Do I need to use a pen name?

Using a pen name is optional but can be useful in certain circumstances.

Reasons to use your real name

Reasons to use a pen name

You’re writing a business book that you’ll use as marketing collateral

You’re an expert in your field

You’re writing a memoir

You want a book published “in your name”

You plan to promote the book to your community/network

You’re writing “controversial material” (sex, drugs, violence)

Privacy is important to you

Your author brand clashes with your real-life brand

There’s already an author with your name

Your name doesn’t suit your genre

How do I choose a pen name?

  • Search for “rare surnames”
  • Look at a map: street names often provide good surnames
  • Choose a name with the same initials as your real name
  • Pick the first name or surname of a favourite book character or hero
  • Search your family tree for interesting ancestral names
  • Try an online name generator


A name that suits your genre
A name that’s rare or unique
A name that’s memorable and easy to spell


The same (or very similar) name as a famous person
Using initials – full stops can create inconsistency


Using the exact same name for all future books is very important for your author brand – plus many platforms won’t recognise variations as the same author:

Dr M Brown/Michael Brown/M J Brown/Dr Mike Brown/Michael J Brown/Doctor Mike

Pick one and stick with it!

You can download a printable pdf of this page here

Other relevant articles: