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The Ultimate Guide To Author Pen Names

The Ultimate Guide to Author Pen Names

You've finished a book. You're an author, congratulations. Now you need to decide if you publish under your name, or a pseudonym. Pen names can have a lot of emotion connected to them or they can be the freeing safety net you didn't know you needed. But why would you use one? When should you use one? What do you need to consider when choosing? That's the topic the Alliance of Independent Authors AskALLi team is covering today: the ultimate guide to pen names.

What is a Pen Name?

A pen name or pseudonym is a different name to the name assigned to you at birth. The author or artist then chooses to use this new name in association with their work in order to disguise their birth name and identity.

Why Choose a Pen Name?

There are many reasons for choosing a pen name. For example:

  • If you have a job that requires a customer facing role or is in an industry that wouldn't gel well with your chosen genre
  • If you're working in the legal system, a teaching profession or a role where you need separation from your day job
  • If you want to keep your identity secret
  • If your name is complex or wouldn't fit on a book cover
  • Your publisher requires it
  • You're changing genre and want some level of separation between you and your original audience
  • You want to protect your family from your writing work or the public
  • You want a name that will stand out more or fit into the genre better
  • You write in a [insert relevant gender] dominated genre and want your gender to match that of the genre's expectations
  • If your name is too similar to an already established or famous author

Pen Names for Safety

If your pen-name is for safety rather than a marketing choice, take steps to protect it. Use an avatar rather than your real image, check how payments will work to protect your anonymity, etc.

Publishing contracts should clearly state who is and is not allowed to know your identity details: there should be a privacy clause included and restrictions over who can access the name behind an author’s pen-name.

Both ALLi and our literary agent Ethan Ellenberg have committed to always checking this issue when looking at contracts.

Pen Name Considerations

Before you settle on your pen name, you'll want to check a few things.

First up, Google the name. You might not have heard of an author using it, but what if there's an actress, a business person or a famous company in another country already using the name? While this might sound obscure, the difficulty comes when you're both fighting over digital space and SEO terms for the name. That's why it's better to change or tweak the name so you don't compete.

Similarly, you'll want to check URL availability and social media handles. If they're free, then you're on to a winning name. If they're not free, then you'll need to decide if you can tweak the handle and get something satisfactory or if you need to change your name entirely. If you find the social handles and URLs are free, it's a good idea to reserve them. If you change your mind again, you can always release the handles and URLs.

Pronunciations and Spellings

If you're going to choose a pen name, it's a good idea to pick something that's easy to say—and therefore memorable for readers. Similarly, consider the spelling. While it might feel quirky and fun to choose an unusual spelling, it will make it harder for readers to remember and harder for them to find you when searching the internet. You want to be as accessible and easily findable as possible.

Similarly to Googling, you'll want to double check the digital bookstores. Make sure that the name hasn't already been used by an active author still writing and publishing.

Genre Expectations

All genres have expectations. Whether it's tropes or cover trends, the expectations are there. There will also be an overriding gender of authors too. Typically, you'll find more female authors in romance and more male authors in thrillers. Whether you want to adhere to or buck those trends is up to you, but it is one to consider when picking your pen name.

On Keeping Everything Separating: Morgana Best

Morgana Best, USA Today Bestselling Author

USA Today Bestselling author Morgana Best survived a childhood of deadly spiders and venomous snakes in the Australian outback. Morgana Best writes cozy mysteries and enjoys thinking of delightful new ways to murder her victims. You can find out more about her on her website.

Why did you choose to have a pen name (was it branding, security, genre?)

It was a genre decision, and my pen name is secret. I was writing academic non-fiction under my then-married name and used a pen name to write fiction.

When I started writing fiction under my own name, it had to be separate to the pen name I had already established because I write paranormal cozy mysteries and my pen-name’s audience tend not to like paranormal.

How do you manage more than one pen name? 

Yes, I think of my pen name as a separate person. She has her own computer with her own social media on it. If I didn’t do that, I would get both of me confused! She has her own mailing list and her own Shopify store, as well as Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram.

