Writing LetterCredit: Pixabay Images

Not every authorship name is the writer’s real name. Yes, odds are even you don’t use your real name for all your online membership accounts, blogging, emailing, content writing, comments, so on and so forth. You probably haven’t thought about it in terms of a pen name, alias, nom de plume, also known as (aka), or pseudonym. You may have picked an assortment of random letters and numbers or some obscure character or terminology to serve as your online identity; thus, you have assigned yourself a nom de plume. The days of a strict interpretation of nom de plume being a recognizable and realistic name are long gone. Actors and entertainers have been using one word names or a collection of words and letters to serve as their public identities for many years, for example: Madonna, Sting, Seal, Cher, L.L.Cool J, Ice-T, Vanilla Ice, Eminem, Carrot-Top, are just a few of the pseudonyms currently being used the entertainment world.    

Old BookCredit: Pixabay Image

Online Writers

More and more online writers are posting their work under a pen name (also called pseudonym or nom de plume) or some odd collection of letters and numbers instead of using their real name. Not using your real name is fine, and sometimes preferential as will be discussed further in this article. Creating an alter-ego has a long history of use by some the great authors of history. In fact, it was a necessity for some authors publishing controversial scientific and political messages to use a pseudonym disconnected from their real identity for self-protection.

Books and Authors

Online writing is a different animal and the reasons for publishing under a pseudonym or compilation of letters and numbers does create advantages and disadvantages. Some people feel that it gives them a sense of security or privacy; some just think they have created a cute moniker. However, one of the problems content writers and bloggers are now finding that when they post under a non-name (meaning identifying themselves with something other than a recognizable moniker), their work may be scraped-up or stolen and re-posted by someone else under their own identity. When you use a non-name it’s difficult to impossible to fight for your copyrights when your hard work is stolen. Let’s continue to look at why authors use of a pen name; why are they used; who are some of the authors that use them; and how to create or select one of these aliases.

NOTE to Readers: To avoid the redundancy of the term “pen name,” and to avoid excess word density issues that adversely affect Google, I’ll use the acronym PN in place of pen name from this point forward until the final paragraph. Nom de plume, pseudonym and moniker will continued to be used for that purpose as well.

BooksCredit: Pixabay Images

Who is the Real Author of the Book

PNs can actually be a fun thing to do. Some writers find it advantageous to use a separate identity when they write in more than one genre. For instance, if you write romance novels and science fiction stories, you might use two pseudonyms, one for each genre. In this way you can establish and maintain a relationship between the readers of that genre with that specific writer identity; that is your alternate ego author who just happens to specialize in that genre.

The etymology of the term nom de plume is that it is a British phrase; although the phrase nom de guerre already existed in France and later the term guerre (war) was changed to plume referring to a pen.

One thing to say right up front is, don’t expect your PN to keep your true identity secret for a long time. With the internet and network of critics searching information about authors and books, it is difficult to really expect to maintain anonymity for very long. This happened to Stephen King after he published a few novels under the pseudonym Richard Bachman and critics eventually recognized the similarities in writing style.

A Brief What and Why of a PN

 To protect you and your family: This was the case with the science fiction writer Alice Bradley Sheldon (Alice Hastings Bradley), a former WWII Army Air Force Intelligence career field and later for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), who had several personal reasons for writing under the names James Tiptree, Jr. and Raccoona Sheldon.

To mask or shift gender: Anne Brontë wrote under the pseudonym Acton Bell to imply a masculine writer. Sharon M. Kava used the false identity of Alex Kava. Arthur Davison Ficke wrote under the feminine name Anne Knish.

Disguise for prolific writers: Sometimes an author feels the need to disguise the fact that they publish a large volume of work over a short period of time. Dean Koontz wrote under the nom de plumes of Aaron Wolfe, Brian Coffey, David Axton, Deanna Dwyer, John Hill, K.R. Dwyer, Leigh Nichols, Anthony North, Owen West, and Richard Paige.

Credibility: A writer may also want to establish credibility for writing in one genre and later write in another genre.

Branding: PNs are also used for unifying and branding purposes involving multiple authors. The Hardy Boys series was written under the identity of Franklin W. Dixon and Nancy Drew mysteries written under the identity if Carolyn Keene, even though in both cases there were several different authors involved in creating both series. Branding also includes the idea of using one PN to encompass collaborative groups of authors. Examples include: the name Ellery Queen (authors James Yaffe, Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee).

Amusement: Another reason for use of a pseudonym is simply as a means of amusement or to relay a subtle message or as a link to the writer’s history.

Nick Name: Lessor used yet still worth mentioning, an author may have a nick name or “second name” that they are associated with and prefer to write under that moniker. For example a few common nick names or second names are: “Butch,” Chuck,” “Liz,” and “Bud.”


Ahnentafel Herzog Ludwig Family TreeCredit: Ahnentafel von Herzog Ludwig (1568-1593)

Next in “How to Create a Nom de Plume: Part 2 of 3” we will continue with the discussion of who and what these pseudonyms are used and begin our exploration of methods for actually creating your own alternative identity for authorship purposes.