Your Name vs. a Pen Name

Choosing whether or not to use your name or a nom de plume is a difficult decision for many new authors, and even at certain times for established authors. But why, or why not?

There are many reasons that authors choose to use a pen name. Some simply have unpronounceable names, at least to their target audience, and want something easier and perhaps more memorable. Many authors like the privacy that writing semi-anonymously gives them. Female authors have long used pen names when writing in genres that have typically been dominated by male writers, to neutralize any perceived bias about gender. Perhaps, your name is too similar to another author; for example, I know three men named Stephen King. Clearly, you don’t want to use something that close, it will only confuse things.

Others simply like to create characters, and one of the first is themselves. Samuel Langhorne Clemens may be one of the later, though stories vary, MarkTwainMuseum.org suggests that the stories of him being given the name Mark Twain from a riverboat captain may be true. The museum states that “he chose the nom de plume, or pen name, of “Mark Twain.”  “Mark Twain” is a riverboat term measuring two fathoms (12 feet) in depth: mark (measure) twain (two). “

In today’s world, perhaps the most common reason is to compartmentalize your audiences, to a degree. For example, Best Selling Author Joanna Penn (thecreativepenn.com) writes non-fiction under her own name but uses the nom de plume ‘J.F. Penn’ for her thriller and crime thriller fiction novels. She also uses the name ‘Penny Appleton’ for the sweet contemporary romance novels that she co-writes with her mother. All of this, because each of them have a very different reader base. I, too, write non-fiction and magazine articles under my name but have adopted the name ‘T.J. Tao’ as my fiction writing alter ego.

If you want to build a cohesive author marketing platform your readers must be able to differentiate, without getting confused. (See my article about author platforms here) At the end of the day, it is all your choice, but if you think of writing as a business, a name can be an important aspect of the marketing plan.

Farewell, and happy writing… whomever you choose to be.

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