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.

    Ooops!

    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. Grab a copy of her free report, How to Create an Irresistible Lead Magnet in Less Than 5 Hours. In her “spare” time, Mary’s also the brains behind AlistBlogging.net. and GoodlifeZEN.com, a Zen Master, a mother, and a 5th Degree Black Belt.

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    • There could be many reasons for using a Pen name. Mine is Baruti , which means teacher in Ki Swahili, I go by it in most circles though I have not made it legal. A pen name can give the reader an insight into how you felt when you were working on the project. It could be totally used to disguise or have some other purpose.

      My pen name is religious and spiritual. It was given to me when I was working as a missionary for my church. Teacher symbolizes what I have done all my life. I have been a teacher
      I believe pen names are essential to progress as a writer .

    • I use a part of a nickname I was given when I was a child. I used to take my Moms credit card and go buy stuff with my friends, so they started calling me Money which turned into Mooney. Now I just go by Mooney most of the time when I write. I love the fact that you really ca choose just about anything you want as a name. This is after all writing folks!

      Sidenote: Now that I have kids of my own I learned my lesson and limiting their spending and give them their own prepaid cards with limits.

    • Patty says:

      Great post! I’ve recently started a new blog, and am seriously considering going under my nickname. I like to write real, raw posts about real life, and because I’ve had other blogs, I’d rather start fresh. Does this sound like a good idea to you? And if so, would you recommend posting a picture of myself on my blog, or no?

      Thanks!

    • I totally agree with everything written in your article!
      Sometimes there are factors that make to using a pseudonym instead of real name! I like it when writers use pseudonyms. In this case, they can show imagination and create a unique name that will serve as a brand! No matter what causes the creation of a pen name, but it helps to adapt to different conditions of writing.
      It seems that Pen Name Generator gave you names for comedies)))
      In my opinion, it’s really cool to be human “X”, and even your neighbor cannot even realize that you wrote this.
      What does PD mean?

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    • My name is not exactly boring but when I went to look it up online, I discovered every third person has it. I looked it up with every middle initial and W was the only one no one had (don’t know what happened to Patrick Wayne). It never felt right, so for my new Christian historical novel I have become Patricia Annalee Kirk (middle name actually Ann). Problem: Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, etc. are all under Pat W. How do I train people to use the new one?

    • Huda tnt says:

      Thanks… Great inspiration.. I used to create a funny jokes and crazy science theory… So I decided to go for huda TNT..

    • payoneer says:

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      I got many information here. Thank You.

    • Orbala says:

      Oh, wow. “If your real name is difficult to spell or remember.” Translation: If you don’t have a white name.

      Or telling women to use pseudonyms if they’re writing about “hard-boiled soldiers.”

      The patriarchy, the (white) privilege here. My South Asian self with a “difficult to spell and remember” name can’t tolerate it.

    • CaSaundra says:

      It gives me a connection to my maternal grandmother and sister that I never had the pleasure of knowing since grandmother died years before my birth and my little sister passed away before she made a year old.

    • Laszlo Anthony Voros says:

      Though I am far from famous I do write, and was wondering. My name is Laszlo Antal Voros.
      Antal is Hungarian for Anthony. Would L. Antal Voros look better on a book jacket?
      And what do you think of the name Francis Reginald Everlast?

    • Curt Nicol D.D. Ph.D. says:

      JK Rowling was not outed by accident, she was trying to prove she was a proper author (not that I’m claiming YA authors are not), but the book flopped so her connection was leaked to sell all the copies that were printed in anticipation of it selling well.

    • David says:

      I’m considering a pen name because it would be less of a problem to make a return visit to a country that doesn’t like being “interfered with” by outsiders. Afterwards, it won’t be a problem. Also, it’ll fit if I use it for a different novel I’m working on now.

    • Nice blog though information provided you is so easy to understand but it is nice to comment on such blog where people can read such interesting posts.

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    • NT says:

      Thanks for a great post. I am considering a pen name for my WIP, a debut novel. There are so many (too many) people with my real name–a huge crowd on the Web! I will use my initials. But a name added at the end of the full pen name still makes me feel uncomfortable, as if I live with a totally different identity. Could I have only the initials, like C.S or H.D or T.H.? Does it sound weird?

    • Interesting article, still not decided but I may use only my first name.

      • Chris P says:

        In your case, using just your first name would work well (as would your surname on its own.)

    • Iyana says:

      I have been in turmoil about what name to use, so I really appreciate this article. Most names I create are in the extreme from the ‘boring’ original. I still have not resolved the issue.

    • I write under my married name, but use my initials. I am considering a pen name for a book I’m writing in a different genre.

      I love the generated names.

    • I often use my pen name to hide my original identity,i often use it to disguise my gender too. Actually it depends on the kind of article i am writing and on the message that i want to convey to my visitors.

    • Innocent says:

      Great post! What about African writers?

    • I use my maiden name when writing non-fiction. A pen name is best for me when writing erotic novels or when I feel I need a gender neutral name.

    • Chris P says:

      Just a thought, but isn’t ‘Simeon’ a bit close to ‘Simenon’, the creator of the ‘Maigret’ series of crime novels that were filmed and made into several TV series over the years?

    • Chris P says:

      I use a pen name for my crime novels as when I was writing the first, with its somewhat risqué subject matter. ‘Transactions’ – “The gift wrapped special selection box of assorted tarts” (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Transactions-special-selection-assorted-Friends-ebook/dp/B00ZCPELNU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1456175233&sr=1-1&keywords=transactions+lena%27s+friend) has prostitution as a major theme. My protagonist in all my series of novels is a high end escort. I was concerned about whether people I knew might wonder how I knew so much about the finer details – They came initially from the person who gave me the idea many years ago… she was very open about her earlier life as a street hooker with a ‘habit’… along with openly given details from a workmate who used what are euphemistically termed (in the UK) ‘Massage Parlours’.
      As a delivery driver, I used to deliver to a couple of these places, so knew the receptionists well enough to get the low down and a guided tour. The rest was down to research. People are amazingly willing to help novelists when you just ask. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried about friends and family.

      My pen name is my forename and my middle name. I use my real name for magazine and web articles, and I have a completely fictitious ‘cuddly’ type name in mind to use for a kids’ book I’m thinking about.

      I know a couple of authors who use slightly different versions of their names for different genres – Full name versus initials is popular, or simply putting an initial between forename and surname.


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