How Many Pseudos Does an Author Need?


You may be surprised to discover that your favorite authors use more than one pseudo. Best Selling Author Nora Roberts publishes under J.D. Robb. Jayne Ann Krentz uses pseudos such as Jayne Castle, Jayne Taylor, Jayne Bentley, Amanda Quick, Stephanie James, and Amanda Glass. Dean Koontz has 11. That’s a lot of pseudos! Is it necessary to use one or more pseudos aka pen names? What’s the benefit? What are the drawbacks of using a pen name? How complicated is it? Let’s find out.

Benefits of using pseudos

1. You get to disguise who you are. Perhaps, your family and friends would be flabbergasted to find out you write erotic, romance novels. Maybe you write science fiction novels but your family wouldn’t approve because they don’t believe in such things. Writing under a pen name could give you peace of mind.

2. You may have a ‘huge’ following in one genre such as mystery and but don’t want to disappoint fans who may not understand why you’re writing a children’s picture book series.

3. If you’re collaborating on a novel series, you may want to use a pseudo. This is a good way to keep your writings separate from the collaboration.

4. Your boss may not be thrilled to know you’re moonlighting as an author. Using a pseudo will keep everyone happy.

5. A pseudo or pen name may carry more ‘weight’ than your birth name. This may not be easy to hear but think about Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain. Which name do you gravitate towards? Which name screams Best-Selling Author?

How to select and use a pseudo aka pen name?

1. Brainstorm for names. After you have a list of 10 names, check with the U.S. Copyright Records; the white pages (if you still receive them), peruse the internet and other information websites. Make sure you don’t select the name of another writer.

Once you find a name you like, try it out. Create a ‘mock’ book cover in Power Point, InDesign, Word or some other program. Step back and look at the name on the cover. How do you feel about it? Do you like it? Can you imagine being introduced at a book signing as (fill in the blank)? Ask supportive family, friends, etc. to look at your book cover — get their reaction. Ultimately, it’s your decision. But feedback can assist you with selecting the ‘right’ pen name.

2. Even if you use a pseudo, readers could find out who you are. Look at Nora Roberts who publishers under J.D. Robb. I found out she was J.D. Robb because my mom told me; she’s an avid reader of her books. When I found out Nora published under J.D. Robb my reaction was, “Who know?” Obviously, I didn’t. Make sure you’re comfortable with readers knowing that you publish under pseudos.

3. Consult with an attorney to see if you must register your pen name as a DBA (doing business as) with your municipality. Remember, cities, states and countries have different laws.

4. You’re allowed to register copyrights under a pen name. However, the time frame of a copyright with your name is your life + 70 years. If you publish with a pseudo it’s the shorter of 95 years from the publication or 120 years from the creation. This can be tricky business — consult a copyright attorney. Know your rights!

5. Sometimes, processing advances and royalties is complicated when you use a pseudo. Make sure you fully understand the process. Again, consult with an attorney and ask the publisher to explain their advance and royalty payment policies and procedures.

If you choose to use a pseudo or pen name, make sure it’s for the right reasons. If you’re trying to escape paying taxes, forget about it. You’ll have to pay them. If you want to ‘blast’ your enemies or naysayers, you can still get caught and face libel and slander charges. Meditate or ponder ‘why‘ you want to use a pen name before you select and use one. It can be fun to use a pseudo, but isn’t the point of publishing to see YOUR NAME in print. It’s something to think about.


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