Penname versus real name. This can be a huge dilemma when you are starting out in your writing career. I have a friend who spent months literally agonizing over what she wanted her penname to be. She would come up with a list of names and then look them up on the internet, find they were all taken, and go back to the drawing board. Finally, she found just the right one. She chooses to stay anonymous due to any controversial issues she may write about and to protect her family. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using a penname, many famous writers use both their real names and a made up name. Nora Roberts writes as herself and also as J.D. Robb.
Penname versus Real Name.
Why use a pseudonym name? There are many reasons people use a fake name. Some of these reasons include:
- Being able to write about controversial issues freely.
- To protect their loved ones.
- To write in various genres of books, using different names.
- To add an air of mystery.
- Writers and authors want to make sure that people remember their name. If their name is too unusual, choosing a different name is a smart move.
- Some people just don’t want to be known by their real names.
- To differentiate between their freelance and author journeys. For example, as a freelancer, you may be Amy Taylor, but as an author, you are Mattie James.
How to pick a great pseudonym:
When many writers think of choosing an alias, they usually try to come up with something creative. We have all had to do this at one time or another. If you’re like me, I have chosen horrible names with the words “writer” or “book” or “writing” in them because I didn’t know how to go about choosing a name. I have had to do this for Usernames on websites a time or two. Not only are these awful, but they also sound horribly unprofessional. There is a much better way of doing this.
As some of you know, I have been following an author named Jonathan Green. He is a best selling Amazon author, and I find his advice to be very helpful when it comes to my writing career. Jonathan also writes under various pennames and here is how he chooses that name. He goes to the Census Data and looks up the popular names from the year he was born. He picks two and voila, he has a professional pseudonym.
Using Your Real Name.
I don’t mind using my real name when I write. I would definitely use an alias if I wrote something super controversial though. There are many reasons people choose to use their real name, things like:
- One reason I use my real name is that I have dreamed about it my whole life. I have wanted to be an author since I was nine years old and when I held the first copy of Lithium Dreams and Melancholy Sunrise in my hands, I felt like I had accomplished something. It was a humble and proud moment for me.
- People like to be transparent with their audience. They want them to see who they are and know all about them. This is especially important for nonfiction writers.
- It builds trust. If people see your face and resonate with your writing voice, they will slowly trust you.
- It sparks a connection with the reader.
- You come across as approachable.
Here is a list of authors who also use or have used a pseudonym.
- Stephen King
- Nora Roberts
- Bella Andre
- C.S. Lewis
- Agathe Christie
- Michael Crichton
- Dean Koontz
- J.K. Rowling
- Issac Asimov
- Anne Rice
As you can see, even with some of the biggest authors on the planet, this is not uncommon.
Regardless if you write under your name or an alias, the most important part is having a connection with your readers. Be as accessible to them as possible and they will love you for it. In a world full of technology, having a human element is key. So go out there and mingle in writer’s groups, go to book signings and author events, and answer those emails that land in your Inbox. You have the power to reach many, now go do it.