Pen Names – Pros & Cons & WHY?

After publishing 6 psychological thrillers under Louise Jensen which is my real name, last year I published my first contemporary fiction book under the pen name Amelia Henley. Since then I’ve been asked so many questions about why I used a different name I thought I’d write a blog post about it.

My publisher told me to.

Shortest post ever? 

Let me expand it then, there are many reasons to use a pen name and multiple pros and cons.

When I first signed a deal for my debut, ‘The Sister‘, it didn’t even cross my mind to use a pseudonym. I was super excited to finally see my name on the cover of a book. It was such a special moment for me, and my family. My son took his friends into Waterstones and showed them and I felt a glow of pride I’d never felt before.  Of course, then, I didn’t realise it would quickly sell over half a million copies and be translated into twenty-five languages and that a LOT of people would read it. This was really only an issue for me during a smear test when the nurse asked me if I’d written ‘The Sister’ and then proceeded to tell me how much she loved Grace and Charlie which was very nice but probably not the time or the place.  Having a disability and subsequently a lot of medical appointments there are times when I’ve wondered whether I’d have been more comfortable using a pseudonym. Not that I assume people have read my books or know my name but, as the smear test palaver demonstrated, you really never know.

If you want to retain anonymity or have some separation between your writing life and another career a pen name can be really useful.  Particularly if you have a name too similar to an established author. Being called Stephen King may not create any confusion in day-to-day life but in publishing…

There are many other reasons authors use pen names. Reinvention is one of them. An author who hasn’t had the best sales and wants to begin again, or, as in my case, an author who wants to try a different genre.

My publisher (HQ/Harper Collins) loved my debut love story but wanted a separation from my thriller brand (I’m very uncomfortable with the word brand btw). This was liberating in that I could bring something out with no reader expectations and no fear of judgement because although ‘The Life We Almost Had’ is ultimately a tear-jerking love story there is a sci-fi element to it and I wasn’t sure how it would be received. The downside being I had to set up social media accounts in a new name and running two of everything is quite time consuming. In the end my publisher suggested we use ‘Amelia’ as an open pseudonym which was a relief, some publishers have it written into contracts you can’t tell anyone for a stipulated period of time and I am rubbish at keep secrets.

So, who choses the pen name?

My editor wanted me to come up with suggestions I was happy with but then these needed to be run past the marketing department for their approval.

Amelia Henley is the only name I put forward and I’m thankful they approved it because it is very personal. I have three children and for ‘Amelia’ I took two letters from each of their names. ‘Henley’ is an extremely special name to our family.

It’s worked out really well for me having two names (which is just as well as I have a second Amelia book – ‘The Art of Loving You‘ – publishing this July and a new thriller coming in October). One of my career highs and a completely ‘mind blown’ moment was last autumn when both ‘The Life We Almost Had‘ and ‘The Stolen Sisters‘ were published in paperback and I walked into Tesco and saw them both on a shelf together.

If you’re a writer and thinking of using or have a pen name I’d love to hear of your experience and how you chose yours.

The Life We Almost Had’ is currently in its 3rd week at No.1 in Germany and UK readers can currently download the kindle book for just 99p for a limited time from Amazon here.

If thrillers are more your thing both ‘The Surrogate‘ and ‘The Date‘ are also 99p for a short time.

9 thoughts on “Pen Names – Pros & Cons & WHY?

  1. I love hearing why people use a pen-name and how they choose them. I wrote a children’s book so wanted something the could pronounce and spell and it gave my an opportunity to include my mum’s name to include her in my writing journey as she dies when I was a child so wasn’t there to see my ambition achieved.

  2. This is a great post. I’m just beginning my pen-name adventure! I’ve been writing Cornish historical and family sagas for a few years now, and I have a new contract for a series of Scottish crime thrillers, so it seemed logical and sensible to separate the two. I’m going by R.D. Nixon for the thrillers, which is close enough to my own name, but using my two sons’ initials to make it more special. I also write mythic fantasy under my real name, and the reason I’ve kept that the same is that, although the genres are different, the levels of heat/language/violence etc within them are similar. Not so with the crime books!

  3. Interesting. I published my first two under my own name and have always regretted it because of the issues you mention, of separating writing from personal life. I feel I can’t change now, but you set a good example – apart from the awful thought of running even more social media accounts. Good luck with your change of brand even if it is a dirty word.

  4. When perfect lie was happening i wanted to use my maiden name, just so I could rub in people’s faces that claire Gent did something amazing.

    The wife said i was being silly and should stick to my real name…

Thanks so much for reading!

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