Using a Pen Name

Do you write under a pen name? And if so, why?

An article in Writer’s Relief  lists reasons why writers choose to adopt pen names. It could be, as they point out, that another author “owns” your name. For example, it would be difficult for someone named Agatha Christie to write under her real name.

Or, as a high school teacher who writes erotica, you’d want to conceal your identity. I hope.

Or maybe, you write in a genre that has basically a male audience and you are a woman. Joanne Rowling used the initials J.K. (K after her grandmother Katherine) because she feared that boys would not want to read Harry Potter if it was written by (horror!) a girl.  Similarly, Mary Ann Evans used a male name because she wanted to be taken seriously and wrote under the name of George Eliot. Of course, that was in the 1860’s and that doesn’t happen anymore, right?

Should you be interested in using a pen name you might want to consult Ellen Sedwick’s Self-Publishers Legal handbook for the legal aspects on using a pen name .

Here are some well known pen names:

Amanda Cross: Carolyn Gold Heilbrun

Isak Dinesen: Karen Christenze von Blixen-Finecke

Ann Rice: Howard Allen Frances O’Brien

John le Carré: David Cornwell

And pen names that hide more famous real names:

Rosamond Smith: Joyce Carol Oates

Richard Backman: Stephen King

And there are authors who write under several pen names.


Kathryne layne               A Hint of Scandle 2






upon-your-love-final-cover    Heather Crouse

Click to read an excerpt from Marie Lavender’s latest book.

What are your thoughts on a pen name for yourself?




39 thoughts on “Using a Pen Name

  1. That’s a good question, Carol. I don’t use a pen name, actually. I’ve thought about it; but, in the end, I prefer using my own name.

  2. I thought of using a pen name, but then I figured it would be hard enough for people to find my books. Why make it harder? But if I write in another genre someday, I might consider it again.

  3. Interesting question, Carol! I like the examples you’ve given and wonder what they would say as to their reasons for the pen names? Often I think writers to make the pen name more interesting and intriguing than their own names. Personally I considered whether I would use a pen name … for about a minute! It just didn’t make any sense. A local children’s author in my writing group confusingly does use pen name and when I asked her why she admitted it was through a false sense of wanting to keep ‘herself’ to herself…but that didn’t work as she has to promote herself anyway and she’s regretted starting down this route!

    • Interesting anecdote about the writer regretting using a pen name. I wonder how many other writers regret doing so.
      Thanks for stopping by, Annika. Have a wonderful Sunday. 🙂

  4. Ha, like anyone would make up an 11 letter last name like Ellie Marrandette!!! Guess you know the answer to THAT question. However I am surprised that someone would use multiple pen names. Wouldn’t they want to develop a following? I know I always search for books of authors I enjoy. I found this post very interesting, thanks for exposing the real names of some historic giants of literature. 🙂

    • I guess you could say the same thing about my name Carol Balawyder! Good point about developing a following.
      Thanks for being here and have a beautiful Sunday, Ellie. ❤

  5. I should have a pen name because there is an American author called Dianne Gray and we often get mixed up – but I’m older and have been writing longer so I was here first 😀

  6. As you know I write under a pen name Carol. My original intent was because I write memoir and thought it was a layer of protection. But honestly, in this day and age, just like J.K. Rowlings, most people know the author’s real name because of the world wide web. There is no hiding, lol. 🙂

      • Thanks Carol, wishing you the same. And in answer to your question, no, I don’t see me writing under any other name. Besides, I don’t see me writing anything but nonfiction, that’s just who I am. 🙂 ❤

  7. Ahhhh……to ever need a pen name! Teehee. If only…..I tease, but this was an interesting post and reference to pen names I was unaware of…..thanks for sharing food for thought!

  8. I use a pen name because I think crafting a persona to fit your writing is part of the fun. Also, the anonymity is important when you write erotica simply because some people are less accepting of it. But it’s always fun to have a sexy name to match your sexy writing 🙂

  9. Hi Carol 🙂 You point out a range of reasons for using a pen name. I’m glad women don’t have to conceal their identity anymore to be taken seriously. I considered using one but wanted to be authentic in my writing tone so I thought that it would not be “real” of me to then use a pen name. Hugs

  10. When I was a teenager and writing, I used a pen name – Penelope Dunne. I had no idea where the name came from and seriously wondered if that had been my name in another life….another time. And perhaps it was. But as I began to write more seriously and publish, I realized that I wanted everyone to know who I am – my real name. And I also realized that to be brave, I needed to allow that name to be seen with my work.

    • I like what you said about wanting everyone to know who you are. That, to me is called proud of your work, which you have every reason to be. 🙂 Thanks for being here. Pam, I so appreciate it! ❤

  11. Funny story…I started my writing career in romance and wrote under a pen name, Anna Larence because I knew I was not going to limit myself to one genre. However, at a book signing, a book store staffer was calling me by my pen name and I totally ignored her. I forgot I was Anna Larence. I now write in a different genre using my given name and no more embarrassing moments at book signings.

  12. I think it was incredibly brave that the book To Kill a Mockingbird was written by a woman named Harper Lee. I also think it is interesting that Samuel Clemens wrote under Mark Twain. The only question I think about would a man write under a woman’s name or would someone of a unique heritage write under a nondescript pen name?
    I loved this post, Carol! 💐

  13. I’ve always used my name in my writings, but with this new blog I started here, I decided to use my pen name. I think writing with a pen name gives you a different identity altogether, a name that doesn’t have any expectation or opinion attached to it, so you’re free to write without any attachment. That’s my reason!

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