There 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’s books, perhaps a radical change to a romance writer of erotica would be a good reason to adopt a new pen 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.
Well known pen names
Joanne (J.K.) Rowling famously tried to escape the Harry Potter series by writing as Robert Galbraith.
Many famous authors have adopted a pen 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: Dame Agatha Christie
Real Name: Mary Westmacott
Pseudonym: Mark Twain
Real Name: Samuel Clemens
Pseudonym: Lewis Carroll
Real Name: Charles Lutwidge Dodgson
Pseudonym: Ali Knight
Real Name: Alison Potter
Pseudonym: Stanley Martin Lieber
Real Name: Stan Lee
Choosing your pen name
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. 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 pen 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 to add a new author name to your publishing account.
How to publish under a pen name on Amazon.
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.
After you publish your book 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. So no one will be able to see your real name.
All you will see in your pen 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.
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 publishing platforms offer very similar facilities for pen names.
Also, you might want to check your social media accounts to see if you can change your user name.
With so many ebooks available now, it’s becoming harder to be noticed on Amazon and the Kindle Store in particular.
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.
You can use an online fake name generator if you want some ideas for a new pen name.
So happy writing. Whatever your name is in real life.
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.