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Pros and Cons of Using Pen Names

There are various reasons why an author uses a pen name, especially for marketing purposes. Read on to find out some pros and cons of using pen names.

A pen name can prove to be highly useful for an author. Also known as a pseudonym or nom de plume, the use of pen names has been prevalent for centuries. Many authors of classic literature achieved fame through their pen names. One example of this is Mark Twain, whose actual name was Samuel Clemens.

There can be various reasons why people prefer to use pen names. Read on to find out about the pros and cons of using pen names as an author.

Pros of Using a Pen Name

There are several advantages of using a pen name as an author. Listed below are some of them.

Marketing and Publishing

One of the major benefits of using a pen name is in the marketing of your book. If your real name sounds somewhat strange, or you think people won’t react positively to your name for whatever reason, a pen name always comes in handy. Often, there are many people of the same name and distinguishing yourself becomes quite difficult. In such cases, a pen name will make your work stand out.

Authors have the freedom to choose any pen name that they want. They can pick a name that is more pleasant to hear, or it is much more memorable. Using a pen name also allows authors to diverge from their standard writing style or genre and explore. They can establish their name(s) in different genres without having to worry about what to focus on.

Improves Your Writing

Regardless of the genre, you have chosen to write, a pen name almost makes you someone else. This is particularly useful if you are writing fiction where you have to bring your characters to life. However, for nonfiction writers, too, a pen name proves quite beneficial.

When you assume a different identity, you are forced to think as a completely different person. According to a study, the more literary fiction you read, the more emphatic you become as a person. Reading fiction gives you the perspectives of different characters and their thought processes. Naturally, it is even more so when you are writing fiction.

Having a pen name gives you much more liberty to express your thoughts without fear of judgment. You can become funnier or more simplistic without compromising your real name. One of the essential skills of an author is having a good command over presenting their ideas in different styles.

Publisher’s Request

It is possible that your publisher has specifically asked you to choose a pen name. This can be because of any reason. Perhaps the sales of your previous book weren’t as much as what your publisher had hoped for. Or, they are not allowed to publish any more books after a certain limit of an author has been reached. In such cases, they will ask you to choose a different name.

A pen name can also be a useful strategy for your publisher as they can market you as a budding new author with lots of potentials. This can help in creating hype in the market as readers will be interested to see what your publisher has in store for them.

Combining Two or More Authors

It often happens that more than one author is working on a book. The other authors can also be ghostwriters. Regardless of what the reason is, it sometimes becomes awkward to have a book written by two or more authors.

In such cases, people prefer to write under one pen name. It makes things a lot easier for the publisher as well as the marketing team.

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Cons of Using a Pen Names

Although we have mentioned some advantages of using a pen name, there are some drawbacks of it too. We have listed some of them below.

Limited Monetary Benefits

Unfortunately, unless you are a successful author with a pen name, you might face some complications in earning money. For all your royalties and advances, you have to do a lot of additional hassle. Even for the subsidiary rights and resale prints, you will face a lot of difficulties.

Limited Marketing

Having a pen name can be good for marketing purposes. Or it can be really bad. Many authors are personally involved in marketing their work through word-of-mouth, social media, and other strategies. However, it is difficult to sell something which is not even under your own name.

Authors have to work a lot to convince the people that the pen name is just an assumed identity of their own reputed self. Pen names become a second identity which means the marketing costs will be even more. It can take years to make a name for yourself in one genre. Having two names will require you to cover two different readership bases.


Loyalty is one of the hardest aspects to achieve for an author. Having a dedicated fan base for a long term is a dream for every author, but only a few manage to achieve this. Using a pen name makes it twice as hard. Fans of your previous work know who you are as a person, and they can connect to you. They may have seen you, interacted with you, and they have a general idea of your persona.

On the other hand, pen names mean you have to hide your real identity. This severely restricts interacting with your long-term loyal fans. Your readers may appreciate your writings, but they also crave for a humane element. By using pen names, you won’t achieve that.

It is possible that your works under a pen name may receive a tremendous amount of success. But even so, the only mode of communication with the readers is through your published works. Many writers who used pen names had to eventually reveal to their readers who was behind their books. This will probably come off as a surprise for the fans, but it somewhat ruins the purpose of using a pen name.


We have mentioned some of the pros and cons of using pen names. But ultimately, adopting one is neither wholly good nor bad. It is simply a marketing tactic that may or may not work in your favor. It gives you the freedom to start anew but also makes it difficult to market yourself. The choice is yours.

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