4 Major Considerations Before Choosing a Pen Name

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This one is for the other authors and aspiring authors out there.

Some of you have probably figured out that “Kate Wrath” is a pen name.  It’s pretty obvious, right?  When I was making the decision whether or not to use a pen name, I found a lot of good advice out there on why or why not to do it.  I’m not really going to go into that, though I will say that in my case, my real name was already used (like five times by five different writers all with the same name).  It was a definite no.  There was no way I was getting the website domain I wanted, and it would have just been confusing to my readers.  Plus, no one pronounces my real name correctly, and people always have to ask me how to spell it.  It would not have been ideal anyway.  I pretty much knew I was going to have to go with a pen name.  So what then?  How do you come up with one?

I literally spent a year throwing around names.  It was probably the most agonizing part of getting ready to publish my novel.  I felt like I couldn’t go ahead with anything until I had that name, and it eluded me.  I originally made the mistake of thinking that I had to find a name that was essentially “me”.  I had to name my soul so that the world could see it.  That would be my pen name.

Parents are supposed to name you.  You’re not supposed to have to do it yourself. –Eden (from E)

Well, let’s get real.  That’s a load of crap.  Yes, obviously you want to have a pen name that suits you, but the nature of a soul is changeable.  You can’t name a soul.  So, while you want to really ‘click’ with the name you choose, here are the actual, real considerations that you need to think about when you are coming up with that pen name:

1.  Does somebody else already use that name?

This was a big eliminator for me.  I mean, there are lots and lots of people out there.  As an author, you want to stand out.  That means that you want to come up with something different.  Either the first or last name need to be unique enough that when you Google that name, there will not be 500 hits.  I went through scores of possible pen names before settling on “Kate Wrath”.  There was only one hit on that name and it seemed to be some obscure thing that had maybe been used once on a website somewhere, and forgotten.  Perfect.  That means that when my readers search for me, they are going to find me, not some other chick (or chicks, as it may have been).

2. Can you get the .com?

Also very annoying when considering using my real name, even though there were those five other writers with my same name, none of them were using [myname].com.  But you know what?  The domain still wasn’t available, unless I wanted to pay more money than I had available to try and get it.  And yes, trust me, if you are serious about being a writer, you want [yourname].com.  If nothing else, you will be really annoyed when you are a NYT bestselling novelist and your readers all end up on someone else’s blog.  Case in point, check out blockbuster Divergent novelist, Veronica Roth.  Oh wait, that’s some lady talking about going antiquing.  Hunh???

3.  Can you spell it?  Can other people spell it?

So maybe you write sci-fi and fantasy, like me, and you really vibe off those unique, sci-fi/fantasy-sounding names….

Is that Kalaeyannea with an ‘ie’?  Or a ‘ya’?  One or two ‘n’s?  A ‘k’ or a ‘c’?  Oh, OK, gotcha now.  *looks confused*

Do I really need to say more?  Simple is better.  Make it easy for your readers to find you (and spell you).  Yeah, it’s not easy finding a simple, unique name that you ‘click’ with.  Trust me, I know.  (1 year later….)

4.  Branding, branding, branding.

You’re probably sick of hearing that word.  I know I am.  But it is important.  If you write light, girly romances, ‘Pinkie Peach’ might be OK.  But not if you’re a mystery novelist.  In my case, I liked that “Wrath” sounded a bit dark, because, yeah, I write a lot of stuff that’s a bit dark.  Like, a teeny-weeny bit.  Bwahahahahaaaa.  I balanced that out with a very normal, easy-to-spell, and grounded-but-girly first name, because that just fits me.  I am a bit of a girly girl, after all.  And I think this makes my pen name branding stretch a little farther so that it works for the broader range of my works that I am planning to bring out in the future.  (I am also working on a lighter fantasy series).

The point is, consider the connotations behind the name.  That’s exactly what expert marketers do when they name products.  Think of car model names, as an example.  Analyze some of them.  They are pretty much all engineered to bring positive connotations to your mind, whether it be travel, elegance, or badassishness.  <— Add it to your dictionaries, folks.


SO, there you have it, what I think are some of the most important considerations when coming up with a pen name.  If you found this article helpful, please share it, tweet it, and link it.  And as always, feel free to comment!  Happy writing!

…and read Chapter 1 of E here.

Are you considering a pen name? Do you use one?

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