Why use a pen name?

For my novels, I decided to use a pen name. You might be wondering why…


There are a few different reasons why authors might use one. This includes:


1. Privacy


A pen name is kind of like a secret identity, that provides a degree of anonymity between the author and the world.


Of course, it’s nothing top secret… a quick online search will easily reveal the real names of any authors using a pen name. However, it does provide just a little bit of a buffer. Outside of phenomenally successful and famous authors like J.K. Rowling (which, by the way, is a pen name), many people might not bother to look up personal details of the author behind the pen name.


After all, the focus is on the books, not on the author’s personal life. And this is probably the main reason I went with a pen name for myself.


2. Searchability


Maybe you have a really common name. That’s actually the case with me — not so much with my first name, but certainly my last name ‘Powell’ is very common.


In that case, an online search might reveal several people with your same name ahead of you in the search results — possibly even other authors. This makes it difficult for people to find you and your books.


By choosing a unique pen name, you’re less likely to have this problem. It may also help you if you have a name that’s difficult to pronounce or to remember the spelling (which might make it difficult for your readers to recommend you to friends).


Plus, if you pick a name that’s really fun or interesting, it allows you and your books to stand out from the crowd, so readers can find you.


3. To fit a genre


Sometimes, someone’s name just doesn’t fit with what they write…


For example, if your name is ‘Susie Muffins’, that may not work well if you write horror novels. You might want to choose something that sounds a bit scarier or at least not so cutesy.


And on that note, sometimes authors will choose different pen names if they write books in different genres — for example, children’s adventure books versus adult crime thrillers. These book series would be considered different brands, even though it’s the same author. And having a different pen name for each will help with clarity, as well as marketing.


4. Collaborations


Sometimes a pair of writers will choose a single pen name to represent them as a team. This makes it easier for publishing, and for readers to find them in a search.


How I chose my pen name


I decided to stick with my full first name — ‘Tamara’ rather than ‘Tammy’. That way, there’s still a bit of myself in it.


For the last name, I wrote down a ton of possibilities, but finally settled on ‘Spell’. It’s mainly because of my love of the fantasy genre, and the magical elements within it. I originally chose the name when I was writing urban fantasy. But, even for my children’s books about cats, there’s still an element of magic in the stories, so it fits.


‘Spell’ is also a bit of an homage to my work as a copywriter. So, it has a double meaning to me.


Do you write under a pen name? I’d love to hear more about your name and how you chose it. Let me know on my Facebook page!