Pen name, pseudonym, nom de plume — a name (besides your own) that you can write and publish under. Pen names aren’t just for fun; in fact, many authors used pen names to conceal their identity because they were writing against the church, writing about things their clients wouldn’t approve of, or they wanted to reach a different type of audience. A lot of women hid their identities behind pen names (J.K. Rowling, E.L. James, and George Eliot) in order to appeal to an audience they were targeting or, in Eliot’s case, to even be able to published).
Although pen names are not necessary, they can help you sell more books, reach a wider audience, or help you hide your identity. Whatever the reason, get inspired and then find out how to craft your own pseudonym.
Famous Pen Names
Get inspired by these famous pen names and then read on to create your own.
Now that you’re inspired, create your own name.
Step 1: Create a Name
If you already have a pen name ready, move onto step 2, but if you need to come up with a pen name, take a look at these creative ideas.
Use Your Initials: I might become K.R. Falandays or maybe R.K. Falandays. or R.K. Or maybe I want to use my first initial and middle name: K. Rose. Play around with your given name to see if there are some cool pen names you can come up with.
Reference Something You Love: Sunflowers? Halloween? Pictures? Ice cream? See if you can use something you love: S. Flower. K.R. Halloween. I.C. Sunflower.
Use a Street You Used to Live On: K.R. Bendingbow, K. Rose Bendingbow. K.R. Fourth.
Use a Nickname: Do people call you Busy? Tiny? Kallie? Whatever your nickname, use it to create your pen name.
Step 2: Run a Search
A Google search isn’t the be-all end-all of pen names, but you’ll want to see if anyone else is writing under the pen name you want. If they are, it doesn’t mean you cannot write with that name, but it’ll be harder for your readers to distinguish it.
Check Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) to make sure the name isn’t already registered.
Step 3: File your FBN or DBA
You can use a pen name generator like this one, but you’ll want to make sure you file a Fictitious Business Name (FBN) or a Doing Business As (DBA).
Step 4: Register at the copyright office properly
The copyright office is no stranger to pseudonyms, and they recommend that you can leave your real name blank, enter your pseudonym on the copyright page, note it is such, and leave out your real name. They do suggest that you talk to an attorney about how this could influence any “business dealings” under that name.
Step 5: Set up your online presence
Grab a domain name, Instagram account, Twitter handle, FB page, and all the social accounts you want so you can actually interact with fans (yes, fans!!) once your book is live.
Step 6: Market under your pen name but register taxes under your legal name
Of course you’ll have to pay taxes, but since your pen name isn’t associated with a social security number, you’ll want to submit taxes under your legal name…and yeah…that includes any taxes required from your book sales.
Step 7: Submit properly
If you’re submitting your work to agents or editors, make sure you include both your real name and your pseudonym when you submit.
As always, be careful. If you wouldn’t do something under your legal name, don’t do it under a pen name. It’s true that some authors try to get around their contracts, defame their ex-friends, and use a pen name for illegal or dangerous activity, but you can still get in trouble for tax fraud, contract breaches, and defamation of character just like you would if you were writing under a pen name.
Step 8: Copyright considerations
When you’re registering for copyright, list your real name under Copyright Claimant and Pen Name under author!