Indie authors sometimes self-publish under a pen name or pseudonym in order to protect their identity, avoid overexposure, or create a better association between their name and their work. An author’s real name might not fit his or her genre, or it may be a very difficult name for readers to spell, let alone remember!
So, should you use a pen name or not? At Self-Publishing Relief, we are often asked this question, so we’ve put together a list of our FAQs about using pen names for self-published projects.
9 FAQs About Pen Names for Self-Published Authors
- Do I really need a pen name?
Probably not. Pen names are more a matter of choice than something necessary to hide behind. Some authors adopt catchy pen names that suit their genre or are easier on the eyes or ears, but for the most part, new authors who are trying to build a brand name and gain exposure don’t need to use a different name. Read more about what you need to know about using a pseudonym.
- Why might I choose to use a pseudonym?
There are several reasons why writers adopt pen names. For example, your name may already be taken by a famous author or dozens of lesser-known writers, or it doesn’t suit your genre. A law enforcement officer who writes about true crime or a schoolteacher whose books aren’t suitable for a younger audience might adopt a pen name; some folks are simply not happy with their given moniker or wish to honor a loved one. Other reasons why you might choose to use a pen name: your name is spelled with several unwieldy consonants; you want to make a major leap across genres; or your previous book was a flop and you want to create a new image.
- Can I copyright my work under a pen name?
Yes, you can register a manuscript under a pen name at the copyright office. Click here for details!
- How do I establish my new persona(s)?
An author website featuring all the information readers need to know about your alter ego will help establish your pen name. Some social media outlets (like Twitter) will let you create as many new profiles as you want, but others (like Goodreads) will require that you open a separate account for each pen name.
- How should I introduce myself—with my real name or my pseudonym?
Pen names can make things tricky when it comes to introducing yourself to fellow writers, fans, and other industry professionals. Here’s how to introduce yourself if you have a pen name.
- How do I decide what my pen name should be?
If your name is very common—or the same as an infamous serial killer—you may want to use a pen name. Choose one that stands out, is easy to spell and remember, and mirrors your author brand. A quick Google search will help you make sure there’s not another author named Wally Wordsmith already writing in your genre.
Also consider the way the pen name will look on the cover of a book (shorter names really pop!), and keep in mind that you will be using this name for all your writerly correspondence, promotional materials, social media, and book signings to keep your author brand consistent.
- What about using more than one pen name?
Some indie authors use several different pen names to keep their different personas and genres separate. Web Design Relief offers tips on how to handle multiple pen names on your author website.
- How do I approach a self-publishing company?
As with all legal dealings, make sure your self-publishing company knows that you’re working under a pen name. A publishing contract should include a space for both your real name and your nom de plume. And don’t forget to inform your bank and local post office of your other identities!
- Am I still at risk for libel or slander if I’m writing under an assumed name?
Whether you’re writing a novel or creative nonfiction under your real name or a pen name, you can be sued for defamation of character, libel, or slander if you expose people’s secrets or make real people look bad. Read more: Creative Nonfiction: How To Stay Out Of Trouble.
Adopting a pen name can make things a little more complicated and awkward. But if you have good reason to self-publish your books and novels under a pseudonym, weigh the pros and cons carefully—and enjoy choosing your new name!
NOTE: The experts at Self-Publishing Relief are not attorneys. Seek legal counsel if you have questions or concerns about using a pen name for your self-published projects.
Question: Have you ever self-published under a pen name?