Apr 30 2009
Moira Allen provides useful information about pseudonyms here. Here’s a summary of the best reasons to use a pseudonym.
1. Your writing could interfere with your day job. If you’re interested in working in a political science or government position and every Google search for your name points to your book about how to write superhero stories, that could be problematic.
2. You’ve published in a different genre or field and want to distinguish your new work. Your readership might get confused if you’ve always written romance and suddenly you write a sci-fi thriller. Using a pen-name will help keep those parts of your audience separate.
3. You suspect that your name will make it harder for readers to relate to you. For example, if you’re a guy writing for women (or vice versa), you might find it helpful to use a gender-neutral name or your initial. In particular, military action readers are more receptive to male authors and romance readers are more receptive to women.
4. Your name doesn’t jibe with what you’re writing. I think there is a strong gender bias in some genres. If your name is something like Thaddeus Nottingham, that would probably work for a highbrow volume about the history of opera. However, if you’re writing How I Survived Compton, you’d probably want a name that’s more hip.
5. Your name is too hard to remember. This will help people find your work after hearing your name just once. As a rule, I’d recommend limiting your pen-name to 2-3 words.
I’ll throw in two of my own.
6. Your name is hard to pronounce and/or spell. That will help people find you in bookstores and online.
7. Your name is so common that it would be would be hard to rank on Google. When people type in your name, you really want to be the top result. If I wrote under my given name, I’d be competing with an anarchist radical, a basketball player, a young political science professor, a corporate VP, a model and a singer-songwriter. In particular, I think that it readers might confuse me with the poli-sci professor. Most of my readers know that I am young and really like political science.