What’s My Name?- Noms de Plume

music playing: Shakira,  “Underneath Your Clothes”

Every so often as I peruse writing forums, I come across people worrying over the issue of pseudonyms.   Now, I’m far from an authority on the publishing business.  But one thing I can say with total confidence is that pseudonyms are not an issue.  

So if you want to use one, stop worrying your little head over it.  Really.  Agents/editors don’t care.  In query letters to magazines, I’ve always put something like,  “TITLE, written under my PEN NAME, is WORD COUNT….”.  And on the cover page have put:


Real Name

Writing As: XXXX

When I’ve been lucky enough to be published, my pen name has appeared in the magazine.   No questions asked.    Editors/Agents are aware that some authors like to use pseudonyms.   They don’t care if you are using one because, A: you worry about privacy  B: you just want one for the hell of it, or C: you’re running from the law.  (if it’s C, they definitely don’t want to know)

The only thing to think carefully over is the choosing of your nom de plume.   If you become successful you’re going to be stuck with that name.  So it’s probably not a good idea to use a fantasy name generator; or choosing one after  gulping down several mint juleps. 

Also, some authors like to use different pseudonyms for various genres.  And  Edward Gorey made a hobby out of forming anagrams of his name.  My favorite: Ogdred Weary.


Famous pen names:

Samuel Clemens:  Mark Twain

Charles Dodgson:  Lewis Carroll

Pearl Gray:  Zane Grey

Mary Ann Evans: George Elliot

What are some of your favorite famous pen names?


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27 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I have a friend who uses several nom de plumes. They’ve been published under their real name, and under alternate names. They used the additional names for marketing reasons and to keep their more adult genre work separate from work for juvenile markets.

  2. HAHA “you’re running from the law” Nice reason!

  3. Hey Dominique,

    It’s interesting with the adult versus juvenile markets. Some authors easily go back and forth (Neil Gaiman, Charles de Lint, Pratchett come to mind); while others suffer due to some stupid pre-conceived notion that readers have.

  4. Colby,

    Dear Agent X,

    p.s. Please do not show my real name or address to anyone, seeing that I am wanted for three counts of armed robbery and one assault on Barney. Thanks!

  5. Mmm,that’s a great way of doing it. I think it’d be fun to have a pen name. It’d be so cool to capture your writer’s essence with something YOU chose.

    The trick, I agree, is to go with something you’ll never regret 🙂

  6. These are so fun to think up, even if you decide not to use one! One method is to use your own middle name, and your mother’s maiden name.

    I just found this:

    Acton Bell, Currer Bell, and Ellis Bell ( Anne Brontë, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë)

  7. “Samuel Clemens: Mark Twain

    Charles Dodgson: Lewis Carroll

    Pearl Gray: Zane Grey

    Mary Ann Evans: George Elliot”

    Every one of the pen names above sound better than the author’s given name.

  8. Hi AC,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Agreed. I think Zane Grey is the best improvement. Evidently, he thought his real name didn’t fit the Western genre. He was correct. And funny how names have passed from one gender to the other. Now, Pearl sounds so female.

  9. Hey DD!

    Yes, my favorite sisters. 🙂

    I didn’t mention them, only because, while they originally published under “Bell”, their real names have been used for such a long time.

  10. I never knew they had used pseudonyms, very interesting.

    It is funny how so many masculine names become feminine names, like Evelyn, Stacy, Leslie. So many women writers wrote under a name pen name, my fav being James Tiptree, Jr. for Alice Sheldon. I like how she added the Jr. on it, nice touch.

  11. Argh, that should have said “So many women writers wrote under a masculine pen name…” So much for my ability to multi-task 😉

  12. Well I thought about using them because while my first novel falls into the catch all category of general fiction, my second is urban fantasy. I think a pen name is then call for.

  13. I think George Elliot is one of the coolest pseudonyms ever.

    “George Sand” was in reality Aurore Dupin. Cool woman writer who dallied with Chopin on occasion.

  14. DD,

    Another thing I’ve noticed is all the times masculine names have become feminine. But I can’t recall any feminine names becoming masculine.

    I gather that parents thought giving daughters masculine names would make them sound strong. Whereas, a male child could be teased in school for having a “girl’s name”.

  15. Hey Ralfast,

    If you decide you want one, I’m sure you’ll come up with some nice ones. But they’re not vital or anything.

  16. Nancy,

    Thank you for that info.

    When I wrote the post, I kept trying to think of, “the other George”.

    I’ve even read bits about George Sand (cool woman, indeed!)- but my mind went blank.

    I actually love her real name.

  17. I do have one already which is the one I use at AW. Of course, I would like to publish under my own name, but since it is in Spanish, English speakers have a problem with the ~ in my last name. And they switch the f for ph as well.

  18. Some of my favorite pseudonyms are in romance.

    Nora Roberts – J. D. Robb
    Jane Ann Krentz – Jayne Castle – Amanda Quick
    Linda Lael Miller – Lael St. James

    And from fantasy, there’s Rosemary Edghill, whose legal name is eluki bes shahar.

  19. Hey Ralfast,

    If you prefer to publish under your own name- you should! Gabriel García Márquez comes to mind. And Arturo Pérez-Reverte. And they’ve done okay. 🙂

  20. Hey Marian,

    Jayne Castle is very pretty. Normally, I’d think it was a bit much. But it does sound great for a romance author.

    And I’ve always liked the name Rosemary.

  21. I plan is to write my fantasy/sci-fi stuff under a pseudonym and my general fiction under my real name.

  22. I’m actually torn between using my maiden name and my married name…I guess I will decide upon publication;) Ironically I have a couple things published under the first married name which I no longer associate myself with…oh well.
    Let’s not forget that the “George”‘s and the “Bells” wrote under male pen names b/c they could not get published as women writers…so I guess I should appreciate my options 🙂

  23. Hi JanFlora,

    Actually, it wasn’t so much that they couldn’t get published, but that they felt that critics were prejudiced against female writers. (not taking their works as seriously) Unfortunately, I have no doubt they were correct in that assumption.

    Speaking of names- Flora is very pretty.

    And, I understand the worries over using maiden versus married name. That’s why I think I’m going to use a total made up surname.

  24. Hey Tasha,

    I think it’s difficult to go over the top with romance, honestly – there are authors called “Dara Joy” and “Thea Devine”. If I ever wrote romance, I’d call myself Margot Pearl or Mia Paradis. 🙂

  25. Oh, I love the spanish “~” sound!

    I always wanted to have a pen name when I was little, lol. There is a definite coolness to it, that’s for sure, and the secret wrapped up in a pen name is also scrumptious.

    Just call me Kimba Mayflower (please don’t lol). That’s what I’d decided on at age seven — ack!


  26. There are lots of men writing romances under female pen names these days. 😉

  27. Hi Ink,

    Thanks for stopping by here. 🙂

    No doubt regarding the male romance novelists writing as women. I find it odd that the general public assumes one must be a woman to write a certain type of story or vice versa.

    Personally, I’ve been published in male adult mags, but not in any erotica mags geared towards women. The female mag said my work was well-written but too rough for their readers. I must admit, I got a kick out of that. 🙂

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