On Pen Names

What would you name THAT pen???

What would you name THAT pen???

I have a number of friends who are writers. Some, like me, have published under their real names, while others have used pen names. I used to think that if I ever published my very first novel, I would do so under a pen name. That’s because it’s not the kind of story that would be popular, and I wouldn’t necessarily want people associating me with it. While it’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek in poking fun at itself, if you don’t realize that…. But that’s why I never published it.

My fantasy trilogy, on the other hand, I published under my actual name. I never really considered using a pen name for it. Sometimes, I wish I had. Like when my professors tell me they’re going to read my work. I get really, really self-conscious when that happens.

In some ways, though, it’s fun to have the book be MINE, you know? It was amazing to get that first proof copy and see my name IN PRINT on the cover when I’d spent so long envisioning what that would be like. And it’s really cool when people I don’t know are able to connect with me on the blog or social media or my author email account and tell me, by my name, that they enjoyed the read. Also, there’s my close family. They know that writing and publishing has always been my dream, so it’s easy to put my real name on the book and not have to clue them in that no, I haven’t given up or moved on to other things, I just published under a fake name. This is it, and this is what I’ve been writing….


It would be so much fun, though, in a different way, to use a pen name. Writing’s all about trading who you are for the personas of your characters, and a pen name extends that tendency. Feeds right into it! Not to mention that the self-conscious, introverted side of me would love to have the fake name to hide behind. But hey…. I am me. I did write the things I’ve written. And I don’t have any real reason not to attach my name to them, since I’m leaving academia. (Fiction writing is frowned upon by the academy. Academics should be spending their time doing “important” and “legitimate” research. As though the connections I make between texts from 500 years ago is somehow important to the world today…. Anyway, sorry for the rant.)

If I ever write something in a different genre–perhaps Christian fiction or non-fiction–I might publish under a pen name to keep my “brand” intact. But I’m curious about other people: have you published under a pen name? Do you plan to? Have you considered using one? Why or why not? It’s an interesting phenomenon!


21 responses to “On Pen Names

  1. I use a pen name at the moment, but when I get a novel published, I’ll use my real name.

  2. While I’m still a way off publishing anything substantial, it is something I think about occasionally (usually when I’m procrastinating). Part of my concern about using my real name is that it’s kind of hard to pronounce (but not in a cool way)… An author I know uses a pen-name because her own last name was too common, and she wanted to be more searchable.

    • thanks for sharing!!! everything you’re saying there makes sense. I hadn’t though of those really practical reasons to go with a pen name…. I guess I’m lucky in that my name isn’t neither very common nor very difficult to pronounce for English speakers (though it’s German).

  3. Pingback: Should I Use A Pen Name? « Alex Wells. The Blog.

  4. I think like you, if I ever wrote in a particular genre and then did work in an entirely different one, I’d use a pen name.

  5. While I use the name Matt Forrest for my normal business – I worked in radio for 20+ years and now do voiceover work – I use my full name, Matt Forrest Esenwine, for my writing. I was hesitant to put my full name on display not for fear of criticism, but simply for privacy; however, I was proud of who I was and wanted people to know the person responsible for what they read. So I decided to use my full name in order to maintain the brand I was building as Matt Forrest while still being true to myself.

    I can definitely see the value in pseudonyms, though…when I was working in radio in northern Vermont, I was Matt Henry (another family name) and when I wrote album reviews for my college newspaper, I was Madison Wine (get it? Matt Esenwine?). I suspect there’ll come a time when a pen name will be apropos for a project…although I’m just not sure who I’ll be! I suppose that’s part of the fun, isn’t it?

    • haahaha! LOVE the Madison Wine one!!! that’s great. Thanks for sharing. I agree, it’s making yourself vulnerable to put your real name out there, but I want people to know this is me, and this is what I wrote.

  6. I’d like to publish under Cadmus Quintus Gravebody, but will probably end up using my real name so that my ego knows to accept the credit. πŸ™‚ Seriously though, I have considered a nom de plume since I write fantasy/steam punk, and there are so many Brooks out there already… o.O

    • I like Cadmus Quintus Gravebody!!! πŸ™‚ you’re right, there are some practicality issues to consider when you have a common name. You can always include your middle name, or make one up, maybe, if you’d like to use your real name? I’m sure you’ve thought of that, but it’s a way to differentiate yourself from everyone else named Brooks.

  7. That is an interesting question, Victoria. I agree with you. I want my name in print. It has been my dream ever since I can remember. The thing is, and it may sound silly, but writing under a pen name or ghost-writing, seem like cheating to me. Nobody is going to know that I wrote that. I do not in any way mean to say that either are wrong, but for me, they aren’t right. I guess it is an ego thing, but I want to be known for my words and don’t want to give the credit to anyone else, either real or imagined! πŸ™‚

  8. I’m not planning on using a pen name currently, but all I write now is adult fiction and at some point I’d like to try my hand at middle-grade. If I do, I’ll use a pen name, because I wouldn’t want kids to search out my adult-themed books, which have some bad language and violence, and read things that aren’t appropriate for them. But I’ll keep it something close – my mother’s maiden name or something. πŸ™‚

  9. Pen name here, but I suspect you knew that about me already. I chose to use one because my name, especially with the addition of my married surname, isn’t memorable. Instead I used my middle name and an abbreviation of my surname.

  10. I’m on the fence about using a pen name. I’ve got one novel coming out under my real name, but the next one I’ve written is a very different genre, and I’m debating whether to create a new persona for it. But that might get too confusing (for me if for no one else)!

    • It’s a tough decision in an instance like that. At this point I’ve only published fantasy. But I know one writer…. Jennings Wright…. who writes in a variety of genres and always uses her name. From her blog, it looks she’s having success marketing that way. I don’t think I would in that circumstance, though. It just depends on you…. I would figure out what you feel most comfortable with and go with that πŸ™‚ Appreciate you dropping you and leaving a comment. I’ll be wishing you all the best! Congrats on the upcoming release!!!

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