I have separate advertising budgets for each name, and I schedule time to do her social media. But I do find it difficult to write enough books for each name.

Do you have any tips or advice for authors wanting to start a pen name?

First, consider whether it’s absolutely necessary to have a pen name. It’s twice the work and even more work if the name is secret. Plus, you’re splitting your advertising budget between two author names—or more if you have more than one pen name. You will be running (at least) two author businesses. You will need 2 Facebook Pages, 2 Facebook Groups, 2 Pinterest accounts, 2 Twitter accounts, 2 Instagram accounts, 2 TikTok accounts. If you have your own author store, you will be paying double for apps/plug-ins. However, you can have the one account for third-party book printers such as BookVault and Lulu Direct.

You won’t be able to post photos of your pen name’s self on social media or have a YouTube channel showing your pen name’s face. 

On the plus side, you and your pen name are eligible to have a BookBub Featured Deal at the same time. 

Unless it’s a completely different genre, you can leverage your main name to help boost your pen name’s sales. For example, my own name’s readers are happy to read in my pen-name’s genre. It just doesn’t work the other way. Therefore, I can easily share my pen name’s books with my newsletter list.

Make sure you establish good branding for your pen name. Don’t be off-hand or hit and miss with your pen name.

If you can’t have a separate computer for your pen name, have one browser for yourself and another browser for your pen name. Keep the mailing list, emails, website logins, and social media for each author on separate browsers.

You can add your pen name’s Instagram account to your phone and toggle between it and your own account. You don’t have to worry if your pen name is secret, as the public will not see any connection. 

You can also use software which is pen name-friendly, such as TweetDeck for Twitter. That makes life easier. I find it helpful to stick to a schedule for social media posting, newsletters, and running giveaways. Set a separate advertising budget for your pen name.

Also, have an author photo rather than an avatar. It’s easy enough to put a photo of yourself into a filter and tweak it so it looks like somebody else. There’s loads of research that buyers relate better to a face.

If you write under one name, you have one author business. If you write under two names, you have two author businesses. Having a pen name is costly, time-wise.

Are there any mistakes an author should avoid making with a pen name?

Don’t neglect the pen name. It’s easy to get consumed with putting all your effort to your main name, but give your pen name some love. Get into a routine so that you’re posting, for example, on your pen name’s Facebook group daily. It’s good to be consistent. Even if you only spend five minutes a day, that’s better than neglecting your pen name for weeks at a time.

Make sure both of you have separate browsers, or better still, computers. That’s especially important if the pen name is secret. You don’t want to log in and happily post away under the wrong name.  

Golden Angel, Author

Pen Names for Creativity: Golden Angel and Sinistre Ange

AskALLi spoke to Golden Angel, also known as Sinistre Ange, about how and why she manages her pen names.

Golden Angel is a USA Today best-selling author and self-described bibliophile with a “kinky” bent who loves to write stories for the characters in her head. If she didn't get them out, she's pretty sure she'd go just a little crazy. She is happily married, old enough to know better but still too young to care, and a big fan of happily-ever-afters, strong heroes and heroines, and sizzling chemistry. When she's not writing, she can often be found on the couch reading, in front of her sewing machine making a new cosplay, hanging out with her friends, or wandering the Maryland Renaissance Fair. Find out more about her on her websites: www.goldenangelromance.com and www.sinistreange.com

Why did you choose to have a pen name (was it branding, security, genre?)

Originally I started out writing on a free erotica website, so I chose a username for the site and that was partly for security and partly because that's what you have to do on those websites. When I decided to make the move to writing books, I kept my username as my pen name both for security and because I wanted to make sure that readers from the website could easily find my books. Which worked! I still have new-to-my-books readers who ask if I'm Golden Angel from Literotica.

How do you manage more than one pen name? 

