Picking Your Book Title and Your Pen Name

This post is the thirty-ninth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

If you are going to publish a book, even if it is only an e-book, you will need a cover. If you are going with a traditional publisher, the design of your cover may or may not have your input. If you are going the self-publishing route, the cover design is up to you.

Before we go into the details of cover design, I want to go over two things that will appear on your book cover – the book title and your author name.

Book Title

Choosing the title for your book can be one of the hardest decisions. The title is a sales tool. It allows the reader to know something about your book. Your title needs to paint a picture for your prospective reader. You want the title to be catchy enough to intrigue a reader and short, so it doesn’t fill up the entire front cover.

Now some people know their titles when they begin writing, but others wait to complete their work before deciding on a title. Either way works.

Here are a few tips about selecting a fiction title.

Length – choose a short title – preferably six words or less. Besides not taking up a lot of room on the cover, short titles are easier to remember.

Make it easy to pronounce – Shy away from foreign or made-up words because these don’t give the person looking at your book any idea of what it is about. A title won’t tug at the reader if they can’t pronounce or understand the words.

Make it relevant – Ensure that your book title has something to do with what’s between the covers. Readers don’t like to be tricked. You shouldn’t name your science fiction masterpiece something that sounds like it belongs to an Old Western.

See how popular the title is – Go onto Amazon and type in your title. See how many other books come up with that same title. Yes, I know you can’t necessarily have a title that no one has used before but if tons of books come up with the same title, you may want to consider something a little more unique. And, of course, do not use a title that already belongs to a famous book.

Just remember there are no hard-and-fast rules for selecting a title. For every piece of advice you may get, you will be able to think of a title that goes against it. And while you may love a title, someone else may think it stinks. So in the end, I say to go with what you love. It is after all your book.

Author Names/Pen Names

I host authors every Friday, and I have seen some pretty hard to pronounce names and ones that I imagine are impossible to remember or spell correctly. How do you expect readers to recommend you or search for your books on Amazon when they can’t figure out how to spell – much less pronounce – your name?

Image result for Pen nameThis is where a pseudonym or pen name comes into play. A pen name allows authors to select a catchy, memorable name. It allows them to switch genders or even nationalities, which depending upon the circumstances could mean more book sales.

Reasons for using a pen name

1.) Your real name may also belong to someone already famous or to another author.

2.) Your name may be hard to pronounce, remember, or spell.

3.) You may be known for writing one genre and want to write another. Or perhaps you write non-fiction books and now want to write romance novels.

4.) You pick a pen name to mask your gender. If you are a man writing romance novels, you might want to choose a feminine pen name. Some genres are more dominated by men so using a masculine name or initials might improve your chances of succeeding. (Examples: J.K. Rowlings, J.D. Robb)

5.) You want to hide your moonlighting. Perhaps you don’t want your boss to know you are an author, so he doesn’t begin to think you aren’t working hard at your job.

6.) You want to remain anonymous. Some people want a private life. They don’t want fans tracking them down, or perhaps they don’t want people they know to find out they write erotica or romance novels.

Other Authors with Pen Names

Many famous authors write under a pen name. Probably the most well-known is Mark Twain (real name Samuel Clemens). Here are a few more…

  • George Orwell (real name Eric Arthur Blair)
  • Stan Lee (real name Stanley Martin Lieber)
  • George Eliot (real name Mary Ann Evans)
  • Lewis Carroll (real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)
  • Nora Roberts (real name Eleanor Marie Robertson) – has also written under J.D. Robb, Jill March, and Sarah Hardesty

Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden, a fantasy author, writes under two pen names: Megan Lindholm for her earlier, contemporary fantasy, and Robin Hobb for her epic, traditional fantasy books.

Dean Koontz has written under several pen names in the beginning of his career, including David Axton, Leigh Nichols, and Brian Coffey.

