To Pen Name or not to Pen Name; That is…a Dumb Question

Photo Credit: Kat Michels

This is another of those topics that I find myself reading way too many blog posts about. There are SO many questions that most writers will ask themselves at some point. I think I’ve written about several of these questions on here. Let me see. The question of whether to self publish or attempt to publish through an agent and traditional publisher. Coming up with the perfect title for the book you’ve just finished. Naming characters in your work. Whether or not to intentionally make your protagonist autobiographical. There are many more, but my point is that these are all valid issues that need to be figured out by the author.

The question of whether or not to use a pen name is not. It’s ridiculous. Seriously, who do you think you are? You haven’t done anything yet. So maybe you’ve written a book. Maybe you’ll clean it up in preparation to start sending out queries, but so what. Do you have any idea what the odds of that book ever making its way onto a store bookshelf? Yeah, I bet you didn’t. I’m getting off topic now.

I can only name a very small number of authors who I am aware use pen names. Lee Child. JK Rowling. Nora Roberts. Lee Child came up with his pen name because it would put him between crime writers Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie on bookshelves. Good idea. JK Rowling wrote a book as Robert Galbraith as something of an experiment to see if the book would make it on its own merits and not just her name. Another good idea. And Nora Roberts has written under several names because of the simple fact that she writes too many books to release under one name. I may be mistaken, but I think she’s written more than 200 books. Geez. I also know T. Jefferson Parker added the T in front of his name just because. It doesn’t stand for anything. And yes, I realize that a number of authors write in different genres under different pen names in an effort not to confuse their core readers, but again, these are established authors WITH readers. You’re no one.

The point I’m making by listing these few authors who write under pen names is that you are putting yourself in their company by thinking you should write under a pen name. No. Just stop.

Let’s say that you’re an unknown author who manages to secure a major publishing deal. They’re going to publish YOUR book. Why in the hell would you want a name on the cover besides your own? That’s a serious question I’m asking. If you have an answer I want you to write it in the comments because I don’t have one. Think about it. You’ll likely be telling every person who will give you two minutes to tell them about your book and they’ll ask the title so they can look it up. Then they’ll ask why the name is wrong. You’ll say you wrote it under a pen name. They’ll ask why and then think you’re just stupid.

If you’ve honestly asked yourself this question then tell me why and what you decided. I promise not to yell at you.

No offense was meant by this post to anyone. Please still like me. I still like you.