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

Publishing Under A Pen Name

There are many reasons why an author might choose to use a pseudonym or pen name. 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 normally write an urban fantasy series and want to try your hand at romance, you might start writing under a different name.

Well known author pen names

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

Pseudonym: Voltaire
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: Stanley Martin Lieber
Real Name: Stan Lee


Choosing your new author name

In some ways, when you choose a 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 to add a new author name to your publishing account.


How to change your author name when self-publishing

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.


How to publish under a pen name on Amazon.

If you are publishing with 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.

author pen name

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 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 you will see in 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.


Using a different author name on Draft2Digital

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.

D2D author

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 should check the terms of service and privacy policy of your publishing company 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 user name.



With so many ebooks available now, it’s becoming harder to be noticed on Amazon and the Kindle Store in particular. Choosing a new name might help you for marketability purposes.

You might feel like being adventurous and trying your hand at a new genre but are 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 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, and from Greek pseudonymos meaning, having a false name or under a false name.

Derek Haines

A Cambridge CELTA English teacher and author with a passion for writing and all forms of publishing. My days are spent teaching English and writing, as well as testing and taming new technology.

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

  • August 16, 2020 at 11:19 am

    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?

  • June 4, 2020 at 11:07 pm

    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.

    Many thanks!

    • June 5, 2020 at 11:10 am

      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.

  • May 1, 2020 at 5:12 am

    Good information. But Mary Westmacott was the pseudonym; Agatha Christie was the real name.

    • May 1, 2020 at 8:51 am

      Thank you for spotting the error in our list, James. It is now corrected.

  • May 19, 2019 at 4:12 am

    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?

    • May 19, 2019 at 11:48 am

      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.

  • November 30, 2018 at 4:54 am

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

  • November 25, 2018 at 2:49 am

    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.

  • November 20, 2018 at 4:19 pm

    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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