|Royalty-free image, courtesy of FOTOLIA|
1. Your name is similar to that of another famous author, e.g., Stephen King, Dan Brown. Yeah, at first it might be fun to think that the similarity to such a famous name will help you. Think again when it comes to would-be fans Googling your name, only to wade through hundreds of webpages about the other author. Will that help them find your website or Twitter page then? No. Get a pen name.
2. If your real name became known, the genre you're writing in might interfere with your personal life or other career. Recent example, the hoopla about the teacher who writes erotica. I didn't comment on it in writing and I'm not about to do it here. That's what my buddies are for, and trust me, we talked about this one! I can see, in this instance, where someone might want to keep a real name under wraps based on subject matter. If you're worried about offending anyone, get a pen name.
3. Lastly, your writing crosses genres. Say you're a, just a random example here, historical fiction author and you want to branch into writing contemporary fiction, horror or non-fiction. If you've gone about branding yourself as a writer in one genre AND people know you write in that genre because it's all you ever talk about, they're going to be (a) confused or (b) pissed when they go to buy your next book and find out that it's completely different. Yes, you can alert some fans or followers beforehand with social media, including Facebook fan pages, etc. But why confuse people? "Wait, he doesn't write science fiction any more? Now it's erotica? Is he doing both?" There's a reason why Nora Roberts (a pen name, by the way) also writes suspense and police procedurals under yet another pen name, J.D. Robb.
I'm taking a page from Nora Roberts (wish it involved her money or following, too!) and using a pen name for my next work. It's not historical fiction. Why do I feel the need to use a pen name? I am still building a brand as a historical fiction writer, but when I want to branch out beyond that, I don't want to create confusion. I want anyone who Google's Lisa J. Yarde books now or in the future to know me as a writer in one genre, not to be confused as to why or if I've suddenly switched to writing some other genre full time. My other work doesn't complement historical fiction at all. Since I plan to write historical fiction until I die (I'm not joking, I've got at least ten other books mapped out and by the time I've finished them, I'll have more), it's what I plan to build my public persona on. As for that pen name? Nope, I'm not telling you.
Have you ever used a pen name? If so, why?