Skip to main content

See also:

Writing the great american novel - part six - nom de plume

Stephen King
Stephen King
Getty Images

Writers change their names for various reasons. Some do it to keep their personal lives personal. Others do it because of fan loyalty. They may write in more than one genre and try to avoid disappointing the fans of a particular genre. Writers change their names to appear to be the opposite gender. Male writers who write romance novels and female writers who write science fiction are just two examples.

Whether an author changes their name or not, it’s usually a personal decision. However, if someone has the exact name of another author or one similar, the publishing company may require a name change. If the author has a name that is difficult to pronounce and/or remember, the publishing company may request the author change their name to a more memorable one. All of these factors should be taken into consideration when deciding on what name to use.

Stephen King
Stephen King Getty Images

Stephen King

Richard Bachman became well known as Stephen King’s pen name. When it was exposed that Richard Bachman was really him, Stephen King had fun with it. He even wrote a forward in one of Bachman’s books. Stephen King’s book, The Dark Half, was inspired by Richard Bachman. It’s the story of a nom de plume coming to life.

Lewis Carroll
Lewis Carroll Getty Images

Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll, the pseudonym used by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, was created to keep his life private. Dodgson, who worked at Oxford University in 1856, would refuse any mail delivered to his office for Carroll. This was done in an effort to promote complete deniability.

Stan Lee
Stan Lee Getty Images

Stan Lee

Stan Lee wrote comics but Stanley Martin Leiber thought he wanted to write more serious works. Soon Mr. Leiber found that his greatest works were the comics. So, Stanley Martin Leiber literally became Stan Lee by having his name legally changed.

Voltaire
Voltaire Getty Images

Voltaire

Francois- Marie Arouet was imprisoned when he created his first work in the 1700s. While incarcerated, Arouet began to regret the things he had done. Desperately wanting to break free of his past and his family, he wrote under the pen name, Voltaire.

George Orwell
George Orwell Getty Images

George Orwell

Eric Arthur Blair lived in poverty as an adult. Not wanting to shame his family with the details of his life, he began writing as George Orwell. He chose “George” because the patron saint of England was George and “Orwell” from his favorite place, the Orwell River.

J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling Getty Images

J.K. Rowling

Joanne Rowling became J. K. Rowling because her publisher thought that her books would sell better if her name was gender neutral. Harry Potter became a huge hit and she eventually could let it be known that she was a female author. But, in the beginning her publishers did not think young boys (her target audience) would buy Sci-Fi novels written by a woman.