What to Do When You Absolutely, Positively NEED a Pen Name

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kenny Louie

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kenny Louie

Yesterday, we talked about reasons NOT to use a pen name. I will again be very clear about this. Ultimately, it is up to the writer. My job is to make sure you guys have time to write more books and that you aren’t inadvertently making more work than is necessary. Yes, there ARE good cases for having a nom de plume.

There are probably as many reasons TO have a pen name as not, but it will be extra work…which is why I don’t like them. I am LAZY. But that’s me 😀 .

If you are okay with that? Sally forth!

A Caveat…

I come at this from a different perspective than most writers, since often I am the one called in to help talk a writer off the ledge when pen names go bad. For instance, I recently spoke to a group of authors. One author was teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown trying to do social media. Yet, when we talked, this author had THREE pen names (with three different web sites) because she didn’t want readers “getting confused.”

The problem (in my POV) was she wrote thrillers, suspense and cozy mystery. These are genres with a lot of crossover. Usually from the cover, genre, story description, readers can figure out that one book is a hard-boiled thriller versus a cozy. She was running herself ragged trying to manage all these identities, when if she used ONE, she’d have more time to write and also readers from one genre likely would help sales for the others.

I actually get this a lot.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean

In the pre-digital world, we didn’t have the ability to build an on-line presence, so readers would get confused. These days? That is not near the problem it used to be.

If we look at Jonathan Maberry, he writes adult books and YA and uses the same name. Often, those who like his adult books are drawn to his YA and the genre and story description is enough for those purchasing to know they are geared toward different ages. I’ve read most of his books and the adult books have profanity and more violence, the YA is zombie-lite. Most people can figure this out without Maberry adopting an entirely new name.

Same name, different target age groups

Same name, different target age groups

Patterson is also now writing books for young people. He’s using the power of his name (his brand) to sell for an entirely different age group and the titles and covers are enough for most people to understand that Public School Super Hero is probably a young reader’s book. Or this one 😉 .

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In the pre-digital world, we would have viewed these genres differently. They would have been wildly divergent. The on-line world though has actually bundled a lot more than we might realize. Thus, if you already have a solidly branded name, you might not need an entirely new identity for another genre. Just think about it, then decide.

A Pen Name for Multiple Genres that DO Conflict

Many of those who chimed in on yesterday’s discussion in support of pen names write erotica or romance in combination with other genres that conflict. In this case? Yes, use a pen name for each genre. Have one name for steamy romance and another for YA. This case is an excellent candidate for a pen name.

Yet, I will say that if I write sexy erotica and kid’s books, I’m already aware that I will be in for building multiple platforms.

A Pen Name Because My Legal Name Would Cause Problems

There are instances where a writer is in genuine need of privacy. I stated this yesterday, but maybe was unclear. If I’m a nurse or doctor who writes medical thrillers? There is a concern with the day job. There are those who are still active in the intelligence community who NEED a pen name for safety reasons.

If I am a lawyer and write legal thrillers, maybe I don’t want to defend that I haven’t broken any confidentiality with my stories. Maybe I’ve been through a divorce and want to ditch my married name so I don’t have to deal with the ex.

So yes, these cases are good reasons for a pen name.

If you are a schoolteacher and write steamy romance, there is a real need to section off that writer persona. Maybe you are the black sheep in a fundamentalist family and the stress of dealing with drama overwhelms your ability to create. YES, use a pen name.

But, what I wanted to make clear is that in the early days of the Internet, simply signing up for a profile under a nom de plume WAS enough. Now, with search engines becoming far more advanced, there are additional steps we need to take to maintain the integrity of the pen name. Changing the name is no longer enough.

It would be irresponsible of me to not point this out. I KNOW there are teachers who have lost jobs over their fiction. I don’t want that happening to anyone, so it’s my job to let y’all know that if you do need a clear separation for these reasons, appreciate that it is more complicated than simply using another name.

I have had writers who didn’t realize this and ended up giving up writing altogether because a troll found them and the stress became overwhelming. I’ve had borderline suicidal writers e-mailing me who gave up their dream because of bullies, and that ticks me off and makes Kristen want to go on a troll-hunting spree. To me these situations are tragic namely because most of the time, they are preventable.

If you guys want to write erotica and YA and enjoy both without contending with haters? I am here to HELP. Yes, have a pen name, but do it properly.

