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?
This 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.