QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pen Names - Should You Have One?

(This is a recycled post by Suzette Saxton from March of 2009.)

Pen name, nom de plume, pseudonym, literary double, alias. Some authors have them. Other authors don’t. In some instances, having a pen name can increase your marketability. In other instances, the opposite is true.

Some reasons for considering a pen name:
  • Your name is too common, strange, or hard to spell.
  • Someone else has an online presence with the same name.
  • Your name is not a match for the genre you write.
  • For whatever reason, you would like to remain anonymous
  • Reasons of gender; using a pen name allows females to write as males and vice versa.
  • You write in more than one genre, as discussed here.
  • For your protection, when your subject matter is inflammatory or controversial.

Author Jessica Verday shares her reasons for choosing a nom de plume:

I have a very, very, very common last name, so I kept my first name but based my last name (Verday) on a variation of my middle name. There hasn't been any problem whatsoever with my agent or my editor about it. The key is to be consistent in whatever you do. When I address my agent or my editor, I always use my pen name. 

Even among agents, there are differences in opinion. 

Kristin Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency has a sneaky tip on how to use a pen name to sandwich your book between bestsellers.

Jessica Faust of BookEnds advises using your new name immediately and exclusively from the moment you settle on one.

The Rejecter thinks pseudonyms are "a case of 'thinking too far ahead' syndrome, along with sending in your cover ideas and your pre-written book jacket."

Miss Snark suggests listing both your real and pen names on the header of your manuscript.

Choosing to use a pen name is a decision not made lightly, which is why so many authors struggle with it.

And now, just for fun... 

There are multitudinous pen name generators online. Below is a quick list of pseudonyms these sites suggested for me, along with links to the sites for your amusement:

Emely Rainbolt -- from Chucklehound

And if you'd like some help from the U.S. Census Bureau, check out the name generator at Critique Circle.

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