First off, HAPPY NEW YEAR! This year will be a lot better than 2020, I can feel it. It's the year for new beginnings, truly. You can create, be, or do anything you want to this year! 2020 is now in the past (thankfully) and we can all move on. New year - new you. What will you do?
The perfect way to start over is to get a new name! Completely start fresh with nothing tied to this new name. You can create anything you want and be whoever you want to be. That's exhilarating.
What even is a pen name?
If you're in the writing community, I'm sure you've heard this before. And if you haven't, well, I'm gonna tell you what it is! A pen name is a name created by a writer (usually a made up name or an abbreviation of your real name) in place of your real name on a title of work.
How do I know if I should use one?
Everyone who uses a pen name has their own reasons for doing so. Some may be for legal reasons, professional reasons, genre reasons, or solely because they want to! The best part about using a pen name is that you have creative freedom to choose the name you're known for when you publish your bestseller.
My real name is Danielle Breithaupt, and I use the pen name Dani Bright. I created my pen name because I thought it would be hard for people to pronounce my last name and word of mouth (WOM) is everything in marketing. So I decided to shorten my full name and publish my books under Dani Bright.
Reasons you may want to consider using a pen name: (Remember, there's nothing wrong with using your real name if that's what you want to do!)
* Try something new. Maybe you've been writing a few genre specific books (like romance, etc.) in one name, and now you're interested in writing fantasy. It may be easier to write under a pen name if you already have an established fan base under the romance name. This way you can gather a new niche audience on this new genre you want to write about and marketing will be easier and less confusing.
* Pronunciation of your real name. As I stated above, I use a pen name for pronunciation reasons. The target audience I'm marketing to may not be able to pronounce my name. So if you have a really long name or a name more difficult to pronounce, you may want to consider using a pen name. This is by all means not telling you if your name is hard, you should use a pen name. In a lot of instances, it's important that you do use your real name if you want for any reason.
* Avoid gender stereotyping. As unfortunate as it is, some people will only read romance if it's written by a "woman" and some will only read thriller/horror if it's written by a "man." There are a bunch of authors out there who write in different names to appeal to those kinds of people or simply just because their pen name for that genre fits better.
* Professional reasons. Your job may be really structured or uptight and strict, but your passion is writing erotica. Or you're still in the closet but want to solely writer LGBTQ+ stories and don't want to out yourself. Some want to separate their professional/real lives from their writing, and that's totally okay! People write to escape and sometimes their real life spills into their work, and they don't want their family or friends to know they're writing about them; using a pen name would be a good idea here.
* Just because. This is my favorite reason. Use a pen name just because you can. Make up a name you've always loved or a complete mix of letters until it looks cool enough for you. Pen names don't really have to have any rhyme or reason and don't have to represent your real name if you don't want it to.
If you take anything from this blog post, let it be that your reasons for having or not having a pen name are valid! The best part is the creative control over how you want to be seen for the hard work you accomplish. Do what's best for you and what you'll be happy with in the end :)