top of page

What's in a Name? Pen Names Explained

We’ve all heard of the term ‘pen name,’ but what exactly is it? Is it synonymous with a pseudonym, or is there more to it? In this article, we’ll delve deep into the world of pen names, exploring the benefits, lean how to copyright your name and choose the right one, and more. Lets get started.


WHAT IS A PEN NAME?


A pen name, or nom de plume, is a pseudonym used by authors, artists, and other creatives to differentiate between their real and adopted identity. Pen names are often used to protect the artist’s real name from public scrutiny, as well as to avoid confusion with other authors with similar names. Pen names are also used to create a brand or persona for the artist, as well as to differentiate between different genres or styles of writing.


The use of pen names dates back to ancient times and has been a staple of the literary world for centuries. Famous authors such as Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) and Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) all used pen names to protect their identities and to establish a unique persona for their work.


BENEFITS


Using a pen name often has its advantages. It can, as I’ve said, protect the artist’s identity and avoid confusion with other authors with similar names. It can also give the artist more freedom to explore different genres or styles of writing without being tied to their real name or to an audience that might prefer only one style or genre


For example, if a writer uses their real name to write a romance novel, they may want to use a pen name to write horror stories, so as to not confuse their readers. This way, the artist can create a unique brand for each genre or style of writing.


Another benefit of using a pen name is that it can help the artist create a sense of mystique or anonymity. This can be especially useful for authors who write about controversial or taboo subjects, as they can avoid public scrutiny or backlash.


COPYRIGHTING YOUR PEN NAME


While the use of a pen name can offer many benefits, it’s important to be aware that a pen name is not legally protected. If someone else decides to use your chosen name, there is no legal recourse for stopping them. However, there are ways to protect your pen name from being used by others.


One way is to copyright your name. This will prevent others from using your name without your permission. To do this, you’ll need to register your pseudonym with the US Copyright Office. This will give you the legal right to use the name and will also protect you from any legal action if someone else tries to use it.


Another way to protect your pen name is to register it as a trademark. This will give you exclusive rights to use the name and stop others from using it without your permission.


HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT PEN NAME


Choosing the right pen name is an important decision and should be done with care. Here are some tips for choosing a memorable, unique and legally protected pen name:


  1. Make sure the name is easy to pronounce and spell.

  2. Avoid names that are too similar to other authors or artists.

  3. Make sure the name reflects your brand and the type of work you do.

  4. Avoid names that are overly long or complicated.

  5. Research your chosen name to make sure it’s not already in use.

  6. Make sure the name is legally protected by copyright or trademark.


HOW TO USE A PEN NAME


Once you’ve chosen your pen name, it’s important to use it consistently across all of your books and other published works (unless you are purposely choosing a different name for a different genre, such as when J.K. Rowling writes as Robert Galbraith). This will help create a sense of continuity and recognition for your brand and help to protect your identity.


Make sure to use your pen name on all your social media accounts, websites and other online platforms. This will help to create a cohesive brand and will also help to protect your identity.


IS A PEN NAME A GOOD IDEA?


The use of a pen name can offer many benefits. However, there are some drawbacks to using a pen name that you should be aware of.


For example, if you use a pen name, it can be difficult to personally get recognition for your work. This is because it can be difficult for readers to find your work, as they may not be able to connect your real name to your pen name.


It can also be difficult to establish a professional reputation when using a pen name, as potential employers, literary events, or collaborators may not be able to connect your real identity to your work.


THE PROS AND CONS OF USING A PEN NAME


Pros:


  • Protects your identity from public scrutiny


  • Creates a unique brand for your work


  • Allows you to explore different genres or styles of writing


  • Can help to create a sense of mystique or anonymity


  • Can be legally protected


Cons:


  • Can be difficult to get recognition for your work


  • Can be difficult to establish a professional reputation


  • Can be difficult for readers to find your work


PEN NAME ALTERNATIVES


If you decide a pen name isn’t for you, there are other alternatives to consider. For example, some authors choose to use a combination of their real name and a pseudonym, or an alteration of their full name into a pseudonym. This can be a good option if you want to protect your identity but still get recognition for your work. (For example, Jane Doe Smith might become J.D. Smith.)


Instead of using a pseudonym, you could just use your own name! A writer's brand is not merely confined to their name; you can still build a successful brand without creating false aspects of yourself. Using your real name instead of a pen name can be an empowering and liberating experience.


Taking ownership of your work and proudly putting your name on it can give you a confidence boost and inspire you to create work you are proud of. It can also create a lasting legacy that you can be proud to share with your family and friends.


Additionally, being open with your true identity can lead to more opportunities for collaboration and connection with a variety of people. All in all, using your real name can be a rewarding experience that can lead to meaningful connections and experiences.


CONCLUSION


The use of pen names has been around for centuries and can offer many benefits, from protecting your identity to creating a unique brand for your work. However, there are some drawbacks to consider before choosing a pen name. It’s important to do your research and make sure the name is legally protected before using it. If you decide a pen name isn’t for you, there are other alternatives to consider, such as using a combination of your real name and a pseudonym.


No matter what you decide, make sure the name you choose reflects your brand and the type of work you do. With a bit of research and some careful consideration, you can find the perfect name to represent you and your work — or, of course, stick with the name you have!


Thank you for reading this week’s column on the HIP Weekly. We appreciate you spending your time here with us today and hope to see you again next week. Stay positive and productive!


Written by:


Joshua Adams

Senior Editor

Huntsville Independent Press


\\


ABOUT HUNTSVILLE INDEPENDENT PRESS


Huntsville Independent Press is the premiere publishing imprint of the Southeast United States, and we want to help you, the author. HIP provides, at no cost to our signed authors, a better solution for the publication of your story. Our contracts are non-restrictive and offer higher royalties for our authors. No HIP advance is taken out of royalties. Your advance from us is a one- time payment for the privilege to publish your book and is not a loan. Our passionate team of editors work diligently to ensure that the uniqueness of your story is preserved through the editing process. While you’re here, feel free to look around to see if Huntsville Independent Press is the right home for your work. We are always happy to have talented authors find a publishing home here with us.

bottom of page