Writing with a Pen Name: Part 1 (Why Use a Pseudonym?)

Maxie Steer is my pseudonym (gasp! NO WAY! Say it ain’t so!).

I’ll give you a moment.

Now that you’ve recovered from my truth, hear me out.

The reason I started writing under a different name is because I had other hopes for my writing career. I want to publish with the name my parents gave me, but on an academic platform. Back in college, I had written articles for business journals (none that were picked up) and thought I would be able to establish myself as an authority in that realm. It hasn’t happened yet. The hope is still alive, ya’ll!

But, if I’m really honest, back when I chose to be Ms. Steer I didn’t think it all the way through to that conclusion. Maxie was built out of fear and the adventure of becoming someone else, someone more bold, more artistic, less me. I had very little confidence in my writing ability and though I enjoyed my poetry and stories, I needed something to hide behind in case no one else did.

Many authors consider a pseudonym as a pragmatic step in forming their writing career. This three part mini-series is meant to help you navigate the nuts-and-bolts about writing with a pen name:

  • Part 1 – Why Use a Pseudonym
  • Part 2 – Choosing a Pseudonym
  • Part 3 – Managing Your Pseudonyms

Why Use a Pseudonym?

If you answer “Yes” to any of the questions below, you should consider taking on a nom de plume.

  1. Do you write erotica that would make Christian Grey blush and work at an elementary/middle/high school? If your real life profession and your chosen genre is incompatible, this will pose a problem. Get a pen name. You do not want your students looking you up on the internet, and they will.
  2. Is your first name Monica, last name Lewinsky? Maybe you’ll have mad sales in the first few weeks after your book comes out but do you really want to deal with the blow back (tee hee) from angry customers looking for a tell-all? If you have a common name or share the name of a criminal/public figure/Anthony Weiner, get a pen name.
  3. Do you currently, or will you be writing in multiple genres? It’s not confusing at all when you search for your favorite horror writer to find the next book coming out is a historical romance (that’s sarcasm, btw). If you’re double-dipping in genres that do not complement each other, get a pen name.
  4. Are you uncomfortable with having your “government name” all over the internet, on the Today Show, or plastered on a bad review? I’m exaggerating but these are possibilities! Both good and bad! Remember, fear of failure and fear of success are equally debilitating. If you’re lacking confidence the way I was and need to build thicker skin, or if you’re unprepared for stardom (you know it, I’m gonna say it!): Get. A. Pen name.
  5. Do you have a super long name that is hard to pronounce or spell? If it’s gonna take your fans more than five seconds to drop your name in a Google search…get a pen name.
  6. Do you want to be a superhero and dress like your alter ego at events? Yes! Do you think Bruce Wayne would use his real name while in the Batmobile? You can become a character you create and depending on your genre, this could even enhance your brand and making experience out of meeting the author.

Bottom line: have a good reason for using a pen name. You may not need one, but if you want to use a pseudonym, it can be a great adventure. Stay tuned for Part 2: Choosing a Pseudonym

Ask yourself, “What kind of writer do I want to be?” The question stretches beyond genre, facts, or preference and peeks into the fabric of your persona–not the one you have, but the one you desire.

Do you use a pen name? Tell us why in a comment below. 

Check out this article by John Ward (not his real name) “What’s in a Pen Name

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