Challenge,  On Writing

Pen Names…

Some More On Pen Names…

A friend wrote me and pointed out that I was a little harsh on not needing pen names in the indie world in a recent post. He reminded me that there are many reasons to use pen names, something I know and tell people all the time.

Reasons to use pen names in indie…

  • You write erotica and other stuff. Keep the erotica under a pen name.
  • You are a doctor or some such thing in real life and don’t want the fact that you write fiction out to your clients.
  • You work in law enforcement or law and write mystery or crime or thriller. Yeah, might want a pen name.
  • Your name is the same as a big name writer or movie star or some such bad luck. Change your name, don’t fight that fight.

Being afraid of what your family might say or other baseless fears is not a reason to hide your work behind a pen name. That will certainly cause issues in the future.

Things to think about with a pen name…

  • When you decide on a pen name, research it to make sure no one else is using it.
  • Make sure you don’t mind using he pen name and being called by that name in public.
  • Get a DBA form from your state or government and set up a bank account with that name.

The reason for using a pen name in indie publishing is all personal, unlike the business reasons we had to use pen names in traditional publishing.

For years I have been trying to track down all my pen names and get them on a list.

Here is some of the names I have written and published books and stories under at one point or another over the last 49 years.

  • Dean Wesley Smith (my real name)
  • Dean Smith
  • Dean W. Smith
  • Wesley Dean
  • David Wesley
  • Edward Taft
  • D.W. Smith
  • D.W. Schofield
  • D.W. Woodhead
  • Sandy Schofield (with Kris, about ten novels like Aliens and such.)
  • Kathryn Wesley (with Kris, about ten novels like The Tenth Kingdom and Trek.)
  • Eric Kotoni (A Star Trek book I wrote under his name from an idea he had and he forced Pocket to put my name on the inside so it broke the NDA.)
  • Johnathan Frakes (A science fiction novel I wrote under his name and he forced Tor to put my name on the inside so it broke the NDA.)
  • Fred Stoeker (A thriller I wrote under his name and he forced Random House to put my D.W. Smith name on the cover so it broke the NDA.)
  • D.W. “Prof” Smith (A Captain Proton full pulp novel I wrote to honor E. E. “Doc” Smith’s writing style for Pocket Books. Also wrote a couple short stories under that name for Amazing Stories.)
  • Ray Hamil (A pulp story I wrote for Pocket Books to honor Raymond Hamilton.)
  • Don Simster (Another pulp story I wrote for Pocket Books to honor different pulp writer’s styles.)
  • At least a half dozen novels more I can’t claim due to NDA.

And I am convinced I have forgotten a number of the names I could tell you if I could only remember to write them down when I run across them. Gaming novels and such. Ahh, well. Enough for now.

Not bad off the top of my head since at the moment I can’t find my pen name list. Sigh…



  • Philip

    Great post, as usual. I’m an attorney so I use a pen name. I work in house for a company and people can get a little weird about things.

    To your point about not minding being called the pen name in public: I use my real first name for that reason. I only changed the surname. I did the old porn star method: took the name of the street I live on.

  • Michael W Lucas

    Big “ditto” on the movie star thing. I share a name with one of the world’s best known gay porn stars. Totally not worth fighting, I added my middle name and moved on. I also registered domain names on a couple other variations of my name, like M W Lucas and Mike Lucas and so on, just in case I needed fallback identities.

    I also published some work in the 1990s under a secret pen name, because I specifically did NOT want that tied to my identity.

    Pseudonyms are coats. If it’s snowing, don’t yell at the clouds. Put one on and move on.

  • Brad D. Sibbersen

    I created a pen name solely because, as a little kid, I always wanted one. It just seemed so cool to ten-year-old me. Maybe the most absurd reason to have a pen name, but at least i checked that childhood dream off my list! Only one book under that name, in a genre I don’t generally write in, and I’ve dropped tons of not-very-subtle hints in my other books as to its existance.

  • Diane Whiteside

    Another reason for using a pen name: spouse is a federal judge (or other federal, state, etc appointee) who must report ALL income sources for self and spouse.

    Yes, this happened.

  • Philip

    Also, my youngest son has the same name as a prolific author so if he ever wants to write he’ll need a pen name. Coincidentally, it’s the same name you have!

    • dwsmith

      Me and 16 billion other humans. I felt really bad for the coach of South Caroline basketball who wrote books under the name Dean Smith. I sadly just buried his books under Star Trek and Men in Black and Spider-Man and a ton of other media books.

  • C.E. Petit

    Sometimes the preexisting-author problem can be grimly amusing. About a century back, a high-ranking member of a European government wanted to write as Firstname Lastname. Unfortunately, there was an already-published-and-fairly-well-known author from Over Here using that very name. The politician wrote and essentially demanded that the Yank adopt a pen name or something else, as the politician had a lineage going back centuries. The now-forgotten Yank said “No, I was published first, you do something else”… and thus came the moniker Winston S. Churchill (a name he never used for anything else).

  • Sheila

    I use a pen name because I’m a woman. Sad, but seemingly still true that men don’t like SF written under female names. I know, exceptions, but when I was growing up (I’m about halfway between you and Kris in age), it was the norm. Plus, I had a name I really liked, actually wanted to legally change to to it, but instead it’s a pen name.

    I think it’s good to break stories up into genres with vastly different ones under different names. Doesn’t mean readers of all kinds can’t know it’s you, but still, easy for them to pick which books they want.

    But, the good thing about being self published means I can make my own choices. And I can let others do the same. 🙂

    • dwsmith

      Sheila, wow, someone fed you a major load of horse-pucky. Over half the major writers of sf are women, not the least of which is my wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch who just won another Asimov’s Reader’s Choice Award. Comments so uniformed like yours just piss the hell out of most women sf writers I know. (Trust me, you don’t want Willis, Bujold, Nye, Cherrie, and all the others mad.) And it is certainly shows disrespect for the amazing women writers who came before. Ursula would just shake her head in sadness. Sigh…