The subject of pen names has been explored brilliantly and in depth at various writer's blogs around the blogosphere. In fact, Rachelle Gardner has also discussed it today on her blog, so please visit her there for some great advice.
As a writer, there are several reasons you may want to use a pseudonym. You may have a job or be looking for a job and want to keep your writing and working lives separate. Imagine you work as an elementary teacher by day and write erotica or romance by night. It could be inconvenient to have your employer....or parents....google you and find out about your other life. A pen name might be in order if you just don't like your name, or it's very common and you share it with a lot of other people, or it's the same or similar to a celebrity or another author. If you're planning on writing in several genres, it may be prudent to have a pen name to keep your writing life neatly organized.
Interestingly, whether or not to use a pen name is a question that we ask each of the authors we interview on Critique This WIP and there have been some intriguing answers, so clearly there are as many opinions on the subject as there are authors.
For a combination of these reasons, I've come to the conclusion that I need a pseudonym. It's a question that each of us in my critique group, Critique This WIP, has considered recently. We've been discussing it amongst ourselves for a while now and we all pretty much came to the same conclusion. Some of us have jobs that we want to keep separate from our writing lives, some of us have common or not very "writerly" sounding names, some of us don't want our family to be affected by our writing, so we've all decided to take pen names.
The fun came for all of us in selecting pseudonyms we could feel comfortable with. Tessa was already using a pen name, so the issue was a moot point for her, but the rest of us struggled to find names that "felt" right, that we could comfortably assume and not feel like we were playing at pretend. I've selected the name Mara Nash (come follow me over there, too!), and will now begin building a web "presence" in her name.
I'm nearly finished with revisions of my first novel and will be sending it out to betas soon, then beginning the querying process, so I felt it was prudent to begin the process of assuming my pseudonym. An interesting point Rachelle made in her blog post on pen names is that writers should start the query process from the beginning using their pseudonym. Do all of your correspondence using your pen name, and identify yourself in that way. You don't need to tell the agent it's not your real name until they offer you representation. This is good information to know, and something I had no idea about before I read her blog post. So, thanks Rachelle!
I'd be interested to know your feelings about pseudonyms. Do you use one? Why or why not?