How to Use a Pen Name

Some authors like to use pen names when writing books, especially fiction. Below is a Q&A email I answered for an author who wanted to use a pen name (aka nom de plume or pseudonym) — and had a lot of questions on how to use a pen name successfully.

Book Publishing Question: Using Pen Names

I have just finished writing a novel and will be publishing it myself under a pen name. I chose to go the pen name route for reasons of privacy and also for marketing reasons (so people don’t get confused if I ever write other genres like theology, children’s books or if my first book bombs and I want to start over).

I will be publishing under the name of Pen Name. I will be myself, Real Name, as the publisher of My Publishing Company. Having a pen name is relatively easy if I just sit at home and don’t go out. But since you advocate that authors interview and speak and sign books, I can’t see using a pen name working. Do I just give up on it and write under my real name?

Here are my questions:

Question: How do introduce myself to my audience, radio talk show hosts, conference attendees? “Hi, I’m Mike.” “Hi, I’m Lee” or “Hi I’m Mike, but that’s not my real name.”

Answer: If you have a pen name, you publicize and speak using that pen name. And only your pen name.

Question: Will I violate a trust with my audience or reviewers if I keep my identity a secret?

Answer: You violate no trust by keeping your true identity a secret. Your cover can state that you are using a pen name, but you don’t have to provide your real name if you don’t want to.

Question: If I tell a interviewer my real name is Lee, will they agree to refer to me as Mike during the interview?

Answer: Don’t tell anyone your real name. Focus on being and promoting your pen name. Don’t confuse them by giving them two names. It only causes confusion.

Question: If I go on TV or speak in public, how should I handle it if someone recognizes me?

Answer: If someone recognizes you, simply tell them you write and promote under your pen name. Keep it simple. Never complicate things. Tell the truth, and keep it simple.

Question: What other reasons have authors employed pen names for?

Answer: Some writers have employed pen names because they write in two genres and want to keep the two separate. For example, Agatha Christie writing romance novels as Mary Westmacott.

Others use pen names because they are so productive that a publisher would never publish all their books under one name. For example, Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb and Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman.

Some want to publish without hype or expectation. Thus J.K. Rowling wrote as Robert Galbraith.

Back in the 1950s, several women wrote using a male pen name because their field (science fiction) was dominated by men; for example, Alice Sheldon writing as James Tiptree, Jr. Even more recently, Joanne Rowling was convinced to publish as J.K. Rowling to appeal to the young boys who read fantasy.

Similarly, several men have written romance novels using a female pen name. For example, Tom E. Huff wrote as Jennifer Wilde and Harold Lowry wrote as the gender neutral Leigh Greenwood.

In the early 1800s, women used male names to get more respect. The Brontë sisters all wrote as men with the last name of Bell. Amandine Lucie Aurore Dupin wrote as George Sand. Mary Anne Evans wrote as George Eliot.

You can find more reasons authors use pen names in this article: Pen Names: When to Use Them, When Not to Use Them

Question: Can you give me the names of any other authors who might have some advice for me?

Answer: Don’t worry about a pen name. You are way over concerned. Simply write and promote under the pen name and don’t make a big deal about it. You don’t need to talk to any other authors about this. Remember: Mark Twain did incredibly well using a pen name.

You are in good company. Here are just a few famous authors who used pen names. The list is alphabeticized by the author’s best known name (real or pen name).

Simo Puupponen — Aapeli

George William Russell — Æ (AE, A.E.)

Louisa May Alcott — A. M. Barnard, Flora Fairfield

Kingsley Amis — Robert Markham

Kathy Hogan Trocheck — Mary Kay Andrews

Cleo Virginia Andrew — V.C. Andrews, Virginia C. Andrews

Isaac Asimov — Paul French

Susan McGowan — Bevan Atkinson

John Banville — Benjamin Black. He writes his serious novels under his real name and his crime novels under Benjamin Black.

