If you’re thinking about using an author pen name, you’re in superb company.
After all, countless top authors have chosen to make use of a pseudonym when releasing their work. Like George Orwell, the pseudonym chosen by Eric Blair so he could write about poverty without the fear of shame, or Mark Twain, the pen name favored by Samuel Clemens so he could compartmentalize his different writing styles/personas.
The possible reasons are countless. Privacy. Separation of creative and ‘normal’ life. Simply not liking how your real name sounds!
No matter why you are thinking of adopting a pen name, there are certain factors you need to consider.
In today’s exploration of author branding, I’m going to share my five top pieces of advice for ensuring your author pen name serves your brand in the best way possible.
Let’s get to it!
As much as we might like to think we are not ageist, we probably are, at least subconsciously!
Whether we know it or not, we tend to look for one of two things when it comes to author age:
- Sometimes, we like to seek out authors we feel to be in the same age bracket as ourselves. This is because we find such people to be relatable.
- Whether we know it or not, we probably have subconscious expectations for how old an author should be. For example, would you rather read a history book by a fifty-something author or a teenager?
In order to ensure your author pen name has the right feel in terms of age, consider the following possibilities:
- Think of people in your life. Say, for example, you want your pen name to sound like a fifty-year-old man. Think about the fifty-year-old men in your real life. What are their names? Are they different from the names of your own generation?
- Look at data. Data exists showing the popularity of different names by ages. Use this to ensure your name is a suitable fit for the age it purports to represent.
- Look at reviewers. Check out the Amazon reviews for a particular genre. What kind of names do the people have? You can use this as inspiration for your pen name.
Ensuring your pen name ‘feels right’ in terms of age is an essential step in achieving similarity or suitability.
Care for an example? Check out how Alison Potter settled on ‘Alison Knight’ here.
Fitting Your Niche/Genre
Certain names have certain feels to them.
It’s kind of an intangible thing. A vibe, almost.
Although there are no hard and fast rules for fitting your pen name to a particular genre, it’s worth considering whether it feels like a good fit.
Authors publishing under their real name are obviously unable to express creativity. Their name is their name!
However, if you’re choosing your own pen name, you have a little more creative license to work with.
So how can you explore whether a potential pen name is a good fit for your genre or not?
- Does the genre or niche you are intending to write in have a certain naming convention? For example, when writing Harry Potter, J.K Rowling made her gender ambiguous by using initials. Is there some kind of convention you should adhere to?
- Imagine you are seeking to write in the romance genre. You are thinking of two possible pen names - Alisha Goodheart or Derek Von Gunsberg. Which is the better fit? Make sure your pen name feels ‘at home’ with a certain genre.
- If you’re creative, you can use the opportunity of your pen name to give a symbolic or creative meaning. You could use a foreign word, a metaphor, or even a subtle pun.
As stated, there is no hard and fast rule to matching name to genre. However, it’s an opportunity to make your author brand as a whole even more cohesive.
Why not take it?
Memorable and Available
Of all the three factors explored today, this is perhaps the most important.
Your pen name needs to be both memorable and available.
If someone is already publishing under the same, or even a similar name, as you intend to write with, it’s a recipe for confusion and disaster. This is another marketing mentality you need to adopt in the self-publishing era.
So what are some ways you can ensure your pen name fulfills the criteria of being memorable and available?
- Google the pen name. Is there anyone else publishing under that name? Is there anyone publishing under a name close to it? Are there famous people in other fields of life using the same name? Try and ensure exclusivity.
- If you’re serious about building a lasting author brand, you’ll want to ensure that your .com domain name is available for the pen name you intend to write under.
- Ask your friends and fellow authors about the name you are considering using. Is it easy for them to remember? Are there any problems with the sound of it that you hadn’t otherwise considered? Be sure to check into this to avoid problems further down the line.
Rebranding as an author is no easy thing to achieve.
Accordingly, it’s essential to get as much possible right the first time. Your pen name is no exception to this principle.
Ensure that your intended name is memorable, available, and exclusive.
If you want some inspiration as to the above, check out this service.
On-Brand Pen Names - Final Thoughts
Thanks for checking out my thoughts on creating an on-brand author pen name.
Do you publish under a pen name? If so, how did you choose it?
What are the best and worst pen names you’ve ever come across, and why?
Let’s chat further in the comment!
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