Self publishing under a pen name is common practice in the modern world of publishing. Some authors choose to use fictitious names to conceal their true identities. The use of pen names was common in the 18th century when journalists and writers used such names to hide their real names when penning illegal or controversial letters and articles to the editor!
Today, authors use pen names due to personal preference; they might not want the stuff they are writing to be linked to their legal name for a number of reasons.
In this post, I will talk about using a pen name when self-publishing and some of the reasons authors publish under different names. You can then make the final decision on whether you will choose to publish your work under a pseudonym.
What is a Pen Name?
According to Wikipedia, a pen name is an informal term for a pseudonym. A pseudonym is a Greek name that means a 'wrong word'.
The definition of a pen name is a fictitious name used by authors or writers when writing or publishing their work to conceal their true identities. When using the pseudonym, the author lists the fictitious name on the published books so the reader will know the author's real name. Below are some of the reasons why publishers and writers opt to use pseudonyms instead of their real names.
Why do authors publish under different names?
# 1.When their real name is similar to another existing author's name
One of the reasons authors opt for self publishing under a pen name is if they share a similar name to another author who is already out there. Of course, an author can still publish using his/her real name in such a situation, but if you want the writing to be more memorable and unique to your potential readers, using a pseudonym will help.
It could also be the case where the author also using the same name has already established themselves in that niche. This could be very confusing for readers and in this case, it makes more sense to either choose a new name, abbreviate are form a variation of your name to publish under.
# 2.To make a name for themselves in other genres
Authors may also choose to publish their writing using pen names if they write in different unrelated genres. When you begin to publish in a brand new genre, a pen name would be a good idea. Especially if you already have an audience and fanbase in one genre that knows you for a particular type of writing. They will be interested in everything you publish, and seeing a set of cookbooks when they are used to seeing Young Adult Fantasy would not be a good look.
If you have been publishing under your real name previously and it does not fit the new genre, you can consider publishing your book using a pseudonym.
#3. To avoid gender stereotyping
Another reason why authors use pseudonyms is to avoid stereotyping.
The truth is some readers expect some types of fiction to be written by a particular gender. Some readers will only consider reading books written by an author if they share the same gender. For whatever reason, this could mean a reduced readership on your amazing book just because somebody sees Thomas/Julie wrote it. Therefore, using pen names prevents gender stereotyping since the reader would not know the author's real identity.
#4. To prevent racial and cultural discrimination
Similar to the reasons above, regarding gender stereotyping. Publishing your writing with your real name discloses your identity, including your ethnicity. And since there is a lot of racial and cultural prejudice in society, using a pen name will prevent such political issues from crossing over into the success of your book.
#5.To have a fresh start
Since not every published book becomes the best seller, sometimes you can print a book and not sell the way you expected.
Maybe your first book, under your real name did awful and received a lot of bad reviews. You might not want that book or reputation to follow you with your new book. You could use a pen name in your new book and nobody would know.
#6. To protect their identity
An author can choose a pseudonym to protect their identity. Using a pen name while publishing will protect your if you don't want your identity disclosed to family, day job, or political affiliations that negatively affect the book's sales (or you in real life).
Some authors also use a pen name to create an easy to remember name that can boost their brand and sales. Such names are also easier to create a logo and write. If you find your name to be either very common or hard to remember (and therefore type into the search engine) You can choose to shorten it to a nickname, abbreviate it or choose any pen name of your choice that you consider best for branding.
Can You Publish On Amazon With A Pen Name?
Yes. You can publish on Amazon KDP with as many pen names as you choose. You do not need to create additional accounts to do so either.
Whichever name you type in as the primary author or contributor will be the name the public see.
As this needs to be done with each book you publish - your real name will only ever be shown if you type it in here.
It is important to note that despite being able to have as many pen names as you like under your account, you can only have one Author Page per account - so choose which pen name you will link it to wisely.
When To Avoid using a pen name
So we have gone through the many benefits and reasons an author might decide against using a pen name when self publishing, but what about the negatives? There are instances when hiding your true identity from your writing can be negative. Here are the some reasons why it might not be a good idea to use a pseudonym.
#1. When you have a large following
If you have previously published books associated with a good rating of high-quality work, publishing under an unestablished name would be like starting from scratch. If you have a dedicated following and fanbase expecting new material from you, you deprive them of finding that material immediately and deprive yourself of all of those sales you would make upon launch when announcing your new book.
In such instances, already having dedicated readers who love your writing and would love more of your books. Using a pen name will essentially mean losing your existing readers interested in your work.
#2.To avoid legal issues
In some cases, when you use a pen name, there may be tax and legal matters you will have to comply with such as notifying the government about operating under that pen name (ficticious name).
Though this is generally the case within the business entity world and not necessarily with author pen names, you may wish to check the laws in your country or state to ensure you are following the correct procedure. If this is the case, then using your real name could avoid any issues or hassle down the line.
#3. You want the accolades that come with the success of your book
If you are using a pen name, you are concealing your identity, making it challenging to link all of your separate pieces of work to you. If this is what you want, of course, this isn't a negative. But, this is something authors must bear in mind, as even if you become the bestselling author or the author of the year, you cannot receive that recognition with your name masked. If you aspire to build a brand based on your collective work, it will be paramount to use your real name.
So there you have it, you are well within your rights to use one, it just depends on your aims and reasons for doing so. However, although a pen name is an effective way of concealing your identity, there are some instances when it is advisable to just use your real name!