Why do authors use pen names? There are many reasons. Maybe you’re an elementary teacher who writes dark fantasy. Or you’ve had issues with a stalker before. Or you don’t want your office co-workers to read that super-steamy BDSM romance series you love writing. Whatever the reason, many authors use pen names. Not all of them are secret, either. Sometimes they’re just used as a differentiation tool.
I don’t like pen names. Yes, I have some now… I still don’t like them. They seem like a deceit, a fraud, a hiding out. My reason is that last one – a differentiation tool.
Since I’m unable to stick to one genre, using pen names is helping to break out my books into digestible areas, so I am if not embracing the concept, at least conceding the necessity.
I started out with all my books under my real name. I don’t write anything I want to keep private. My work life isn’t dealing with small children, or anything like that. I wanted my high school friends to see my books and count me a success, damn it! And my family in full support of my writing.
However, after writing in historical fantasy, time travel adventure, women’s fiction, travel guides, and timeslip romance, and now venturing into non-fiction self help and urban fantasy, it seems better to break out these genres into branded pen names. I’ve got them all listed on my website, and indeed, my real name is listed as a co-author on Amazon, so it’s easy for my readers to find them… but they can tell by the pen name that it’s a different genre.
So, I’ve broken out my works into the following:
- Timeslip romance to Emeline Rhys. This is the name of one of my ancestresses, slightly modified.
- Women’s fiction to Virginia Firestone. This was my grandmother’s name. I’m still thinking about folding this back into the timeslip romance, but I’m not certain, yet.
- Urban fantasy is Rowan Dillon. I wanted something that both said ‘magical’ and ‘Irish.’ And Dillon is one of my ancestral family names.
- Time Travel Adventure/Scifi is CN Jackson, a modification of my own name.
- Everything else, from my non-fiction to my historical fantasy, is remaining with my real name, Christy Nicholas. I thought about breaking out my non-fiction to Carole Jackson (another modification of my grandmother’s name) but then I ran into an issue with putting my CPA designation on one of the books that has to do with Extreme Planning, and decided to stick with my real name for now.
There were some challenges with this. Of course, I had to change book covers. And who was listed as the author on Amazon. The already published print versions couldn’t be changed to a new author, I was only permitted to add a new one, so I decided that would be the norm throughout. I also need to re-record the opening bits of my audiobooks to reflect the change in author.
How do you feel about pen names? Do they annoy you? Help you? Confuse you? Are you an author with a pen name? Why or why not? Talk to me about your experiences!