Do Indie Writers Need a Pen Name?

Some indie writers operate under a carefully chosen pen name. Is there an advantage to this? Does it increase the author’s ability to sell his or her works? When I set out to become an indie, I thought the strategy had some merit. Subsequently, I had cause to reconsider.

Mark Twain

Mark Twain is probably the most famous pen name. A special nom de plume can make you stand out, but there are other pros and cons. (Image: public domain.)

About two months after I decided to become an indie author, I discovered that I would not have, as I confidently expected, exclusive use of my somewhat unusual surname in the fantasy genre. I finally thought to search Smashwords for “Cotterill” and found that one Rachel Cotterill (in the UK) has two fantasy novels already listed on the site. The “Cottrell” spelling of our name is common, but “Cotterill” is much rarer so this seemed a bit of bad luck. It is not that I begrudge Rachel Cotterill the use of the name, naturally, but I had the idea that a unique surname would give me an advantage in making sales. After all, a search that brings up only your books must be better than one that brings up a whole list of books by people with the same name; right?

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