I’m just going to say it here: I use a pen name. That’s right! Those of you that “thought” you knew me were a little wrong. My first name is Mikey, short for Micheal (notice that different spelling). The last name Brooks, actually comes from my wife. It is her first name. I use my wife’s name for several reasons: first because she is my partner in everything, second because my last name is commonly misspelled or mispronounced, and third because I like the way it sounds.
Why would you want to use a pen name?
- To have anonymity. Example: you don’t want people in your church to know you write horror novels.
- It allows you to be the person you want to be. Example: most authors who are introverts can hide behind the role of their pen name. You play the part. It becomes your secret identity…kinda like Superman and Clark Kent…
- You’re a female writing for a male market or vice versa. Example: Joanna Penn writes under the pseudonym J.F. Penn so as to appear un-gendered in a market saturated by men.
- You have multiple genres and want to separate yourself. Example: One name for picture books, one name for steamy romance.
- Marketing reasons. Example: your name is just plain ugly. It’s hard to spell or often mispronounced. It happens to start with a letter towards the end of the alphabet (which always puts you at the end of a long list).
- Your name is already being used by someone else.
- You’ve blundered your real name with previous published books and need a new start.
HOW to pull off a pen name:
You are not going to do anything with a pen name that you wouldn’t already need to do with your real one. Of course if you are getting paid by a publisher you will sign all legal documents with your REAL name. If you accept a check, make sure it is your REAL name or that you have set something up with your bank under a business name titled the same thing (example: Joe Shmoe Books).
- Your name is your brand. Whether you are using your real name or a pseudonym, EVERYTHING about you should reflect that name. OWN your brand!
- Get a website under that name. If you can’t, get one close to it. Get a blog, anything. Something to reflect a web presents outside of social media.
- Get a social media following under that name. Example: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest.
- THIS IS YOU NOW! You must act the part of that name. Introduce yourself as your pen name in business settings (your writing is your business).
How do pen names affect publishing contracts?
- They don’t. Everything will be done with your REAL name when it comes time to sign the contract.
Can you keep a pen name identity a secret?
- Yes, no need to worry about your name getting out there. Publishers, agents, ect will keep your identity secret. The only one you need to worry about is yourself. Most can find out that I use a pen name if they just go onto Facebook and see who my wife is. Chances are, her last name is mine…this won’t always be the case.
So there you have it. I use a pen name and I like it. I think it’s a fitting name. I have accepted it as my alternate identity and don’t mind telling the world that I am Mikey Brooks, author, illustrator, and cover designer. How do you feel about pen names?