Authors – Want to Create a Pen Name? Here’s How to Do It
Having a difficult time selecting a pen name? Try these random name generators. You may get some inspiration from some of these and its fun to see what they come up with.
By: Scott Lorenz
Westwind Book Marketing
Do you need a pen name? A rich tradition has existed for hundreds of years for fiction writers to use pen names. You may be surprised to learn that some authors have more than 10 pen names. Here’s why pen names have been and continue to be widely used: Many authors believe that their name can affect how their audience sees them and even affect their book sales.
One of the most famous pen names, of course, was Samuel Clemens who wrote under the name Mark Twain. Another well-known one is Lewis Carroll, which was used by Alice in Wonderland’s author, Charles Dodgdon. He gained a considerable reputation as a mathematician and didn’t want to create confusion by writing fiction under his real name.
In 1992, Putnam Publishers asked Nora Roberts to come up with a second pen name because they could not keep up with the prolific writer’s romance novels let alone the genre of romance suspense novels she wanted to write. So she took the initials J.D. from sons Jason and Dan and shortened Roberts to Robb. She has also written under the pen names Jill March and Sarah Hardesty.
New York Times Best Selling author Nora Roberts is a pen name used by Eleanor Marie Robertson. Nora Roberts’ name has regularly appeared on the New York Times Best Seller List since 1999. Since her first best seller in 1991, Nora’s books have spent 1,045 weeks on the Best Seller List. Believe it or not, that’s equivalent to 20 consecutive years of weekly bestsellers.
In 1992, Putnam Publishers asked Nora Roberts to come up with a second pen name because they could not keep up with the prolific writer’s romance novels let alone the new genre of romance suspense novels she wanted to write. So, she took the initials J.D. from sons Jason and Dan and shortened Roberts to Robb. She also has written under the pen names Jill March and Sara Hardesty.
Whether you call it a pen name, pseudonym, non de plume, alias or AKA, you are creating a new persona that’ll need care and feeding! Scott Lorenz, Book Publicist
One of my book marketing clients served as a Navy Seal in the Iraq War and then returned to write a book about his war experiences. To protect his personal safety and maintain security for his family, he used the pen name Chuck Bravedy. The author was concerned that extremists living in America would be offended and angered by his controversial book and come after him or his family.
The fact that Chuck Bravedy was not listed as a Navy Seal caused The Pentagon to call me. They explained they wanted to keep phonies from impersonating military officials. I gladly connected them both!
Another client was a former CIA station chief. He was concerned about the impact a pen name would have on promoting his book. After discussing the pros and cons he decided to use his real name. (The CIA has to clear any books written by former high-level staff to make sure they do not reveal secrets).
I’ve represented two Medical Doctors who both wrote serious erotica. Neither wanted their hospitals to know about their ‘other’ life so they both chose pen names and donned disguises for their headshots.
From a marketing standpoint if your real-life identity is associated with a business and you want the book to promote your business, or vice versa, then no need for a pen name. But if you have success, and don’t want that success threatened by pursuing an avocation of writing, then a pen name would be in order. Pen names may create marketing challenges, most of which can be overcome, and so the marketing implications need to be examined before publishing.
Since the publishers of JK Rowling, the author of Harry Potter, were unsure if the preteen boys that she was targeting would accept wizard stories that were written by a woman, they encouraged her to use her initials instead of her real name, which is Joanne Rowling. The “K’ in JK came from her grandmother’s name Kathleen and she’s been known as JK Rowling ever since.
Known as one of the most famous comic book writers in the world, Stan Lee’s real name is Stanley Martin Lieber. He initially decided to publish under Stan Lee because he thought he would eventually transition to more serious work and wanted to use his real name when and if that time came. Once he realized that he was destined to stay a comic book writer, he legally changed his name to Stan Lee.
If you’ve ever read the popular children’s series, A Series of Unfortunate Events and All the Wrong Questions, you probably know that the author is Lemony Snicket. Believe it or not, his real name is Daniel Handler. He decided to go with Lemony Snicket because he wanted to anonymously contact right-wing organizations. Handler first came up with the Lemony Snicket pen name while doing research for his first novel, The Basic Eight. He needed to contact right-wing organizations for the book, but he didn’t want to give them his real name. So, he called himself “Lemony Snicket,” and the moniker stuck.
Reasons for using a pen name include:
- To avoid embarrassment
- For personal safety or security
- If you write under more than one genre
- If your name is hard to pronounce or spell
- If your name is not marketable
- If your name conflicts with the name of another author
- To hide gender (a male writing in the predominantly female genre)
- To avoid confusing readers if you are well known in another field.
Reasons to use your real name:
If you want to hide from the public and from people you work with or worked with, etc., then a pen name is fine. But, if it’s not important, why bother? So, my vote is to use your own name. Here are just a few points to ponder.
- If you are not trying to hide from anyone.
- To brand yourself and promote your name for speaking gigs or consulting assignments.
- If you are planning to write a series of books.
- So people can find your published works.
- Your face behind your name builds trust and confidence with readers.
Here’s some interesting information I’ve obtained from librarians and employees at bookstores. Is there a popular author whose work is similar to yours? Why not select a pen name beginning with the same letter as that author’s name? Since most books are filed by genre and then the author’s last name, selecting a pen name with the same letter puts you in close proximity to their books.
Someone searching for that author could ‘stumble’ upon your book and decide to take a look. Radio stations have done it for years by selecting their location on the ‘dial’ nearby other highly rated stations so they could benefit from the proximity of that popular station. Crafty? Perhaps but do you want to sell books or not?
Having a difficult time selecting a pen name? Try these random name generators. You may get some inspiration from some of these and it’s fun to see what they come up with.
The Bottom Line: A Pen Name is an author’s useful tool for the right reasons.
About Book Publicist Scott Lorenz
Book publicist Scott Lorenz is President of Westwind Communications, a public relations and marketing firm that has a special knack for working with authors to help them get all the publicity they deserve and more. Lorenz works with bestselling authors and self-published authors promoting all types of books, whether it’s their first book or their 15th book. He’s handled publicity for books by CEOs, CIA Officers, Navy SEALS, Homemakers, Fitness Gurus, Doctors, Lawyers and Adventurers. His clients have been featured by Good Morning America, FOX & Friends, CNN, ABC News, New York Times, Nightline, TIME, PBS, LA Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Woman’s World, & Howard Stern to name a few.
Learn more about Westwind Communications’ book marketing approach at https://www.WestwindBookMarketing.com or contact Lorenz at [email protected] or 734-667-2090 or fill out the form below. Follow Lorenz on Twitter @aBookPublicist. Want help titling a book? Check out Scott Lorenz’s new award winning, bestselling book: Book Title Generator- A Proven System in Naming Your Book www.BookTitleGenerator.net.
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