A Pen Name Because I Want One

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Go for it! As Jami Gold mentioned in the comments yesterday, some writers need that alter ego to clear head space and to feel more in tuned with the writing. We are creative people and sometimes that “otherness” helps us step out or mentally separate from ordinary life.

While Maberry and Patterson are fine writing for kids and adults under the same name, maybe you require a different identity to get in tune with that particular audience. If I wrote steamy romance, I gotta be honest, I would probably want something a tad “sexier” than Kristen Lamb.

Ok, a LOT sexier than Kristen Lamb.

If you want that or need it? Rock on.

One of my followers, Heidi Cullinan, wrote a post exploring some excellent reasons to have a pen name, so I will send y’all there instead of belaboring it. The only points in the post I disagree with is that I made it clear that 1) I can’t make the decision for you and 2) romance/erotica genres are generally in need of a pen name. Actually any hot-button topic is. Sex, religion, politics? Probably gonna want a pen name.

It IS up to you. Also, yes, Heidi is right that it is your choice if you want four pen names or fourteen. I can’t stop you, though I will try 😉 . And the reason is that if we are spread so thinly we can’t write or we aren’t selling books because we are trying to manage multiple pen names and diluting our readership, that is a formula for us to wear out and give up.

I Have a Branded Pen Name

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

If you have already created a pen name with a following and a brand, do not feel the need to go redo everything and use your legal name. You already HAVE a brand. There were some commenters who’d already spent years under a certain name. Stay there!

The advice of whether or not to have a pen name is different from whether or not to keep one. If you are a new writer starting out? I only ask you make the decision using current information. I see writers change names search engines would LOVE for something people can pronounce. That is old world.

If you are going to write in another genre, ask the tough questions then decide. Do you really need another identity or is this a case like Maberry where readers can figure out your books are different from the covers and titles? Would your current name possibly drive sales for you in another genre?

Would your current profession drive sales for your books? I see writers who have a successful career rebranding themselves for selling books when perhaps their success as a photographer, actor or surgeon could help book sales. People “get” we do more than one thing and we might be more inclined to pick up a thriller from our neighbor who’s a real estate agent. We understand she sells houses and writes books and we can adjust the Internet search terms accordingly.

If you already have four identities and are going nutso? Is it possible to pick one and then change the covers and retrain the audience? There are some authors who have been publishing since the days where multiple pen names were required. In the modern era, that is a formula to end up in a straight jacket. Thus, if you want to re-release works you have the rights to, you DO have the option of combining all those alter egos under one brand.

My Name is Boring

If you have a name like John Smith? Sure, a pen name is an option though not necessary. Tagging and generating content can mitigate this. The name Kristen Lamb is NOT terribly unique so a common name can work.

I Hate My Name

Get a pen name. If you don’t like your name and it makes you uncomfortable? Change it. Just understand it is more work, but that was probably already obvious 😉 .

My Name is Stephen King and I am NOT Stephen King

If we happen to have a name that is exactly like a mega-branded author? Yes, get a pen name. If it is another popular personality like an actor? Consider keeping it. I said consider. It can make a name memorable. If I write mysteries and my name is Jessica Tandy? Most people with more than a half a brain know I am not the late film actress born in 1904. But, the name alone is memorable and all they have to do is put “writer” or “author” in the search to find me.

The Guts of This

In the end, all I can do is offer advice and get you guys to ask the right questions before you decide. Are we making the decision for the right reasons? Are we making our job tougher? Are we unintentionally watering down our brand? Will the pen name offer more advantages or disadvantages? Are we securing a pen name in a way that will maintain that “separateness” we require? If we think these things out ahead of time, we don’t set ourselves up for major headaches later.

So what are your thoughts? Aside from I am telling you you can’t have a pen name. I am NOT telling anyone they can’t have a pen name! 😛 For those who do use a pen name and enjoy it, what are says that you keep that separateness? Tips? Tricks? What does your pen name allow you to do creatively? For those who are having trouble with the pen name, what is vexing you?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of APRIL, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Also, for more help on how to use characters to ratchet anxiety to the nerve-shreding level, I am offering my Understanding the Antagonist Class on April 18th and YES, it is recorded in case you miss or need to listen again because this class is jammed with information.

