Should You Use a Pen Name?

When should you use a pen name for your writing?It’s very rare that I meet with a client who thinks she only has one book to write. It’s much more common to know that this is the FIRST book – and that others will follow.

And what is even more common is for a client to want to write books that cross several different genres.

The question then is:

Do I use my name or write under a pen name?

Most of the time, I tell them to go with their real name. After all, we’re complex, multi-faced human beings so it’s ridiculous to think that you only have ONE interest that you’d want to write about.
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I’ve chosen not to use a pen name for my 16 books. I’ve personally written and published everything from cookbooks to poetry, how to’s about camping and fishing to a children’s book.

If people know me AT ALL they know that all of this falls inside my passions and areas of expertise. I have no problem whatsoever putting my own name on the cover.

All that being said, you SHOULD use a pen name if:

  • You’re writing crap. I get it, the lure of “make money with eBooks” is a siren song. If you’re really going to do it, do it under a pen name!
  • You’re writing erotica. Who doesn’t love a titillating story now and then? And LOTS of writers want to try their hand at smut! (I have a friend who put herself through GRADUATE school writing it!) But save yourself any future embarrassment and use a pen name.
  • You’re writing something dangerous. I’ve been approached by someone who wanted to write a true story about a violent crime and I counseled that yes, a pen name is a must.
  • You’re writing something charged. If you think it’s going to cause a scandal you really should check with your attorney FIRST. But if you decide to write and publish it, a pen name can offer you some protection.
  • You’re writing something that needs to have the readers identify with the gender or ethnicity of the author. Most of the time it honestly doesn’t matter but I can understand how publishing a book of authentic Mexican recipes might be easier for a Maria Gomez than Jennifer White.

I really don’t recommend a pen name JUST because you’re nervous to put yourself out there. Your message matters – and you are part of your message.

So get out

Kim Galloway
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