What Is a Pen Name

Glossary > Pen Name

💬 Definition of Pen Name:

A pen name, also known as a pseudonym or a nom de plume, is a fictitious name used by an author to conceal their real identity when publishing a book, article, or other written work.

Related questions about a pen name:

Why do authors choose a pen name?

Some authors choose a pen name just to separate their personal lives from their writing career or simply because they choose creative expression through a pen name.

Here are some other reasons why an author would choose a pen name:

  • For privacy – a pen name can conceal their identity so they can avoid unwanted attention.
  • To avoid controversy or criticism.
  • Cultural, linguistic, or gender considerations –  an author may choose to use a pen name to better represent their cultural or linguistic identity or to create a gender-neutral or opposite-gender persona. This may be due to personal preference, marketing considerations, or cultural biases.
  • Marketing – an author may use a pen name to create a brand or a persona that better fits their writing style and establish a distinctive identity in a crowded marketplace.
  • Legal –  some authors choose pen names if they are writing about controversial or sensitive topics or if they are writing under a contract with a non-compete clause.

What are a few examples of authors who wrote using pen names?

Here are some examples of well-known authors who wrote under pen names:

  • Mary Ann Evans, known as George Eliot.
  • Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, known as Lewis Carroll.
  • Samuel Clemens, known as Mark Twain.
  • Eric Arthur Blair, known as George Orwell.
  • Agatha Christie, known as Mary Westmacott.
  • Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, known as George Sand.
  • Nora Roberts wrote under the pen name J.D. Robb.

Is it legal to use a pen name?

Yes, it is legal, as long as the author is not using the pen name to commit fraud or engage in other illegal activities.

Authors who use pen names may need to take certain legal steps to protect their identity and avoid confusion or legal issues. For example, they may need to register their pen name as a trademark or use a legal entity to sign contracts and receive payments. Also, some publishers may require authors to provide proof of identity or sign a contract under their legal name, even if they plan to publish under a pen name.

To ensure they take the appropriate steps to protect their interests when using a pen name authors should discuss this with a legal advisor first.

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