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Using a Pen Name…5 Times When You Should

post-fleurdelisSometimes people think that using a pen name is unethical or unprincipled. Why is the author hiding? What does he or she have to hide? Is there something dishonest afoot? While some of these questions could, indeed, have unsavory answers, here are five good reasons why writers do and you should use a pen name.

1. Branding

Branding means establishing a reputation by way of a readily recognizable name. When you have done this, readers will likely read your material when they encounter it, read about you when they see your name, and seek you out as an author. Or, they might do the opposite if they don’t happen to like your work. This is true whether you write fiction or nonfiction.

If you plan to have web sites in several diverse niches, it’s better to be known as an authority in each niche rather than as a jack-of-all-trades who knows only a little about any one of them. You can brand yourself in each niche by using a different pen name for each and using it nowhere else.

2. Disguising your Gender

If you are a female writing about professional hockey, you might not be seen as credible. If you are a male writing about natural childbirth, you probably won’t be seen as credible, either. While this isn’t necessarily so, why take the chance when using a pen name eliminates the issue?

In either case, your knowledge may be equal to that of your opposite-sex colleagues, but human nature won’t allow you into the club; gender bias is real.

3. When Anonymity is Safer

If you write about controversial subjects or things that groups known for violence find threatening–mobsters or drug dealers, for instance–exposing yourself is a needless risk. Many writers have suffered physical attacks because their identities and whereabouts are known. The numerous unfortunate experiences of journalists in violent countries proves the validity of this one.

4. When Your Real Name is Hard to Pronounce

People like ‘easy,’ and they like to be able to ‘think’ the pronunciation of your name. If they can’t do that, they aren’t likely to remember it–or you–and probably won’t remember how to spell it, either. Certainly, any author wants to make it easy for his readers to tell others about his work, the expectation being that he would gain more readers. You won’t get any word of mouth advertising if readers can’t talk about you.

5. When You Just Want Privacy

In the event that you should become a ‘famous writer’ and you don’t want to be hounded when out on the town, a pen name separates the public you from the private you. To many, perhaps most, people, fame is desirable and they seek it, but there are also those who simply ply their trade to earn a living, and living, to them, is not sharing your personal life indiscriminately.

In an effort to be memorable, don’t create bizarre pen names.  Pinkand Whitesheets or Cando Itall are not good choices!  Neither should you choose a name that could be subject to ridicule, dark humor, or sexual innuendo; you know what human nature will do with those. Remember that your name will be permanently attached to your writing and your writing will be ‘out there’ forever. Choose wisely.

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2 Responses to “Using a Pen Name…5 Times When You Should”

  1. Leigh Says:

    Just came across your site through Steve Wagenheim’s blog funnily enough. I like your writing style. Like you I’m just starting as of May and haven’t made much. About $10.00 so far I think. It’s a massive learning curve but it’s also a lot of fun even though you have to spend way too much time indoors sitting in front of a computer.

    Anyway on topic to this blog post. I totally agree with pen names. The other benefit of pen names is that if you’re a successful niche marketer (unlike myself at the moment) and publish on Ezinearticles some people will follow you around and copy your niches. Having a pen name for each one of your niches stops these lazy IM’ers dead in their tracks.

  2. Jody Says:

    Thank you, Leigh, for both your input and your kind words.  And, of course, welcome aboard.  I could say ‘misery loves company, but since both of us enjoy what we’re doing, that’s not a very good fit.  🙂 
    I had never thought of your point about ‘the lazy ones’ playing copycat.  Good thinking!


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