Should You Use a Pseudonym When Writing?

Should you use a pseudonym?
A lot of famous writers have published their work using pseudonyms or pen names, and the reasons they give for doing so are many. Back in the days when women weren’t considered bright enough to be serious thinkers and writers, many female authors wrote under male pseudonyms so their work would be taken more seriously. Fortunately, those days are gone, but there are still many reasons to use a pseudonym.

You’re Writing on a Controversial Topic

Some topics are extremely decisive and can cause a lot of anger from those with an opposing viewpoint. You may not want to start receiving the hate mail that comes with advocating certain views, so you may decide to generate a pen-name. For example, if you were to write in favor of atheism or are pro-choice, you might think it wise to keep your own name out of the equation to avoid being ostracized by friends or family members who don’t share your views. There are those who say this is a bad reason to use a pseudonym, but I can understand the reason why some people would make this choice.

You Write in a Variety of Genres

People often buy books by authors they like because they think they know what to expect from them. As a result, authors sometimes use pseudonyms when they depart from a genre in which they are well-known. J.K. Rowling, famous for the Harry Potter series, wrote a detective story under the name Robert Galbraith for this reason. It’s definitely not a children’s book, so she obviously felt she should use a different name so people wouldn’t buy her book with expectations based on her earlier work.

You Have the Same Name as a Famous Author

If your name is Stephen King, it wouldn’t really be fair to raise expectations by publishing your work using your own name. Besides, you want to become famous as an author in your own right, so you may choose another name to distinguish yourself from another author.

You Don’t Like Your Name

Some surnames are rather giggle-worthy, and sometimes well-intentioned parents saddle their kids with weird first names. Admittedly, if your work is good enough, you should be able to overcome this handicap, but if you think your name is so strange that people won’t take your work seriously, you might consider choosing another.

Your Name Is Too Long or Hard to Pronounce

You wouldn’t want your name to occupy the entire book cover, so you follow the example of Dennis Max Cornelius Woodruffe-Peacock and choose an abbreviated form of your name. In this example, the author went of the much simpler “Max Peacock.” The same thing is true if your last name has less than the standard amount of vowels and you don’t want to hear it being mangled by readers who can’t properly pronounce it.

You Have a Common Name

If your name happens to be John Smith or Mary Jones, you might decide you’d like something a trifle more distinctive. Once again, your writing will be the deciding factor behind your success or failure, but it’s understandable you might feel you need a name that sounds just a little bit more exciting.

You Want to Separate Your Day Job From Your Writing

Writers are often secretive about what they’re up to, and not all employers will be enchanted if someone in a very serious line of work were to produce a racy novel. It doesn’t suit their corporate image, and you may find yourself in an awkward position in your day job as a result of your writing activities. Other employers may simply feel your heart isn’t in your job because your “real” interest is writing. It isn’t really fair, but it does happen.

You Have Higher Writing Ambitions

Some publishing houses produce endless streams of formula-fiction, and of course, they need writers to make the stories varied enough to keep their readership interested. Romance series are a good example. There’s no formula that actually says what has to happen on each page, but the stories tend to be similar. Readers know what to expect. Nobody expects great literature. They just want their romantic story with erotic moments, a bit of conflict, and a happy ending. If you’re still hoping to write a serious novel, you might want to hide your pulp fiction persona behind a pseudonym.

Your Publishers Will Know Your Real Name

Whatever your reason for choosing to write using a pseudonym, you have to remember anonymity can only go so far. You need to cover the legal side of things, signing contracts and protecting copyrights; and of course, you do want to be paid. You will have to give your real name, but you can add “writing as” in front of your pseudonym to indicate your public persona will be represented by a different name.

2 comments

  1. I think people who use a pseudonym are weak. You should be proud of your writing and put your name behind it. It’s only those people who are afraid that hide behind a pen name. If you have courage and believe that what you write, you should always use your real name and be proud of it.

    1. There are a lot of legitimate reasons to use one as the article pointed out. Just because that happens to be your opinion doesn’t make it true. There is nothing wrong if someone wants to use a pen name when writing for whatever reason they decide it’s appropriate. That doesn’t make them weak in any way.

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