Robert Galbraith, Mary Westmacott, Richard Bachman. Do these names ring any bells? No? Well, how about J.K. Rowling, Agatha Christie, or Stephen King? The latter three are some of the most prolific writers of all time, but here’s the catch—the former are too, you just might not know that they’re actually one and the same.
Pen names, pseudonyms, aliases, nom de plumes—there are many terms for authors who write under names that differ from what’s on their birth certificates. For one reason or another, some authors choose to operate under these in their professional careers.
In the age of social media—YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, Twitch, and more, we are more used to the similar concept of usernames and online handles than ever before, too.
Much like how social media handles and usernames operate as a type of brand for the individual, writing under a pseudonym can be quite a similar experience for a writer—it becomes tied to them and their work.
Like the famous authors or your favorite YouTubers before you, you may decide to create your own pen name to write your Kindle book under.
We have compiled some tried and true tips to help you choose your own; or, if you’re stuck, you can make use of a pen name generator. We’ve made a list of our six favorites below.
But before jumping headfirst into the name-picking process, let’s first explore why author pseudonyms are used and help you answer the question, “do I need a pen name?”
The Point of Pen Names—Why Are They Used?
They say that there is power in a name. Whether a writer chooses their own pseudonym or uses a pen name generator, here are some of the main reasons they may pick an alias to write under.
Having a Legal Name That Is Hard to Pronounce or Spell
Is your name not the most straightforward for a reader to pronounce correctly? Is the spelling tricky? If so, then picking a pen name that is easier for readers to not only read, spell, and pronounce, but most importantly, to remember and associate with your work, could be the way to go.
Having an Incredibly Common Legal Name
No offense to the John or Jane Smiths of the world, but having the same simple name as many others could make a reader overlook your work. A clever, memorable, and unique nom de plume could help liven up your writing persona and further entice a potential reader into picking up your book.
Historically, it was commonplace for women, in particular, to write under male pseudonyms in order to be taken seriously by their male peers. George Eliot, who published seven successful novels, for example, was born Mary Ann Evans.
While progress has certainly been made in the publishing industry, gender biases unfortunately still exist to a point. Certain genres tend to be more attributed to certain genders. As such, some authors still choose to write under a pen name to not alienate a particular audience and appeal to sales.
For example, male authors might use a female nom de guerre for writing romance and erotica, or female writers might use an androgynous or male pen name when writing science fiction and horror.
Like J.K. Rowling making the change from children’s books to crime novels and choosing to use a pen name as to not sway public opinion on her debut ‘mature’ novel, writing under a nom de plume can help take the pressure off of a writer who is already established in another genre.
It allows you to dip your toe into new waters without nerve-wracking expectations from the general public.
Some authors wish to retain their anonymity, either from the outside world, their loved ones, or both, whether for personal reasons or due to the topics they write about. Writing under a name that is removed from your personal life can offer that shielding from the limelight, if needed.
Do any of these points resonate with you? Do you think you could benefit from using a pen name? If so, read on to find out what you need to know about picking the perfect pen name to suit you.
Picking Your Perfect Pen Name
Consider Your Target Audience
Could your pseudonym potentially be misconstrued or even considered rude, especially for a younger audience? Our advice would be to keep your potential pen name age-appropriate and in line with who you’re writing for. Let’s have no ‘I.P. Freelys’ here. (Unless that’s what you’re going for.)
Researching the most popular baby names of the last century could also give you an idea of a suitable alias to match your target audience.
Is It Genre-Fitting?
Does your pen name suit the genre you’re writing in? Romance novelists, for example, can indulge in more light-hearted and playful aliases, whereas a crime novelist may go with something that sounds dark and mysterious.
Where appropriate, have fun with it!
Check the Availability of Your Author Pseudonym
Is your pen name available to use? Or has it already been claimed by someone else? Always research it to make sure before moving forward. Use Google and Amazon to search for instances of that name and the USPTO for a trademark and copyright search too.
Also, keep in mind the availability of the domain name (for any future website plans), before coming to a final decision.
In the same vein, to avoid confusion, try not to have your pseudonym be too similar to already-existing ones. Don’t go calling yourself Mark Twine or Dr. Zeuss, if possible.
Make It Memorable
Your new name should be catchy, easy to pronounce and spell, and most importantly, memorable! From Saki to Sapphire to Lemony Snicket, your author pseudonym should be snappy and unique.
To help figure out if your nom de guerre fits what you’re going for—Say. It. Out. Loud! It will be immediately obvious if it’s sleek and chic or clunky and awkward.
Popular Pen Name Generators
Name Generator: This is an incredibly fun tool with a simple interface that gives you lists of names for every conceivable occasion you could think of. By using colorful, clickable images, as well as fun questions like, “What’s your favorite unisex name?” and “What’s a positive adjective to describe you?” This site is great for giving you name ideas.
Reedsy Pen Name Generator: Reedsy’s generator is wonderful in its simplicity. From the first letter of the name you like, to the language of origin, Reedy’s pen name generator asks the basic but important questions.
The Legit Pen Name Generator: This quiz-type format is a fun way to pass the time, but also requires a bit of soul-searching. With questions like, “What is your deepest desire?” and “What is your strongest quality?” Be prepared for not only a pseudonym at the end, but some pseudo-psychoanalyzing too.
Cool Name Generator: Now, admittedly, this may depend on your definition of ‘cool,’ but this name generator is for those who love the type of aliases that are reminiscent of Myspace circa 2005. From ‘Valeria Feverfew’ to ‘Sienna Stag,’ these pseudonyms are perfect for someone wanting to have a little more fun with their choice.
Fantasy Name Generator: For those fantasy lovers out there, the fans of all things magical, mystical, and mysterious—the fantasy name generator is perfect. Organized into categories of existing fantasy fandoms, from Avatar: The Last Airbender to World of Warcraft, the bright, clickable images help you figure out not only your fantasy name, but names for your weapons and armor, and for your pet or companion.
Fake Name Generator: This simple, almost I.D-style of pen name generator may be more suited to the serious, character-building types. A cool bonus is that, not only does it supply a fake name, but it also supplies an entire backstory for that name—from your mother’s maiden name and the street you grew up on, to providing a real email address that you can apparently activate, ideal for the aspiring spy-thriller writers out there.
Conclusion: A Rose by Any Other Name
Now that you understand what pen names are, how and why they’re used, and how to pick one, writing your Kindle masterpiece comes next!
Here at The Urban Writers, we offer several packages that can aid you on your literary journey, and we also have a wealth of information for all things Kindle-related to help get you started on your book.
Whether or not you decide to use a pseudonym when writing comes down to personal preference. Shakespeare once said that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” So, regardless, if you write under your own name or one that’s generated, the work will speak for itself. Happy writing!
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