The Purpose of Pen Names - Dorrance Publishing Company

The Purpose of Pen Names

A pen name, otherwise known as a pseudonym, is an assumed name that an author will publish under, rather than his or her real name.

Some of the most well-known, famous authors have used a pen name to conceal their identities. For instance, have you ever heard of Richard Bachman? Well, it’s actually Stephen King, who has been known to write forwards in Bachman’s books (how’s that for tricky?). How about Robert Galbraith? Shockingly enough, that’s really the master of the wizarding world, J.K. Rowling!

These are just a couple of examples of famous authors using pen names.  A pen name becomes a sort of shield, allowing the author to conceal his or her identity, shake off any pre-conceived notions, internal or external, and to write freely in the genre of his or her choice.

As a general rule, most authors should publish under their legal, given name. If an author has written an exposé and must remain anonymous for professional reasons, a pen name is quite understandable. Otherwise critics tend to regard a pen name as an affectation and anachronistic. It also makes promotion difficult.

Today, we are going to delve into some of the various reasons an author might want to use this publishing tactic.

Same name – An author may use a pen name when their real name is either confused with another author or notable individual.

Avoid overexposure – Sometimes a pen name is exercised to avoid overuse.  For example, let’s say an author publishes various pieces in a magazine. Rather than have their name listed each time, the editor will use a pen name for some of the pieces to avoid overexposing the author to the readers.

Cross-genres – An author might use a pen name when crossing over genres in an effort to keep from irritating their fan base. Let’s say your favorite author who writes intense crime novels starts writing heartfelt romance novels. Would you be a little perturbed and perplexed? This is just a quick example of why an author may use a pen name in order to save face to their fans.

Although there isn’t a right or wrong answer, using a pen name is essentially a personal decision when it comes time to publish your book. However you choose to proceed, Dorrance will work with you, whomever you choose to be.

So, whether you choose your real name or a pen name, the fact of the matter is that you’ve made your publishing dreams a reality and your work is now available for people far and wide to read!

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