More about Pen Names

busy-woman-2phonesPen names… the topic keeps coming back up in conversations.

I’m a very strong advocate of them, but I can still recall — back in my early writing career — when I was uncomfortable using different names.

It felt like I was juggling names and identities.  Even I got confused at times.

Now, using pen names is so routine, I don’t even think about it.  It’s also one of the best decisions I made, early in my career.

That’s partly about privacy.

You never know who’s going to become a rabid fan or take something you said the wrong way.

A few unhappy people are looking for someone who can fix what’s broken in their lives, or someone to blame it on.

Don’t make it easy for them to find you in real life. Use a pen name. (See my tips for selecting one.)

Using pen names is also about branding.

Here’s an example: Mention Isaac Asimov in a conversation, and almost everyone knows he wrote lots & lots of books.  500 or so. (Really.)

Ask what Azimov was an expert in — besides making passes at girls at Mensa parties — and you may see blank stares.

Asimov wrote fiction. He wrote nonfiction.  He wrote about a bazillion different topics, mostly science-related, but not always.

That was a different era, when just being smart (and a prolific writer) and published by a major publishing house… that was enough to sell your books.

Today, branding is a vital part of your marketing.  If what you’re writing won’t fit in a nice, short line under your name on your business card… consider compartmentalizing your writing with brand pen names.

There is a slight catch to using pen names:  Don’t write just one book under that name. No matter who’s publishing you, you’ll want to look like you’re a serious author.

My advice? Write at least three to five related books under that pen name.

When book buyers click on your author name, it’s good if they see multiple books you’ve written in that niche.  It shows that you’re an authority.  They’re more likely to buy one of your books, confident that you probably know what you’re writing about.  It’s all about the branding.

And, yes, that’s a “do what I say, not what I do” issue. But really, had I planned ahead for my content curation book or my guide to writing viral nonfiction books, I would have used a pen name.

Instead, I blathered on & on at this website (and others), and had so many readers, I sort of had to publish those books under my real name. Major mistake, and one I won’t repeat.

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