Marketing and Branding, Uncategorized, Writer's Life, Writing

Anne Who? Three Reasons For Using a Pen Name

It’s confession time. I’ve been leading a double life.

spies David Sinclare

It’s true. I go about my daily jobs- feeding my family, teaching classes and planning and preparing church music- in one persona.

But when I can steal away from the day-to-day, I slip on the name “Anne Clare” and disappear for a while into the world of writing.

Ok, maybe this isn’t exactly a shocking revelation. Many writers use pen names. Samuel Clemens and Theodore Geisel became famous as Mark Twain and Dr. Seuss. The talented Bronte sisters all chose male names under which to sell their novels. More recently, authors like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling have given up their familiar monikers for pseudonyms.

Perhaps you use a pseudonym online, or you’ve considered writing under one, or perhaps you just wonder why anyone would bother.

I did a bit of research before deciding to become Anne Clare, and found that fellow writers have a variety of reasons for rechristening themselves.

Time For A Change

boston terrier wearing unicorn pet costume
Dog? What Dog?ย  Photo by mark glancy on

If you’ve been writing with publication in mind, you’ve probably encountered the term “branding.” Part of an author’s brand is the genre they choose to write in.

But, what if an author wants to switch genres?

What if, say, a successful middle grade fantasy writer who’s created a beloved magical universe wants to try writing an adult crime fiction? Her old group of fans isn’t likely to be interested in her new work, and her fame in her old genre might actually work against her. However, if she writes the new story under a new name, she can reinvent herself and have a fresh start. (Unless, of course, everyone finds out about the pen name, as happened to J.K. Rowling…)

Or, what if an author has had aย less than successful debut? A new persona offers a clean slate. (And, hopefully, experience will allow for a better Round 2!)

Having never published before, neither of these applied to me, but they were far from the only reasons for utilizing a pen name.

What’s In A Name?

They named him Killer…

“What’s in a name?” Romeo asked.

Quite a bit, I’m afraid, if you’re a gentleman named Brutus Slabfist who just wants to write sweet, tear-jerking stories about a boy and his hedgehog, Mr. Snuffles. Poor Luscious Huneelips may be out of luck too, as she just wants to write action-packed thrillers.

Does the author’s name really have anything to do with their writing talent? Of course not. Would some names just look a little…odd on certain covers? Afraid so.

There’s also the possibility of confusion for those who share a name with someone famous- or infamous. Author Theodore E. Kaczynski might have a different middle name and no other similarities to the Unabomber than a first and last name, but…well…moving into a public forum, a change might be a good idea.

Some authors take the opportunity to chose pen names that fit their distinct genre. A couple of my favorites are “Daisy Meadows,” a pseudonym used by four authors who write a series of books about fairies that my eldest enjoys, and “Lemony Snicket,” the name taken by the author of the popularย A Series of Unfortunate Events books.

Fortunately, neither my maiden name nor my married name are particularly dreadful, or (to my knowledge) shared by any infamous criminals. However, there was one other major reason for using a pseudonym that caught my attention.

Privacy In a Public World

Can they see me?

Maybe it’s just me being from the generation that remembers a time before the internet. (Yeah, you youngins, and it wasn’t that long ago either!) But when I realized that pursuing publication of my writing almost certainly required internet visibility, I hesitated.

Sure, I’d used Facebook- and then someone hacked our account and started commenting on the pictures of our baby that we had put up for family to see. Creepy.

Now I was considering venturing onto new sites online, not only to share interesting history tidbits but also opening up about my writing, my personal life, and interacting with people I didn’t know. People I couldn’t even see face to face to tell if they were who they said they were.

This was not a comfortable prospect.

However, once I settled on taking a pen name, some of my concerns eased. Having a buffer between my private life and the things I chose to share publicly has allowed me to be more honest in my writing than I’d be comfortable doing otherwise.

So Far, So Good

I’ve been Anne Clare online for nearly two years, and so far I’ve been pleased with the choice. Pen names are so common in the writing industry that using one hasn’t been an inconvenience at all to date. We’ll see if that changes once I have a book in print!

What about you? Are you using or considering using a pen name, or are you using your own? What drove your choice?


Thanks so much for stopping by!





46 thoughts on “Anne Who? Three Reasons For Using a Pen Name”

  1. Great post! I agree about the “making a change” I already have a reserved pen name for when I eventually find time to write my children’s book ideas. They’re second priority, with my crime/thriller books being my main focus, but they’re worlds apart and so I felt a different author name was appropriate for each!
    Thanks for sharing x

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for visiting! I’m impressed by your planning- I had such an awful time just finding ONE name I liked enough to take on that wasn’t in use I think I’ll just have to keep it forever ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I write my blog under a self-applied nickname, โ€˜Brewinsgirlโ€™ – Iโ€™m a way off having my book ready for presenting to an agent, let alone a publisher, and in all likelihood Iโ€™ll use my real name for my non-fiction book (or maybe I wonโ€™t!). There is a story behind this nick-name, but since it relates to a person in my soldierโ€™s story I shall keep the explanation for a later time.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oooh, you’ve got me curious- ๐Ÿ˜€ Yet another thing about your book that I’m looking forward too! I wasn’t certain if I would go with an actual name or not, then I ran into ALL of the branding articles that encouraged using a real name as soon as possible so I went for it- but to use one or not is a big decision! Best wishes on your writing!


