Authors Famous Authors Who Used Pen Names  

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Think you really know your favorite author? It may be surprising to you to learn that a number of famous authors are actually using a pen name, pseudonym, or nom de plume. In fact, the use of a pen name in place of an author's real name has been quite popular throughout history of writing for a variety of reasons, from avoiding a political danger due to a controversial literary work, avoiding a previous failed attempt at literary success, or utilizing a false name in order to completely distance and author from his or her public identity to write a different genre.

Who are some famous authors who used pen names? You might be surprised. Some of the authors featured here are regarded as the most beloved in the industry and many are even Nobel Peace Prize or Pulitzer Prize winners.

You’ll find authors such as Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, J.K. Rowling, Nora Roberts, Anne Rice, Stephen King, Louisa May Alcott, the Bronte Sisters, and many other authors who used pen names that might surprise you.

Think you know your favorite writers? Read on to find out which authors have used pen names.
Mark Twain is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Famous Authors Who Used Pen Names
Photo: A.F. Bradley/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Pen names: Mark Twain, Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass, Josh

Clemens assumed a number of pen names before settling on Twain, after years of working on Mississippi riverboats where the term "mark twain" was shouted out as a way to mark the depth of the river, as measured on a rope. In Life on the Mississippi, Twain explains, "I was a fresh new journalist, and needed a nom de guerre; so I confiscated the ancient mariner's discarded one, and have done my best to make it remain what it was in his hands."

Birthplace: Florida, Missouri, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

Works: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, The Prince and the Pauper, The Mysterious Stranger, + more

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Benjamin Franklin is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Famous Authors Who Used Pen Names
Photo: David Martin/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Pen names: Mrs. Silence Dogood

When Benjamin Franklin was a teenager living in Boston, his older brother James founded the The New-England Courant as the colonies' first independent newspaper. Franklin had been dying to write letters for publication in the paper, and when those letters were rejected, he adopted the persona of a middle-aged widow and his letters were gladly accepted and printed, and are said to have been widely read. The ruse ended when Franklin's brother discovered Dogood's true identity, and young Franklin was forced to leave town for Philadelphia.

Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

Works: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, Compleated Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin, Bite-size Ben Franklin, The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, + more

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J. K. Rowling is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Famous Authors Who Used Pen Names
Photo:  Daniel Ogren/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Pen name: Robert Galbraith

J.K. Rowling, author of the famous Harry Potter series, assumed her pseudonym in order to “publish without hype or expectation.” She called it a “liberating experience” and “a pure pleasure to get feedback from publishers and readers under a different name.” In 2013, Rowling published The Cuckoo’s Calling under her pseudonym.

Birthplace: Yate, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom, England

Works: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry Potter: Symphonic Suite, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, + more

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Joe Klein is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Famous Authors Who Used Pen Names
Photo: David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0

Pen name: Anonymous

Joe Klein doesn’t just write political commentary for TIME. In 1996, he also penned a novel called Primary Colors under his pen name. The book is a roman à clef about Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign in 1992. Klein publicly denied several times that he was the author, but eventually came forward at a news conference. The New York Times reported that Klein protected his identity in the same way a journalist protects his or her sources. “It wasn’t easy. But I felt that there are times when I’ve had to lie to protect a source, and I put this in that category,” he said at the conference.

Birthplace: USA, Albany, New York

Nationality: United States of America

Works: Primary Colors, Politics Lost: From RFK to W: How Politicians Have Become Less Courageous and More Interested in Keeping Power than in Doing What's Right for America, Woody Guthrie. Die Biographie., Bill Clinton, Colores Primarios, + more

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