Julian Barnes — Dan Kavanagh, Edward Pygge

William Anthony Parker White — Anthony Boucher, H.H. Holmes, Herman W. Mudgett

Bourbaki congress (Claude Chabauty, Jean Delsarte, Jean Dieudonné, Charles Ehresmann, Charles Pisot, André Weil, Simone Weil) — Nicolas Bourbaki

Ray Bradbury — Guy Amory, D.R. Banet, Edward Banks, D.R. Banet, Anthony Corvias, Cecil Claybourne Cunningham, E. Cunningham, Leonard Douglas, Brian Eldred, William Elliott, Ron Reynolds, Doug Rogers, Douglas Spaulding, Leonard Spaulding, Brett Sterling, D. Lerium Temaine (primarily for short stories)

Anne Brontë — Acton Bell

Charlotte Brontë — Currer Bell

Emily Brontë — Ellis Bell

Sandra Brown — Laura Jordan, Rachael Ryan, Erin St. Claire

Pearl Buck — James Sedges

Harold Witter Bynner — Emanuel Morgan

Victor Canning — Julian Forest, Alan Gould

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson — Lewis Carroll

Cora Stephan — Anne Chaplet

Agatha Christie — Mary Westmacott

Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski — Joseph Conrad

Michael Crichton — Michael Douglas, Jeffrey Hudson, John Lange

Carolyn Gold Heilbrun — Amanda Cross (a feminist academic who also wrote mystery novels)

Jeffery Deaver — William Jefferies

Nelson DeMille — Jack Cannon, Ellen Kay, Kurt Ladner, Brad Matthews

Charles Dickens — Boz

Karen Blixen — Isak Dinesen

Mary Anne Evans — George Eliot

anonymous — Elena Ferrante

Dorothy Catherine Fontana — J. Michael Bingham, D.C. Fontana, Michael Richards

Cecil Smith — C.S. Forester

Jacques Anatole François Thibault — Anatole France

Benjamin Franklin — Alice Addertongue, Anthony Afterwit, Silence Dogood, Richard Saunders

Erle Stanley Gardner — A.A. Fair, Kyle Corning, Charles M. Green, Carleton Kendrake, Charles J. Kenny, Robert Parr, Les Tillray

William Goldman — S. Morgenstern, Simon Morgenstern

Heather Graham — Shannon Drake, Heather Graham Pozzessere

Pearl Gray — Zane Gray

William Edmund Butterworth III — Alex Baldwin, Webb Beech, Walaker E. Blake, W.E. Butterworth, William E. Butterworth, William E. Butterworth III, James McM Douglas, Jack Dugan, W.E.B. Griffin, Eden Hughes, Allison Mitchell, Blakely St. James, Edmund Scholefield, Patrick J. Williams

Harold Lowry — Leigh Greenwood

Terri Guillemets — A.J. Esther, Abbe Yeux-verdi, Abigail Charleson, Adabella Radici, Adeline Cullen Ray, Albany Bach Reid, Alexis F. Hope, Alexis Flora Hope, Amborella Oltre, Amethyst Snow-Rivers, Anda Fiorin, Andrei Turnhollow, April Vallei, Arthur Buddhold, Astrid Alauda, Audra Foveo-Alba, Audrey Foris, Aurora Raigne, Azu “Betty” Espezia, B.F. Tucson, Bella Convalesco, Berri Clove, Brock Fiant, C. Astrid Weber, Caleb Baylor Hive, Candea Core-Starke, Carin Hartness, Carrie Latet, Cherishe Archer, Cherralea Morgen, Cinnamon Stomberger, Corri Alius, Currielene Armstrong, D.H. Mondfleur, Daisey Verlaef, Dante G. Roque, Danzae Pace, Dena Groquet, Destin Figuier, Destiny Vaestus, Drew Sirtors, Ed Northstrum, Emily Logan Decens, Emma Racine deFleur, Emme Woodhull-Bäche, Ever Garrison, Everett Mámor, Ezbeth Wilder, Faith Seehill, Glade Byron Addams, Glorie Abelhas, Graycie Harmon, Grey E. Livingston, Grey Livingston, Hartman Jule, Holden Rinehart, Irisa Hail, Ivy Culler, Jaesse Tyler, Jareb Teague, Jasmine Heiler, Jessi Lane Adams, Juliet Carinreap, Kælen Leigh Mulberry, Laurel Hoodwrit, Leslie Grimutter, Levende Waters, Lexi D’quill, Lexie Saige, Linda Solegato, Loire Hartwould, Madrianne Arvore, Marche Blumenberg, Meriel Stelliger, Merit Antares, Mirakel Reves, Missy Altijd, Morrow Bourne, Nathaniel LeTonnerre, Neroli Lambent, Noelani Day, Opal Montagne, Pepper Giardino, Pixie Foudre, Ravensara Noite, Reaven Fields, Sara Moss-Wolfe, Sarah Crestinn, Scarlett Bene, Sepal Felicivant, Sommeil Liberosensa, Sonnett Branche, Star Richés, Stelle Atwater, Sweetpea Tyler, Tere Saudavel, Uniek Swain, V.L. Allineare, Val Saintsbury, Valentine Sterling, Verbena Woods, Violet Gartenlicht, Ward Elliot Hour, Ymber Delecto