“Manage” is a strong word. I focus on my Golden Angel pen name, though I do release at least one book a year for Sinistre Ange – and no, I don't really think that's ‘enough,' but I've found I need the outlet for my creativity. I chose to have two pen names because what I write for Sinistre Ange is so very different from what I write as Golden Angel that I didn't want to confuse or deter readers.
For the most part, Sinistre Ange does not have much of a social media presence. She has her own Facebook page and newsletter, and that's about it. All other promotion I do for her is done as Golden Angel promoting my other pen name's books (I'm very open about the fact that it's still me). I do plan to add another pen name next year, and that one is going to be different enough from Golden Angel – and I plan to write enough for it – that I will have most of a social media footprint for that name. She'll have her own page, her own group, her own newsletter, her own Instagram, and possibly her own TikTok.
However, I'll still probably do everything on Facebook from my Golden Angel profile. It's just a lot to keep up with, so the more I can do to streamline and simplify things, the happier I am.

Do you have any tips or advice for authors wanting to start a pen name?

Look for it on Goodreads to see if someone else is using it already… also, I would avoid initials honestly. It makes it hard to search for them. I also think that it's important to choose something you'll be comfortable being called. Ten years ago I would not have expected my pen name to feel more ‘real' than my real name, but it does… and because my pen name is so unusual people often aren't sure whether to call me Golden, Angel, or Golden Angel. I'll answer to any of them, though.

Are there any mistakes an author should avoid making with a pen name?

Anything hard to spell should be avoided, so readers have an easy time finding you. Trust me, I wish I'd thought a lot harder about Sinistre Ange before I decided to use that as a pen name. I was trying to be cute, but really, I just made things harder on myself. My next pen name is going to be much simpler, easy to remember, and easy to spell!

Meg Cowley, Meg Jolly, Fantasy and British Crime author

Avoiding Mistakes: Meg Cowley

Meg is a USA Today bestselling fantasy author from the windswept moors of Yorkshire, England, where she lives with her husband, young son, and two mischievous cats. She writes British crime under Meg Jolly and Fantasy under Meg Cowley. You can find out more about her on her websites: www.megcowley.com and www.megjolly.com.

Any mistakes to avoid using a pen name?

I originally lumped everything under one name, as a baby author who didn't know what she was doing. Well. It took me 3 years to clean out my alsoboughts, so let me tell you, I will not be making that mistake again!
When I considered adding in more genres once more from a strategic point of view (rather than as a baby author, a “ooh, look, a shiny squirrel!” or a “how do I make enough money to pay the next bill” mindset), I knew I wanted to be ultra focused and intentional becuase this was 100% about being successful out of the gate.

Why did you choose to use a pen name?

I knew I wanted to use a pen name because the readerships of two entirely separate sub genres (in thrillers and fantasy) were unrelated. I didn't want to confuse readers, confuse shop algorithms, or muddy my brands. It is a lot of work to maintain multiple pen names—each one is a business in its own right, really—but to me, it's worth doing because you create multiple really strong brands that each stand on their own.

Funny story: one reader from Pen Name A is married to one reader of Pen Name B. They were completely tickled to realise the authors were one and the same. I'm still not sure of the odds of that happening, I have had no other cross over yet!

What did you do differently with this pen name that created success?

I was very clear on my goals and therefore strategy to reach success from the start on my second pen name (and any future ones I fit in). I knew I wanted to build a readership very quickly, a strong brand, brand awareness, and have products rolling out of the gate to build momentum and income.
I wrote a series I knew fit the growing and established market in the sub genre I wanted to branch into. I built a mailing list aggressively using a lead magnet prequel, which was costly at the time, but a gamble I knew would pay off because I've spent years refining my reader funnels (and I am by no means perfect, but I can get the job done and trusted myself to do that).
I've made sure that each sequel book is on preorder which leads to a lot of passive income generated so each book is in profit from launch day, and each launch more successful than the last as the brand as a whole grows. I have a really engaged organic following now because of the ongoing relationship building I do with readers on the new pen name, and typically don't need to boost posts to reach 50-80% of my audience with every post. I have a lot of room for improvement across the brand, but it is strong for a new small pen name, so, I'm pleased.

