When I first started writing, I never saw the appeal of writing under a pen name. I mean, Winter is a pretty awesome last name to have. I wanted my work to be tied to me.
But there is so much more to a pen name than just keeping your work under your domain. It wasn’t until after I wrote a hard-hitting novel that I considered what writing under a pen name might do for me. It’s not about hiding who you are as a writer but giving you a better platform to write what you want.
You have a ‘common’ name
John Smith. Jane White. There’s nothing wrong with those names, but they are a lot more common than others. I thought that Laura Winter was a somewhat unique name for a writer… until I made an author profile in Goodreads and now have to submit my books before publication because I have to put 3 spaces between my name just to differentiate who I am from the other Laura Winter writers.
When I went to create my pen name, I made sure that name wasn’t found anywhere else. Now, I’m the first Elia Scott to publish. No more three spaces in my name just to show I’m the real author and no longer do I have to submit help requests to get my book attribution removed from the wrong author with the same name.
Protect your identity
Many people don’t want others to know what they write. It’s not so much that they are embarrassed by what they write (though that can be the case), it’s more about the perception of others. Unfortunately, everyone places their judgements and sometimes they are unfair. Writing under a pen name helps protect your identity from those judgements.
You might also need to protect your identity as a writer from your professional life. Erotica writers who live a serious day job might not be willing to have their name tied up in something ‘racy’. Perhaps you need to maintain a client base that won’t be too thrilled to hear you write sex scenes by night.
A pen name helps protect your identity for other reasons too. Consider a female science fiction writer. They exist, but it’s a tough audience to crack as a female. A pen name might allow you, as a female writer, to write in that genre without that instant bias from the reader. It allows you to establish yourself where you want to be with the protection of who you are.
I created my pen name because I wanted to start writing in a different genre. Under Laura Winter, I write young adult fantasy (futuristic) and magical realism. Under Elia Scott, I write new adult romance short stories. While it’s not a huge leap, I created the pen name as a differentiator between the genres I was writing. If someone wants a twisted adventure, they read Winter. If someone wants a happy ever after set in the normal world, they read Scott.
I don’t mind that my pen name is known by my audience and friends/family. I simply do it because I write different types of stories under each name and they know which one will give them the story they are looking for.
While my genre switch is more of a side step than a leap, many authors choose to have a different pen name (either attributed to them or not) for drastically different genres. Think a science fiction or non fiction author who writes erotic romance on the side. Or perhaps they jump from historical fiction to fantasy.
Pen names help you change genre without messing up all the algorithms. If someone wants historical fiction, you don’t want them to find your fantasy or erotic romance titles and think it’s another historical fiction book. You’ll get a disappointed reader, bad algorithm matching, and probably some frustrated reviews.
It’s sad that we live in a world where we can’t speak freely without facing critical attacks or ‘feedback’. There’s a difference between critiques, feedback, and just plain attacks on us as humans for voicing our beliefs.
I am not one to set out to make a political statement, call people out, or share my opinions about hot topics at all but others use their platform to make their stands. Writing under a pen name isn’t meant to hide behind someone else so you can trash everything around us but it does allow you to speak freely.
You can make a statement about politics and not fear for your life. You can talk about mental health without fear of judgement from your friends and family. You can talk about LGBTQ+ rights without worry of being kicked out of your family. You’re able to talk about things that you might not feel safe talking about under your own name.
It’s okay to speak freely. But we also understand this isn’t always a kind world. Still, you have something to say and you deserve to freely say it. Write what you need to get off your chest. Be proud and say your mind.
Laura Winter is a self-published author dedicated to helping your authorpreneur journey. She has launched her books on little to no budget to prove you don’t have to invest an exorbitant amount of money to be successful. Find her work on Amazon, Patreon, and join her tribe to get more articles like this.
This post was originally published on Medium.