But the literary landscape is changing, and while the pen name still runs amok, it is a serious choice for the budding author. As a victim of the nom-de-plume, I understand both its advantages and disadvantages on a very personal level. While anonymity has a certain romantic ring to it, the truth is that pen names are more of a burden than a blessing. Let this be a warning to all up-and-coming authors: don’t fall prey to the frivolity of a pen name without a sound reason to do so.
Sorry authors, but in the modern world, social networking and online marketing are crucial. Fans want to be able to connect with authors, it’s as simple as that. The more road blocks you put between yourself and your fans, the harder marketing becomes. If you use a pen name, you’re shutting out your current fans (your friends and family, if you aren’t published yet) as well as cutting off your new, potential fans from your personal life.
That brings us to the logistics of a pen name: Maintaining separate email accounts, remembering how to sign your emails, even writing book reviews on Amazon or Goodreads and making comments on Facebook… it all becomes a convoluted mess. It sounds like small stuff now, but when you use a pen name you’re sealing up a can of worms and saving it for later.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good reasons to use a pen name: You might share a name with a well-known author, for example. But I'll be the first to admit that new authors usually find bad reasons to use a pen name. I had lots of bad reasons, but it all boiled down to one thing: I wanted to hide behind a wall so that I could be myself without fear. Instead, I found it harder to be myself while staying hidden behind said wall.
In the end, I realized that it simply wasn’t worth the email-swapping and gender-bending to maintain anonymity. So there you have it. From this day forth, A. B. Riddle is dead, and Amy R. Biddle is taking her rightful place as author of The Atheist’s Prayer and editor of Underground Book Reviews.
A pen name didn’t work for me, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. What you have to decide is whether or not it’s worth it to keep up the façade. And I’m warning you now, it’s a lot more work than you might have imagined.
Amy Biddle is the Editor-and-Chief and President of Underground Book Reviews, LLC. Her debut novel, The Atheist's Prayer, will be published by Perfect Edge Books, an imprint of John Hunt Publishing. You can read a short teaser or visit her website for more info.