to distinguish the two.
5. You can create an identity/persona not unlike yourself but more mysterious, romantic, or fun, depending on your brand/pen name.
6. You can honor someone you love by using their initials or first name as part of your pen name.
7. How you thought of your pen name is a story you can share later when you publish.
8. Gender neutral pen name. Sometimes, you want to attract a specific readership or all readers, regardless of gender. A gender-neutral pen name can help with this.
9. If your name is hard to pronounce, a pen name is a good idea to make it easier on book buyers, publishers, agents, and…yes...readers. The pen name doesn’t even have to be so different. You could easily shorten your name to a nickname or use half of your last name.
10. You can use a pen name to “start fresh.” If you want to distance yourself, for whatever reason, from another pseudonym or from your real name, a pen name can help with this, especially if you create a new persona and go for anonymity.
Pen Name Cons:
1. You don’t want to lie in your bio just because you have a pen name. Be truthful. However, you can use your pen name’s persona to make your bio’s tone fit your brand.
2. If you use a pen name to publish under a different genre, you have to start fresh with building a readership for your pen name, especially if you don’t reveal you are the author. Even if you let your readers know, you’ll have to learn to target a different set of readers.
3. It takes times to come up with a pen name you want to be known by…forever.
4. You have to get used to people referring to you by another name. At first, it can be weird.
5. You have to practice signing another name. And remember to sign it, too! Signing your real name would be a big OOPS!
6. You can’t make your readers feel as though you’re not real, so don’t be over-the-top or pretend to be what you’re not. Be a real person but with a different name.
7. You have to set up accounts for Facebook, Twitter, and all social media platforms for your pen name, which means having to build followers from 0. You’ll need a new website, too, which could mean two if you plan to publish under different names.
8. If you want to protect your name, you’ll have to copyright under your pen name. Copyright done with a real name lasts for the life of the author plus 80 years. Copyright done with a pen name is protected for 95 years starting from the publication date.
9. You have to make sure to fill in your pen name whenever you do something publishing related, such as submitting a query letter or entering a contest.
10. Promoting under two names can be a strain, unless you combine your accounts and let readers in on your secret.
Some of these may not apply to you, and many of these cons can be conquered. Basically, the decision falls under whether you want your books to have your real name on them and if you want readers to know you by your real name. Even if you use a pen name, though, that doesn’t mean it’s not you. You become that name and will feel a sense of pride seeing it on your books.
If you like the idea of using a pen name to your advantage, then do it.
If you’ve already published under your real name and think managing a pen name on top of that will be too hard, then you don’t need one.
Consider each pro and each con. Ask yourself what you envision, what you want. Then stick by that choice. Pen names are great, but so is using your birth name.
There is no right answer for everyone, only the right answer for you.
For more information like this check out:
Write with Fey: 10 Sparks to Guide You from Idea to Publication by Chrys Fey
Barnes & Noble
BIO: Chrys Fey is the author of Write with Fey: 10 Sparks to Guide You from Idea to Publication. Catch the sparks you need to write, edit, publish, and market your book! From writing your novel to prepping for publication and beyond, you’ll find sparks on every page, including 100 bonus marketing tips. Fey is an editor for Dancing Lemur Press and runs the Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s Goodreads book club. She is also the author of the Disaster Crimes series. Visit her blog Write With Fey
for more tips. @ChrysFey Website: Chrys Fey
There’s also a giveaway:
Do you have a pen name or considered using one?