Picking a pen name

There are tons of ways to pick a name. You can look through a baby naming book. You can shorten your name. (Amelia to Mia) Maybe you like your middle name or a friend’s first name. Try looking at family names for last names.

Make sure the name you pick out is easy to remember and something you can answer to just a readily as your own name.

After you come up with a list of possible names, check Amazon to see if there is already an author by that name. Use Google to search the name and see what links come up. Another place to look up the name is on Facebook. You can then figure out if you have a unique name or one that quite a few other people have.

Now some authors keep their pen names a secret while others proudly claim what other names they write under. And that is totally up to you. There is no shame in using a pen name. In fact, it might just help your book sales.

Now that we have covered your title and author name, next week, I’ll go over cover art and layout.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your Novel

#38 – Self-publishing an ebook decisions

Pen Names: when you might want to consider one

Last week, I wrote about fantasy character names. Sometimes fantasy authors come up with some hard to pronounce names which can really turn off readers. You want the character name to be memorable. Even more so, you want your name to be memorable. You want readers to be able to recommend your books to others.

I host authors every Friday, and I have seen some pretty hard to pronounce names and ones that I imagine are impossible to remember or spell correctly. How do you expect readers to recommend you? How are readers going to be able to search for your books on Amazon when they can’t figure out how to spell – much less pronounce – your name?

Image result for Pen nameThis is where a pseudonym or pen name comes into play. A pen name allows authors to select a catchy, memorable name. It allows them to switch genders or even nationalities, which depending upon the circumstances could mean more book sales.

Reasons for using a pen name

1.) Your real name may also belong to someone already famous or to another author.

2.) Your name may be hard to pronounce, remember, or spell.

3.) You may be known for writing one genre and want to write another. Or perhaps you write non-fiction books and now want to write romance novels.

4.) You pick a pen name to mask your gender. If you are a man writing romance novels, you might want to choose a feminine pen name. Some genres are more dominated by men so using a masculine name or initials might improve your chances of succeeding. (Examples: J.K. Rowlings, J.D. Robb)

5.) You want to hide your moonlighting. Perhaps you don’t want your boss to know you are an author, so he doesn’t begin to think you aren’t working hard at your job.

6.) You want to remain anonymous. Some people want a private life. They don’t want fans tracking them down, or perhaps they don’t want people they know to find out they write erotica or romance novels.

Other Authors with Pen Names

Many famous authors write under a pen name. Probably the most well known is Mark Twain (real name Samuel Clemens. Here are a few more…

  • George Orwell(real name Eric Arthur Blair)
  • Stan Lee (real name Stanley Martin Lieber)
  • George Eliot(real name Mary Ann Evans)
  • Lewis Carroll(real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)
  • Seuss (real name Theodor Seuss Geisel)
  • Anne Rice (real name Howard Allen Frances O’Brien)
  • Nora Roberts (real name Eleanor Marie Robertson) – has also written under J.D. Robb, Jill March, and Sarah Hardesty

Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden, a fantasy author, writes under two pen names: Megan Lindholm for her earlier, contemporary fantasy, and Robin Hobb for her epic, traditional fantasy books.

Dean Koontz has written under several pen names in the beginning of his career, including David Axton, Leigh Nichols, and Brain Coffey.

Picking a pen name

There are tons of ways to pick a name. You can look through a baby naming book. You can shorten your name. (Amelia to Mia) Maybe you like your middle name or a friend’s first name. Try looking at family names for last names.

Make sure the name you pick out is easy to remember and something you can answer to just a readily as your own name.

After you come up with a list of possible names, check out to make sure there isn’t already an author by that name by using Amazon. Use Google to search the name and see what links come up. Another place to look up the name is on Facebook. You can then figure out if you have a unique name or one that quite a few other people have.

Now some authors keep their pen names a secret while others proudly claim what other names they write under. And that is totally up to you. There is no shame in using a pen name. In fact, it might just help your book sales.