I LOVE teaching this simply because our antagonists are pivotal for writing a story (series) readers can’t put down. Yet, too often we fail to harness characters for max effect. I look forward to seeing you there! I also offer the Gold level for one-on-one. Maybe you’ve hit a dead end. Your story is so confusing you need a GPS and a team of sherpas to find the original idea. Instead of wasting time with misguided revisions, I can help you triage your WIP and WHIP it into fighting form 😀 .

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook


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  1. These couple of posts came just in the nick of time! I’m completing my first murder mystery and have already published a children’s book and had a non-fiction history published. I was debating whether or not to start the mysteries with a pen name so as not to confuse anyone. I think I’ll stick with what I’ve got now. It’s been hard enough to work on the brand for my real name. If I add another, I really do think I’ll finish the short trip to a little town called insanity.

  2. That was great information hilariously delivered. 😀

  3. Including middle names could be an easy way to solve the “common name” problem.
    Jonathan Brent Grisham, Jacqueline Marie Collins, etc. might work well enough.
    “Steve M. King” would obviously not be Stephen King…

  4. Incredibly helpful, as usual. And timely as well. Was having a conversation just last night about pen names with a friend who intends to use one. So very helpful, and hilarious. Keep on keeping on Kristen!

  5. I can see only one reason that I would need a pen name (situation similar to your ‘black sheep’ example) beyond inserting my maiden name, which I do because I just like it and to honor my late father. Even then, I am resisting the urge to use one (a ‘real one’). When I finish the work that has me wondering if I will need a pen name I will decide if I still feel it’s truly necessary.

    • R. A. Meenan on April 10, 2015 at 12:21 pm
    • Reply

    I suddenly feel justified keeping my half pen name since I’ve already put a lot of work into this brand. XD YAY!

    Thanks for your comments on my new writer’s bio btw. =D That means a lot!

    And now – More writing. Woo!

  6. My case is: I (inadvertently) built a brand without even realizing I as doing it at the time. It sort of happened organically.

    I had a stalker (offline) threatening me. He left little gifts for people to find in the dining room with my name on it, he had flowers delivered, or dropped off presents before I arrived at work or in the drive thru and was gone before I found out he was there. I never saw him, but he knew when I was home alone, said he was going to kill me and other things. He called my home, he called my parents number when I didn’t answer. It was horrible and it will stick with me for the rest of my life.

    He was never caught and I never ever wanted my real name to be used online. So for me, the reason for using a pen name is personal due to a traumatic experience before ever even getting online was a thing.

    So Kawanee was born; it’s Cherokee for my real first name. I used it as my online identity and only family knew it was me. And for nearly 15 yrs it was my secret, my security blanket until Facebook changed it without my permission and effectively outted my real name. I had never bothered to keep the pen name separate from my real name because I never intended my real name to ever be used and it WILL cause me problems now. (Thanks facebook!)

    Since I had already been writing under that user name, it was only natural to use it for my pen name; people already knew me an my stories.(26K likes and 10 star rating for 1 book) I hoped the same people who liked my writing on those sites would recognize it when I published and translate into sales. Unfortunately I have not yet put them up for public consumption yet and the site split up and now I’ve lost all those wonderful peeps… hopefully they’ll find me again when I put them up for sale. *crosses fingers*

    I plan on using Kawanee for my Sci-fi/fantasy line as it crosses easily with my paranormal romances and all the other genres I write as well. I have a LOT of people living in my head it’s time to evict them all and make them pay back rent in the form of royalties!


    I’m considering another pen name for the m/m romances (some may hit erotic levels). Those can be tricky… people get their undies in bunches over all kinds of things and I prefer not to knot anyone’s knickers unnecessarily.

    So… should I or shouldn’t use another pen name for THOSE books?

    PS: ** SQUEES at the idea of and unvarnished eval** now to figure out how to link back and how WP works.

  7. I would think Kirsten Lamb could be a plenty sexy name for certain type of erotica–the kind with an innocent, sweet young thing in it. 🙂 I don’t read erotica though, so maybe I’m not a good judge of such things. I personally will span many genres and use my own name. I can’t think of any conflicts and I think that even if I write thrillers and children’s books they will appeal to similar types of people (with children’s books you’re half marketing to the parents). There are common themes and a style that runs through everything I write, regardless of genre.

  8. I knew somebody once who had two pen names. She used one for YA and the other for erotica. That seemed like a valid reason for having two.

    Other than that, when I was younger I read (and liked) Robert A. Heinlein’s “juveniles” because I’d enjoyed his adult books so much. I’d never have read them otherwise, and I never had a problem telling which was which.

    • Laurie Young on April 10, 2015 at 1:22 pm
    • Reply

    So glad to read this, and the previous column. I’ve always thought I would have to change my name when my book is published because my name is so common. There are even other writers with my name, though I have not found any writing in my genre. This is such a relief to know that I can keep my name and figure out other ways to make it stand out in a search engine. Thank you!

  9. Thanks, Kristen, for helping authors understand the disadvantages of managing multiple author identities, and how it usually isn’t necessary.

    Romance encompasses a wide range of heat levels, from sweet to erotic, and whether you need a pen name for romance vs. other genres will vary depending on what you write. Someone who writes thrillers and steamy romantic suspense probably doesn’t need two names. If you’re writing young adult and new adult, you might want to consider it, depending on how hot the new adult is, even though the genres are closely related otherwise. The real question, in my opinion, is whether you want audience crossover or not. Most of the time, you’ll want it, and it’s a heck of a lot easier managing one online identity than two. If you brand your novels appropriately by genre, your audience should have no trouble distinguishing them even if the author name is the same.

  10. Great response, Kristen! 🙂 It’s great for writers to hear both sides before making their decision.

    As you said, the important thing is that they’re asking themselves the right questions before deciding. Do they have a reason for using a pen name? Have they thought through the pros and cons? Have they thought through the potential consequences of NOT using a pen name?

    As with everything writing, it’s best to do something with *intention* and not just blindly make choices. Thanks for helping writers do that! 😀

    1. I would have done both sides yesterday but the post was already long. I made the mistake of assuming 😀 that if one’s situation didn’t fall under one of the “not a good idea” categories then by default just do what you see best. But your comments and others let me see that it did require another post to clarify so we didn’t have writers panicking LOL.

  11. Hi Kristen! I don’t know if you answer questions in comments, but I’ll go for it and ask anyway. 😛
    I was wondering what you meant by “doing it properly” in regards to ‘getting’ a pen name. Is there anything that needs to be done legally for a pen name, or is it just something you write on the book?
    Sorry for my naiveness – I’m still learning! (PS I really enjoyed the article! 🙂 )

    1. No, not a bad question at all. It depends on what you need out of the pen name. If safety and privacy are MAJOR concerns, HIRE AN EXPERT like Jay Donovan at Tech Surgeons. He can help you with the web site, e-mail, etc. and to maintain a private identity. Then depending on where you live, you will probably need a DBA so you can do business under that name (deposit checks, do taxes, etc.). I actually “kind of” have a pen name (which is why I feel I am qualified to say they are a pain in the @$$). I was a writer before I got married and Kristen Lamb was already branded. When I go to conferences, often they will reserve under McKibben and then no one can find me or the hotel doesn’t believe I have reservations because the reservation is under Lamb and the name on my driver’s license is McKibben.

      I know some thought I was being mean in discouraging using a pen name, but there ARE other things we need to be aware of, like Facebook can delete our profile and ban us from the platform if we have multiple identities. There are just so many things we don’t initially think about when we pick another name that can become tar babies.

      So the best course of action is decide what you need your pen name to do and then plan from there. Yet, I remain firm that it is likely best to just avoid them. I can speak that they are a hassle.

      1. Thank you so much for answering Kristen!

      2. Facebook is okay with people having a profile under a pen name. As long as it’s a name you’re known as publicly, it’s fine. The problem is with sock puppets, where people are hiding behind fake names. That doesn’t mean someone won’t get overzealous and deactivate your account, but you can appeal it and get it back. This was a big problem a few months back with the accounts of drag queens being deleted, but Facebook acknowledged the error, apologized, and clarified their policy.

        1. Our W.A.N.A. FB expert has had some authors who didn’t know how to manage pen names end up in FB jail, so my advice is make a PLAN to keep them separate and you OUT of trouble 😀 .

