A pen name, also known as a literary double, is a name used by an author which may be a variant of his or her actual name or may in no way resemble it.
This pseudonym is used sometimes to disguise the writer’s gender or to distance the author from other works. So, for instance, Mary Berton wrote several explicit romances. If Mary wanted to write finance textbooks, she might list her name as M. Berton on those. Both are her name, but the use of an initial instead of Mary not only disguises the gender of the writer but distances the two genre writings.
Here are some authors who have used pen names:
- Mark Twain’s real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens.
- Theodor Seuss Geisel was Dr. Seuss.
- George Orwell was actually Eric Arthur Blair.
- Stan Lee was really Stanley Martin Lieber.
- Steven King also wrote under the name Richard Bachman.
- Joanne Rowling has used the pen names, J.K. Rowling and Robert Galbraith.
- Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie wrote mysteries with the name Agatha Christie and romance novels as Mary Westmacott.
- George Sand was born Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin.
- Mary Ann Evans published her works as George Eliot.
Should you use a nom de plume instead of your given name? Well, it depends.
You might choose a pen name if you would like some personal privacy. I’ve opted to write under the name C.E. Flores, which is my actual name but with initials instead of using my first and middle names. I never used my first name on my blog, only my last, for the same reason.
If there are several other authors with your name, you might consider using a pen name or a variant of your own to avoid confusion. For example, you could use your middle name rather than your first name, or add your middle initial to your name. So Robert Carl Brown could write as Carl Brown or Robert C. Brown to distinguish him from other authors also named Robert Brown.
When considering a pen name, do not use the same name as someone famous. Writing as Stephen King might initially increase your sales, but it could cause a whole lot of trouble down the line. Therefore, look for something unique.
You may be tempted to be creative with your Author Biography when writing. After all, it’s not really you. However, don’t give yourself credentials or experiences that are not true. Things like that have a way of being found out and it will damage your credibility as an author long after you’ve forgotten about it. Stick to as close to the truth as possible.
Assignment: Decide on the name you will write as.