This post falls under the “somewhat random” category; however, I have recently been thinking about pen names.

Pen names intrigue me. They can be powerful marketing tools for branding a series or even a particular style for an author. Think Lemony Snicket. They can allow an author famous for one type of book to publish in another genre without alienating existing fans. They can be clever characters in the novels themselves like Vordak the Incomprehensible or even allow a first person book to be “by” the character in question.

However, most of the time pen names are used by book packagers with ghost-writing teams to provide a cohesive author name for a series. (The most famous would be Dixon for the Hardy Boys or Keene for Nancy Drew. Neither of these people exist. Both series were developed by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. A more modern example would be James Frey’s new projects.) And this I understand as a logical marketing tool. It is confusing to read 14 books that all sound exactly the same but have 12 different authors. It also can be nightmarish from a shelving perspective since books tend to be alphabetical by author. (39 Clues was a real pain this way.)

What are your opinions of pen names?

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