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Pen Names

A pen name, nom de plume, is an alternative name an author uses as a byline for publications.

Do you use a pen name? Are you considering a pen name? Please comment and let me know about your experiences. Below are my thoughts on the subject.

Why use a pen name?

Reason 1: To hide the author’s gender or identity.

For instance some men write romance novels. They are more accepted if the reader thinks a woman wrote them.

Authors may feel they don’t want friends,  family, co-workers, etc. to know they are a published author.

Or they want to keep their fans away from their private life. This could be shyness or another need for privacy or because they don’t want to be identified with the work for whatever reason.

Reason 2: To separate the author’s different published genres

Readers expect an author to write in the same genre so they know what to expect when buying a book. When a writer crosses into other genres, then he/she may decide to use different pen names to separate the genres of those published works.

Reason 3: To give the writer a distinctive name

If the writer’s name is very common then a writer may use a pen name so the reader can distinguish those works from the crowd.

Reason 4: To make the writer’s name easier to remember or pronounce.

Perhaps the author’s name is too unique, too hard to spell, or difficult for the reader to pronounce or remember.

What do agents think about pen names?

An agent asked me, “Why?” I had less than five minutes to explain my complicated reasons. This time took away from our discussion of my manuscript. So I felt the pen name issue was too big of a distraction.

Other feedback I’ve had from agents on pen names at two different writers’ workshops is that they don’t like the author to use initials. Of course, there are many exceptions. I wonder if J. K. Rowling has a problem with this.

My experience:

I’ve recently stopped using my pen name. I abbreviated my maiden name – C. A. Rose. If pronounced correctly, it sounded like ‘see a rose’. I thought it was cute and memorable. But it became too cute-sy. The domain name for C. A. Rose was not available and when I used it to search for my website (then petalsandthorns), the search engines would go to flower related sites first.

I also chose this pen name, because I’ve been married before and changed my name. So whatever I published at the time under one name was not connected to another name of mine. I thought I could unify my works under this one name for all present and future publishing. That didn’t work out. If I’d thought it through from the beginning, I may have successfully stuck with C. A. Rose. Hindsight is twenty-twenty!

Now I write as Rose Klix. This has been fairly recent, so my pen name C. A. Rose is also referenced on my website.

My advice:

Think this through very carefully before you find yourself in a muddle. You may be disappointed you didn’t use your favorite and enduring pen name when your work was first published.

Happy Writing!


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