I was thinking about authors who write under pen names / pseudonyms when publishing their books, and how that choice might affect your marketing. Are they an added benefit? Do they make marketing more difficult for you? I'd love to have some authors share their thoughts here on why they chose to either write under their own name or a pen name, and looking back share how that choice influenced their ability to market their books.

If I were to publish a novel today, I would very likely write under a pen name for a few reasons (in my case I think a pen name would actually help with marketing).

  1. "Jennifer Mattern" just doesn't have a good ring to it - I couldn't visualize it on a book jacket. It also doesn't convey anything specific to me (doesn't look like it "belongs" in any particular niche.
  2. Because my business (currently fulltime PR and business writing) is heavily marketed under my name, promotion of a fictional work could actually hurt my visibility with clients down the road (I wouldn't want a novel to overpower my business in SEO efforts for example - something you need to think about these days).
  3. That marketing and business image may not mesh terribly well with the type of fiction I might want to publish, meaning I could end up holding back the novel because of my existing image as a business writer or I could damage my reputation on that front if a novel were completely out of line with my client base.

For me, from a marketing perspective, a pseudonym would make sense if writing fiction. I don't believe there's one right answer to this though. there are certainly cases where publishing under your own name would be preferable:

  1. Your name is already tied to the genre in some way.
  2. You name is tied to nothing writing-wise (you don't have to worry about mixed marketing messages), and you simply prefer seeing your real name in print.
  3. You have a huge following already in another niche or area, and that audience would likely take to your book (you want to leverage that popularity).

I think #3 is the best reason to stick to your own name if you're torn between the two options. If I ever published nonfiction in a niche where I had an audience already built (independent music, pr, freelance writing, etc.), I would undoubtedly publish under my real name.

Now I want to hear what you think. Do you publish under a pen name or your own name? How do you think that choice has affected your ability to market yourself? What other things can you think of as a support for either option, to help new authors make that decision?