What’s In A (Pen) Name?

Earlier, I shared about the importance of establishing a name for yourself in publishing. One reader asked about pen names, or pseudonyms, and it’s a good question.

Some fledgling writers fantasize about using a romantic-sounding pseudonym . Others crave a more literary pen name.

Writers may have valid reasons for not wanting to use their own names.

Arguments for pseudonyms

  1. Protection: Perhaps you’re writing something sensitive and don’t want to be identified.
  2. Diversity: If you’re writing in two disparate genres, say vampire novels and Christian romances, you may want to use a pseudonym for one of them. For example, legal thriller author James Scott Bell writes about zombie lawyer Mallory Caine under the pen name K. Bennett.
  3. Editor’s request: Years ago, I wrote sports stories under a masculine pen name because the editor thought readers would find a male byline more credible.
  4. Avoid confusion: Maybe you have the same name as a famous author. You want to distinguish yourself from the famous author, but you don’t want to lose your priceless identity. Women could incorporate their maiden name. Men might consider using a nickname or their middle name.

Joyce K. Ellis, an award-winning author, has published more than a dozen books, including three novels, and hundreds of articles and short stories. In addition to serving as a Christian Writers Guild mentor and assistant director of the Write-to-Publish Conference, she loves encouraging women at retreats across the country.

Pen image: nattavut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


  1. Peg Corcoran says

    Thanks for the requested information. I was thinking of using a pen name in honor of my mother and my sons grand-mother. They were two very different women and both very big parts of our lives. I miss them very much.

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