Should You Write Under a Pen Name?

CuckoosCallingCoverYou’ve written your book, made your plan to publish through traditional or self-publishing channels, and are ready to get that book into your hands (or onto your e-reader), but there are many more choices you’ll need to make along the way. As an author, there are many decisions you have to make before publishing your book. There’s title, book cover design… and what name you want to use to publish your book. Will you use your real name? Or a pen name? Even famous writers like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King have adopted pen names to facilitate the publication of certain books.

(1) You don’t want to quit your day job.

If you’re a working professional, it’s possible that you want to keep the fact that you’ve published a book separate from your professional life. This is especially true if you work on books that aren’t related to your chosen career. Whether you’re a lawyer whose writing science fiction, an educator writing true crime, or a doctor writing young adult fiction, there are times when you want to keep what you do behind the keyboard on your own time separate from what you do when you’re on the clock.

(3) You’re writing a book on a hot-button issue.

Writing under a pen name can, for certain subjects, be an essential protective measure. Whether it’s a hot-button political issue, a religious exposition, or a juicy tell-all, there are times when masking your identity is the best option.

(3) You’re looking for more freedom in your writing.

Perhaps the most compelling reason to write under a pseudonym is the freedom it grants writers. If you’re an established writer in a particular genre, your audience comes to expect certain things from you. It’s difficult, in particular, to break away from a genre that you’ve been writing in for some time. J.K. Rowling writes, on her decision to publish crime fiction as Robert Galbraith, that she wanted to “go back to the beginning of a writing career in this new genre, to work without hype or expectation.”

When asked about Rowling’s decision to publish under a pen name, Stephen King noted, “What a pleasure, what a blessed relief, to write in anonymity, just for the joy of it.”

Indeed, writing under a pen name gives you the freedom to explore new genres, create new characters, and not worry about how your previous works are going to color your next book. This freedom can help alleviate writer’s block and give you more creative agency to produce the best possible books you can write.

Would you consider publishing under a pen name?


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