 

Today’s Featured Author: Susie Henderson

Today I welcome Susie Henderson. The author of the non-fiction book, How to Build Your Own House Without Murdering Anyone, she plans to publish her first fantasy novel this Fall.

Guest Post:

Author Pseudonyms: Should You or Shouldn’t You?

Have you ever been asked if you’re going to us an author pseudonym instead of your own name to publish under? I have. Multiple times. Mostly because I write in multiple of genres.

If you’ve been asked, how did you reply? Have you thought about it? Do you know the pros and cons of doing so?

I’ve done a little research, because for me, it may make a difference in my writing career. Here’s what I’ve found.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Depending on how you plan to market yourself, you may be better off just publishing under your own name. It makes things simpler for everything, from accounting to your fans realizing this is your book.

But there may be reasons you’d rather publish under a different name than your own. Or reasons it would be better to publish under a pseudonym.

If you write like I do – I publish fiction and non-fiction, and also write in several genres in each – it may be better to use pseudonyms for many of them. Why?

If you attract fans for your fantasy fiction series, for instance, then publish a humorous non-fiction book under the same name, you may create angry fans. They’ll expect one thing and see another. This could lead to losing some fans, though as long as you’re still publishing the books they liked to begin with, you’re probably not in too much danger of that.

There are a lot of big name authors who have written under pseudonyms, presumably for reasons like this. Stephen King published a series of novels as Richard Bachman because they were a completely different tone than his horror novels. Romance author Nora Roberts moved into futuristic, romantic- fantasy as J.D. Robb in a series that highlights the life of a female murder cop. Quite a step away from her romance novels prior to that.

Some of the other reasons authors have chosen a nom de plume might be related to prejudice. For example, women may try to attract more male readers by not letting on they are women, using initials instead of their first names. J.K. Rowling may or may not have been publishing using her initials for that purpose. Historically, it happened fairly frequently, because it was felt that women had nothing to write that was important enough for men to read. Silly idea, but that’s where this usage came from.

Still others have names they didn’t feel were remarkable enough, or were too odd to want to use. Mark Twain’s real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens. For whatever reason, he wrote under an author pseudonym, and has been forevermore know by that name, not his real name.

I’m sure the list goes on.

Being True to Yourself

It may be that some authors enjoy the pseudo-anonymity of a pen name. If they are writing something they don’t want family and friends to realize they’ve written, perhaps they’ll choose a pseudonym. But in other people’s perspectives, that’s not showing the world who you truly are.

These days, I’m told by my sister, who is a book buyer for a small local bookstore, that it matters a lot less to use pseudonyms, even if you’re writing in different genres.

Authors, at least any who want to succeed in today’s fast-paced, online world, will have websites and Twitter accounts and Facebook accounts, most often with their own names attached. They can let their original audience know they are branching out into new territory, while at the same time letting new fans know about their previous work. You never know when you’re going to have fans who straddle the same line with you, and like both your genres.

And, as stated above, your accounting will be much simpler if you stick to one name. Otherwise, you may need to get creative to keep proper track of income and outgo.

For me, I haven’t decided entirely. Nearly all my fiction has at least some aspect of fantasy to it, so I might get by with just one name. I’m likely to choose using initials, though, in part so I avoid the still-prevalent preconceptions about women’s writing. My first published book, How to Build Your Own House Without Murdering Anyone, went out under Susie Henderson because it’s funny and my name suits it. But it took some thought to decide how I’d go with both series.

Now that I’ve given you some words for thought, what do you think you’ll do?

About the Author

susieSusie Henderson has been writing fiction and non-fiction forever, enjoying fantasy fiction the most. She is currently in the last few days of her crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to produce her first fantasy novel professionally. With some of the proceeds from her books, she hopes to start a fund for cancer patients using alternative medicine, because she is one and alternatives are rarely covered by insurance. That can mean losing your house… and your life. If you want to help publish a book and change the world of health care, please click here to support Susie’s campaign which ends May 31, 2015.