Do you have any tips or tricks for managing multiple pen names?

  • Pace yourself – are your releases sustainable? You don't want to create expectations with readers that pen names will have releases every month if you can't keep up the pace–burnout is a dangerous possibility with multiple pen names.
  • Organize – systems and processes are my friend, they help me get everything done and not drop any balls.
  • Get help – taking on an assistant this summer is one of the best things I did (and I should have done it sooner). I can now take on way more high level project matter because I have help. It can be overwhelming so can you get any help if you need it, or ditch things that aren't getting you the results you want to free up more capacity?
  • Plan – I don't mean plan vs pants, but really figure out what your strategy is. What is the goal of that pen name? Readers? Money? Literary acclaim? The goal really does dictate the strategy of what you'll do day in, day out, week on week, month on month, to make it happen. My most recent pen name is 2 years in. And I knew that from the outset. It's a long game, but if you know where you're going and put one step after another, you can get there.
Any mistakes to avoid using a pen name?
And I end up back here. I'm not making the mistakes I made as a baby author. However, multiple pen names is a LOT of work. In my personal life, I have a family to care for and lots of other things to manage, and as a high achiever with big dreams and goals, I want to do All The Things.
I want to have about 5 pen names because I have a ton of ideas and genres I want to persue, but 2 is my limit *right now*. It's very hard to temper that–but necessary, and a constant cycle of refining to improve, because I don't get it right all the time (writing this now in burnout!). But maintaining multiple pen names has to be sustainable (and I would argue enjoyable–if this isn't fun, why are we doing it?) so that you can continue serving your readership the brand they have come to know, like, trust, and expect in the future.

Managing Multiple Names: Stephanie Reisner

Stephanie Reisner

Stephanie Reisner is an award-winning and bestselling author of thrilling steamy and paranormal romances, dark urban fantasy, occult horror-thrillers, cozy mysteries, contemporary romance, sword and sorcery fantasy, and books about witchcraft and demonology. A full-time writer, she has four pen names: S. Connolly, S. J. Reisner, Audrey Brice, and Anne O'Connell. When she's not writing, you can find her herding cats, wrangling plants, or hiking rocky mountain trails with her husband. You can find out more about her on her website.

Why did you choose to have a pen name?

I kind of fell into my pen names. I initially began writing as S. Connolly (my maiden name) back in college, and after college I sold a lot of articles to magazines under that name, and wrote a non-fiction book under that name. So when I sold my first novel (a sword and sorcery fantasy) to a publisher, I decided to keep S. Connolly as non-fiction, and use my married name S. J. Reisner, for fiction.
Fast forward 5 years after that first novel sale, and I started writing supernatural horror and dark urban fantasy and realized that my books under S. J. Reisner were tame and safe for younger kids – and were PG13. The new books I was writing were not. They were more Rated R. So I decided to release them as Audrey Brice.
Then I was writing some experimental steamy romance on the side and I didn't want anyone to know about it. I was writing those under Anne O'Connell. When they started doing really well and making bank, I decided to own her, too, and take her on as my X Rated pen name. So that's how I did it. S. Connolly is non-fiction. S. J. Reisner is PG13. Audrey Brice is for my supernatural/paranormal fiction and some of it is rated R. And Anne O'Connell is my rated X stuff. So really, it's just an easier way for my readers to find the books they want vs. what they don't want.

How do you manage more than one pen name? 

Managing the pen names is a challenge and I don't recommend it for every writer. If you can manage with fewer pen names, do it. Each time you add a pen name, you multiply the work, the advertising, the expenses. Plus, you still have to release with each pen name on a regular basis.
I ultimately decided not to hide my pen names from my readers, and only have one website where I manage all of them. But I still have to do all four newsletters. AND I had to hire a social media person to manage all four FB pages. I combined the twitter and Instagram into one though so I don't have to manage multiple accounts there. My readers haven't complained.
I try to do a minimum of one release a year for each pen name.  Also, when it comes to reader events, you have to decide which pen name you're attending as, which also means extra banners and advertising gear.

