How Should I Choose a Pen Name? [Book Marketing Done Right Series]

You might be wondering why an entire blog article needs to be devoted to how to choose a nom de plume. If we don't overthink things, we could just choose something that sounds cool, right? If only it were so easy.  If you don't care whether anyone ever finds, reads, or talks about your book, the "whatever sounds cool" method might be an acceptable approach. Yet, if you want a pen name that truly works in your favor, ask these questions and do this research before you make a choice:

Does my pen name sound like it belongs in my genre? Let's say you write in the horror genre. A name like "Damien Ash" would be a better name than "Bud Lewis" because the name Damien evokes a sense of darkness (e.g., its homonym, Damian, means son of the devil and Damien Thorne was the antagonist in the iconic movie "The Omen"). Ash can also take on a macabre quality if taken in its literal sense.  "Bud Lewis", on the other hand sounds like the name of a sports commentator who might cover the Chicago Cubs. 

Does my pen name align to other aspects of my persona? Names can reveal a lot. Nationality. Race. Ethnicity. Gender. Social status, etc. Do you want to specifically signal any of these characteristics? Maybe you want to avoid one or more of them. If so, you'll have to be deliberate in the way you choose your name. There are other things you can signal as you think through your pen name, such as irony or sense of humor. The Austin Powers character Alotta Fagina comes to mind. 

Are there other authors writing under that name? Unless the same-name author hasn't published anything since 1975 and hasn't snatched up all the Internet real estate, steer clear. A same name author is usually an indicator that the  website URL, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and other accounts/personas you are interested in will have already been taken. Also, any time someone searches this name alongside other keywords such as "reviews" or "ratings", the other author's reviews or ratings might come up instead of yours. The bottom line is that with more than one author of the same name in the mix, it will be more difficult for people to find you.

Is it spelled the way it sounds? If you don't choose a name that is spelled the way it sounds, you will be limiting your ability to be found. For example, Kay Elle Silberstein is a terrible pen name. Some people will hear this as K.L. Silberstein and search the wrong name. Silberstein is also a surname that is not consistently pronounced in the same way--some people pronounce the last syllable as "stein" while others say "steen".  A great pen name will be hard to misunderstand or misspell.

Is it memorable? I've seen certain authors choose pen names that fit all of the aforementioned criteria but that are still very difficult to remember. Even very popular authors such as Kristen Ashley and Christina Lauren are ones I would have a hard time remembering if I already didn't know them (note: I had to google Christina Lauren just now). If people can't remember your name, it will be hard for them to recall you at a moment's notice and recommend you to their friends.

Do you have a separate book marketing question?  Contemporary romance writing is my labor of love.  Digital marketing and PR is what I do in real life.  I get paid a lot of money to do it and I'm great at what I do. I'm here to answer your questions!  E-mail me at