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

Anne Who? Three Reasons For Using a Pen Name

I first wrote and published this post in 2019. Three years and two published novels later, I’m still happy with my choice to use a pseudonym, though I DO think it’s more fun to call it a “secret identity.”

Anne

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?  Photo by mark glancy on Pexels.com

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 a 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?

daniel-maas-714303-unsplash

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 popular 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!

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

  1. The natural history writer Sue Hubbell told me that people loved her books and articles so much that they would just show up at her mountain cabin and assume a friendship with her. She grew much more secretive after that. This is the reason I use a pen name (also people tend to mispronounce my actual name). I want to have a private life. (Also, I have a mountain cabin of my own that I don’t want people showing up at — when I become sufficiently famous.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my! I suppose…in a way it’s flattering that your friend’s fans enjoyed her work so much, but how awkward! That’s an excellent example of the value of some privacy.

      Like

  2. I have your real name jotted down, but I’ve gotten used to you as Anne Clare. I sure get why you use a pseudonym. I’m at an age and stage of life that I hope people can find anything I’ve written about Grandma Leora!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m used to it too- maybe too used to it as sometimes I have to stop and think before I sign my name to an email- ‘is this for writing or for school?’ – so that I use the right signature. 🤣
      That makes sense, Joy. If I didn’t still have the kids at home, I think it would be less of a priority. Especially as you’re writing stories from your family history, and since you get to present your books in person locally, using your real name makes much more sense!

      Like

  3. This is a helpful post, Anne Clare. I did once consider a pseudonym and decided on initials (for my military thrillers). I absolutely understand why privacy makes hiding a real name the right answer. Hugs to you.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’ve stuck with my own name as it is easy to pronounce, spell and find. I want my readers to be able to find me. Should I ever switch from writing middle-grade to something more adult, I may use a pen name. Anne Clare is such a nice name. Good choice.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. All of your listed reasons make some sense! I can see branding as a huge thing for the publisher too, a successful writer is a big selling point until they try to switch genre.
    But I would think the privacy issue is by far the biggest part of it. Not just because of the Internet either, remember we used to have the “White Pages”? Pretty much everyone who had a phone was listed with their name, street address and phone number; unless they went to the extra trouble of being “unlisted”.
    I used to host a website with six writers and we had a variety of approaches; one guy was fine with his full, real name being out their. A couple of us had “modified” versions (I will guess knowing my real name is “Dave” doesn’t make it particularly easy to find me). One woman used a screen name, but then often dropped her real name into conversation, not sure if that was knowing or unknowing. And a couple writers used true psuedonyms and protected their privacy carefully. In both cases, I’ve met them personally, I know their real names and where they live; but honestly I usually think of them by screen name, its how we most often interact.
    Obviously the full alias offers the most anonymity. Even if one of them freely shared real life stories and pictures, that MAY have made tracking her down possible. For myself I’ve devulged enough, that anyone who really cares probably could find me pretty easily. Although it could confuse things if I mention there is at least one other “atcDave” out there on the Internet, who also has an aviation background and writes about many similar subjects yet is not me (he’s into RC modeling, I do plastic. Funny).
    I would guess that even the best psuedonym is not truly stalker-proof. The interconnectedness of things today is amazing, if people want to cause you grief they can. No doubt JK Rowling is a good, bad example of that. Posting pictures obviously increases the risk. Of course its also fun to share! Some sort of screen name/pen name is probably a good idea, but its amusing to think what you’d have to do to remain completely hidden.
    Its like the range of behaviors during the pandemic; did you continue to party with friends or hide in your basement and wear a mask when in your car, alone?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The privacy issue us definitely the biggest one for me! While I don’t have any illusions that using my pen name would keep someone at all determined to find me from doing so, I figure it at least lowers likelihood of the ‘casual social media search’ turning up personal info. (Not that I put much of that out there anyway!) It’s mostly the idea of people I don’t know knowing where my kids go to school etc that really makes me uncomfortable.
      There are companies that specialize in setting up security for people who really want to stay completely anonymous online- author Kristen Lamb had a interesting post listing some acwhile back. With SO much online these days, though, and with online being THE place to get you authorial info out to market- I guess you do what you can and see what happens!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, my only worry had to do with my internet life coming out on the radio at work. Mainly just because it would be inappropriate. I would guess your writing and screen presense are pretty safe from a creepy stalker perspective, at least compared to someone who’s more controversial. Well apart from the whole “Where Shall I flee” brouhaha…

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Going the anonymous route has always intrigued me. I’ve always wondered if the topics I’d write would be much different, or if I’d tackle more risque topics in my novels. Maybe I should get myself a pen name today 😛

    Anyway, thanks for this post, Anne!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! Yes, that’s another reason to go with a pen name that I’ve heard- risqué writers who don’t want their boss/kids/grandma reading their stuff.
      Even though I don’t write in that vein, I do like the option of separation between my teaching and my writing. As I teach small children, sometimes people assume that I’d only write stories for them, too!
      Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

  7. I write under a pen name, though the line between who I am in reality and my pen name self is a bit blurred now. I began sharing my work when I was young and my mother did not want me to use my real name, as I was not yet fully aware of the nuances of the internet. I settled on a pen name as a compromise.

    Now I am not writing under a pen name for want of privacy; my friends and family all know what my pen name is. Rebranding to my real name is just something that does not make sense now, as it would confuse too many people . . .
    Loved reading this thought-provoking post! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those are both excellent reasons to use a pen name- both for privacy when you were younger (I do worry about some of my younger students who are on line!) and to avoid rebranding.
      Honestly, most of my friends, coworkers, several of my students- most of the people I know in real life- know my pen name. Maybe I can’t really call it a secret identity after all… 😉

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Firstly, thanks for the link share, always appreciated 🙂

    I do use a Pen-Name, I have two in fact, though this is my main one. I am very much happy to keep things more private, especially in a world that seems intend on sharing other people’s details whether maliciously or just unintentionally.

    I like to keep my writing life and my personal life separate and a pen name helps with that. It’s also something that can shed if needed.

    Finally, if you get published and your books end up in bookstores, depending on the initial of your last name, it can affect where you will be placed on the shelves. Eg if your last name ends in W, you could be on the bottom shelves and many people won’t bend down to look at the books on the bottom shelf

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Always happy to share, Ari- I appreciate all of the great information YOU share!

      It seems that privacy is a common thread for those who choose to use a pen name, but oh, shelf placement is a great point I never considered, Ari! Hm, I’ll have to go look at where the “C’s” land…. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. As an older Millenium I know privacy was a big thing when we got more online. So I know that just became an extension of that. I wonder if the younger, born-to-digitial-generation are more likely to use their real names over a pen name?

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Really interesting article. I thought hard about whether to use a pen name – for all the obvious reasons. On the one hand I am trying to build ABAB into a brand. In the end I decided to use my real name on the books simply because people that knew me might feel sorry for me and buy one. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I picked a pen name for several reason. First, my married name is so common that I thought it would be hard to remember or stand out. Second, I decided to go with initials because most of my favorite authors are dead Englishmen who had initials–C.S. Lewis, P.G. Wodehouse, G.K. Chesterton, and J.R.R. Tolkien. Third, it’s fun having a secret identity!

    Liked by 1 person

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