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To Pen Name or Not To Pen Name, that is the Question.

There has been some discussion at The Swamp of the purpose and advantages of having a pen name. Pen names have a long history. One popular conspiracy involves William Shakespeare. Who was rumored to not only have used a pen name, but another man to claim credit for his writing. Even Joanne Rowling was pushed by publishers to use JK Rowling as a pen name. So as writers, what do we need to consider before deciding how to label ourselves?

 *Degree of Separation: When using a pen name, one of the benefits is that it provides a degree of separation for the writer. You may want this for personal or professional reasons. Maybe you are a teacher, or in public office. Yet if you flip the coin, associations made with your real name may also assist you in increased sales and recognition.

 *Audience: Your target audience can influence the choice of name as well. Throughout history women authors commonly changed their name. And while we have hopefully grown as a society, authors still attempt create gender neutral pen names to attract a wider audience. Look at E Lockhart (Emily Jenkins), JD Robb (Nora Roberts) and even Louisa May Alcott used A.M. Barnard as one of her many pen names.

 *Varying Audiences: It is also common for authors writing in more than one genre to have more than one pen name. For example Kady Cross, who writes Fantasy Young Adult, also is a best selling romance writer under the name Kathryn Smith.

 *Maybe your name just sucks: I couldn’t help myself with this one. While some people can move past a name, like Destinee Hooker who is a US Volleyball player, I wouldn’t recommend it for a middle grade novel. (Check some out here for a good laugh.)

 There is much to consider when deciding on a pen name. Maybe you want to be like Theodor Geisel, who after much rebellious behavior at Darthmouth, used his middle name Seuss in humor magazines. Then when published put on the “Dr.” as a jab to his father who wanted him to go into medicine.

From Charles Dickens to George Orwell, Pen Names are vast and different. But either way the choice is yours. Who “to be, or not to be, that is the question.”

pen name

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