What’s in a name?

What is a pen name? This should be your first question. Once you’ve answered that, your second question should be ‘What are the pros and cons of using a pen name?’ As you are reading this, I presume you know what a pen name is, but for those who don’t, let me explain.

In sophisticated terms, the word means nom de plume, or pseudonym, which means ‘an assumed name used by a writer instead of their real name; a pen name’ – Google search. So, ‘like it says on the box’ a pen name is another name used instead of your real name.

If you are a writer or an author and are considering using a different name for your works, it is a good idea to weigh the pros and cons. So, let’s make a start!

The Pros

  1. You can write under more than one genre

Using a pen name is certainly handy if you are a multi-genre author, or if you write for different magazines, e-zines, or newspapers.

The pros of writing under a pen name is that you can separate the genres so as to not confuse your reading fanbase. If you like to write sagas and crime, having two names would be better in order to gain different readers for each author profile. This would give you marketing clarity.

Magazines and Newspapers have their own house style and they prefer writers to write to their specifications. Having a pen name or several pen names would work here to differentiate between them, and it could be useful if you don’t want one hiring editor to know about your other writing venues!

2. You can hide your gender

The writing world has been male-dominated since the 19th Century and even now, there is an ongoing debate whether reviewers, editors, and readers lean more towards male authors or female authors. Many female authors hide behind a male pen name because they think they will not be taken seriously. One example is Joanne Rowling (her real name) who went under the male name Robert Galbraith for her novel The Cuckoo’s Calling which is a crime novel. The same works the other way, though. There are many male romance authors who hide behind female pen names because ‘men can’t write romance.’

Using a pen name to hide your gender may not seem ideal, and perhaps you do not want to perpetuate gender stereotypes. But it is something worth considering when writing in a specific gender-dominated genre.

3. Someone else may already have published under your name

This happens quite frequently. If you think about how many people have your name already, and how many people publish their works every day, it makes sense, especially if your name is popular. If you have a unique pen name, your readers would be able to find your books quite easily even without a book title. Can you imagine your readers searching for your book on Amazon and they come to a long list of authors with the same name? That would be enough for them to find someone else’s book to read and you would have lost a reader.

4. You may want to keep your work private

There are so many genres, some of which you might want to keep secret. Take the non-fiction genre memoirs and diaries, for example. You may want to keep your identity a secret from your family and friends, especially if they are featured in the book. Another reason to keep your identity private would be if you are shy and don’t want to showcase yourself so much.

So, you are wondering what the cons are, right? Well, there are not many, but one or two.

The Cons

  1. Marketing

This is one of the biggest disadvantages of having a pen name. If you have more than one identity, marketing yourself would be double or triple the work. You would need separate blogs and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to name a few.

If you have a blog or several blogs, you will need to produce several articles for each one and that would require a lot of work, leaving you less time for writing, so beware!

2. You can’t shout about your other works

This is true especially if you want to keep your identity a secret. There is not much to say about this, you just can’t give your other profiles a shout out just in case you are identified. Of course, if you want people to know about you as a multi-genre author with works under a pen name, this wouldn’t be a problem.

So, there you have it, the pros, and cons of using a pen name. Is it a wise move? What do you think? Please leave your comments below!

Written by Malika Gandhi

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