A Pen Name? Why Bother?

Some authors naturally use their real names. Some choose a pen name. There is a number of reasons for that. Are there advantages?


Many people wish to send their stories out there and let others enjoy their writing gift. But the published books can attract too much unwanted attention to their persons. Often, it is an important or influential job position that holds them back. Or they just wish to keep a very distinct line between their fame and their ordinary lives. They choose the pen name to avoid disruptions, unwanted mail, fans bothering their family members or friends…

Another huge factor for keeping one’s personal life anonymous is writing about real people or real events. A pen name solves many possible legal issues and protects the privacy of many other people, not just the author.

Different genres

It is not an exception that an author, a prolific soul bursting with ideas, writes in a number of genres. It is not a problem if the genres are close. Like a detective story or a mystery. Or fantasy and sci-fi works. But if a writer ends up becoming famous for a series of romance books and writes a gore horror novel… well, they can end up with fans feeling betrayed and horrified. Drop of fanbase, bad reviews, drop in income… Simply, if an author feels like their work is for several very specific audiences, it is better to publish the different books under different pen names. Of course, nothing holds them back from informing all of their readers about the existence of all of their books and pen names. It simply solves possible misunderstandings.


Have you heard about Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell? I am sure you have. They are early pen names of the Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne. In the past, female authors often chose male pen names because of the society’s mistrust and unwillingness to read literature written by women. But we live in the 21st century, right? Sadly, the upper mentioned is also the reason why J. K. Rowling used exactly J. K. as her author name on the Potter covers. Because why would boys read a story written by Joanne Kathleen? Well, yes. Sadly, many female writers feel the need to use a male pen name because of marketing reasons.

Problematic real name

Some real names are naturally easy to remember. They flow, they come from a group of popular and often used names like Anne, Suzane, John… And then we have a huge number of people who just do not feel like their real name looks good on their book cover. Their name can be too long and thus occupying too much cover space. Or they come from a country where their names are natural and normal in their society but they found out other people from other countries find it hard to remember or pronounce their name.

People can also simply feel like a pen name that addresses an issue that their book revolves around is much more fitting than their real name. Or they want to honor a favorite place or person and thus choose a pen name that hints to them. They can prefer a certain season of the year or a rhyme.

2 thoughts on “A Pen Name? Why Bother?

  1. Pingback: Writing Body Language: Attraction | Julie-Jeanette's Writing Blog

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