What about the common practice of using pen names? Is it an acceptable business practice or more misleading marketing?
The use of a pen name, also known as nom de plume, by professional writers is common and, in general, accepted. As you probably know, one of the most famous examples is American author and humorist Samuel Clemens who used the pen name, Mark Twain.
Let’s look at some of the common reasons why authors use pen names and then explore how they apply to online marketers.
Common Reasons Why Authors Use Pen Names
- privacy and/or protection – the latter may be important if the content of the work is controversial or an exposé
- catchier/more evocative name for a particular genre
- disguise gender or race or anything that might limit acceptance by publishers and the public – as you may know, it was more common in the past for female authors to assume male names to ensure that their work was accepted by publishers and readers. Today female writers may adopt a male name and male writer may adopt female names to suit whatever genre they are contributing to. Or they may take a gender-neutral approach by using initials such as The Outsiders author S.E. Hinton (Susan Eloise Hinton)
- credibility – this one is ironic, but it’s a feature of human psychology (unfortunately in my view): by using different pen names authors can publish works in different genres or multiple works in the same genre and readers will find this to be more believable than if they used the same name. Yes, this is where seeming like a one trick pony can be advantageous.
- branding to allow flexibility if for any reason a writer does not continue to write a series, column, etc. A notable example is the famous advice column Ask Ann Landers. Ann Landers is a pen name that was created by Ruth Crowley, the first of many writers to assume the role.
- collective names – similar to the above, some series fiction is published under one name even though two or more authors write the series. The first book in the series might be written by one author, subsequent books by ghostwriters. This allows a series to continue if the first book is popular but the author cannot write more books for any reason.
- creative expression or whim – Edward Gorey’s use of multiple pen names apparently were for his own amusement and were simply anagrams of his real name
by Lillea in WordPress and blogging
Reasons and ethics in the use of pen names:
1. One is healing from rape or defamation and needs to air their wounds without harm.
2. You have too many credentials and wants to appear less than they are as not to intimidate readers. (To contrast with a deceptive one which would be you have none and want to appear as if you do?)
3. Freedom of speech. One should be allowed to speak without reprisal.
4. I liked the idea that one could create a product under a name and move on from it when sold. (thinking of many Idols who become more famous or wealthier after they die!)
5. Bypass gender biases or just want to experiment being of another sex!
What is important is that deception isn’t used harming the reader.
At the Writer’s Quilt, we help timid writers make a name for their ideas, build a foundation for families memories etc..