Stephanie/Olivia writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.
Even though I get asked this question on a regular basis, I've apparently never answered it on the blog. So today is the day! Should you use a pen name or your real name on your books? What are the benefits? How do you make it known to agents or publishers?
I've heard a variety of industry opinions over pen names, ranging from "they're deceitful and shouldn't be used" to, "Sure, go for it."
Historically, pen names have been used for a variety of reasons. Female authors sometimes chose male pen names so they might be taken more seriously in the world of literature, like George Eliot author of Middlemarch. George Eliot's real name was Mary Ann Evans. (My AP English teacher drilled into us that George Eliot was a woman, and that if we were given an essay question about George Eliot during the AP test, we were to refer to her as SHE. We were told this about once a week, I recall.)
Or Stanley Martin Lieber wanted to save his name for when he wrote novels, so for his comic book endeavors, he opted for a pen name - Stan Lee.
On a more corporate level, pen names often get adopted for series. The Nancy Drew books weren't all written by Carolyn Keene, for example.
But what about you? Is a pen name a smart move?
Regardless of your reason, here are some things to take into consideration.
Your real name will be out there too.
These days it would be basically impossible to completely conceal your real name.
When you're promoting your book, you'll be promoting not just on-line, but in person too. Which means you'll be telling people at school, at work, at the library, at the pool that your book is being published! Oh, happy day! And then they'll say, "I'm rushing over to Barnes and Noble to buy a copy right now!" To which you'll need to respond, "Well, it's not published under Amy Smith. It's published under the name Olivia Piper." (And by the way, I'm staking my claim on that pen name! Dibs!)
Your branding needs to be done under your pen name
If you're trying to build recognition of the name Olivia Piper, then you need to be doing everything AS Olivia Piper. You need to be blogging, pinning, and tweeting AS Olivia Piper.
But what about querying? I would still query with your real name, but when you're talking about your blog or something, you can say something like, "I blog at such-and-such address under the name Olivia Piper, where I have X number of followers."
Maybe a variation of your legal name would be better
When you're at author events, they'll be calling you by your pen name. So if it's going to be too tough to respond to "Olivia" when your name is "Amy" then you might consider a variation of your given name instead.
Using your initials can be a good choice. S.E. Hinton and J.K. Rowling are excellent modern examples. Both these ladies wrote male main characters and were writing "boy books" so initials worked especially well.
Or you can do your first and middle, your middle and last, or your first and your mother's maiden name if you don't want to entirely abandon your given name.
Have questions about pen names? I'll do my best to answer them!