For a lot of writers, we have always dreamed of seeing our name on a book cover.
Some, however, might not want that name to be their legal name and will instead decide to publish under a pen name, nom de plume, or a pseudonym.
Pen names are used by authors for a number of reasons and might be common knowledge or only known to the publisher.
Just like choosing a name to give your child, deciding on a pen name for yourself is something to spend some time thinking about.
If you didn’t already know, Avril Marie Aalund is a pen name.
In this week’s post, I’ll be sharing some of the things I took into consideration when deciding whether or not to publish with a nom de plume.
Professional Versus Private Lives
Some writers might use a pen name to give themselves a sense of anonymity.
This anonymity can have its own reasons behind it. It could be tied to one’s career both in writing and apart from it. For instance, medical malpractice lawyer might not want their associates or clients to know they write Young Adult Fantasy novels on their days off, or an erotica author might use a pen name to keep that side of their lives apart from their judgemental, pearl-clutching mother-in-law.
Or, if you’re like me, it’s to allow the ability to have a level of separation between my professional life and my personal life. Although most of the people in my personal life are well aware of my writing endeavors and know my aim is to become a published author, I don’t feel comfortable sharing much of my personal life on social media apart from Facebook (on which my connections are strictly kept to people I have met in real life like family, coworkers, and former classmates). I rarely post selfies to my Twitter account and don’t really talk about things in my life beyond the scope of my writing. The blog is a sort of middle ground because I do share the occasional personal anecdote or mention things going on, but I also have a habit of keeping it shallow rather than going in a greater depth.
Using a pen name allows me to establish a line between my personal life and my professional one, and I think that was one of the greatest draws to it for me even early on.
I touched on this in a past post on choosing character names, but it can also be applied to pen names.
Sometimes, you might find that you share your name with an author or other well-known personality who has already published your work.
Or you might be named Joan Green and worry about your books being shelved too closely to those of John Green (no joke, my browser’s autocorrect prompted me to change Joan Green to John Green as was writing this post, further proving this point).
Using a pen name can help prevent possible confusion.
Another reason an author might use a pen name is because of their genre. Some writers might have a legal name that they feel doesn’t align with their genre or fear could mislead their audience.
A surname like Graves is not one that might be associated with something like a Christian romance novel or a children’s book, but instead a thriller or a horror story.
My legal name, for instance, gives me more of a fantasy vibe—especially because of its spelling.
It’s also worth noting that one of my main reasons for writing under a pen name is the freedom to write in more than one genre. This means if I were to wake up one morning and decide to write a new genre or a historical romance in a different time period than the Regency, I would be able to jump from one zone to the next without difficulty. This way, readers who are familiar with my works published as Avril Marie Aalund may not be disappointed when they pick up a story anticipating a historical romance and find themselves actually reading a YA dystopian.
For lack of a better explanation, it’s a way of preventing cross-contamination.
Guises to Keep is another example of this, as I consider that project to be one of literary fiction rather than genre fiction and am intending to use a different pen name when I set out to publish it.
Sometimes, there might not be such a defined reason an author chooses a pen name other than that they simply want to.
They might have even followed in Post Malone’s steps and let a name generator pick part of if now their entire moniker for them.
The thing to remember that using a pen name, and which pen name you choose, is entirely up to you.
But how do you decide on a pen name for yourself? That’s something I’ll be breaking down in next week’s post, so be sure to check back then.