category marketing

What to Think About Before Using a Pen Name

By Noelle Stary, Marketing Strategist, 20 Lemons LLC

It has always impressed me how authors come up with such in-depth, detailed stories. How they build the worlds for the backdrop of their story, how they build the depth of characters.

But sometimes there is a conflict between the story written, and the perception the author wants the reader to have of herself.  Sometimes the author’s personal life or business life is in conflict with their goals as an author. For example, an elementary school teacher writing a very sexy book, a corporate executive whose fiction career might create doubts or conflict with his board of directors, an author who doesn’t want family to know that those “fictional” characters hit a little too close to home, or even an author who wants to write in several genres.

Some authors decide a pen name will help keep the goals of their book and personal or business life separate. Each and every case is different and unique, but regardless of why you feel you need a pen name, I always recommend to start with end goal first.

Answer the questions below to help you decide if having a pen name is right for you.

Step 1:  Where do I want to go?  

  1. Where do I want to be in the future, say the next 3-5 years?
  2. How many more books am I planning to write over the next decade? Will my personal brand be important to them.
  3. Do I want to be the brand (as the author), or do I want the book/books to stand on their own?

Step 2: Where am I today?  

  1. How developed is my personal/business brand today?
  2. What type of following do I have right now?
  3. How am I perceived by the public today?

Step 3. What are the pros and cons of a pen name?


  1. I’m looking for a fresh start
  2. I want to write multiple genres, and you don’t want to confuse your core readership
  3. I don’t want to mix my current brand with my new brand


  1. Getting PR is harder – no book signings, no pictures
  2. I’m already working hard to brand myself, do I have time/money to branding a pen name, too?
  3. Future Identity Problems
  4. Contract Problems

Once you have answered all these questions you can more clearly determine if a pen name is the right choice. The decision on keeping your own name or changing it is personal, and everyone’s journey is a little different. Regardless of which road you choose to take, make sure you take time to look at the options so you can make an informed decision.

To learn more about Noelle Stary, or 20 Lemons visit us online.

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