How to Choose a Pen Name


Many authors choose to write under pen names for a variety of reasons, such as separating their personal and professional lives, not wanting to be associated with the genre or work, the URL for the author’s name is already taken, or to avoid confusion with someone else’s name.

Some authors pick a pen name in order to fit in better with the genre they’re writing in, if their original name doesn’t sound like it would fit as well.

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Some examples of famous authors who choose pen names include Stan Lee, George Orwell, J.K. Rowling, and even when Stephen King wrote a book under the pen name Richard Bachman to see if he could still make the New York Times Bestseller list under a pseudonym. He also used the name in order to skirt around his publisher’s idea that an author should only release one book per year.

5 Steps to Picking a Pen Name

There are five things to think about when deciding to use a pen name:

  • The age of the author — Consider the age the readers would ideally like the author to be. If the author has a young sounding name, but is writing on a serious topic, picking a pen name from an older generation may help provide credibility
  • It fits the niche better — Consider how the name will look on the cover of the book.
  • The website domain available — Check a site like GoDaddy to make sure the domain is available for the name to put up an author page.
  • It’s easier to remember or spell — We talked in a previous episode about how readers need more than one reminder if you want them to act on anything. If the author’s name is difficult to remember, it might be harder for them to search for the name or recall it at a later time.
  • Your original name is close or can be associated with another name — If the author’s original name is close to or the same as a celebrity’s or a well-known person, keeping that name may cause confusion with the reader and may even make that person angry. When you pick a pen name, make sure to search for anyone else with that name using a search engine, as well.

When searching for a pen name, as mentioned above, you should consider that pen name’s age. Check the popular names of the year the author’s pen name would have been born in for common names of the time period.

You can also choose two first names from the baby name registry from the year they were born.

Another tool you can use is one of the many pen name generators. These are also available for different genres of books.

When choosing a pen name, ask yourself three important questions:

  • What will the name look like on the book cover?
  • What will the name sound like on the lips of readers?
  • Does it represent the type of story the buyer will want to read?

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3 thoughts on “How to Choose a Pen Name

  1. Dr. Steve Shalot

    I have several short works (5-8K wds) published under one pen name and considering a second because I’m looking to explore different niches. Does this necessarily mean that I need to set up additional social media accounts for the new pen names? The AMAZ Author Page is a given. I’m talking about a new blog, Facebook, and Twitter. What’s your opinion?

  2. Taryn Bashford

    I ‘m wondering about Initials like JK Rowling and if they ‘re impersonal for the romance genre. And all the full stops either side could be confusing in social or websites? What do you think?

    1. Dave Chesson

      I personally agree that the initials seem impersonal, but it seems to be a trendy thing in books – so I think it might have an authoritative edge to it.

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