As you build your self-marketing platform, your author name becomes key to growing a large and successful publishing empire.
And it’s important to decide on the author name you’re going to use from the start.
Nothing is ever set in stone, but given the importance of time, and the momentum you’ll want to gain when it comes to establishing your author brand, it pays to get your name right on the first go.
At this point, you may be wondering if you should use a pen name instead of your given name.
While there are some valid reasons to use a pen name, this is not always the best way to build your author’s brand.
Adopting a pen name comes with its own set of complications and drawbacks.
If you’re considering taking on a pen name, it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting into and how it can affect your future career as an author.
Read on to discover seven good reasons not to use a pen name.
Reason #1: You already have a following
Okay, maybe you don’t love your name… but it’s been associated for years with your high-quality work.
Maybe you already have a following of dedicated readers who enjoy your message and would like to read more from you if they could.
In that case, there’s no point in rebuilding the ship. You’ve already made headway, so use what you’ve got — even if it’s not what you consider the perfect author name.
And if you take on a secondary pen name, you’ll need to essentially rebuild a whole new brand for yourself. This is what’s known as “marketing fragmentation,” when you start splitting up all your marketing efforts.
You would need to have a website, social media channels, and other marketing platforms for both the real you AND your pen name persona.
For some writers, this may make sense and it may be worth it. But if it sounds like too much extra work, you’re likely better off focusing your marketing efforts on your real name.
And even if you don’t like your name, keep in mind that an original name will catch people’s attention. If no one else has the same name as you, it’s another way to stand out from the crowd.
Reason #2: You want to be recognized for your work
It’s nothing to be ashamed of. We all deserve recognition for what we do, right?
But with a pen name that masks your true identity, you’ll never be introduced at dinner parties as the “bestselling author who recently won six awards.”
And this can be a real shame. We all have a lot to share with the world, and sometimes one of the bravest things you can do is stand up and take credit for your hard-won accomplishments.
So, if you’re not ready to relinquish your right to be recognized as the amazing author you are, keep your real name.
Reason #3: You don’t want to deal with the legal issues
There’s a host of legal and tax issues regarding pen names that you’ll have to contend with. You can skip them altogether by using your given name.
Pen names are legal, but you’ll need to do your research and make sure you’re operating your business according to the laws in your local jurisdiction.
You may need to register your pen name as a trademark, or start a corporation to make your pen name a “legal entity.”
Read more about legal things to consider if you use a pen name here.
Reason #4: You don’t like complicated social situations
Pen names can complicate social gatherings, especially if you forget and introduce yourself to someone under your given name, or fail to respond when someone calls you by your pen name.
Also, conferences and signings may become challenging if you’re juggling two names. What if someone addresses you by your real name in front others who only know you as your pen name?
And then there’s your online presence. If you include a photo of yourself on your pen name’s website and social media channels, people you know will be able to see that it’s really you.
These situations could all lead to some unnecessarily awkward moments.
Reason #5: You don’t want to hassle with logistics
Your legal name is the only one approved through certain channels like PayPal, which could muddle your collection of revenue if you choose self-publication.
And as a freelancer, if you use a pen name for dealing with clients, but your real name to accept payment, things can get confusing very quickly.
Pen names may also present challenges when travelling by air, staying at hotels, and registering for conferences, since all are typically done under your legal name.
There’s also the possibility of tweeting from the wrong account or inadvertently outing yourself through social media — a problem if you were hoping to keep your identity secret.
All this can be avoided by sticking with your given name from the start.
Reason #6: You might jump the gun too soon
Let’s say you wrote a book, but it didn’t take off like wildfire. You’re resolute in pursuing success, so you adopt a new pen name and start over.
This can be a bad idea.
What if that first book that didn’t take off ends up getting a slow burn of attention?
What if it finally takes off a year from publication, after you’ve abandoned the name and marketing platform for another title? You’ll lose all that well-deserved interest.
Pen names have a lot of bonuses, but they also make it easy to abandon a pursuit.
So, while it’s fine to go with a new name if your first effort fizzled… it may be a better approach to consider taking a pen name as a long-term business strategy.
Make sure it’s a name you can live with for potentially the rest of your life. And if that thought gives you goosebumps, consider dropping the idea of a pen name altogether.
Reason #7: It’s hard to keep the cat in the bag
In the end, most authors wind up outing themselves if their pen-named works achieve any measure of success. Though in rare cases, such as J. K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith, they’re outed by someone else.
In fact, in the case of J. K. Rowling, the lawyer who outed her as the crime novel author Galbraith was fined roughly $1,500 and rebuked for breaching client confidentiality.
Whether you decide to reveal your pen name, or someone does it without your consent, it can add unnecessary turmoil, and potential damage, to your career.
Is a Pen Name Ever Worth It?
Absolutely, and for many reasons.
But you need to make sure you clearly understand why you want to use a pen name, and be prepared to take on all the extra details that may come with it.
If using a pen name still makes sense for your writing career, you may want to delve into how to choose the perfect pen name here.
Or you may decide that the world can handle you and your name just as you are.
To your writing success regardless of name,