by Andy Scheer
Unless you have good reasons not to.
Because your author platform is essential to selling a book to publishers, then readers, your name is one of your strongest assets. It’s key to developing your author brand.
Unless it isn’t. In which case, be prepared to explain to an agent why you want to build your brand around a pen name.
If you’re looking for a precedent, check this infographic: “Here’s Why Famous Authors Chose Their Fake Names.” You’ll see the often-obscure identity behind many famous authors—and their reasons for sailing under a different flag.
I hope your motive isn’t that of one short-story author, who chose a pseudonym “to escape his past as a convicted embezzler and former felon.” Or that, like some past women authors, you want to use a male name to avoid discrimination.
Some reasons from the infographic still make sense for contemporary authors:
To Be Easier to Spell and Pronounce
The Heart of Darkness writer Joseph Conrad was really Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski. And bestselling thriller writer James Rollins is really James Czajkowski.
To Build a Brand in Different Genres
Besides a simpler name, Czajkowski wanted another pseudonym to distinguish himself in a second genre. So when writing fantasy, he’s James Clemens.
Dr. Barbara Mertz took this one step further. When writing nonfiction about Egyptology, she used her real name. But for her Gothic novels, she was Barbara Michaels. And for her mysteries, Elizabeth Peters.
To Simplify Authorship
If you’re one of two authors writing jointly, a single pen name may simplify your branding. So a mother-and-son team write mysteries under the name Charles Todd. In the CBA realm, Dennis E. Hensley and Holly Miller wrote novels under the name Leslie Holden. And the novels of Hannah Alexander are the work of a husband-and-wife collaboration.
Other reasons for a pen name?