Do you have any tips or advice for authors wanting to start a pen name?

My advice for someone taking on a new pen name is to sit down and answer the following questions:
  • Is what I'm publishing under the new pen name different enough to warrant a new pen name?
  • Can I reasonably produce fast enough to add an additional book (or three) each year to keep this pen name active?
  • Can I combine audiences, branding, websites or anything else without compromising other pen names? (For example, a steamy romance writer may want to keep their children's book pen name very separate from the adult pen name for obvious reasons. But if you're writing fantasy romance with one pen name and urban fantasy with another, you could probably get away with a single website and some light cross promo even though those groups of readers are often very different. There will be crossover though.)
  • How can I integrate the new workload?
  • Can I absorb the expense (new branding, newsletter, higher fees for sites where adding pen names increases your subscription fees, additional PA fees, etc…)

Are there any mistakes an author should avoid making with a pen name?

I think the worst mistake you can probably make with any pen name is neglecting regular releases/content, neglecting regular marketing, and neglecting social media and websites updates.  The modern reader is voracious and content hungry. They want to keep  up with their favorite writers and a lack of activity makes them think you're not writing anymore or that you're no longer interested in your readers, or worse—they think you're dead. Their attention won't hold on for long. So you need to keep them engaged and interested or they'll move on and forget your books ever existed.

Mark Hayden, Paw Press

Case Study: Mark Hayden

Paw Press is an independent publishing company in Westmorland, UK, set up by Mark Hayden. He lives next to the Lake District National Park with his wife, Anne. Find out more about him on Facebook and his website.

Decide how the world will see you well in advance of publishing your first book.

I was a teacher for 15 years, and nothing makes you appreciate the line between professional and private like the possibility of several hundred nosy children trying to pry into your personal life. I quit teaching before social media became a necessity rather than an indulgence, and when I did establish an online presence, I nailed it down so tightly that only my real friends and family could see anything.

If you are lucky enough to be successful, you will have readers wanting to know more about you. “Decide how the world will see you.” If you have a pen name that is obviously linked to your real name, you will have people trying to contact you and find out things about you. Are you ready for that?

And, as a man, it really pains me to say this, but women are going to get it worse. Are you sure you are ready for the scrutiny?

All I can say is that having a pen name makes it much, much easier to separate the private and the professional.

Are there downsides to my extreme separation? Yes. Sort of. I live in a village of around 1,500 people, and a lot of them I know to talk to. After getting involved in a couple of things, people became friends on Facebook, and there are now three residents who call me “Mark” because that’s who they see posting online about the Playing Fields or the Village Shop.

If you’ve decided to use a pen name

Then my advice would be to go nuclear with it: start with a scorched earth and create your pen name as a completely separate online entity – it will make life so much easier. I hope that your family are interested in your journey as a writer. Most are. It’s easy enough for them to follow your author avatar, once it’s been created.

By having your author avatar as a completely separate individual, you have complete control over how much of your private life crosses over. Some writers will want ZERO crossover – those writers of centaur erotica, for example*. I chose a middle course – it states quite clearly that in my profile what my real name is, and where I live. And within my fan group, I’m quite happy to share some details of my private life. You’ll find your own balance, and it’s much easier if you have total control.

 So where on earth did Mark Hayden come from?

Blame Anne (which is her real name!). When I started writing my first ever novel, a couple of years before I published anything, she told me that “Adrian Attwood” is not the name of a thriller writer. And I always do what my wife tells me, so I chose a pen name. For the record, Mark is my middle name and Hayden is my mother’s family, so I sort of have a claim on both of them.

We were on holiday last month and one of the couples we got chatting to put it like this: “Mark Hayden is 100% a thriller writer, and Adrian Attwood is the pipe-smoking academic who teaches about Mark Hayden in college classes.”

And where on earth did Ruth Ward Come from?

