Using a Pen NameMost writers publish their books with their real name. Stephen King really is named Stephen King. Autobiographies are usually done in their own names :) But on the other hand, there are many famous instances of people using pen names, or fake names, when they publish a book.
Mark Twain was not a real name - the author's name was Samuel Clemens. The phrase "Mark Twain" is what steamboat captains call out when they test the depth of the water and find that it's the right depth for a boat to be able to pass safely. So since he was often writing about the Mississippi River, Samuel Clemens felt that people might more easily pick up a book seemingly written by someone involved in that area.
It might be like writing a series of books about Chinese romance - but having a real name of "Jane Smith". If instead you used a pen name of "Soon Liu See" you might get more sales, because people thought the books seemed more authentic. Many romance novel writers come up with flowery pen names like "Millicent Renault" to hide their more "boring" name of "Joan Miller". It helps to lend a hint of exotic mystery to the book. They figure that every little bit counts!
Stephen King - a very prolific writer - did in fact also have a pen name! He published some books as Richard Bachman. Here is what he has said to explain why he also published under a pen name - "I've been asked many times if I did it because I thought I was overpublishing the market as Stephen King. The answer is no... but my publishers did. Bachman provided a compromise for us both. My 'Stephen King publishers' were like a frigid wifey who only wants to put out once or twice a year... Bachman was where I went when I had to have relief."
So there is one reason to use a pen name - you are putting out so much content that you don't want to overload the market and have people less excited when your next book comes out. Most new writers don't have to worry about that problem :)
I don't use a pen name for any of my books. My line of thought is that I am an established writer with a large volume of visitors to my Lisa Shea website and to my other websites I write for. If someone is going to look to find more information about "Lisa Shea", I want them to find all of this content I've written - I don't want them to find one tiny website that is about the "fake" person of Marguarite deMiloy I have invented :) But on the other hand, I'm not embarassed to have written books on weddings and medieval romance and so on. I suppose if I wrote a book I was really ashamed of - I'd have to think hard but let's say a book about torturing dogs - I would definitely want that to not be in my real name. But then again, I wouldn't write a book I was ashamed of, it would seem a non worthwhile project to spend my time on - so for me, everything will always be in my real name.
Feel free to let me know, if you use a pen name, why you do so. I'd love to have more details here on why people use pen names!
From Sarah McKerrigan, awesome romance writer
I was asked to use a pen name when I changed publishers, because they wanted to start a new marketing campaign. One reviewer even called me a "fresh, new voice"! But often authors choose to use different names for different kinds of books, so readers won't be disappointed.
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