What’s in a Name?

October 13, 2017

Should I create a pen name?

That’s a question a lot of aspiring authors ask me. My answer: Absolutely. I like them so much, I have two ?

Sure, it’s a little more work to set things up, and it may cost you a couple of bucks, but in my opinion, it’s totally worth it.

Think of it this way: How do you feel about putting all of your personal info out there in front of the whole world? Because essentially, that’s what you’re doing when you publish. You are making yourself known by waving a “hey, look at me” flag. You want people to see you, because you want them to read your book, right?

I know many of you are probably cringing right now. Authors, myself included, tend to be a rather introverted lot. The thought of not only putting ourselves out there but standing under a spotlight is terrifying.

Here’s the thing – it should be.

In today’s digital information age, you have to be very careful. People can take any little crumb and use it against you. With a name – your real name – they can find out a lot of information about you and your family. If you have kids, that’s an even bigger concern. Is that what you want?

If you answered that with a great big hell, no, then a pen name is probably the way to go. Can people still get your personal info? Sure. But it’s a LOT harder.

SO, if you do decide that you want to write under a pen name, how would you go about choosing one?

Well, first you want something catchy, something that people will remember. Mary Smith is a great name, but it’s not very memorable and there are a ton of Mary Smiths out there.

Make it something you like. You’ll be using it on everything associated with your author persona – social media, correspondence, promotional items, etc.

It should fit your genre. Don’t call yourself Sandy Spanksalot if you write YA or sweet, clean romance.

Pick something unique and not associated with someone else. Even if your name really is Nora Roberts, you’re not THE Nora Roberts. Come up with a few potential pseudonyms and then 1) Search Amazon.com to see if there are any other authors publishing under that name, and 2) Use Google or some other search engine to see what comes up. If the name shows up as someone relatively famous or infamous, keep looking. You don’t want people to Google you and have a serial killer pop up (or maybe you do, I don’t know, but I don’t recommend it).

Once you find a name you like, then what? Well, my advice is to make it legal. If you’re just starting out, incorporating yourself as an S-corp or an LLC probably isn’t practical. But you can file a DBA (a Doing Business As), which means you can legally use your noms de plume in your author business. You can do this online through LegalZoom for about $100 bucks.

If you’d like more information on whether or not to select a pen name, The Book Designer has a great article on the subject of pen names.  You can check it out here:


Thanks! I hope you found this post helpful. It’s just my opinion, based on my personal experience. That and five bucks will get you a mocha latte. Do your research, ask lots of questions, and do what’s right for you.

? Abbie