Mark Hayden has written 10 volumes of an urban fantasy series, the last 4 of them at a furious pace during lockdown. The series has done very, very well. There are now audiobooks, fan groups etc. I am thrilled. I was also exhausted.

When the world opened up again, the pressure of trying to have a life and be a writer was quite a challenge. It made me stall on my latest book. Something had to change.

Last Christmas, Anne bought a craft advent calendar from her favourite sewing store/online channel. When the box of delights arrived, she had genuine pleasure in finding out what sewing related treat had arrived each day, and I enjoyed sharing it with her. Then she said, “Why don’t you write a Christmas Advent Calendar Story?”

I decided to write a story and give it away – but only to those who make a charity donation.

However I am totally incapable of writing anything short – including this case study. What started as a story became an escape for me – and escape from having to produce the 11th Book of my U/F series. The ‘escape’ turned into a 75,000 word cosy crime novel featuring two of the non-magickal characters from my universe. These two are both women, and I wrote it as a female-led mystery. Not only that, I wrote it in 25 chunks with 24 hooks and the big reveal in Chapter 25.

So, next week, on 19th October, I am going to launch a subscription story – if readers give £12 to one of 3 charities, they’re signed up to the subscription mailing list.

They will get one chapter of Murder Within Tent every day of December. It’s not a huge risk, but it is a risk. I have no idea how this will be received, whether it will be successful or whether it will be a total flop.

Because it’s a risk, and because Murder Within Tent is a quite a light, female-led, cosy story, something just cried out for a female pen name, and so Ruth Ward was born. It’s very different to all my other books, in a very different genre, and although it features some characters from the King’s Watch universe, it has no bearing on the main story arc, so a degree of separation seemed important.

I don’t want Mark Hayden fans to buy the book and say, “This isn’t a Mark Hayden!” Nor do I want potential future readers of Ruth Ward to be put off by association with mayhem and giant talking moles.

And Ruth Ward? I once asked my mother what name they had lined up for me if I’d been a girl: it was Ruth. And Ward is my grandmother’s family. In the slightly tongue-in-cheek promotional material, Ruth is described as, “Mark Hayden’s younger, better looking sister.” Thankfully, Adrian Attwood is an only child, so I don’t have any actual siblings to get upset.

The novel will also be going on to Amazon as an eBook, and all profits will go to charity, like the subscription. Therefore, I am about to create Ruth as an Author on Amazon to keep the book totally separate from Mark Hayden. If this is a success, it might become an annual thing. I doubt I’ll go to the trouble of creating any social media profiles, but you never know.

There’s just one thing to clear up: the footnote –

*Centaur Erotica. WTF? Well, my books feature a declining numerical sequence – 13th Witch, 12 Dragons, 11th Hour etc. I am working on ‘3’ and thinking ahead to ‘2’. I do check whether people have used the titles before, and normally it doesn’t bother me. There was some guy called James Patterson (never heard of him) who wrote a book called 11th Hour, for example.

However, when I put “Two Legs Bad” into Amazon’s search, it came back with a book in the Centaur Erotica genre. Yes, you guessed it – a human female and a male Centaur. I have no words for this. Seriously. You will have to use your imagination.

However, I did not want people confusing the two, so I’m probably going to go with “Second Chance”.

ALLi Member Experiences

We asked ALLi Members why they chose to use their pen names.

