Deciding to use a pen name is a decision fraught with difficulty. When will you use it? What will you call yourself?
Take Julianna Baggott. She’s the author of 17 books including Pure, a whirlwind YA dystopian of massive scope that you can start reading on Figment. In Pure, Pressia is struggling to survive in a scarred near-wasteland. Partridge is safe inside Dome, the sheltered land untouched by the destruction, but locked away from the rest of the world. Heavy stuff. Julianna is also Bridget Asher, writer of adultbooks like The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted. She’s also N.E. Bode, author of the middle-grade Anybodies series. Julianna’s different pseudonyms correspond to the different audiences for her books; they’re both practical and playful. (I didn’t notice that “N.E. Bode” reads like “anybody” until it was pointed out to me. Well played, Julianna.)
Of course, not all of us have 17 books to our name(s). So if you’re not as prolific as Ms. Baggott/Asher/Bode, when should you use a pen name?
Your first-person omniscient narrator is a character in your book.
a.k.a. “The Lemony Snicket”
You want to maintain anonymity because it is part of your book’s elaborate back story, which involves the author disappearing from society.
a.k.a. “The Harris Burdick”
You think your name is a marketing liability because a woman writing male main characters is completely absurd.
a.k.a. “The J.K. Rowling”
You’re crazy famous and you want to publish something anonymously so your work can be valued for its own merits but then you kind of let it slip that it’s you because you’re used to selling millions of books.
a.k.a. “The Richard Bachman”
a.k.a. “The Stephen King”
You write Glee slash, and you think your parents would be very disturbed to find out you’ve written Kurt as half-cheetah and Blaine as an alien.
a.k.a. “The Klainer_4_Eva_23321”
You want to bestow your fanciful work with a misleading and unearned sense of authority.
a.k.a. “The Dr. Seuss”
There’s only so much room on a book cover.
a.k.a. “The Lucila de María del Perpetuo Socorro Godoy Alcayaga”