On using a pen name to write ebooks

Should you be using a pen name when publishing non fiction ebooks? The answer was pretty clear to me from day one.

using a pen nameI cherich my privacy and have come to loath the ever present surveillance system we seem to live in, from Facebook ads to Google tracking… then again, maybe that’s just me.


So, it only made sense for me to use a pen name and to protect that identity (maybe I will detail how in another post).

Moreover, since I work as a programmer at my day job – and was planning on writing books about the same subject – I wanted to avoid any awkward
discussions with the company I work for. You never know who could sue you and take over a portion of your royalties based on fabricated claims…

What I had failed to realize though were the implications of using a pen name, which fully dawned on me when I finished my first “official” draft.

Using a pen name – paranoia sets in

Like I said, my writing activity was a secret I had to keep to myself. I only shared it my wife and exactly two trusted friends.
So when the time came for the much needed honest opinion about my endeavour, my choices were very limited.

I could not just publish a post on Facebook asking for comments and reviews like so many indie authors suggested.

It did not bother me that much anyway, because the only reviews that really matters are those of unbiaised third parties: a freelance editor, your readers, etc. but it is something to keep in mind when thinking about a pen name.

Harder to market

This part frustrated me.. a lot! I am considered an expert in my professional life. I give talks about programming, write tools, scripts, even articles in magazines. Most important of all – from a marketing perspective – my twitter account is followed by a thousand other programmers.

Yet I could not leverage any of this potential readership to jump start my first ebook. My pen name was a nobody, and it was my job to turn him into a rockstar starting from zero.

What a steep price to pay for anonymity…
(Check out these posts detailing how I used Amazon and Twitter to overcame this first hurdle 😉 )

It takes time to build your credibility…again!

I remember getting the following comment on one my ebooks:

“He says he is an well known programmer, but I have never heard of him before. He just shows up of nowhere and pretends to know stuff. Plus, serious writers do not use pseudonymes”.

Why Amazon allows people who did not buy the item to comment is beyond me. But this is the kind of challenge you can get when using a pseudonyme and claim to be an expert in a field.

In that particular case, I had 15 other 5-star reviews to counter his point. In a sense, the ebook took care of its own without needing my help, but you see my point.

This article is not to discourage you from using a pen name. I just want you to properly weigh in the implications of using a pen name so you can do it for the right reasons.

In my case, if I had to do it again, I would not do it any differently… Take this blog for instance 😉


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