Should You Use A Pen Name or Pseudonym?

Should You Use A Pen Name or Pseudonym?

People write me often to ask my advice on using online personas, pseudonyms and pen names. They have questions, and they’d like to know my thoughts. (It seems I’m considered somewhat of a go-to resource on the topic – like Aerosmith said, dude looks like a lady.)

I’ve noticed that most people who contact me aren’t just trying to satisfy their curiosity, though. They aren’t looking to philosophize. They aren’t interested in my story. They come to me because they have a question and seek an answer:

“Should I use a pen name?”

I can’t answer that. Whether you should use a pen name or use your own is entirely up to you, and it’s a very personal decision. It’s also a complex decision, not to be taken lightly, and it involves facets from psychology to perception to bias to stereotyping to privacy.

If you’re thinking about using a pen name (or if you’re just curious about the subject), the following common questions and answers might help you make your decision.

Why choose a pen name?

Musicians, actors and authors adopt pen names (or stage names) all the time. It certainly isn’t something new. Some of the reasons they adopt a pen name include setting boundaries, maintaining security, hiding identity, retaining privacy, and increasing opportunities. Others have done so to avoid persecution, prejudice and discrimination, like the Bronte sisters or thousands of Jews trying to fit in during the war.

Many choose pen names for marketing and branding reasons, like Grandma Mary or Kid Rock, and some people want to use pen names to separate association from a project, their job or business ventures, like Stephen King did with his pen name Richard Bachman and Garth Brooks did with Chris Gaines.

And it’s often a good idea: A rose by any other name smells just as sweet, but a romance novel written by Desirée Denial is probably going to sell more than one written by Bertha Hump.

Some just don’t like their name and prefer to use one that makes them feel better about themselves or that gives them more confidence. Some just want to be accepted and avoid getting laughed at.

Is it hard to take on a pen name?

No. You pick a name and start using it.

But what this question really means is, “Will using a pen name change me?” The answer to that is again no. A name is just a label we use, and changing your name doesn’t change you, the person.

Think of a couch – you could call it a sofa or a lounge or a chesterfield, and it generally all means the same thing. What people call you isn’t any different. Your mother named you Lila so that when she calls that word, you’re the one who answers and not your sister Sarah.

You actually probably answer to several names as it is. Nicknames and pet names are perfectly acceptable. My two daughters answer to several pet names without even thinking twice – they know I mean them, and they’re still the same person no matter what I call them.

Is using a pen name liberating?

Some say yes and some say no. It depends a great deal on your beliefs, how you use a pen name, why you use one and your psychology and the behaviours you adopt as you go about your affairs.

Method actors, for example, adopt full personas and take on a personality they wouldn’t normally. They literally “become” someone else temporarily. Other people feel a pen name gives them freedom, more strength or more fearlessness. Some feel less shy or as if they’ve finally become “who they are”.

Some people find pen names restrictive and limiting – they have to manage different personas for varying situations, or they become confused about which persona is truly theirs. The first tends to be caused by simple lack of organization or practice, and the second tends to come from weak knowledge of self-identity.

When you know who you are from the start, you rarely get confused.

Of course, we’re all in control of our own minds, and therefore we control our experiences. Whether you find using a pen name liberating or restrictive is entirely up to you.

Should I let people know I’m using a pen name?

If it makes you feel better, sure. Go ahead and tuck a little “Francis Fantastic is the pen name of a juggler from the corn fields of Iowa” in your About page. Nothing wrong with that.

But this raises two questions:

  1. If you don’t feel comfortable using a pen name, why are you?
  2. If you’re going to reveal you’re using a pen name, why bother?

I believe that if you’re going to use a pen name, do it. Embrace it. And be done with it.

What if people are upset that I’m using a pen name?

Then they’re upset, and there’s not much you can do about that. They simply have different beliefs than you do, and that’s cool. It takes all kinds to make a world, as they say. Accept their feelings and move on.

I’ll admit I’ve always found it intriguing that someone would be upset about a pen name in the first place. What difference does it make if you call yourself Sarah instead of Linda or John instead of Michael?

Sometimes people’s reactions say more about them than it does about you.

Does using a pen name mean I have multiple-personality disorder?

