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 / iTunes /Kobo / Amazon
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?
The four poetry books I had published I used my own name.
Enjoyed your post Chrys most interesting to read.
My name rhymes for the rhyming books and is full for the others, works for me as then I can use both as one. A pen name could be fun though. But starting all over with it, blah, too much work haha
Having had a couple of pen names, I agree with the pros and cons, ha! Good info, Chrys.
I do good to promote under one name - two would be too much!
Great post. In hindsight, I've written in so many genres, if I were doing it over, I'd probably use a pen name for YA and my real for other genres, or vice versa.
PS Hi Di:)
I'm not a writer (well, a failed writer, actually) but I do use a pen name for blogging purposes. I can just imagine the stuff I'd receive in the mail if I used my real name.
STMcC Presents 'BATTLE OF THE BANDS'
Pat, yours works perfectly that way.
Stephen, sometimes it's best not to be known.
Hi Chrys and Diane - way too much effort trying to remember who I was or am, even!! But excellent to have it all spelt out for us ...cheers Hilary
Number 8 under the pros is one reason why I'm considering a pen name for a genre I'm planning to write. Congrats, Chrys!
@Yvonne, that's great that your poetry books are published under your real name.
@Pat, your pen name is perfect for your rhyming books. And your full name was a great choice for your other books. Very smart.
@Elizabeth, I'm glad you agree with my pros and cons. :)
@Alex, it would be tough to maintain two names.
@Sandra, I've thought about using a pen name if I ever decide to write children's books or YA, but the thought of building that name up now sounds like too much work. lol
@Stephen, a pen name for blogging is wonderful. Blogs are very public, so anonymity is something crucial.
@Hilary, thanks for commenting!
Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog, Diane!
I think you hit all the pros and cons. I started out using a pen name for my romance series because I was a high school teacher at the time. Didn't want my students reading those hot scenes.
Great post. Congratulations Chyrs!
Great pros and cons, Chrys. I wouldn't have to create a social network platform for two names.
@Cherie, that's a good idea.
@Susan, if I was a teacher, I wouldn't want my students reading my romances neither. lol
@Juneta and Natalie, thanks!
Chrys, you are most welcome.
Susan, I don't blame you.
Chrys, I had no idea that you were using a pen name. Not that it matters. I've toyed with the idea of getting a pen name. I think I might if I decide to do a different genre. It'd make it easier to distinguish the two. Depends.
I tried out a few pen names with short stories, and even a blog, but despite having readers and people I meet get disgruntled at my "strange"name and not knowing how to pronounce it, I like my name and I've slowly realized that it's at least recognizable, which makes it my "brand." So, I'm still going by Tyrean, even if everyone doesn't pronounce it the way I do.
Interesting advice about pennames, My blogname being Spacerguy gives me the right to use it for a book although nearly everyone knows my real name by now.
Thank you, Chrys, for emphasizing that there's no right answer for everyone. That's something I often tend to say and/or think regarding writing and life in general.
Be well, ladies.
What a lovely giveaway!
Great list of considerations! I think if I deviated into something like erotica, I would definitely use a pen name.
This is the first post on pen names that has really fleshed out the pros/cons. I've read posts where they have forgotten the really obvious but real worries.👏
What a lot of things to consider when choosing a pen name or not.
I am keeping my options open about using a pen name. Thanks for the helpful list!
Fantastic post, Chrys - I think you've captured all the essentials that someone needs to think through when it comes to having a pen name or not. Of course, I'm dying to know what your real name is now :-)
I have a pen name and think it fits. Super important to consider all of your options.
Chrys certainly has a lot of irons in the fire...as does her publisher:)
Good job on handling them all well.
Like others, I didn't know you had a pen name either. Me too. Great minds, huh? :)
@Liz, I'm surprised you didn't know I use a pen name. I don't hide it. But I have had several people think it's real, so no worries. Sometimes it can be very hard to tell. :)
@Tyrean, I love your real name!
@Space Guy, I'm trying to recall if I know your real name or not...
@Rodyn, nope. There's never one right answer for all of us. :)
@Loni, going into erotica or children's books would be a great time to use another name for publishing. Even if it's just C. Fey or something.
@H.R. I tried to include everything I could think of.
@Jo and Kim, thanks for commenting!
@Ellen, haha! Only my publishers know my real name. ;)
@Sheena, yes, very important to consider all options.
@Elsie, I didn't know your name was a pen name. Wow. I like it!
Tyrean, your name is beautiful and I'm glad you use it.
Ellen, I know!
Sandra, yes I do.
Hi Elsie! I use my real name because I wanted everyone who knew me in the past (and despite getting married, I'm still L. Diane W.) to know it was MY book.
I've tried pen names and abandoned them. One name is too much work. So, I'll just work with the one.
I'm not sure if anything ever stays secret forever with ease. In America, the IRS would eventually figure it out, I'd imagine. Unless someone was really cunning, perhaps. There might be a legal gray area in there.
I don't know. But it's an interesting and intriguing idea.
Hope everyone's week is productive and pleasant.
Giving serious thought to a pen name, but not sure. Thanks for listing some pros & cons!
I don't have a pen name but when I was working on the radio, I do have 'on-air name'..and it was fun to have one :)
Post a Comment