A lot of authors use pen names, but they’re not the only ones. Use of a pseudonym is prevalent in other branches of the entertainment industry also, as there are lots of actors and musicians who use alternative names. If you’re new to writing and want to choose a pen name, but you’re wondering if there’s some legal and official thing you have to do, you don’t. Unless you plan to do something business-wise or financially with your pen name, you simply choose a name and get to work. If you publish traditionally, publishers and agents cut your royalty checks with your legal name on them, so you don’t need a separate bank account with your pen name attached to it.
Why choose a pen name, though? Here are some reasons writers might want a nom de plume:
- An unwieldy real name. This is the reason I personally have a pen name. My real name is a bit silly. Everyone mispronounces my first name and misspells my last name. So, I took on something easy to say, easy to spell, and is hopefully catchy with its alliteration. Some authors would have lots of headaches with their real name from readers and publishers alike, as they’d be constantly correcting people’s spelling and pronunciation. The opposite is also true–some authors may want to change their name to something more glamorous and memorable, if they have a common and unremarkable name.
- Anonymity. Some authors–especially romance and erotica authors–may not want people in their real life to know what they write, be it co-workers, family, or friends. Some people have day jobs where they could get in trouble or even fired if it was discovered they write smut (or even something like horror) on the side. Rest assured, if you publish traditionally, publishers do not reveal your legal name to the public. Even your copyright claim inside your book will state your pen name, so your secret is safe.
- Multiple genres. Some authors write in more than one genre, which may not crossover well with their reader bases, so they write different things under different names. Some are open about this and it’s a well-known fact, while others keep it more secret and even maintain different websites and social media for each name.
- Just for fun. Some writers just want a writing name, a ‘persona’ they slip into when they’re in author-mode. That’s fine too!
Do you have a pen name? Why/how did you choose it?
A few side notes: Monday is my birthday! I’m not planning anything big for it, but the blog will probably be a bit wonky next week. And Wednesday is release day for It Takes a Thief, which you can pre-order right now! A new book out is indeed a great birthday present for me.
Happy Friday, everyone!
Urban fantasy and paranormal romance author.