One of the dreams most writers share is seeing a book with their name on the cover, but more and more writers are choosing a pseudonym (pen name).
Years ago, finding someone by just knowing their name would have required lots of effort or the use of a private detective.
These days, any search engine can give a person's address and even print out a map to their house in just a few minutes. We can find out if they are married, their kids' names, and about anything else we want to know.
Years ago, authors didn't worry about the dangers involved with using their real name, but today, professional writers talk about stalker fans, scary letters from prison inmates, and identity theft they and their friends have experienced.
I have never had any problems, but, if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't use my real name.
Other reasons to use a pen name aren't so scary.
If your books' sales stink, your traditional publisher or your agent may insist you change your name so that you have a clean slate with book distributors and bookstores who look at your last book's sales numbers before they buy or don't buy your book.
If your next book has a different audience than usual, a new pen name will allow you to attract the right readers and not disappoint your regular readers. For example, if your books are sweet romances, and you decide to write erotica, you don't want to disappoint your fans or lose readers of erotica who think Jane Smith only writes romance with no blatant sex.
Some authors are so prolific that they write under two or more names because publishers don't want to publish more than X number of titles per author a year.
How can you keep your real name secret?
Just choosing a pen name isn't enough. Your real name will appear on the copyright information page.
To avoid this, you'll need to incorporate your pen name so that name will appear on the copyright notice instead of your real name.
You also need to tell friends and colleagues that you wish to keep your real identity secret. More than one author has been "outed" by careless friends.
MORE INFO ON CHOOSING PEN NAMES AND THE LEGALITIES: