Writing and Publishing

Pen Names

Authors use pen names for assorted reasons. Here are some that come to mind.

To Hide Their Identity

Sometimes an author needs to not identify themselves to protect them and their loved ones. This might be because they write about a highly volatile topic or a significantly personal one.

A pen name protects them and keeps them safe.

To Experiment

Some established authors want to try a different genre without it having any possible negative impact on the sales of their existing books. A pen name accomplishes this.

To Avoid Embarrassment

Sometimes authors grab a pen name to separate them from their genre.

One example of this might be someone publishing erotica but who doesn’t want anyone to know. Of course, there are other situations as well, such as the soccer mom and PTA president writing graphic horror or the gruff construction worker writing romance.

To Not Confuse Readers

A fourth reason to use a pen name is to avoid confusing readers. For example, an author of Amish romance might use a pen name for their sci-fi books.

This isn’t to imply that some readers wouldn’t enjoy both genres, but most won’t—and might stop reading the author altogether. Yes, the book cover should identify the genre, but some readers will still miss that.

In addition to readers, genre hopping can also confuse the Amazon algorithms and start suggesting the wrong books to the wrong readers.

My Take on Pen Names

My recommendation is to avoid pen names whenever possible. It quickly becomes too complex and is too time consuming to manage.

Yet, I’ve gone this route—sort of—with a quasi-pen name.

Most of my writing is biblical Christianity for the Christian market. I publish those books using Peter DeHaan.

Yet I also write for the business market, including my book about writing and publishing, using my full name, Peter Lyle DeHaan.


I don’t want to confuse readers (or Amazon), so I need to make a delineation, but I can’t use a real pen name because I have two PhDs, one relevant to each area. It’s hard to claim PhD status on a pen name.

When I’m ready to publish fiction, I plan to do so under a third name: P D Haan, which when you say it, sounds like my real name. I don’t anticipate much reader overlap between these three areas, so I’ll minimize confusion by using three somewhat different names.

My three pen names are not a secret, but I think using them does make marketing sense.

Pen Names Conclusion

When it comes to pen names, do as I say, not as I do.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: Successful Author FAQs: Discover the Art of Writing, the Business of Publishing, and the Joy of Wielding Words. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book Successful Author FAQs for insider tips and insights.

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.