  12. Been having a hard time picking pen names. I know you just want one cool name to make and brand or whatever. But for me its different. I try to identify with prophecy or fictional characters I identify with or might be. And then theres shamanic names. But it changes little things in your life. And makes cooincidences happen. One little name augment can change a great deal of reactions in your life. Which is why ive been playing with this and testing out different ones for different feels. Wouldnt want to get stuck with a bad vibe one, or a too beneficent one or one with odd coincidences. So yeah havent decided yet. hard.

  13. Great post – useful. Am so glad I found your blog.

  14. I really enjoyed this, especially the tips about crossing genres. I have a pen name for romance but I know someday I’ll write other genres so I’ve been debating other names too. Though trying to keep track of multiple pen names may drive me crazy. I love the idea of your pen name becoming your brand name. Thanks. You’ve really given me a lot to think about here.

  15. What are your thoughts for Twitter display names vs. usernames? Display seems more important to me. Username, or handle, is trickier, as so many people have the same names. Klopfenstein, my last name, is surprisingly very prevalent. Does it matter what the username is, as long as it displays the desired author name?

  16. I’ve been following yesterday’s and today’s comments with great interest, Kristen. I’m in the situation where the online real estate for my legal name is already taken – by me. However, it is under a non-author brand. I’m a teacher-librarian by profession and have an online presence under my legal name as a TL. When I started writing it seemed prudent to separate the two and now I’m glad I did. Not so much because I want to ‘hide’ my writer identity (my colleagues and employer are aware that I write) but more so because I wanted to keep these two personas distinct.

    As my writing career grows, I’m glad I made this decision. I started out writing YA but have moved in a NA direction and although the pen name doesn’t afford me anonymity, I feel it allows me a little more freedom in terms of the subject matter I write about. It is more work – I have two platforms to maintain – but so far, it seems to be working for me.

  17. I write under a pen name for the parts where it’s boring and I don’t like it. It has been a bit of work but I really don’t think it’s much of a problem. I’ve had some people accuse me of being a spammer and “hiding” but hey, I’ve got my reasons. Why do people have to be so accusatory and sensitive about it. It’s my (pen) name!

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading this. Love your stuff!

  18. I just recently published my first romance book, Hong Kong Treasure, under a pen name. D Dominik Wickles combines my maiden name (Dominik) and married name (Wickles). Also I wanted my maiden name to live on in memory of my father who always supported my writing.

  19. LOL I actually have been friends with a John Smith and a Stephen King at one point in my life.

    I didn’t get published till after I was married. But I’ve been a writer all my life. My first name is rather unusual, so I figured anyone who knew me before, might like to see if I’ve been published. They wouldn’t know to look for my married name, so I added the maiden name. 🙂 It works for me and because my first books are Celtic in nature anyway, the name McIntosh adds credibility.

    Fortunately, people have been starting to pronounce my first name correctly more often since shea butter is now a popular beauty product ingredient. 😉

  20. I am so glad one my goodreads.com groups recommended your blog. I chose to use a pen name for one of the reasons you mention above and will continue using it for another you mentioned. I struggled most with taking a profile picture to go with my fictitious name! Finally took one today after your post made me suitably paranoid that just having a name was not enough. Linked back to your blog.

  21. I used a pen name cause it “feels” right. At first, I did it to hide from my ex, now I like it because it let’s me be someone other than the victim I was. That might sound like I’m pretending, but it adds a strength to me that gives me the power to write in the first place. While I realize someday my secret may be discovered, I’m not going to cower if that happens. I know my reasons and I’m okay with that. Plus, I don’t like my married name and my maiden one is owned by my sister-in-law. Same first name/last name. I have another pen name for spiritual writing as well.

  22. Kristen, I gained a lot of helpful information from both of your posts on pen names. Thank you. As I commented yesterday, I am a retired elem. teacher who writes adult romance and children’s interactive adventure. My pen name came into play as an after thought. When I retired, I started self publishing my romances under my name. I figured I was no longer working with children and wanted to see *MY* name on my books. Don’t we all? Then I decided to publish the children’s books I’d been working on when I was teaching. Uh oh. I had begun to establish my brand under my own name but did not want it on young children’s books. Hence, the pen name. One thing that I hope eventually will make it a little easier is that the children’s books (not out yet) will be a SERIES. I think with time and effort in branding, the series name will be what people look for so the pen name won’t be as much of a hassle. But for my own peace of mind and to hopefully head off a problem with a parent raising her eyebrows till they catch on the back of her collar over thinking I write THOSE kind of books AND children’s books, I decided to use a pen name. I know, I did it backward. Normally the pen name would be used for the adult romance, but by then it was too late to switch.

    BTW, for anyone wanting particulars about a D.B.A., it is called an ASSUMED NAME RECORD D.B.A. (for doing business as) CERTIFICATE OF OWNERSHIP FOR BUSINESS OR PROFESSION. You can get it from your county courthouse. I got my mine from our county courthouse for a little less than twenty dollars and it is good for ten years. At that time, I can renew it or quit using it. To get it, you fill out a form which must be notarized and then filed in the courthouse. You can get copies to use for legal purposes if need be such as for bank accounts, the IRS, etc.

    As to people finding out that my pen name and I are one and the same, I will simply explain that the pen name is to assure the readers/buyers that they are getting children’s books. Yes, adults buying for children should be able to figure it out even if I used my actual name, but I feel it gives the parent a feeling of assurance of separation and definitely gives me piece of mind.

  23. My pen’s name is Boldy McInker.

  24. Reblogged this on ugiridharaprasad.

  25. Thanks for this, it’s interesting to think about the whys of using one. Also good to read everyone else’s comments and reasons for using a pen name or not.

  26. Reblogged this on Faran Silverton and commented:
    To pen name, or not?

  27. I have pen names because I write fantasy (this name) and erotica (Raven ShadowHawk). However I am MAD LAZY so my blog and all my social media presence is geared towards the pair together. I never make a secret of the fact that these are pen names (neither of them are my legal name!) and I have fun with the fact. The names share the blog and argue and talk about me (Leah) as a third party in a collaborative endeavour. It means I can be very plain about which parts of what I write is for who without alienating anybody (and without having to double up). I have different mailing lists for each name but that is generally as far as the separation goes.

    I’m two names… One package. I’d LOVE to know your opinion on that, Kristen. 🙂

  28. I use a pen name because I share my real name with at least three published authors and one journalist. I write romance novels with just a little bit of steam, and I had considered using a second pen name for the YA novel I am currently working on, so your article is really helpful. As long as I make it clear with my cover and description, I should be able to use the same pen name for both.

    I had forgotten that I used to read Phyllis A. Whitney’s books as a kid, and I never had trouble telling the difference between her YA books and her adult ones. Oh, I read them ALL– I just had to learn which ones were safe to read in front of my teachers.

  29. I won’t post the link directly here unless you want me to (because I don’t want trolling or anything) but my husband just read an article today (in the Toronto Star) about how our local school board put a camera in the Principle’s office to see if he was writing his book during office hours. Perhaps a pen name would have been the better way to go, but since he was writing on finance he didn’t want to be false. Just something to consider.

    1. CRAAAAZY.

  30. It just occurred to me that the mystery writer Anne Perry is a good illustration of two of your points.

    She originally published under a pen name back in the 1970s because under her real name she’s a convicted murderer (she was played by Kate Winslet in the movie Heavenly Creatures).

    But, of course, this is the modern world, and nowadays everybody knows who she really is.

  31. I’m one of those who hates their name, Lolita comes with A LOT of baggage. Years ago when I worked in customer service, along with the mispronunciations and misspellings, when I told clients my name, there were not infrequent awkward silences, chuckles and expressions of sympathy. And that was before the over-sexualisation of teenagers, websites full of porn stars dressed up as schoolgirls and a steady stream of news stories about paedophilia. Even if I did like it, I think it would be an almighty struggle to build a brand using a name which already has such strong (negative) associations.

    The initials and surname option is a no go. My dad had an obsession with writing/scratching that on my stuff as a kid and I hate the sight of it.

    I’m not bothered about there being more work involved with having a pen name. I would rather put in the extra effort and have something I’m happy with, than use my real name because it’s the easier option and then never feel comfortable looking at the cover of my own book. Some things are worth giving extra for.

    1. well said.

    2. That is a shame because you have a beautiful name, but you need something you feel comfortable with. I am actually not, per se, opposed to pen names. I get a twitch when authors have MULTIPLE pen names. I know sometimes it IS necessary, but MAN it is a LOT of work.

