A pen name is also known as a pseudonym; basically, this strategy is taken when a writer feels the need to obscure or hide his or her real name for a variety of purposes. Here are six reasons for taking on a fake entity as a writer:
- One British writer of fiction who was interviewed during a podcast expressed the need for certain writers to “tie your name to a genre.” According to research, that’s one popular reason for assuming a pen name. Some writers, for example, those who write thrillers for a living, have come up with names that not only disguise their real name but sound more appropriate when attached to a less gentle kind of story line. Thus, Patricia Hiller might not sound as strong as Pat Knight, or Cynthia Dagger, just to conjecture a little bit on a few possible substitutes (for authors of thriller novels).
- Privacy issues: Using a different name for your work is one way of simply allowing yourself to enjoy a higher degree of privacy. Some writers prefer to operate and write freely about a subject while keeping their privacy intact. The reasons for doing so are vast, depending on the needs of each author.
- Gender reasons can prompt someone to adopt a pen name, also. As research has found, many readers tend to judge a piece of literature based on whether it came from a male or female source. For some readers, gender may affect their decision to even pick up and read a certain book. Why is this? Usually this happens because they believe only certain genders stand qualified to write within certain genres. Hence the author may opt for a pen name that comes across as gender neutral, this way he or she can mitigate the urges of readers who tend to make judgements based on shallow evidence and first impressions.
- Often, a writer has family reasons behind why he or she might elect to remain obscure while writing. For one, the politics of the family are such that his/her views concerning governance may offend a large portion of his relatives. Or, if the person is involved in elicit or controversial subject matters, that author may have a real fear of what his or her family thinks of the creative concept. Whatever the reason, family issues can provide a host of reasons for an author to assume a different name.
- There are times when, for marketing purposes alone, you would be wise to not have your name be confused with other famous authors. Occasionally, you may find an overlap between names that sound alike or are identical. For instance, if your real name happened to be Stephen King there could be several obstacles inherent for readers in finding you, specifically. To avoid the confusion, some authors have exchanged their real names for pen names. Some of these authors were nearly forced to assume different names so they could market their books without needless confusion.
- Finally, there can be political views that, depending on where you live, could cause neighbors to criticize, make fun, or in rare instances, wish to harm you. If you’re for or against any passionately held view -this would include religious beliefs as well -it might be wise for you to write under a different entity and avoid the angst or controversy that might come your way.
There are other reasons for why some writers lean toward obscurity as far as publishing their real names. But for most authors with pen names today, there are plenty of sound reasons for taking such a route.