View Full Version : Using A Pen Name For Non-Fiction?

01-01-2006, 11:14 AM
Can you use a pen name for non-fiction books? Has anyone here done this?

I'm talking self help books, guides with researched info, etc.

Thank you.

Lauri B
01-02-2006, 01:06 AM
Can you use a pen name for non-fiction books? Has anyone here done this?

I'm talking self help books, guides with researched info, etc.

Thank you.

Well, if you're writing a self-help book or a guide with researched info and you're the expert, then no--you shouldn't use a pen name, unless you use that same name in your professional career. For self-help and most nonfiction, credentials count.

I have written books under a couple of different names for a variety of reasons, and it has worked out just fine.

The question is why do you feel you need to?

01-02-2006, 01:24 AM
So if say you are a doctor and are writing a non-fiction book on what drugs you prescribe the most and why, then you would have to use your name because it's your work that is directly behind the research.

But if say you are not a doctor, but come up with the idea to see what doctors are prescribing the most and why, then you can use a pen name?

Just wanted to clarify. By the way anyone can use that example on a book if you like! :)

01-02-2006, 01:33 AM
I think if you want anyone to take you the slightest bit seriously, when writing a non fiction book, you should avoid pseudonyms. With non fiction, particuarly self help, the question might arise "Why should I listen to this person's advice when they won't even fess up to who they really ARE?"

Naturally, there are some exceptions to the rule, but if credibility is based on truth, then why use a pen name that might suggest you're something other than what you claim to be?

01-02-2006, 01:52 AM
Good question Patti. Here's a hypothetical..

Let's say you discover a need in the writing market. It's on the subject matter of needing more info on the fruit selection process. You title the book, "How To Pick Fruit". The book shows you the ins and outs of picking the best fruits with researched data on the best time to buy certain fruits, and the best regions to get them based on how they are shipped.

You talk to over 50 scientists, 50 fruit workers, and research the subject from various books. After you compile all this research, you realize that you don't want to be known as the expert on Fruit Picking. You simply were trying to help out the market, thought it was an interesting topic that may sell, and wanted to just do it. You felt you could make the topic entertaining and also include more data on the nutritious value of fruit. Going into the research, deep down you knew how silly the overall idea is. You also knew that you'd be picked on based on it and that was indeed the major selling point of the book. "Someone wrote a book on fruit picking, look at that, people will do anything for money" people say. But you thought it was interesting and felt to let your sense of humor take control. You think, "Why it could be the definitive guide on fruit picking that every fruit picker in the world is required to read before starting their job". "It could be translated into 100 languages." So you go for it.

So your name is Scott Bobarrel, instead you put on the title, Michael Apple or Steve Applebaum.

The reason you do this is because you currently work in an industry that you wish to publish more serious books on. You may be a doctor, a Lawyer, an Investment Banker, or a CEO. Rather than put out this book and associate with your other non-fiction titles that you know you will eventually write, you instead put it out under a pen name.

That's just my long drawn out analogy. Again, that subject, feel free to use it if you like! As I am sure there is a market need for it! :)

01-03-2006, 01:42 AM
Going into the research, deep down you knew how silly the overall idea is.Odds are that if you know this, so will publishers and agents. Which makes the entire question of publishing it under a pen name moot.

- Victoria

01-03-2006, 01:47 AM
the national amateur belly dancing contest and you decided to write a book on "how to belly dance your way to fame and fortune," I could see how you wouldn't want your name as a professional well respected attorney on the book.

Lauri B
01-03-2006, 03:10 AM
Annie Proulx wrote a lot of seemingly random nf books back in the 1980's, including books on creating brick patios and making cider. She used her real name, and I don't think it's really hurt her career ;-).

I have used a pseudonym for other reasons, and I have also ghostwritten several books (and in those cases I obviously couldn't use my name, since I was supposed to be someone else) but I'm proud of all of the books I've written, and wouldn't write a book about a topic I didn't care about or think was worthy of my best efforts.

I think it's probably more often a matter of needing to use a pseudonym rather than wanting to use one--I would love to have my real name on many of the books I've written, but couldn't. So think carefully before you go that route.