Post: Should you use a pseudonym as an author?


If someone asks you who J.K. Rowling is, you will undoubtedly know that she’s the author of the Harry Potter series. However, if someone were to ask you who Robert Galbraith is, would you know the answer to that question? If you have read, “The Cuckoo’s Calling” or “The Ink Black Heart,” you might recall that these best-sellers were written by Mr. Galbraith. What you may not know is that “Robert Galbraith” is a pseudonym—otherwise known as a “pen name.” 

It means that the name listed as the author on a book is not the real name of the person who wrote it. In this case, you might be surprised to learn that Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for none other than J.K. Rowling herself! Rowling had reportedly wanted to keep her pen name a secret, and was able to do so, until a partner at a law firm told the best friend of his wife. Shortly thereafter, Rowling’s cover was blown.

Other famous authors who have written under pseudonyms

You have likely read books that were published under pen names and may be surprised to learn who the real authors are behind some of your favorite stories. This list includes a few notable examples:

  • Richard Bachman is actually the well-known prolific author, Stephen King.
  • Brian Coffey is a pen name used by suspense master, Dean Koontz.
  • Mary Westmacott is a pseudonym of Agatha Christie.
  • Narnia author, C.S. Lewis had two pen names—one for poetry, Clive Hamilton and one for novels, N.W. Clerk.

Have you read any books by these famous writers that you didn’t realize they had written because they used a pen name?

Why use a pseudonym if you’re an author

If you are an author who wishes to publish books in multiple genres, you might choose to use your own name for one, then pen names for the rest. It helps to establish a stronger brand when readers can associate your name with a particular niche. For example, I Robot author Isaac Asimov used his own name for this popular Sci Fi thriller. However, he also wrote numerous children’s books using the pen name, “Paul French.” 

Another reason to use a pseudonym might be that you’re striving for uniqueness. This is especially true if your name is similar to an already famous author or celebrity. Maybe your name is difficult to pronounce or spell or remember. Using a simpler pen name might help readers remember your work. Finally, some authors merely prefer to remain anonymous for personal reasons, so they use a pseudonym. Raise your hand if you’re already thinking up names for future books!