Not at all. MPD (or dissociative identity disorder) is a specific psychiatric disorder that includes some frankly nasty symptoms, such as severe memory loss, headaches, flashbacks, panic attacks, auditory hallucinations, and depersonalization. Its prevalence is a drop in the bucket of the world’s population.

You’re not MPD if you use a pen name. Far from it.

Slipping into different personas and roles happens all the time, with every person in the world today. We take on different roles all the time, depending on the situation. We don’t change our name, but we do speak, act, dress and behave differently in each situation.

For example, a woman might be a mother, a lover, a friend, and a businesswoman, and she rotates between these facets of personality naturally and nearly instinctively. No one thinks she’s MPD, do they?

Does using a pen name constitute a breach of trust?

That’s a question best answered by your personal set of beliefs and values. People have very different interpretations of the definition of “trust” and what might constitute a breach of values. One person might say a pen name shatters every iota of trust while another might shrug it off, laugh and say nothing’s changed.

Trust also has a lot to do with the expectations you’ve set for others that you feel they should uphold. They don’t have to, of course – they have their own self-expectations, just as you do.

Is it hard to do business using a pen name?

No, it’s not, especially if you choose a normal name that blends into daily life.

Some difficulties you might experience might be times when you feel the moralities of revealing your real name are more important than hiding it, or when you feel disappointed you might have to pass on an opportunity to rather than reveal your true identity, but even those cases are rare.

Other difficulties you might face might be more personal. For example, I was very proud to write my first book, The Unlimited Freelancer… but the feeling just wasn’t the same when I gave my mother her first copy. We both looked at the name on the cover, and it was bittersweet.

Is using a pen name legal?

Yes, it’s legal to use a pen name in business – though I add a disclaimer that I’m not a lawyer and that there are legal restrictions related to the use of a pen name, such as in the case of signing documents. If you’re going to use a pen name, get legal counsel and know what you can and can’t do.

Do you recommend using a pen name?

Using a pen name is a personal decision that you need to make for yourself. I don’t counsel for or against it because I feel everyone has the ability to make the decision that fits best with their needs and that my opinion or influence isn’t necessary.

Take some time to think over your reasons for wanting a pen name. Using a different name than your own has immediate consequences and future ones as well. Consider the pros and cons, your goals, and the usefulness (or uselessness).

Most importantly, think about the reasons you want to use a pen name, why you feel you need one, what you think using one will accomplish, and how you’ll handle it if it’s revealed.

Your turn: How do you feel about pen names? Would you use one? Why? Why not?

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. I use a pen name for the simple fact that, if I was ever published, the alternative is to be P.Green!

    • I knew someone in high school whose name, said aloud, actually insulted his body odor. The poor guy got teased soooo badly for that, and it was one of those, “What was his mother thinking?!” kind of stories.

  2. This is one practice I never quite understood. Building a brand based on your name is extremely powerful, and I don’t see the sense in diluting that by publishing under an alternate name. I suppose, perhaps you could build an entire brand under than name, but it seems moot.
    For my money, I put my name by the content I produce, and the products and advice that I provide. I think it adds a sense of surety and reality for the buyer.
    Thanks for the article!

    • Well, it’s true that self-branding can be very powerful, but it can also be a beautiful trap – there’s only YOU, after all, and when you’d like to step away from your business… you can’t. Ouch!

      • That’s very, very true James. That’s one of the considerations people have to make, I guess.
        For me it’s a matter of multiple brands, some build my business, some are my “personal” brands. It’s extremely important to consider the impact branding has on your exit strategy, as you mentioned

  3. Pen Names are a tough call, because whatever you decide, you’re along for the ride. Of course, if you don’t have a pen name, there can be no dramatic revelation of your true identity later on, with all the attendant publicity, infamy, and web traffic.

    Also a business name which becomes a brand is not a pen name and would probably suit many people better than true pseudonym. For example, My name is not Remarkablogger, that’s the name of my business. It’s a brand that does just as well for me as a pen name would. I have no reason for people to not know who I really am but the brand isn’t my name.

