When you’re a researcher or academic writer, getting more publications under your belt is usually a good thing. But even famous authors like Stephen King occasionally had reasons to write under a pseudonym, and you may come across times when it’s better to use a pen name when you publish something you wrote.
Writing a guest post for an academic blog is one of those situations where whether you use your name or a pen name can be a tricky decision. There could be circumstances in which the topic you’re writing about is contractually prohibited, or there’s a conflict of interest. Whatever the reason is, if you decide to use a pen name in your guest post, choose the name you want to use wisely, because it will follow you throughout your scholarly career.
When is a Pen Name Necessary?
Pen names are also referred to as pseudonyms or, in fancy terms, a nom de plume. Whatever you call it, the point is that you’re using a name that isn’t your own to author a book, article, blog, or other publication. Many people choose to use pseudonyms because it takes away the anxiety of how the audience is going to perceive you as the author and lets you write without fear of repercussions. Anonymity goes far in improving our ability to be honest and forthright, but it can still have some drawbacks.
There are lots of other famous authors who wrote under pen names, like Mark Twain, George Eliot, E.L. James, and Sophie Kinsella. The reasons for each of these people to choose to publish their works anonymously are varied, but they all had their rationale behind it.
Sometimes, it’s just easier to use a simpler name if you have a complicated legal name, or to make it more complex if your name is too common and easy to mistake for someone else’s book. In other cases, the field of study you may be writing in could still be in the ages of gender inequality, and you want to come across anonymous so you’re taken more seriously. This isn’t always a female trying to make it in a man’s world, either. The genre of romance novels, for instance, is often seen as a woman’s scene to be writing in, and men are frequently rejected when they try to step in and publish romantic or erotic books.
In still other circumstances, an author could be known for writing one genre and trying to delve into another. This can confuse their loyal readers, so to avoid that confusion, they often switch to pen names.
In the field of academics, scholars often use pen names to avoid conflicts of interest. They could be talking about research that hasn’t been published yet and they want to remain anonymous but still get the information out to the general public.
Still, the most common reason is also the simplest: They want to remain private and keep their lives publicity-free. They might not want their friends and family to know about their creative endeavors, or they could just want to avoid their loved ones becoming public interest.
Things to Keep in Mind When Choosing Your Pen Name
If any of these reasons apply to you and you’re asked to write a guest post for an academic blog or any other publication, there are a few things to remember when you choose your pseudonym.
To start with, you can register a copyright for whatever you author under your pen name, but your copyright length won’t be active as long. Copyrights that aren’t attached to your legal name because you were trying to stay anonymous are harder to defend in court if you are trying to protect against plagiarism.
Should you decide to keep your pen name and use it in the future, you can trademark it and sign contracts under that pseudonym. Signing your pen name doesn’t release you from legal obligations.
Do your best to avoid using another author’s real or pen name. It just gets confusing for both of you.
When you pick your pen name, you might intend on it being a one-and-done occurrence. But you don’t know where that publication will take you, and it could become something that follows you for your career. For that reason, it’s important that you choose a name that you’ll be satisfied with and that will reflect well on you professionally. Imagine if Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, had picked a pseudonym intending to make it a joke and it followed him centuries later! That could be you, so choose your nom de plume wisely.