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Do you need a Pen Name?

Posted by Charles Gray on April 22, 2013

Yes. Yes you do.  Or rather, you may.


A pen name has two advantages.  1. It can help you divorce certain aspects of your work from your actual real self.

For example.  Tanya dreams of writing a child’s book.  She likes her children and teaches at her local school.

But her writing that currently pays the bills?  Well, she’s on Book III, Of Teenage College Students and Jake’s Pulsating Piston of Power.

Needless to say, if it becomes known that Tanya writes that, not only might she not be able to get her children’s book published, her next meeting with the parents might be…unhappy, in addition to her meeting with HR.

Equally, Michael is known for his specializing in Late 12th century British Politics.  He also Rights, Tom Turbo and the Airship Wars a very popular story for teenagers.  It’s clean, BUT, it may impact how seriously his very well footnoted and boring as dirt monograph on the  King’s Highway is received– and more pragmatically if he’s at work, he doesn’t want to be bothered by someone bursting into his office waving a copy of his book to be signed.

In both of these cases, the pen name allows you to cordon off part of your writing career, and helps you to effectively “brand” yourself.    Some writers just put the name on their books, while others do the entire “doing business as” route so that they can actually put accounts in their other name.  That can be useful for accounting purposes.

Having a pen name can be a useful tool, especially for writers who do a wide variety of work, and especially for writers who have a number of books or stories in genres that may have trouble “playing nice” together.



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