Need help submitting your writing to literary journals or book publishers/literary agents? Click here! →
We received this tricky question from one of our readers recently, and we thought it was a great one!
Hi, I have a question regarding pen names. Your articles are very informative and helped a lot, but there’s still one question I have left. I am beginning my first novel. I chose the pen name Hunter Field for two reasons: First, I’ve always wanted an alias; second, my real name is not easily spelled, pronounced, or remembered. I am about to introduce myself to a group of NaNoWriMo authors in my local area. All of my Internet personas are under Hunter Field (my blog, my forum accounts, my NaNoWriMo account), so I don’t want to confuse them by introducing myself by my real name and then writing, commenting, etc. as Hunter. What do you suggest?
Unfortunately, there is no one simple answer here, but there are options. When you’re building a Web presence, branding is important—so it’s right to stick to an easy-to-remember pen name across all websites and social networks. When it comes to mingling in real life, the situation can change.
Many (perhaps even most) writers go by their pen names when they are presenting or speaking. They stand up in front of a crowd and say, “Hi, my name is Faker de Plume. Thank you all for coming.”
Later, when the speaking gig is over and said writer is out to dinner with some new friends, he/she might clarify: “Actually, just to be clear, Faker de Plume is a pen name. You can call me by my real name, True Moniker.”
In casual situations, some professional writers who write under multiple pen names will sometimes rattle off all of their pen names, followed by “But you can call me True Moniker.”
At conferences, some writers wear their name(s) on their badges. Those who want anonymity will wear only their pseudonyms. Those who want their pen name to be associated with their real name with often include both names on their badges.
In online forums, it’s not inappropriate at all to use a pen name as your screen name (heck, most people make up crazy things for screen names, and pen names are tame in comparison). A writer can set his or her signature for forums to say:
aka Real Name
Ultimately, it’s about what you’re comfortable with—and there’s really no wrong answer. Some writers want to hide their real names; others don’t care or have good reasons for sharing them. The key is being up front with professionals like agents and editors when you deal with them personally. And if you’re comfortable with both of your names (or all of them) in public, be sure to put people at ease by telling them that they can call you by any of your names.
Read more about pen names:
QUESTION: Do you have a pen name? How did you choose it?