Why Nonfiction Writers Shouldn’t Use a Pen Name

nome de plume, mask, pen name Yesterday after a presentation I gave to a MeetUp group, a woman spoke to me about the idea she had for her book. She said she wanted to publish the book under a pen name. When I asked her why, she had some good reasons.

The topic was a bit risque.

She didn’t want people to think she was crazy or weird.

She didn’t want how she would be perceived after writing the book to affect her life or her work.

I asked her if she wanted to do anything in conjunction with the book, such as speaking or coaching. She began talking… As it turned out, the topic of this book represented her true passion and purpose. She really wanted to make a difference in people’s lives by writing this book–and several more after it–and speaking to people and working with them as a healer.

It would be impossible for her to do that if she wrote under a pen name.

I suppose you could make up a name and tell everyone that is who you are–live a false life under a false identity. As I told her, it’s likely that eventually someone will find out who she really is.

Isn’t it better to be authentic? To just be who you are and to own it?

I highly recommend to all nonfiction writers that they use their real names.

Allow yourself to take full credit for your idea and your work. Then bask in the attention you get, good and bad. (Remember, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.) Go out and speak. Seek media gigs. Be who you are. Pursue your passion and your purpose. Live an inspired life as an author, speaker, consultant, coach, healer…Inspire others.

Don’t hide behind a fake name like wearing a mask. Put your name on your book and be proud. Show your face to the world and own your ideas. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

 

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About Nina Amir

Nina Amir, the Inspiration to Creation Coach, inspires writers to create published products and careers as authors as well as to achieve their goals and fulfill their purpose and potential. She is the author of How to Blog a Book and The Author Training Manual, both published by Writer’s Digest Books. A developmental editor, proposal consultant, author and book and blog-to-book coach, some of her clients have sold 230,000+ copies of their books and been published by major publishing houses. A popular speaker and workshop leader, she writes four blogs, has self-published 12 books and is the founder of National Nonfiction Writing Month, also known as the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge.

Comments

  1. Michael says:

    Good thoughts, but I must respectfully disagree. I work for the federal government (under another name) in a sensitive area, and if my “alternate universe” of fiction and nonfiction writing was associated with that name, it would create difficulties. I also have a good friend in a similar situation – if he published his science fiction work under his real name, he would be taken less seriously as an airline pilot.

    • I do understand that there are some cases where a pen name is necessary because of your line of work. A job in the government might certainly be one of them. A job as an airline pilot…not so sure I get that. However, your point is well taken. I most cases, however, I would disagree and I stick to what I said. Another writing coach I know heartily agreed with me on Twitter, as would most others I know as well.

      • I am writing a book under a pen name and I do intend to do workshops, conferences and retreats. I am writing under a pen name because the subject that I am writing on may draw attention from dangerous individuals. As well, I work in a world where people get very jealous of others accomplishments and I would rather avoid all of that. As well I have also written a book on a totally different subject matter and don’t want to appear as being “all over the place.” Lastly, I disclose information regarding my history and overall feel that my co-workers and peers would object to self disclosure as I am a professional in the area of human service and some oppose to using self disclosure and would get confused. I feel that I am better off using a pen name and at some point people I know will discover that I am using a pen name but feel I wll cross that bridge when I get there. I know some very jealous and vindictive people who love sabotaging others and would just rather avoid any attention drawn to myself among those I know. I wielcome any feedback regarding my concerns.

        • Linda,
          While some of your concerns seem valid, such as those related to coworkers, I feel you might be overreacting when it comes to people being jealous, vindictive and sabotaging your success. If the people you know are like this, you might reconsider who you hang around with!

          I write on several different topics. I don’t worry about being “all over the place.” I just assume people will see that I have more than one interest.

          But that’s just me. You have to decide what is best for you.

          Did you see this post on the topic? It’s written by my colleague and friend Carolyn Howard-Johnson: http://writenonfictionnow.com/to-pseudonym-or-not-to-pseudonym/

          Best wishes,
          Nina

          • PS: Linda, if “being all over the place” were your only concern, there are ways to get around that. I’m not saying that each genre you write in will be equally successful, but there are marketing techniques that let you play one genre off the other. I personally am a poet, novelist, author of a series of how-to books for writers and another series of how-to books for retailers. I’ve found ways to show readers how one set of experiences informs the other.

            There are also ways to market by keeping the genres relatively separate without using a pseudonym.

        • All very good reasons to risk the difficulties involved in the marketing of your books, Linda.

    • Absolutely Michael. This is written from a marketing viewpoint. Using a pseudonym will make it harder to market, but there are still time when we must use them. Having said that, using one isn’t always the protection we think it is. For really sensitive things, it’s a good idea to run it by a good attorney. But you knew that. (-:

  2. I am wondering there is an author with the same name as mine. In this case would it be better to use a pen name. I would still use real first name middle name but change last name to my mother maiden name. I just want to keep from getting confused with someone else in book or Google searches.

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