Did you know that Robert Galbraith is actually J.K. Rowling? That Stephen King also wrote under the name Richard Backman? And that Mary Westmacott was Agatha Christie in another writing ‘life’? The fact is, many writers over the years have used a pen name.
As a writer, it’s perfectly legal and ethical to choose a pen name (or nom de plume) if you wish to. So in this article I’ll look at the pros and cons of using a pen name, and how to successfully choose and use a pen name:
Here are the advantages of using a pen name:
* Confidentiality. No one else will know the author of writing is you …. unless you want them to.
* Freedom to write. Many successful authors say that they feel freer to write what the really want to say when they use a pen name.
This can also be a reason if, say, you want to write something like adult fiction or something that could be controversial.
* It can add an air of intrigue/glamour/mystery to your writing. You might, for example, want to chose an unusual or foreign name.
You can, if you wish, have a different pen names to suit different kinds of writing . For example, one if you write serious academic books and another for novels.
* It can help to avoid prejudice. By using an appropriate pen name you can change sex, race or nationality if you want to.
* It can help avoid confusion if, for example, your name is the same or similar to an existing well known writer.
There are a few cons to using a pen name however:
* You might not want to remain a secret. You might want everyone to know you’re a (hopefully soon to be) successful writer!
* It might be a problem for publicity purposes. If say, you’re asked to do a book signing or TV appearance.
* Your readers might feel cheated if they discover your real identity.
How to use a pen name:
* Think very carefully before deciding on a name, as you may well have to use it indefinitely. Do you feel comfortable with your pseudonym? Does it sound right?
* Is your chosen name already in use by a published author? Check carefully. There’s always the risk they or they publishers could object as you don’t have the same right to use a pen name as your own ‘real’ name.
* Always tell your publisher and potential publishers from the outset. When submitting work always add a ‘A Pen Name of ???’ or similar to your manuscript. It could cause problems with copyrights, royalties and payments if you don’t.
Most publishers will be perfectly happy for you to do this and will make the necessary arrangements. They should also keep your real identity confidential at all times.
If you decide to use a pen name then you don’t need to get official legal permission or register your name in any way. Just start using your chosen pen name and get writing!