I don't like my name. I feel like seeing my name on the cover of my novel will be an embarassment more than a moment of pride - I just can't take things I've written under my own name seriously, for some reason. On the other hand, I love my screenname, which expands easily into a psuedonym. Are there any major reasons not to self-publish under that name instead of my real one?

ETA: As asked in a comment, are there legal concerns I should worry about? What about getting paid?


6 Answers 6


Here's another way to think about it. Why should you use your real name?

Use it if... you want anyone who Googles you to read you (or more likely, your reviews).

Use it if... you want everyone in your social network to read your reviews, or you.

Use it if... you want every prospective employer to read your reviews, or you... as part of standard screening to see if they'll give you an interview.

Use it if... you want everyone from work, at every place you work, to read your reviews, or you.

Use it if... you want prospective dates to read your reviews, or you, before agreeing to meet.

Use it if... you want your high school classmates to read you, or your reviews, before the reunion.

Use it if... you want your future kids to read you and your reviews.

Use it if... you're okay with catalog and search sites forever marrying your name to the title, description, and excerpt of your publications, and your reviews - forever, or until a massive EMG spike wipes every hard drive on the Earth - whichever comes first.


This is entirely a matter of choice. There are a number of famous authors who write in other genres using a pen name, and they have proven to be just as successful in their new genres. As long as you are writing under just one pen name, you shouldn't really encounter any problems.

If, however, you choose to write under more than one pen name, then you might encounter some inconveniences. Let's say for example you decide to publish in two different genres and use a different pen name for each. By doing this, you will need to maintain two different personnas whenever you do any communication on the web. That means a separate web site for each pseudonym, separate Twitter accounts for each, separate promotional efforts for each. Basically, you create a situation where you are having to do twice as much work to promote yourself. This isn't really a problem, but more of an inconvenience. You may find that you spend more time marketing and promoting your different identities and less time actually writing.

Also, if you self-publish, then you may find problems with managing multiple accounts on different sites, such as GoodReads or LibraryThing. Another problematic site is Smashwords. None of these sites allow you to manage multiple accounts under one logon, which means you will need a separate account for each pseudonym, which means more inconveniences. Amazon is great about letting you manage multiple author accounts with a single logon, but they will only allow you to create one author page to link to your books. If you pester them enough, they will allow you to create a second one that you can link to your manegement console, but that's the limit.

I currently have about a dozen titles that I have sold successfully under a pseudonym, and I have also more recently begun to publish under my real name. The examples I have provided are based on my own experiences in trying to manage more than one identity. If you are going to write under only one pen name, then you will probably find this a whole lot less of an issue.

  • To address the follow up question about legal issues, there really aren't any. If you sign a traditional publishing contract, you do so with your own name. If you self-publish, you identify yourself as the manager of the account(s) upon creation. Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 1:58

I write under a pen name, and haven't had any problems. The contracts are signed with my legal name, 'writing as' my pen name. Royalty cheques are payable to and cashed by my legal name.

I think there are some US states where you can/are supposed to register your pseudonym - I think that if you do that, you can actually sign contracts and bank under that name, but I'm not sure about that. It makes sense, though - it's essentially like your pen name is the name of your business, and businesses do banking all the time.

One possible draw back, depending on how big the service becomes, is that Google+ seems to be insisting pretty hard that people use their legal names with them. Not significant right now, but could be a pain if they become the Facebook of the future.

  • I suspect Google+ will be the primary link between my screenname and my real name in the future. I don't make a big deal out of separating the two online - instead, I don't do things under my screenname that I wouldn't want people who know me offline to know about. Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 14:23

I worked with someone who used a screen name, and we were implementing a system that used the HR system to create accounts in computer systems.

However, he made our life a living heck, since he was John Smith to everyone in the company, but his legal name was James Madison (names changed to protect the foolish). But he never legally changed his name. Another company had a number of TV actors in similar circumstances, and it is a pain in the backend to make the phone book use his non-legal name.

So once you start writing under a pen name, it is the thin edge of a wedge to using it more regularly, and before you know it, you will be making people like me, life a living heck!

  • Haha! I've considered changing my name but I don't match the ethnicity of my screen name so I'll probably just keep using my real name offline. Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 15:10
  • @Yamikuronue: Oooch, definitely avoid picking a pen name that you couldn't introduce yourself under. That'll just look weird in cover photos, interviews, book signings... Even if you publicize your use of a pseudonym, that'll be pretty jarring.
    – Standback
    Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 22:55
  • @Standback But that's the problem. The reason I want to use a penname is that Yami feels more like my name than any shortening or expansion of my real name. If I'm not using that, I might as well use my real name :/ I wish I hadn't been such a weeaboo as a teenager, then I wouldn't be in this mess, but I can't go back in time and change that now. Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 13:02
  • 2
    @Standback It occurs to me that some of the most famous pennames were male names used for female authors. If they can disguise their gender, I'd think I could manage to disguise my race until I'm ready to reveal my real name. Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 14:30

I also briefly considered using a pseudonym with my writing. I tend to be a little spicy and raw at time and was worried what people might think. But you know what? Who cares??? I am proud of what I have and continue to accomplish as a writer. My stories are mine so why shouldn't I put my name behind them? My take on it is that if they (meaning people who might judge you) have a problem with what I write - it is just that, THEIR problem, not mine. :)

  • Hi Beth, there is a core of a good answer here, but this answer is currently in the low quality post review probably because it fails to address my of the OP's original questions. You seem to be encouraging the OP to just use his/her real name rather than listing reasons on why to use a pen name or a real name. Can you edit your question to make it better answer the question? Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 12:06

It occurs to me that publishing under a pen name that uses a last name with the same first letter or two as a popular author can place one's work next to those popular books in the bookstores. :-)

I'm considering a pen name derived from a person I admire. The pen name would also be chosen with the same 'feel' as the theme of my stories.

But these are decisions for future me, not me.

I see no problem with it. I see advantages.

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