David Hagberg — David Bannerman, Nick Carter, Sean Flannery, David James, Robert Pell, Eric Ramsey

James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton, co-authors — Publius (The Federalist Papers)

Marjorie Allen Seiffert — Elijah Hay

Robert Heinlein — Anson MacDonald, Lyle Monroe, John Riverside, Caleb Saunders, Simon York

William Sydney Porter — O. Henry

James Alfred Wight — James Herriot

Mary Patricia Plangman — Patricia Highsmith, Claire Morgan

Susan Eloise Hinton — S.E. Hinton

Eleanor Hibbert — Eleanor Burford, Philippa Carr, Elbur Ford, Victoria Holt, Kathleen Kellow, Anna Percival, Jean Plaidy, Ellalice Tate

Cherith Baldry, Kate Cary, and Victoria Holmes, co-authors — Erin Hunter

Washington Irving — Diedrich Knickerbocker

Erika Mitchell Leonard — Snowqueen’s Icedragon, E.L. James

James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton, co-authors — Publius (The Federalist Papers)

James Oliver Rigney, Jr. — Robert Jordan

Sharon M. Kava — Alex Kava

Douglas Edward Reeman — Alexander Kent

Sherrilyn Kenyon — Kinley MacGregor

Stephen King — Richard Bachman

Madeleine Sophie Wickham — Sophie Kinsella

Joe Klein — Anonymous

Arthur Davison Ficke — Anne Knish

Dean Koontz — David Axton, Brian Coffey, Deanna Dwyer, K.R. Dwyer, John Hill, Leigh Nichols, Anthony North, Richard Paige, Owen West, Aaroon Wolfe

Jayne Ann Krentz — Jayne Bentley, Jayne Castle, Amanda Glass, Stephanie James, Amanda Quick, Jayne Taylor

Ruth Crowley, then Eppie Lederer — Ann Landers

David Cornwell — John le Carré (to hide his identity as an intelligence agent)

Stanley Martin Lieber — Stan Lee

C.S. Lewis — Clive Hamilton

Ann Charters Maxwell — Lowell Charters, Elizabeth Lowell, A.E. Maxwell (with Evan Maxwell, her husband), Annelisa Sun

Robert Ludlum — Jonathan Ryder, Michael Shepherd

William Luther Pierce III — Andrew Macdonald

James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton, co-authors — Publius (The Federalist Papers)

Richard Matheson — Logan Swanson

Salvatore Albert Lombino — John Abbott, D.A. Addams, Curt Cannon, Hunt Collins, Ezra Hannon, Evan Hunter, Richard Marsten, Ed McBain, Ted Taine

Linda Lael Miller — Lael St. James

Catherine Lucille Moore — C.L. Moore

Alberto Pincherle — Alberto Moravia

Ricardo Eliecer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto — Pablo Neruda

Alice Mary Norton — Andre Alice Norton, Andrew North, Allen Weston

Ḥasin ibn Hānī al-Ḥakamī — Abū Nuwās

Joyce Carol Oates — Lauren Kelly, Rae Jolene Smith, Rosamond Smith

Catherine Lucille Moore and Henry Kuttner — C.H. Liddell, Lawrence O’Donnell, Lewis Padgett

