How To Use A Pen Name When You Self-Publish A Book

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Self-Publishing Using A Pen NameThere are many reasons why an author might choose to use a pseudonym

Often, it is because of a complete change of genre or perhaps the topic matter is too far removed from what their loyal readers expect from authors they have read.

If an author is well known for children books, perhaps a radical change to erotica would be a good reason to adopt a new name or nom de plume.

Then again, if you normally write science fiction and want to try your hand at romance, you might start writing under a different name.

Joanne (J.K.) Rowling famously tried to escape the Harry Potter series by writing as Robert Galbraith.

Many famous authors have adopted names that have become very well known. Here are a few you may or may not know.

Pen Name: George Eliot
Real Name: Mary Ann Evans

Pen Name: Richard Bachman
Real Name: Stephen King

Pen Name: Voltaire
Real Name: François-Marie Arouet

Pen Name: George Orwell
Real Name: Eric Blair

Pen Name: E.L. James
Real Name: Erika Leonard

Pen Name: John le Carré
Real Name: David John Moore Cornwell

Pen Name: Dr. Seuss
Real Name: Theodore Seuss Geisel

Pen Name: Ayn Rand
Real Name: Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum

Pen Name: Dame Agatha Christie
Real Name: Mary Westmacott

Pen Name: Mark Twain
Real Name: Samuel Clemens

Pen Name: Lewis Carroll
Real Name: Charles Lutwidge Dodgson

Pen Name: Ali Knight
Real Name: Alison Potter

Pen Name: Stanley Martin Lieber
Real Name: Stan Lee

In some ways, when you choose a pen name, it is like a new brand name or registered trademark. From the list above, you can see that some names are much more memorable than the author’s real name.

You should take your time when choosing a pseudonym and make sure it suits your genre. If you need ideas you can use an online pen name generator.

Another reason to choose self-publishing under an alternative name could be because the author’s real name is too long. There is only so much room on a book cover, so the shorter the name, the more prominent it will be.

If you have a long hyphenated last name, you might choose to shorten it or replace it with a totally new nom de plume. You could even add a fictional and mysterious middle initial.

For today’s authors, it’s very easy to change your author name and create a new author brand.


How can you change your author name to a pen name when self-publishing?

If you are publishing with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), Amazon makes it very easy for you.

All you need to do is add your pen name as the author’s name in the Contributors section when you are preparing the book for publication. Select it as the author and it will show as the Primary Author.

author pen name

After your book is published on Amazon, it will show on the Bookshelf page of your account along with all the other books you have published.

Your real name will not show anywhere on your Amazon book page once it has been published. All you will see in your pen name as the author. You should also add a new Author Central page for your new name.

I haven’t tried, but it would seem that you can do this for as many books and as many names as you like with KDP.

Draft2Digital manages pen names in a similar fashion to KDP. All you need to do is add your new author name when you publish a new book. You can manage each author name, associated titles and publisher from your account settings.

D2D author

Other publishing platforms offer very similar facilities for pen names, but some require that you open a separate and new publishing account. You should check the terms of service and privacy policy to be sure that your real name will not be disclosed.

Also, you might want to check your social media accounts to see if you can change your name.

With so many ebooks available now, it’s becoming harder to be noticed on Amazon and the Kindle Store in particular.

So if you feel like being adventurous and trying your hand at a new genre but are not sure how it will go, perhaps experimenting with your new material using a pen name might be a good way to test the water.

So happy writing. Whatever your name is.


As an aside, where did the word pseudonym come from?

It is in part a back-formation from pseudonymous, in part from German pseudonym and French pseudonyme, and from Greek pseudonymos meaning, having a false name or under a false name.


Further reading: Is This Publisher Legit? How You Can Make Your Decision


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Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.

3 thoughts on “How To Use A Pen Name When You Self-Publish A Book

  • How to write an author bio under a pen name? Like I have literally achieved everything under my real name. So, do I have to write a fictitious bio?

  • I’m not sure when you posted your question but I’m in that place now…what I’ll do is keep in mind my favorite authors who have also used pen names.
    Meaning keep the faith ~
    I’ve accomplished some under my real name as you say you have too.
    My bio will outline what I’ve done & how I’ve written (themes) but not where I’ve been published.
    Bottom line is: does the content of my new material have merit on its own, regardless of the author’s bio.

  • thank you so much for this info. it took the life out of me searching for answers and you provided them so clearly! <3


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