How To Use A Pen Name When You Self-Publish Your Book
There are many reasons why an author might choose to publish under a pen name or 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’s books, perhaps a radical change to a romance writer of erotica would be a good reason to adopt a new name or nom de plume.
Then again, if you usually write an urban fantasy series 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.
Another interesting note is that the K in her author’s name is an invention. She has no middle name.
Many famous authors have adopted a name that has become very well-known. Here are a few you may or may not know.
Pseudonym: George Eliot
Real Name: Mary Ann Evans
Pseudonym: Richard Bachman
Real Name: Stephen King
Real Name: François-Marie Arouet
Pseudonym: George Orwell
Real Name: Eric Blair
Pseudonym: E.L. James
Real Name: Erika Leonard
Pseudonym: John le Carré
Real Name: David John Moore Cornwell
Pseudonym: Dr. Seuss
Real Name: Theodore Seuss Geisel
Pseudonym: Ayn Rand
Real Name: Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum
Pseudonym: Mary Westmacott
Real Name: Dame Agatha Christie
Pseudonym: Mark Twain
Real Name: Samuel Clemens
Pseudonym: Lewis Carroll
Real Name: Charles Lutwidge Dodgson
Pseudonym: Ali Knight
Real Name: Alison Potter
Pseudonym: Stan Lee
Real Name: Stanley Martin Lieber
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 that it suits your genre and writing style.
If you need ideas, you can use an online name generator. Or ask your friends and family for ideas.
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, if you are writing under a different name, it’s very easy to change your author name and create a new author brand.
Most publishing platforms make it easy for you to change your author name or add a new author name to your publishing account.
If you are writing under a pen name, most self-publishing services allow you to add your new author name.
On some platforms, all you need to do is add your new author name when you publish a book.
However, in some cases, you may need to create a new account.
But for the two most popular self-publishing providers, it is very easy to change your name for a new title.
Publishing under a pen name on Amazon
If you are publishing with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), using a pen name on Amazon is very easy.
All you need to do is add your new 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.
After you publish your book on Amazon, it will show on your account’s Bookshelf page, along with all the other books you have published.
Your true identity will not show anywhere on your Amazon book page once it has been published. So no one will be able to see your real name.
All they will see is your new name as the author. You should also add a new Author Central account author page for your new name to help you promote your books.
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.
As a side note, you can also use this method if you are publishing a book written by a minor, such as one of your children.
Draft2Digital manages author names in a similar fashion to KDP.
All you need to do is add your new author name when you publish your work.
You can manage each author’s name, add more books, associated titles, and publishers from your account settings.
Other self-publishing platforms offer very similar facilities when you are writing under a different name.
But some require that you open a separate and new publishing account.
You might also want to check your social media accounts to see if you can change your user name.
One last consideration is what you will use for your author profile photo for Amazon Author Central and social media.
You might also need an image for the About Page of your website or for other book promotion platforms.
You can use a photo of yourself, as many authors choose to do. But if you would prefer more anonymity, you will need to be creative.
One possibility is to create a cartoon image. There are plenty of sites online now that offer this service. Another option is to check free stock photo sites.
Many of them offer free vector graphics that you could use as your author image.
Whichever method you choose, make sure you create a few different sizes. Then you will have an image size on file to suit most applications.
With so many ebooks available now, it’s becoming harder to gain attention and traction on Amazon and the Kindle Book Store in particular.
Publishing under a pen name might help you for marketability purposes and your online book promotion.
You might feel like being adventurous and want to try your hand at a new genre, but you’re not sure how it will go.
Perhaps experimenting with new material, like a collection of short stories using a new name, might be a good way to test the water.
You can use an online fake or pen name generator if you want some ideas for a new name.
So happy writing. Whatever your name is in real life.
As an aside, where does the word pseudonym come from?
It is, in part, a back-formation from pseudonymous, in part from German pseudonym and French pseudonyme.
It is also from Greek pseudonymos meaning, having a false name or under a false name.
Related reading: How To Publish Writing Anonymously To Hide Your Name
20 thoughts on “How To Use A Pen Name When You Self-Publish Your Book”
Very informative article, thanks. But i do have a question . . . when using a pen name on Amazon do you leave the primary author space blank and just fill in the contributing author space with your pen name? Or do you put your real name in the primary author space then also enter your pen name in the contributor space? Thanks again!
You enter your pen name in the primary author field. No need to do anything else.
I am writing a memoir that has some negative criticism about someone still alive, so I think it best to publish the book under a pan name rather than my real name.
I did a search of the name on Google, Facebook and Twitter and could find no one with the name I am thinking of using – 2 initials and a last name.
I have tried all the name generator sites you and others have recommended but none were very helpful. In fact, one site changed my name to something so awful it would put off anyone but a blind person.
Thanks for your siggestions
I have a question. My pen name is an East Asian name (because I am Asian). The East Asian name ordering is different from the western name. East Asians write the surname first. So, if in the contributor section on Amazon I fill in “first name” with my given name and “last name” with my surname, then the order is reversed. For example, it will be Mingsheng Wang (Wang is surname) instead of Wang Mingsheng. But, on the copyright and cover pages, I wrote my name as Wang Mingsheng, because that’s how to write an East Asian name. Won’t this be a problem? Thank you very much.
I don’t see a problem with either option, David. It’s up to you and what you feel comfortable with. But personally, I would keep the name the same for the cover and copyright page, just to avoid confusion.
I wish to publish my stories using a female pen name as they are aimed at tweenagers, teens and young adults. I think that this might make my books more acceptable to girls who I see as my target readership. Women have given themselves male pen names so as to be accepted by males. So, I hope that the reverse may work too. What do you think?
It’s worth a try.
Very helpful advice thank you. If you have a moment, I would like to clarify my process. My situation is this: I have published several books through IngramSpark under a particular publishing company name. Now I want to publish some books using a pen name. If I simply change the contributor to the pen name, won’t it still show the publisher name? Because my publishing company only publishes for one author, if a new book by pen name comes out, it could easily be assumed who the author is, right? So…my question is, should I use an imprint?
Although, an imprint of my existing publishing company simply that is set up to publish a pen name that I want to remain anonymous seems to still have the same issue as above, (a new book by pen name comes out, it could easily be assumed who the author is) only slightly more covert. I’m just trying to wrap my head around the logistics of what I actually need. If you have any thoughts on this I would love hear.
Yes, if you only change the author’s name, your publishing company will remain. I don’t know your exact situation, but if you want anonymity for your new titles, perhaps changing the publisher’s name too would be best.
Good information. But Mary Westmacott was the pseudonym; Agatha Christie was the real name.
Thank you for spotting the error in our list, James. It is now corrected.
Isn’t Stan Lee’s listed wrong as well?
Thanks for noticing the error, Aditya. It has been corrected now.
If you use a pen name on Amazon, will they know to pay the proceeds to the REAL name and not under the pen name? In other words, you don’t have to set up a DBA under the pen name to get paid,do you?
You only change your author name to your pen name when publishing. Your KDP account is in your real name. So you will be paid as per your account details.
I wanted to ask this. This is so helpful.
I was thinking of opening the account with a pseudo name, but I guess it will affect payment. Pen names can only be used when publishing
That’s correct, Maryam. You can’t use your pen name for your payment account.
thank you so much for this info. it took the life out of me searching for answers and you provided them so clearly! <3
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.
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?
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