      1. Thank you Anne. Right now I’m trying to find a particular radio broadcast which would explain an expression my soldier used in one of his letters – will I ever stop finding interesting stuff and will I ever finish this book!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I’m already thinking that Anne! The letters span the period between July 1943 and March 1946, so as you can imagine there is a LOT of material that sets them into the context of the war, both from a soldier on Active Service and his girl on the home front, doing her ‘bit’ for the war effort. From what I’ve read about the research you do, I’m sure you understand only too well!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That’s a huge span- you have your work cut out for you, but I’ll bet it’s fascinating! I need to get back to the research grindstone- I’m at the point where I’m hoping that I haven’t forgotten anything essential and don’t edit in any errors :p And the second book…uf. Maybe when the school year ends….


      4. I thought you did, but I’ve learned not to assume that words I am familiar are not necessarily the case for others in different parts of the world, who are either unfamiliar with them or else they mean different things! My soldier had called his girl ‘Bit’ and ‘Susie’ (not sure if these qualify as ‘slang’ now!) and I’d also been quoting his reference to ‘the Yanks’ (American soldiers – although I now know there is a longer history about the word ‘Yankee’ referring to people from New England much earlier than either of the World Wars!)

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Oh I appreciate it- I had to ask a writer from the UK which “Reformation” he was writing about once- I FIGURED it was Henry VII era, but I’m more familiar with the mainland Europe one so…and someone once used the word chuffed- took me a long time to admit I had NO clue what it meant ๐Ÿ™‚
        Interesting! Ah yes, “Yankee Doodle” has followed us around for a long time now ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      6. HA…weeeeellllโ€ฆ.I’d guess trains, because of the sound?
        I’ll give you one in return, though- If you visit Wisconsin and someone asks where the bubbler is, what are they looking for? ๐Ÿ˜‰


  3. Well, Doris, THAT’S a revelation. But you make a lot of sense. It is hard to stay private online – some people don’t seem to care, which I don’t understand – and your tale of Facebook is unpleasant and disturbing. All the best, from your friend Edna Clutterbuck.
    PS Thanks for the link to that amazing website… ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    1. WOW Edna, you guessed my name in one go! Well, more or less…;) Yes, this is why face shots of my kids and specific locations won’t show up in my blog.
      It IS an amazing website, and a great entry on it that I was happy to share ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Privacy. Yes.

    In my “day job” I’m a pastor. In my writing life, I stick to fantasy and science fiction. I never wanted to become “that science fiction pastor” — when I deal with people as pastor, I don’t want my writing “in the way.” Thus… Jon Mast was born!

    Liked by 5 people

  5. Well, I write under my real name, but I have considered pen names for certain books I may attempt in the future. This would involve summoning forth my “female” side. ๐Ÿ™‚ Should I ever decide to write a cozy mystery (or series), the amateur sleuth would be an older woman named “Erwina Michaels.” (If you drop the ‘a’, you now know what the ‘E’ in my real name stands for.) My other venture would be a hot and heavy romance, and the author would be “Michaela Michaels.” Ah yes, I think I hear that extra ‘X’ chromosome calling as I write this! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 5 people

      1. Adopting a totally different image might be going just a tad far. Although there are always avatars in this day and age! It might be fun to adopt a different image and name, but I might consider it license to be outrageous. ๐Ÿ™‚ โ€“Curt

        Liked by 3 people

    1. Nice! That’s a great reason I didn’t include- thanks for sharing!
      I had to watch for that with choosing a pen name- the first one I picked had a pretty prolific author who was a bit more into posting revealing pictures online…;)


  6. Great article, and so important to consider. I think writers should think carefully before making a decision on whether to use their own name.

    I know some women chose to use either a male pen name or use their initials due to the bizarre sexism that will actually stop some male readers from picking up a book by a woman. I personally think if people are going to let my sex deter them from reading, then I doubt I’d want them as readers.

    Something I did learn, was that in book stores, books are alphabetised by the last name and so writers whose last names begin with a letter from the end of the alphabet can often end up on the bottom shelf, and many people will scan the upper and middle shelves, but not as many will scan or crouch the lower shelves unless they are looking for someone in particular! Food for thought.

    PS: thanks for adding a link to my branding article, you’re so sweet!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oooh, I’m glad I chose a “C” name! ๐Ÿ˜‰
      Thanks for bringing up some interesting points- On the flip side, I believe I’ve heard of some men using female pen names when writing in more female dominated genres. Funny, the things that can affect marketing!
      You do an amazing job with all of your writerly tips- I’m happy to pass your articles along any time ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Interesting and valid point about book authors being displayed alphabetically – than you Ari. I think Iโ€™ll give up on the idea of having Zena Zebrulla (not sure if there is such a name!) as my nom de plume. Iโ€™m against pandering to the attitude that male writers are better than female writers & am opposed to pretending to be a different gender. Like you, Iโ€™m not interested in any reader who judges on the basis of gender, but then Iโ€™m not dependent of my writing to make a living. Itโ€™s interesting how much response there has been to your post Anne – well done.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I am glad I’m not alone in refusing to hide my gender just for the sake of sales. It’s 2019, if there are men out there who don’t think women can write, I have no interest in tricking them into buying my book and proving them wrong.


        Liked by 1 person

  7. Ah, lovely points, fellow pen-namer! I can’t remember who Shehanne Moore interviewed on her blog…oh, some time ago…but it was an author who had an alias for each series. As of that time, she had…three aliases, I think? I feel like I’d get a little schizo with that, but you’re right–if people associate one gender with one name, then why not have different names for each line of story? So long as you keep’em straight, which I know I could never do… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s