To use a pen name or not to use a pen name?
That's a question all authors must grapple with. Keeping a writer's real name off the cover is not a new phenomenon. Mark Twain was really Samuel Langhorne Clemens. 19th century novelist Amantine Aurore Lucile Dupin hid not only her name but her gender as well by writing as George Sand.
But why would an author use a pen name in the first place? Several reasons. Here are a few:
1. The author's real name doesn't fit the genre they write. Euphiginia Codsworthy may write fantastic YA, but her name doesn't scream cool. I doubt any young readers would pick up her book.
2. The author has a day job that might be compromised if it were known he/she wrote their books. People don't assume murder mystery writers have a bunch of bodies in their basement, but they do tend to think romance writers know a good deal more about sex than most. Some writers use a pseudonymn to keep their professional and writing lives separate.
3. The author's name is changed to protect the not-so-innocent. If a writer uses family and friends as inspiration for their characters, using a pen name keeps others from recognizing them. So if you know a writer, beware. It's a fearsome thing to fall into the hands of an angry author.
4. The author writes in different genres. Nora Roberts writes her futuristics as JD Robb. Jayne Ann Krentz writes historicals as Amanda Quick and paranormals as Jayne Castle. The name becomes a "brand." If you pick up a Quick novel, you know what type of story you're getting. Similarly, my Diana Groe books are Dark ages romance. Emily Bryan stories are light-hearted and my upcoming Mia Marlowe books will have a sparkle of magic.
5. The publisher requests a name change for marketing reasons. Publishing is a tough business. If an authors numbers don't continue to trend up, or hit a high enough level, the book buyers lose interest. A publisher may believe in the author's talent enough to publish them under another name.
6. The author wants to protect their privacy. I've never had a problem, but some of my writing friends have been stalked. Of course, a pen name isn't bullet-proof. There are ways to find the real person behind it, but it does require some additional work.
So have you considered having a pen name? Some writers choose to use their real name. Here's your chance to share why.
For Readers: If you were a writer, what pen name would you pick for yourself and why?