What Pen Name Should You Choose?

fameOne of the questions I get asked a lot from new writers is whether they should have a pen name. Usually, they’ve already decided they want one, they just want to know more about the process of picking a name. Here are some tips for name picking and a few things to consider if you think you’d like a different writer name.

Is Your Name Long and Difficult to Pronounce?

Like actors,  new authors sometimes rename themselves if their real name is hyphenated or difficult to pronounce. Difficult to pronounce can mean difficult to remember and you want your reader to easily remember your name. Remember Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko? Probably not. Most of us remember her as actress Natalie Wood. Simplicity rules if your name is long and complicated.

Multiple Genre Authors

A lot of self-published authors write in multiple genres. This doesn’t mean you need a pen name for each genre. In fact, unless the genres are extremely different like children’s books and erotica, I would stick with one name. Otherwise, you’ll be building and managing two author platforms which will double your time spent marketing your writing.

You’re a Man Who Writes from a Female Perspective or Vise Versa

Author J.R. Rain of the Samantha Moon Vampire series was interviewed by InDTale Magazine. In the video interview, he stated that readers sometimes don’t realize he is a man writing from the viewpoint of a woman. One reader told him she wouldn’t have tried the book series if she’d known. His ambiguous author name works for him because of what he writes. The same goes for a woman who writes hardboiled crime novels. Androgynous names allow the reader to assume the gender of the author.

Name Picking Tips

The same letter at the beginning of your first and last name makes your name easier to pronounce and remember. Example: Norma Jeane Mortenson becomes Marilyn Monroe.

If you want to keep your first name the same, see if your middle name will work as a last name. Also, if your name is the same as a famous author you can use your middle name or initial to distinguish yourself. Example:  James Patterson becomes James R. Patterson.

Consider your genre, because names can convey meaning. The author name Johnny Vegas sounds like it came right out of a Quentin Tarantino script and it might be off-putting to cozy mystery readers.

Why Wouldn’t You Change Your Name?

You’ve built a business reputation on that name. The name has value and comes with an expertise status that will help you launch and market your book.

Since our names are given to us, usually at birth, picking a new name can be a novelty. Just remember that the writer name you pick is part of the brand you are building as well. If it makes you famous, you’re stuck with it.  Make it work for you from the beginning.

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2 Responses to What Pen Name Should You Choose?

  1. Kenitay
    December 5, 2013 at 1:19 PM #

    I happen to have the name ‘James Houston’, these are my two middle names, so that’s an easy pick for me. I’m Dutch, so my first and last name are a little tricky to pronounce.

    • Connie Brentford December 5, 2013 at 7:38 PM #

      Anglicizing a name is always a good idea if you’re writing for the US Market. Which most of us are, but in the Netherlands they probably would think “James Houston” was awkward. I also really love names that are places like London, Dallas, Austin and Houston!
      Connie Brentford recently posted..What Pen Name Should You Choose?My Profile

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