    There are plenty of good reasons to use pen names and if you feel you have a good reason to use a pen name then go for it. You don’t have to give a shit what anyone else thinks of your reason. Your reason only has to be valid for you. You’re the one who has to live with yourself every day. People who don’t know you can take a hike. And people who do know you (if they’re real friends) will stick by you no matter what.

    Best article I’ve ever read on the subject, James. Bravo. 🙂

    • Agree entirely!

    • May I be the first to say that a dramatic revelation is NO FUN AT ALL and turns your life upside down for a while. 😛

      I fully agree with you on branding the business name – I think that gives businesses far more ability to be recognized, remembered and be flexible for the future. It’s funny, though – in your case, I have seen people actually call you Remarkablogger – kind of like the superhero of the blogging world, woot!

      • Yeah that remark was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. I shouldn’t have spared the emoticon on that one. 🙂

        It wouldn’t take too much effort for me to disassociate my name from my business if I really wanted to. Darren Rowse and Brian Clark are in the same position: they’re well-known for their blogs and other online properties, but those properties are all branded. Chris Brogan has to always be Chris Brogan at If Chris Brogan were actually a pen name, then he too could separate himself from that enterprise if he wanted to. All he can do with it is evolve it as he evolves. Not saying that’s better or worse — just different.

        I think pen names are perfect for some people in some cases. Clearly, James, it’s served you well. 🙂

    • You can also adopt a pen name if you want to establish a brand based on your name and the real name is a bit of a tongue twister.

      I think Michael has made a very good point about focusing on the business name, not the personal one when it comes to branding. It is a perfect solution for people like me who don’t want to adopt a pen name for whatever reason but are not sure if a complicated sounding personal name should be the foundation of a brand- you want people to easily remember you.

      This is not to say Pixels and Clicks is an anonymous organization- my name is on the front page and another click will take visitors to my photo. It’s just that I chose to take a back seat and be more discreet. when it comes to branding. I would rather be known as the Pixels and Clicks guy than have people write down my name on their palms, complete with phonetics.

      • This weekend my teen exploded. “How hard is it to spell our damned name?! Just sound it out… can’t they get it?! I’m so SICK of spelling my name out! I wish we could just change names or something, sheesh…”

        And off she went, mutterin gaway. It’s not that we have a complicated last name – it’s that it’s a very English name. And we live in a predominantly French province.

        All that to say, yeah, sometimes tongue twisters aren’t the best for marketing purposes!

        • When I was married before, my last name was ‘Smith’ and I’d nearly always get asked how I spelled it….

          Mind you, when I give my name and address over the phone I have to spell my first name, last name, street name and suburb – the last two of which are usually spelled out a few times as they’re horrendous.

  4. I do use a pen name – of sorts. It just a combination of my forename and my partner’s surname, but I like the name and for me it’s about establishing boundaries too. Strangely, perhaps, I wouldn’t take my partner’s surname if we married, even if I wasn’t using it as a pen name. I can’t say that I’ve thought too deeply about what this means: I just go with what feels comfortable for me.

  5. I probably would not use a pen name because I do happen to like my name and don’t see the reason for me at this time. I would, however, consider it if I were doing something radically different than what my normal practice was. There’s a certain mystery about using another name. It would certainly be fun! But for thie most part I like when it’s my real name on my work.

  6. I have tried writing with a pen name, but then realized….hey! These past 13+ years has seen me *as* Barbara Ling – one doesn’t abandon more than a decade of branding on a whim.

    So I went back to being just plain magnificently memorable shy Barbara Ling. Works for me!

  7. I think pen names are completely acceptable, but they are not for everyone. I like the example James used of Stephen King and Richard Bachman. When he writes under the pseudonym of Bachman, its an entire different writing style, as if it was by an entire different author. Its good to have that distinction. I personally would have no problem using a pseudonym.

    • The story of Garth/Chris was like that as well. From what I’ve heard, Garth was so branded as rockin’ country that he couldn’t explore other styles of music without diluting his brand – so he just made up an alter ego!

  8. First of all: awesome picture–absolutely perfect for your topic

    Second: You are the authority of pen names, very thoughtful and thorough post.

    Third: “Desirée Denial is probably going to sell more than one written by Bertha Hump.” I’m sharing this with my romance writers group. 🙂

    Fourth: When I was first dipping my toe in the web waters, I made up a name and used a hummingbird gravitar to be as anonymous as possible. When I felt more confident I used a real picture in my gravitar and signed my name–for good or bad, it was a personal sign of my commitment.

  9. Here is my one beef with pen names and the social web:

    It really bothers me when people have opinions but lack identities.

    In other words, we are all taught to have opinions. Controversy on our blogs is usually a good thing. We know we need to be a part of the conversation. This being said, it’s easy to do that without a true, ‘public’ identity. Hopefully I’m making myself clear here. This is also a reason why I don’t respect most forums– the people aren’t real. Yeah, sure they have opinions, but the majority hide behind their screen. Thus, there are many voices but few faces, which ultimately thwarts thought and change throughout society as a whole.

    Simply put, people need to stand up for what they believe, front and center.

    • Hmm… not sure I get where you’re going, but that’s probably my lack of coffee.

      Everyone has an identity. No one lacks that. It’s the essence and core of who YOU are.

      N’est pas?

      • Let’s use a common industry as an example. Before I taught businesses about inbound/web marketing, I owned a small biz myself. In fact, I was a pool guy (still own the biz) of a very large inground swimming pool company. What made our business so successful was that we taught consumers throughout the world everything we knew about pools, through content and video. Some of the stuff we taught was controversial because it ‘wasn’t the way Daddy did it’, but we knew it was the right way to do things.

        By going against the status quo, we were attacked, and still are attacked to this day, by others in the pool industry that don’t agree with our building methods. The funny thing about these people though is the fact that most don’t have an online identity, they just hide behind a fake name on a blog comment, forum post, or a blog. Because we are so forthright with opinion, as well as our identities, it opens us up for attack but at the same rate it promotes major trust from consumers. But that’s our only goal anyway: Teach consumers the truth and build major trust, then let the chips fall as they may.

        Hopefully I’m explaining it a little better this time James. Pen names are great for many writers, no doubt. But in terms of being a business and creating a brand through writing…or having an opinion contrary to another in your field….then it’s a bad idea IMO.

    • I don’t put pen names in the same bucket as internet anonymity. To me, they’re not the same at all. A pen name isn’t a coward’s shield. It allows a person the exact opposite: to be brave or seek advantage in certain circumstances, such as threat of violence or economic disadvantage. Or to creatively explore new territory.

      Internet anonymity and trolling are used by the weak, not the strong. And it’s used to bully and hurt people.

      Doesn’t seem on equal ground with pen names at all to me.

  10. Hi James,

    It’s totally up to the writer if they go with a real or fake name. For some folks in certain countries or cultures, it might mean life or death.

    That said, for myself, I’m with Marcus above. I’d feel like a coward if I didn’t use my own name. It’s taken me quite a bit of “life time” to stop hiding and stand up for what I believe and take the “slings and arrows” as well as the praise. As it turns out, taking the “slings and arrows” proved to be the most liberating of all.

    Good piece! Giulietta

    • Very true about the life or death – that’s why I mentioned Jews in the post. Many at the time shed their family name or altered it to avoid some serious consequences. (There are of course other modern-day life or death situations as well.)

      What’s interesting about the ‘slings and arrows’ is that you don’t avoid it when you have a pen name – you’re still you, no matter which name you use, and so those slings and arrows still hit hard. Sometimes they leave bruises!

  11. I use a pen name for the same reason Archibald Alexander Leach chose to use Cary Grant as a stage name. In my case I make so secret of my true identity — for anyone who cares enough to look at my bio information. And I use my true middle and first names, flipped around, so it is still my own name, just rearranged. But this name is easier to remember (and spell) and (I think) sounds better.

    My Dad hates the whole idea however.

  12. The use of a pen name allows an individual to write in different genres or styles without detracting from their main identity. Cowards adopt this practice to attack with some anonymity, but can be unmasked with enough effort. One is a legitimate use of a pen name, the other is not. All of that boils down to a person’s reasons behind the name used, good or bad, as stated several times previously. I tend to write in the SciFi / Fantasy genres, but could see using a pen name if I chose to branch out into horror or literary fiction. It would be much the same as Stephen King choosing to write romance – most people would think it was someone else trying to capitalize on his name recognition. Just like his use of Richard Bachman, he would probably have to use another pen name to be able to sell into that market.