Kathy Flake

I didn't think people would want to buy a book from a Flake. Don't use your husband's first name as your pen name last name because then you can never refer to your husband by name again since it would make no sense for him to have your “last name” as his first name. Figured this out too late, and now conferences are awkward.
Zoey Indiana
Why did you choose to use a pen name? I work with SA/CSA survivors and very much need a degree of separation since I write super steamy romance. If people decide to jump to my writing, they're doing so with their consent and under their control which is very important.
What did you do differently with this pen name that created success? Maybe not pick a ‘Z' name. I get put last in almost every group project. This pen name of very emotionally attached for me due to it's origin. I have others that are simply selected and I followed the same rules and I'm happy with them.
Do you have any tips or tricks for managing multiple pen names. My main other pen is very obvious so I can use all the same channels. Even the books say Zoey Indiana as XXXX XXXX.
Any mistakes to avoid using a pen name? Make sure the pen name doesn't already have a following that would make it difficult for readers to find. + Pick names that have clear spelling. Geri Smyth (made up) wouldn't be a good name because of the non typical last name spelling and the first name has stood many variations. + Also consider of you really want initials then last name. Some industries are better for it, but a complication is letter space letter or letter period space letter or letter letter. It affects search's and meta data for both reader and author.

Lois Paige Simenson

I chose mine as a tribute to the 2 people who said I'd grow up to be a writer someday. My dad and my sister. My sister nicknamed me LoLo when I was little and my maiden name is Paige, my Dad's last name. So LoLo Paige is a tribute to both. The funny thing is, the initials of my real name were LIP. Then I married an “S.” So it became LIPS. If that doesn't spell destiny for a romance writer I don't know what does. Plus Paige of a book. Like naming a kid Jeeves and he grows up to be a butler!

Jamie DeBree

I have several pen names, none of them secret. I chose to use them to keep genres separate, because I write in very different genres with very different voices. I use my business/publishing name to keep them all together, which works well.
I write differently for each name, and they each have different goals for readership. I think making sure they have branding appropriate for their genre and voice is key.
Each name needs its own social media, website, and branding. But it does work well to have them all come together under one publishing company name if you aren't too concerned about secrecy. I've also started writing stories for my different pen names set in the same environment, which makes it easier for me to keep track of setting and minor characters. A major character for one name is minor for the other, so I get to play with them all, but if readers don't cross genre lines they won't even notice. And those who do get an extra rich world.
It's a lot of work and effort to manage multiple names, and I've seriously considered sunsetting one at various times. I'd suggest starting with one, getting it established, and then deciding whether you have the time and energy to build another (or more). Once you have one, it's hard to leave it behind, or it is for me. Mine are all like separate parts of my personality, so they serve as different outlets for my creative life.

Sorcha Mowbray

Originally I had 2. The first I used because I started under my real name, just building presence as I learned to write and an old stalkerish ex-boyfriend contacted me. My husband and I agreed a pen name was the way to go. The second one (this one) was used because I write sexy books and I didn't want my books popping up with my day job information on line. Awkward!
What did you do differently with this pen name that created success? Branding. I've been very careful about my branding so that readers know what they get when they pick up a Sorcha Mowbray book. They are going to get super hot and sexy historical romance.
Do you have any tips or tricks for managing multiple pen names? Decide upfront if you want to be transparent about the pen names. If you have them to help readers understand genre/sub-genre shifts like historical romance vs contemporary you can be really open and cross promote. If you have two because you write sexy romance and kid lit you have a whole different strategy to consider. Understand thay upfront and then cross-promote and leverage shared resources where you can so you aren't killing yourself unnecessarily.
Any mistakes to avoid using a pen name? Pick a name you can remember and answer to when people call you by it in person. LOL! Also, be mindful of what other authors are using. Don't use a name someone else is using, do a search. And keep a good balance between something that will be easy to remember but that stands out from the crowd.


This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. Hello! This article is incredibly useful. Thank you. I’d like to offer a few suggestions:

    1) Consider meaningful names, like your grandparents’ names, that resonate with you and are easy to respond to.
    2) For easy name selection, try a generator like https://instausername.com/baby-name-generator . It finds common name combinations based on your name.
    3) Research name meanings to add depth and excitement to your pen name. You can check names.org for this, as it provides popularity by year.

    I hope these tips help!

  2. I’d change your description of a pen name from your description of a name not assigned to you at birth – if someone has legally changed their name before publishing for an unrelated reason, and uses said name for publishing, that is NOT a pen name. (That includes married names, adoptees/immigrants whose names were changed, transgender people, etc.)

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