Why You Need to use a Pen Name (And How to Go About Finding One)

creative writing exercise

Do you need to use a pen name?

It depends.

There are some important reasons why it’s a good idea.

There are seven reasons why you might choose to use a pen name:

1. Your name is difficult to spell and remember.
For example, you may have a long, hyphenated name or your name is of difficult to pronounce or write in English.

2. Your real name is not suited to the genre you have selected. For example, if your name is Madeleine Tinkerbell, you will hardly find success as a thriller writer, but your name might work well for children’s books.  Remember that your pen name is a crucial part of your brand. And your brand needs to reflect your chosen genre.

3. Your real name is boring. Bestseller author Ali Knight started out as Alison Potter, but the publishers said her real name wouldn’t sell so she changed it to Ali Knight.

4. Your chosen genre is controversial. Just imagine you were an accountant with the real name was Charles Weislander and wanted to write a sizzling erotic novel. You clients (or your wife) may not be amused, so you might choose to write under a pen name.

5. You want to disguise your gender. Some genres are gender specific. For example, stories involving hard-boiled soldiers are mostly written and read by men. You wouldn’t get a look in with a female name.

6. You are a published author but want to write in a different genre. It can be upsetting for your regular audience to see you writing in a different genre. That’s why many established authors write some works under a pseudonym. An example is the JK Rowling writing thrillers under the name Robert Galbraith.

7. You name is already tied to a well-known author or public figure. For example, Sarah Hall became Sarah Vaughan because her real name was already used  by an author.

Whichever reason you relate to, the process of choosing a pen name is tricky, I tell you!

As you may know, I’m in the process of writing a mystery thriller and it took me a long time to decide on my pen name, PD Simeon.

Here were my considerations:

  1. The name had to have personal significance. In my case, Simeon is my grandfather’s surname and so it’s meaningful for me.
  2. The name had to suit the genre I’m moving into.
  3. I wanted to use a gender neutral name. That’s why I chose initials for my first name.
  4. The domain was available for creating an author platform.
  5. A search on Google verified that there is not public figure with this name.
  6. Facebook and Twitter is available. (Luckily, Facebook now allows to create pages using a pseudonym.)

When should you reveal the real you?

There are no guidelines, but it seems that authors wait until they have published a least a couple of successful books before unveiling the real person behind the pen name.

Of course, sometimes, authors are outed by accident.

JK Rowling was quickly outed as Robert Galbraith when her lawyer confided her real identity to his wife’s best friend.


He thought he was speaking “in confidence to someone he trusted implicitly”. I reckon this was the end of a friendship…

However, she found writing under a pen liberating. Check out the video below where JK Rowling talks about using a pseudonym:

You can also try the Pen Name Generator. It’s more miss than hit. Here are the suggestions I got:

Prashant D. Wenzel
Penny Pegson
P. D. Sharp-Dagger
Simeon Pegblood
P. D. Dagger-Blackeon
Pete D. Jaguar

They’re quite funny, aren’t they?

What are your thoughts on using a pen name?

About the author:

PD Simeon’s true identity is shrouded in mystery. PD is the author of the upcoming thriller “The Brazilian Incident.” Click here to follow PD on Twitter: PDSimeon.

About the author

Mary Jaksch

Mary Jaksch is best known for her exceptional training for writers at WritetoDone.com and for her cutting-edge book, Youthful Aging Secrets. In her “spare” time, Mary is also the brains behind GoodlifeZEN.com, a Zen Master, a mother, and a 5th Degree Black Belt.