      1. I’ve had plenty of people say it’s a beautiful name, but it doesn’t make me feel any better. I wish it did!

  32. Interesting…I’ve never even considered a pen name. Seems like I’m the odd gal out 😉 Thanks for the article!

  33. Reblogged this on I'm Write Dammit! and commented:
    I’ve never even considered using a pen name…not sure if I can chalk that up to confidence or clueless. What about you?

  34. Reblogged this on Sandra Easter and commented:
    I’m sure some of you were wondering about this. I’ve seen several questions about why, and how you’d pick a Pen Name. So this author explains it well.

  35. I went with a pen name very early on because I simply dislike my real name. I’ve never regretted that.

  36. Great post. This is something I’ve been pondering lately. (Usually when I’m procrastinating.) I work with kids so I want to use a pen name, but I also have an online presence, even though it’s not entirely for writing yet. It’s tricky.

  37. Reblogged this on nancybrophywriter.

  38. The interesting thing is I never even considered it until reading your blog. I know someone who uses a pen-name but he rights kids books and his last name is long. Totally makes sense to change it to something kids can say. I don’t have that issue and my name is unique enough to not be a problem. Thanks for keeping me steered in the right direction.

  39. Hi, Kristen. I have used my legal name, with my husband’s surname at the end, since I started blogging over three years ago. To me, Jennifer Kelland Perry sounds better than Jennifer Kelland. Now that I have landed a publishing contract, I’m thinking of sticking with it. Your thoughts?

  40. Kristen, I want to thank both you, and all your commenters, this post has now made me re-think the use of a pen name. Very insightful information and the timing couldn’t be better 🙂

  41. Interesting post (I just found it today via a link in a writers group). I use my first name and then the first name of my one writing partner as the last name for the stories we are writing. He is a teacher. It wouldn’t be pretty if folks discovered it. I also use my ex-husbands last name on the radio because it flows well … and because I earned it! LOL Thanks for the article.

    • Den Lim on August 28, 2015 at 4:55 am
    • Reply

    Great article. I found it when I was looking for articles on pen names.
    What’s your take on using a pen name to match your writing voice? One of my betas suggested using a female pen name or at least a gender neutral one because my writing reads like it was written by a twenty-something woman. (I’m a middle-age man.) Is it a good idea?
    Second, what’s your take on using a western pen name? I’m from Asia so my last name sounds Chinese. Would it be easier for me to use a western surname?
    I am currently drafting some urban fantasy and paranormal romance stories.

    1. These days we have to have a social media presence and we have to be interacting for social media to work. No one wants to interact with a computer or a lie. Just be you.

  42. Thank you so much for this Kristen! I have been going back and forth in my head about this. My two reasons were privacy (from people in my past) and the fact that my last name is Austrian and no one can pronounce it correctly. So I appreciated what you said about the fact that I’d be trading search engine uniqueness for something people can say, and then I realized that we all know how to pronounce Dostoyevsky well enough! Appreciate your thoughts!

    • Diane Watson on August 1, 2017 at 11:58 am
    • Reply

    I am so happy I came across this article. I want to use a pen name for a very sensitive subject and don’t want to be a victim of harassment. As you said, just the name change isn’t enough. are there any suggestions of how to decrease if not eliminate, someone finding out my identity?

    is having private domain registration enough for a website? can you still publish and sell books on Amazon? So many questions about this because I am so ready to finish my book.

  43. A very nice and informative article. You covered almost everything Thank you for the great information.

    • Iris on March 6, 2021 at 4:42 am
    • Reply

    I’m wondering if I should have a pen name. I write fantasy with elements of romance and thriller, and I’m a primary school teacher. But how do you settle on one? I’ve also wanted to use my Chinese name since like forever, but can’t tell if it would hinder marketing because 1. foreign in an anglophone world and 2. my maiden name is without any vowels lol. So pronunciation is a problem – I know it is because I grew up with it and can write a script on the many times friends have asked me how to pronounce it.

    So, do I need a pen name, and how do I choose?

    1. I wouldn’t. It’s a hassle and that name no one can pronounce might have hindered you 20 years ago, but now? With search engines? It’s GOLD! We just need to recognize it in a lineup. Google ‘Janet Evonnaviche’ and see how quickly the search engine will respond with a ‘DID YOU MEAN?” in slanty words.

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