    As in every other area of life, personal reasons and marketing plans would probably play a large part in the choice of using a pen name or not, and if so, which name or names. While it is strictly personal, the use to which the pen name is applied also says a lot about the individual using it.

  13. Great post!
    I use two pen names and I’m about to create a third, different styles, different genres, love the freedom it gives me.

  14. Hey Michael,

    I created a pen name when I got into internet marketing because my name was being used by some Japanese Comic book hero (my real name Kevin Mask)… but after a while it got so difficult to NOT write my real name when responding to people or other communications, that I pretty much gave it up. Having a pen name is more difficult than people think, especially if that persona is one that will be communicating with others on a regular basis.

    Just something for others to think about.

  15. I’m using a pen name for non-fiction simply because my real name was not brandable, easily vocalized, nor memorable. Had I used my real name, I’d be violating my own teachings. If an author wishes to brand him/herself, I think the old rules of branding must apply — and if your name is destructive to that pursuit, a pen name is warranted.

  16. Thanks James for the shout out! Great article and obviously touching a nerve, judging from the comments. I whole-heartedly agree with Michael Martine:
    You don’t have to give a shit what anyone else thinks of your reason. Your reason only has to be valid for you. You’re the one who has to live with yourself every day. People who don’t know you can take a hike. And people who do know you (if they’re real friends) will stick by you no matter what.

    Well said.

  17. I debated about creating a second blog using a pen name but decided against it in the end. If you have something to say, say it without masking your identity. Be courageous. Sure there are some exceptions, such as people who face recrimination from their employers by making political statements. Or perhaps women bloggers who have a fear of being stalked.

    However, the way I look at it is that a pen name should never be seen as a firewall between your real identify. If someone wants to find out who you are, there are indeed ways to do so. Michael Martine alludes to the marketing aspect of a pen name when one’s true identity is revealed. Sure, one can consider that in the decision process to choose a pen name. But for me, I’m more comfortable making my identify public and taking any lumps along the way.

    Thanks for the insightful post.

  18. I don’t use a pseudonym, mainly because most of my work comes locally and it would be a right pain to run into a client in the supermarket and have to remember that they know me as Rebecca. I don’t really see the need – I think my real name is a good one because it’s easy for people to say, spell, and remember. And on the practical side, there are no issues with bank account names, etc.

    If I branched out into some other form of writing I might consider it – I can’t see Lucy Smith on the cover of a Harlequin novel 😉

  19. Interesting discussion… says a guy who decided to call himself Martin Stellar 😀

    I’ve found that it did change me though. It’s allowed me to be much more bold and self assured than I’m used to. This might sound like behavioural, but it has damn well affected how my real me (whoever the *&^ that may be) sees himself.

  20. I think pen names are useful when you’ve established a brand with your real name and now you’re going in a totally different direction. You can confuse followers who expect you to remain relatively consistent in tone or genre.

    Some authors choose pen names because they don’t like to “feel exposed.” I’ve worked with writers and bloggers who use a pen name because they want “privacy.” My problem with this is that good writing is authentic writing. If you’re afraid to put your name out there, you’re not owning who you are. You’re hiding bits of yourself, and that tentativeness will taint your writing. Good writing is soul baring.

  21. I think that there are cases when using a pen name works and when it doesn’t. If you’re blogging for your own business or a corporate blog, it only makes sense to use your real name to provide transparency and trust to your readers. Yet, if you’re blogging on opinionated stuff that can be loved or hated by people out there, I guess a pen name will do you good. Personally, I think a pen name is like your own brand that people can easily remember, just in case you are born with a name that’s hard to spell.

  22. I use only my first name on my blog. Though it’s my real name, I choose not to disclose my identity, mainly because I do work as a professional, and sometimes in public, so it’s important to me to keep my blogging separate from my professional life and maintain some privacy for myself and my family.

  23. James,

    I use a pen name. I have never hidden it and don’t really mind if people find out my real name. The reason I did it is because well before I started blogging I worked for a few years as an affiliate marketer. I Had a crazy person show up on my doorstep one day, having hunted my personal information down. To be honest it freaked me out. Soon after that I I started a website and chose to brand it to the pen name.

    Now I am kinda stuck with it since I have put a lot of effort into the name branding it over the last 10 months or so. It is not like I am hiding my real name, I know quite a few know it, it is pretty much an open secret to anyone who wants to know. If I could go back I probably would use my real name, but sometimes there could be external issues that can cause people to assume a pen name.

  24. I use an almost pen name on my movie site, where I write under the name of Clarabela. but my real name is not hidden from my readers. I don’t mind using my real name. It’s my face I keep secret. I don’t like using my photo for my avatar.

  25. I use a pen name on my blog only, which mystifies my friends because I have a lovely “real” name. (My actual surname is Eve.)

    But the pen name fits my blog’s ambiance and message more than my real name, for obvious reasons. (I once considered calling my blog “Eve’s Garden” — try Googling that. ) Plus it’s a helluva lot of fun. The About page and all the writing are all still uniquely me.

    Ann Landers and Dear Abby aren’t one person but several, and most people know that. Yet they’ve been widely read for over 50 years. As you pointed out, it’s a uniquely personal decision…and the blog is only one facet of my life.

  26. Two quick comments.

    1) When I first read the title of this post, I instantly thought of the new movie ‘Due Date’ because one of the main characters in the movie is an aspiring actor, and he chose to adopt a “stage name.” It became a problem in that his driver’s license name didn’t match who he claimed to be. Very funny movie, I strongly suggest seeing it. Anyway…

    2) I recently started a personal blog, just for the hell of it. I decided to go with my real name. Why? Not sure, I don’t really have a thoughtful answer. It just felt right… and I think that’s as good an answer as any.


  27. A good pen name can act as a marketing device to allure readers, but it will only count for anything if the writing is good too.

  28. I have a similar article with interviews with people why or why they didn’t use a pen name here:

  29. Elizabeth North says:

    I would use a pen name as my day job involves working with children on a daily basis. I write fantasy fiction which definately has an 18 (or 21) + rating. I don’t know how comfortable my collegues or the parents of the children would be if they knew this was what I did as well as my ‘day job’

  30. Is a pen name the same thing as a pseudonym?

  31. Chuck Miller says:

    Is there anyone in these comments who has not done a Google search on their name? If you have a common name, like mine, which has long been claimed in domains and e-mail addresses and blogs, your real name will never become a “brand”. The reason I weigh the potential benefit of taking on a pen name is to seek a unique identity for my web presence, not for the desire to assume a different persona. But then again, if I had multiple web sites, a “relevant” persona for each site may make sense.

  32. I think using a pen name is more like wrapping yourself into a package that in some way describes what’s inside. I think when choosing one you should think about what you are feeling on the inside and then go with it. It’s as though you are a product and your pen name is the shell. That’s the way I tend to think with regards to pen names.

    Also it’s liberating because we are able to ‘invent’ ourselves. It’s hard to invent ourselves when you are looking at ourselves using our real names. But with another name we are free to actually work ‘on’ ourselves rather than inside of ourselves. We truly begin seeing ourselves as products of our own making.

  33. I have the following problem: I recently started a business in a rather touchy area (although it’s getting better) and I use a different name there. Now, I have another website that I’m starting (the one mentioned here) that runs under my real name. I think on one hand it would be easier to merge those two as they are both in the personal development area, on the other hand this will mean I scatter my name among different niches.
    The other problem is that I might do something entirely different in the future (like going into music business) and use my real name there. This means that my identity will be mixed up. I also want to start a blog where I discuss all my personal interests ranging from music to travel to personal development, which will again be a mixup of things (not always good for branding). I’m really confused as to what I should do now 🙂

  34. Nice article 🙂 so if someone uses their maiden name for publishing a novel would that be counted as a pen name? Would they then have to register that name to avoid copyright issues? Thanks again for the article – very helpful!

  35. What a fantastic and detailed post! I have a niche site all set up as a free guide for dudes who are heartbroken over their ex, helping them to move on.

    My other blog is a travel blog haha…very different and I want them separate. My question is; what about adding videos and pictures of yourself? Does this make more chance of you getting “outed?” I personally don’t feel bad doing it as it’s for privacy and keeping material separate.

