Also called a pseudonym or nom de plume, a pen name is a name you choose to write under, which isn’t your own name.
So why do some writers choose to use their own name, and others pick a pen name?
It gives the author privacy
Some authors simply don’t want to write under their own name. Perhaps they feel more comfortable writing under an assumed name, so that people they know won’t judge their work. If they have another profession as well as writing, a pen name keeps the two personas separate.
If the author’s own name is an issue
Perhaps it’s a tricky spelling, or difficult to pronounce. Maybe it’s a really common name, which you feel isn’t memorable, or doesn’t stand out from the crowd. Or perhaps you just don’t like your own name.
If your name is the same as an established writer
If your name is Enid Blyton or JK Rowling, you might feel it’s best to consider another name to be published under.
It separates writing genres
Some authors who are well-known in one genre choose to write under a different name if they’re published in another, to keep a separate identity. Occasionally writers separate their fiction work from their non-fiction in this way.
A downside to this is that you need two of everything – two websites, for example, although hopefully you also have twice as many readers!
If some of your work has not been well received
If you feel your new work is not being given a fair chance because of something you’ve written in the past, a pen name is one way to escape any negative connotations.
If you don’t want to give away your gender
Publishers occasionally suggest keeping your gender under wraps if they feel the genre you’re writing in veers towards ‘male’ or ‘female’. Using initials is one way to achieve this. Occasionally authors choose to keep their gender neutral if they feel readers may make an instant judgement on their work because of their name.
If you’re a co-writer
Some writing teams choose to publish under just one name, to keep things simple.
Writing for the “Friend”
Whether you use your own name or a pen name, it won’t colour our judgement. Our focus is always on the stories, with a view to entertaining our readers. We wouldn’t discriminate against a story because of the author’s name: whatever name you choose is fine by us!