You can find out more about her on her website.

Should you use a Pen Name?

Actors and musicians often don’t use their given names. Some authors also decide to publish under a pseudonym or pen name. 

Reasons for using a pen name

1.) Your real name may also belong to someone already famous or to another author.

2.) Your name may be hard to pronounce, remember, or spell.

3.) You may be known for writing one genre and want to write another. Or perhaps you write non-fiction books and now want to write romance novels.

4.) You pick a pen name to mask your gender. If you are a man writing romance novels, you might want to choose a feminine pen name. Some genres are more dominated by men so using a masciline name or initials might improve your chances of succeeding. (Examples: J.K. Rowlings)

5.) You want to hide your moonlighting. Perhaps you don’t want your boss to know you are an author, so he won’t think you have been writing on the job.

6.) You want to remain anonymous. Some people want a private life. They don’t want fans tracking them down, or perhaps they don’t want people they know to find out they write erotica or romance novels.

Authors with Pen Names

Mark Twain

Mark Twain

Many famous authors write under a pen name. Probably the most well known is Mark Twain (real name Samuel Clemens). Here are a few more…

  • George Orwell (real name Eric Arthur Blair)
  • George Eliot (real name Mary Ann Evans)
  • Lewis Carroll (real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)
  • Dr. Seuss (real name Theodor Seuss Geisel)
  • Anne Rice (real name Howard Allen Frances O’Brien)
  • Nora Roberts (real name Eleanor Marie Robertson) – has also written under J.D. Robb, Jill March, and Sarah Hardesty (in the UK).

Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden, a fantasy author, writes under two pen names: Megan Lindholm for her earlier work, and Robin Hobb for her epic, traditional fantasy books.

Dean Koontz has written under several pen names in the beginning of his career, including David Axton, Leigh Nichols, and Brain Coffey.  

Picking a pen name

There are tons of ways to pick a name. You can look through a baby naming book. You can shorten your name. (Amelia to Mia) Maybe you like your middle name or a friend’s first name. Try looking at family names for last names.

Whichever way you decide on a name, make sure it is easy to remember and something you can answer to just a readily as your own name.

After you come up with a list of possible names, check to make sure there isn’t already an author by that name by using Amazon. Use Google to search the name and see what links come up. Another place to look up the name is on Facebook. Between these searches, you should be able to determine if your pen name is unique or not.

My Story

I was in college when I began writing Summoned (then called The Elemental). I was engaged at the time and told my husband-to-be that when I published it, I would do so under my maiden name. Several years went by, and I received my share of rejection letters. I sent my book to family and friends to read and made some changes. After some more rejections from traditional publishers, I put away Summoned and began working on its sequel, Quietus.

By the time I decided to forgo the tradition publishing route and self-publish, I was on Facebook and using both my maiden and married name. All of a sudden, I was nervous about letting my friends (many who didn’t know I was a writer) know about my book. I recalled the feedback I had received from friends in the past. It was always good, but that was the problem. I didn’t feel it was honest feedback. I wanted what was bad as well as what worked. So even though I believed what I wrote was good, I worried about friends who would only read it and “like” it because I wrote it. I also didn’t want people constantly asking me how sales were or about my current work in progress. So I decided to go with a pen name.

To come up with my pen name, I decided to use my middle name as my first name and my first name as my middle name. I had my mom give me a list of last names from her genealogy program. I paired them up with Susan and picked out a few I liked. I looked them up on the Internet and then let family members vote on which one they liked best. And that is how I came up with Susan Leigh Noble.

So now I am two people. I write, blog, interact and am Susan Leigh Noble. Only family members know that I am an author. None of my friends know when I am rushing off to my house after dropping off the kids it is to write. They don’t know that as I walk to and from school that my mind is whirling with details of my latest WIP. And I like it that way.