Peter O’Donnell — Madeleine Brent

Brian O’Nolan — Brother Barnabas, George Knowall, Miles na gCopaleen, Miles na Gopaleen, Flann O’Brien

Eric Blair — George Orwell

Juliet Marion Hulme — Anne Perry

Fernando Pesseo — Alberto Caeiro, Alvaro de Campos, Ricardo Reis (Pesseo, a Portuguese poet made up 72 literary personae, which he called heteronyms)

Edith Mary Pargeter — Peter Benedict, Jolyon Carr, Ellis Peters, John Redfern

James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton, co-authors — Publius

Frederic Dannay (real name Daniel Nathan) and Manfred Bennington Lee (real name Emanuel Benjamin Lepofsky), co-authors — Ellery Queen, Barnaby Ross

François Rabelais — Alcofribas Nasier (an acronym)

Alisa Rosenbaum — Ayn Rand

Douglas Reeman — Alexander Kent

Howard Allen Frances O’Brien — Anne Rampling, Anne Rice, A.N. Roquelaure

Eleanor Marie Robertson — Sara Hardesty, Jill March, Nora Roberts, J.D. Robb

Harold Rubin — Francis Kane, Harold Robbins

Jim Cjazkowski — James Rollins

Joanne Kathleen Rowling — Robert Galbraith, J.K. Rowling

Mike Hinkemeyer — Vanessa Royall

Amandine Lucie Aurore Dupin — George Sand

John Sandford — John Camp

Theodore Seuss Geisel — Dr. Seuss

Andrei Donatovich Sinyavsky — Abram Tertz

DGA movie directors — Alan Smithee, Allen Smithee

Paul M.A. Lineberger — Anthony Beardon, Felix C. Forrest, Carmichael Smith, Cordwainer Smith

Daniel Handler — Lemony Snicket

Evelyn Beatrice Hall — S.G. Tallentyre

Alice Sheldon — James Tiptree, Jr.

Ulrich Leonard Tölle — Eckhart Tölle

Joanne Trollope — Caroline Harvey

Samuel Langhorne Clemens — Sieur Louis de Conte, Mark Twain

Pauline Phillips and Jeanne Phillips — Abigail Van Buren (Dear Abby)

Sheila Kelly — Gena Hale, Jessica Hall, Rebecca Kelly, Lynn Viehl, S.L. Viehl

Vince Brach — Fran Vincent

François-Marie Arouet — Voltaire

Ted Parkhurst — Duke Q. Wallace

Charles Farrar Browne — Artemus Ward

Thomas Elmer Huff — T.E. Huff, Tom E. Huff, Edwinna Marlowe, Beatrice Parker, Katherine St. Clair, Jennifer Wilde

anonymous — Riley Williams

Christopher Hovelle Wood — Frank Clegg, Rosie Dixon, John Drew, Timothy Lea, Richard Mason, Penny Sutton

Andrej Tisma — Andrej Zivor

See also: Pen Names: When to Use Them, When Not to Use Them

How to Use a Pen Name

About John Kremer

John Kremer is author of 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, the Relationships Matter Marketing program, and many other books and reports on book marketing, Internet marketing, social media, and book publicity. -- .

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  1. If you are to do interviews and marketing under a pen name and you have switched genders how do you accomplish this feat? “Hi, my name is Amanda Moore” and a 6′ 5″ man shows up for an interview and signing.
    In today’s world you need to market your book. How can you do this if you have to speak, sign and relate to your audience without them knowing the real you.
    I want to use a Pen-name and cannot figure out how to market my book effectively anonymously. People want o know who the author is and why they wrote their book. If a man writing romance under a female name makes a website how does he solve this problem. Not to mention facebook, twitter, blog post, interviews etc.
    I like the blog post but it seems a little incomplete. How can you write a bestseller where your pen-name is drastically different to you and not seem like a fraud? This is the question.

  2. There are a number of men writing romances under female names. Few readers have rejected their books because they are written by men.

    I really think you are over concerned. Be you. And celebrate who you are and what you write.


  3. Pingback: John Kremer’s Book Marketing Tip of the Week: October 10, 2013 | Book Marketing Bestsellers

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