How to Choose a Perfect Pen Name When Publishing a Book
Are you looking forward to choosing a pen name? Hmm, I have an idea; I reckon you prefer, ‘Lady smith, or wait… Lord Dumbleduff!
Well, that’s just the great part in choosing a pen name; you tend to make your imagination run wild—I love it! Don’t you worry, by the end of this post, I’ll throw in one of my pen names.
A pen name, or nom de plume, is a pseudonym or fake name, which is used by authors who don’t wish to publish work under their name—you know, hiding under the cover, especially if you seek to keep your stuff and all the things that concern you secret.
We all had that junior brother or sibling at a time in our lives who would paste a large post at their door, telling you ‘DO NOT DISTURB.’ In a little way, that’s one of the benefits of a pen name to most writers in the past, and at present, it simply keeps your introverted life introverted.
That said, when it comes to pen names, authors or writers alike do use them for various reasons.
What is a pen name?
As was said in the introduction, a pen name is simply a fake name used by authors to protect or disguise their real name for various goals and purposes.
Such names are used in book covers, or as part of copyright notices, or in marketing a book—and IT MUST be in place of the author’s real name.
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We can also call pen names as;
- Nom de plumes
- Fake names
- Literary double
Why is Pen name Important?
It’s important for these reasons;
Similar name to someone famous:
Think of it, if my name was J.K Rowling, then you better believe that I’ll be using a pen name. You need to do yourself a favor by starting, have a special author name that stands out online, and make sure no one confuses you with a famous person or, worst, calls you some fraud!
Do feel like changing genders:
Female writers, to be specific, have been changing their names throughout history. And more often than not, they tend to choose male pen names for their novels, especially those they didn’t believe would be popular if people knew they were men. This was especially common in the 19th century as women broke into literature but were advised by publishers at the time that no one would read their work if they found out their gender. Hence, they persuaded them to use male names instead to be on the safer side. J.K. Rowling is one good example. Even today, it’s fun but not a strict option to choose a pen name of a different gender than your own.
Done for fun:
When I tend to write short stories, I love to mix names a lot. It makes me feel weird in a fun and goofy way and also makes my followers guessing who is this? I hope you get the hint.
A given name doesn’t fit the genre:
Mary Magdalene isn’t a good name for a blood-thirsty horror novel. Jesus Mark isn’t the best name for a spunky, erotic story. In essence, pen names do allow authors to choose names that are specifically targeted to their genre.
Whether your name is pretty hard to pronounce or seems complex when spelled, simplifying it with a pen name may help market your book in all rounds much more effectively.
This is one of the major reasons I use a pen name for my books. You know some readers are particularly nosy, so when you write a story about someone, they tend to feel that’s what is happening or has happened to you in some way—yeah, I know it sounds lame, but we do have such people. In such a situation, most authors use their pen name to keep it private, and private it must be.
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If you’re one pesky author like me, who tends to write past family or relative events that have happened to you, or maybe murders in the neighborhood, then you need to get ready for a whole lot of backlash when the victims or actual characters of your story tend to snoop in and find you out—oh, you wouldn’t want to imagine how mad they’ll be, and you can even be sued for it. So, to be on the safe side, make sure you use a pen name; they’ll never know, and do change the character’s name in the story (be kind).
How to choose the perfect pen name?
You’ve got to know this first of all. When it comes to choosing a pen name, it can be one heck of a daunting task, yes, as daunting as naming a character, especially since the character pertains to you.
The simplest pen name would be a variation of your name, such as your middle name, nickname, or initials—which is just right.
Various authors change only their last names, so they don’t have to remember the first name to use at conferences. And once you do decide on the list of possibilities, you can do the following;
Start with searching the internet and bookselling sites. Do avoid any name that a writer already uses since that would confuse readers. Do not use the name of any famous person.
Think of it, writing a book under Rihanna Fenty or Billie Eilish; people would call you some fraud.
I also advise that a trademark search through the United States Trademark Office. And if you use the name of registered trademarks, then you’re going to get a cease-and-desist letter.
Do try to avoid using the name of a real person. We have several people globally having the name Kathy Buttons, don’t we? And if you happen to use the name of a real person, do not think you’re committing identity theft.
And when it comes to identity theft, it simply involves intentionally acting to impersonate someone for profits. But if you’re writing affects the real person’s life, why not consider changing your pen name, and save the actual person a whole lot of stress and defense for his or herself, especially when it concerns something a bit awry about your story or memoir.
2. Start with domain names
You will want to buy a website domain for your pen name.
Now you can file the fictitious business name statement (FBN Statement) if you’ll be getting payments made out to your pen name. In some jurisdictions, you may have to add the word BOOKS or PUBLICATIONS after your pen name because the local jurisdiction won’t accept a fictitious business name that seems or looks like an actual person’s name.
Now you can place the pen name on your cover and your copyright notice: © 2021 [your pen name]. Some authors tend to put the copyright notice in their pen name and real name, but it isn’t that necessary.
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5. Be open to your publisher
Normally, you’ll not be able to hide your real name from your publisher since contracts are meant to be signed in your real name and not your pen name. The exception is when you do form a corporation, like LLC, or an entity. But in all of this, most conventional publishers want to know whom they’re working it.
6. Register your Copyright
You may register the copyright of your work under the pseudonym, your real name, or even both. But there are drawbacks in writing the copyright under a pseudonym only.
To begin with, it may be quite difficult to prove ownership of the work at a later date.
Second, the life of the copyright will be shorter, 95 years from the year of the first publication or 120 years from its creation, instead of seventy years after your death.
Nonetheless, I advise that authors register their pseudonyms or fake names under both their names and pen names. This tends to create a permanent record of ownership, and few reads would research copyright records and find out the author’s real name.
Scenarios where it might be helpful or wise to use a pen name;
- Is your birth name quite long and difficult to pronounce? For example, Veer Ruperkortorra—Jeez…well, do you have a nickname that’s short and precise as discussed in preceding. Then use it, and save yourself the stress.
- If you feel confident in using a pen name now, when your confidence is heavily built, then you can turn to your real name.
- Do you share a first and a last name with someone famous? Is your name Thomas Jefferson, Angelina Jolie, etc.? Then you need to change it.
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To summarize it all here, you need to be careful. Names and pen names are powerful symbols, and their meaning and interpretations are pretty difficult to predict at times. This is to say; they can mean much different stuff to various people at a given time.
It would help if you considered this; your pen name can be useful, especially as a marketing toolkit. And suppose your agent or publisher suggests a pen name for whatever reason. In that case, you need to consider their suggestion carefully before making any decision.
This is peculiarly true if, for some reason, they suggest a specific name; this should serve as some red flag; you need to ask why in that minute.
To fully wrap it up here, do consider writing under your given name or under the name you’re most comfortable with. Give yourself a pen name that you’re most comfortable with.
Good luck! And Oh! I forgot to give my suggestions of nice pen names, here’s it;
Darth Mist, Sparta Rubble, Khloe Dawn…I do hope I was good!