How to Choose a Pen Name (and 5 reasons to consider using one)

Updated: Apr 20, 2018

Pen name. Pseudonym. Nom de plume.

There are many reasons why you, as a writer, may consider using a pen name, but it’s a big decision to make.

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Creating an alternate identity can require a lot of work. It’s recommended to have social media profiles easily linked to your author identity in order to establish a brand, using the same name and image across all platforms.

Creating those social media platforms under your pseudonym is one thing, but maintaining them is another. If you’re just starting out as a brand new author, you definitely need to have an active presence on all your platforms. If you’re already an established author and want to create another “secret” pen name, you should still consider being as active on as many social media platforms as you can.

However, if you’re creating a pen name for a different audience, but don’t mind people knowing your original author name, then sharing social media platforms is a possibility.

If you want to find out if it may be in your best interests to use a pen name, then read on!

  1. You’re active in your professional community. Many of us writers are not full-time writers (yet). We have day jobs. If you’re in a political-heavy profession, where you might travel the world to meet and sell to other professionals, you might not want them to know about your writing. This isn’t to say you should hide the fact that you’re a writer, but some would like to have that option if they so choose. If you’re a researcher and your name appears in publications, you might want to consider writing under a pen name. Hell, if you’re a writer of literary magazines, you may want to consider writing your fiction under a pen name.

  2. Your writing is a little risqué. Or gory. Or anything else you might not want your grandma accidentally finding and reading. If you’re an elementary school teacher writing historical fiction that may involve long scenes in brothels, you might want to consider writing under a pen name. If your passion lies in firing up other people’s passions, you might want to use a pen name. Just think: is this something I wouldn’t mind my grandma reading? Family members are usually really excited to get their hands on your novel as soon as it comes out, so keep this in mind!

  3. Your name is confusing. Or really really long. I have a friend who has two last names--her first name, first last name, and second last name are all long. I would recommend her shortening her name for re