    Many thank 🙂

  36. Mark O'Byrne says:

    I know this post is a year old but wanted to add my two cents. I’m a wildlife photographer and filmmaker based in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. I’m starting a website to sell my prints and I want to use an alternate name for a number of reasons. Look at my name lol…..people rarely get it right it’s pronounced “O’Burn”. Also the Mark O’Byrne Galleries doesn’t have the same ring to me as “The Andrew Thomas Galleries”. It’s a brand name more or less…one that rolls off the tongue easier and sounds more prestigious. It’s not entirely made up either. I was adopted and my name on the original birth certificate was Andrew and my middle name is Thomas. Combining those two makes up my business name which for me has more market and advertising value than “O’Byrne”.

    Mark aka Andrew 🙂

  37. How about the situation where writings could potentially get you in trouble at work? Which is worth it – waiting until you are free of the corporate constraints to publish or simply publish under a pen name?

  38. Carolyn Foulkes says:

    Some fiction sells better if written by a woman — romance, for example. Or a man, if the subject is dark and violent. Business books sell better if written by a man. Women’s fiction currently outsells that written by males.

    Second, the subject matter may strongly dictate a pseudonym, such as erotic romance. Attaching a published writer’s name to such genres can cause negative spillover to appropriate recognition and reduce the enjoyment of the reading experience.

    There’s a significant reason to use one if the writer is of the opposite gender. As a published writer, I’ve found readers are confused when starting a piece of fiction only to discover the main character is of the opposite sex. Does gender make a difference in the actual writing? Definitely, and I regularly make sure to run my copy through the Gender Genie algorithm ( to make sure it’s on target.

  39. “Francis Fantastic is the pen name of a juggler from the corn fields of Iowa”
    I like this. My main reason for wanting to use a pen name is that my real name is strangely common (making it hard to build an online platform for myself) and often misheard and misspelled. However, I love writing and everyone I know knows it – it would feel strange to hide my writing persona. This is just the sort of thing I can see myself being able to do when promoting my ‘author self’ while not being afraid to tell the lady at the grocery store I write! Thanks so much 🙂

  40. Aaron herzog says:

    This whole article was amazing but still left me with questions. Now normally as a writer I’d prefer to use a pen name because if I should want to publish a book, I’m sorry but I don’t see people buying from my real name. However my question fornow is if you start making money from your work and the pay goes to your pen name but not your real name what do you do?

    • The pay wouldn’t go to your pen name – or shouldn’t, because you need to legally tie together bank accounts and whatnot. It’s a far better idea to set up a company name from which you can invoice clients and tie that to your bank accounts.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tony Mack, Vivienne White and FreelanceCamp 2010, Glenn Arcaro. Glenn Arcaro said: Should You Use A Pen Name or Pseudonym? […]

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kay Pearce, Marian Schembari. Marian Schembari said: Should You Use A Pen Name or Pseudonym? via @MenwithPens […]

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by bkmacdaddy designs, Robert Greenawalt. Robert Greenawalt said: RT @bkmacdaddy: Should You Use a Pen Name or Pseudonym? Men with Pens […]

  4. […] James Chartrand posted on that topic a few days ago. James is uniquely qualified to talk on the subject. After all, she […]

  5. […] a “she” in real life. In a recent post, “James” asks whether you should use a pseudonym in your professional work. Many authors have had pen names over the years for a myriad of different […]

  6. […] Pen Names and Pseudonyms November 14, 2010 tags: writing, names by kpiet I was thinking a lot about this topic the last day or so, thanks to a post made by James over on Men with Pens. […]

  7. […] Pitanja i nedoumice vezane uz pisanje knjiga pod pseudonimom. […]

  8. […] Should You Use a Pen Name or Pseudonym by James Chartrand (@MenwithPens) […]

  9. […] of my favorite discussions involve pen names (or pseudonyms or alter egos or digital selfs or facets of personality or whatever you’d like […]

  10. […] the subject of “Should You Use a Pen Name or Pseudonym”, James wrote an awesome article on just that! And for those of you who don’t want to click, […]

  11. […] further discussion, go to the Men with Pens blog by James Chartrand at and an article by Howard G. Zaharoff in Writer’s Digest […]

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