ASK EM — Pen Names

Keyboard with Tips and Tricks Button.

Today’s question is about the importance of a pen name. First of all, what is a pen name?

According to Wikipedia: A pen name, nom de plume, or literary double, is a pseudonym adopted by an author. The author’s real name may be known to only the publisher, or may come to be common knowledge.

Why the hell do I need it, Em?

Em: If you’re hiding from the Feds, your judgmental in-laws or just wish to keep your life private, use a pen name

What will a pen name do for me?

Em: It will not feed and water your pets, vacuum your floors or bring you coffee. Yes, that’s still you doing the work. Also, a pen name might be infinitely more exciting than your real name. Sorry, moms and dads. Sometimes you saddle little baby folk.

No, seriously. Besides helping you remain anonymous, a pen name will allow you to tweak your brand. I write hardworking heroes. Say I want to branch into kids’ books (I do), then I can’t write under Em Petrova. Can you imagine the kids’ faces when they pull up my kinky books on their Kindles? Think hard about brand and separate into new pen names if it works for you.

How do I choose a pen name?

Em: Here are some ideas:

1. go through a phone book and find names that catch your eye

2. Twist the name of  your favorite poet or author from a decade past–for instance Edna Poe

3. Use a mother’s maiden name as your first name

4. use an acronym. For instance if you write romance, you could use Cameron–R-O-M-A-N-C-E


Lastly, think about spelling/pronunciation. No one wants to read a book by Merle Lester (get it??? No? Say it fast.) or Suk Whang. And if you’re thinking of using Eijoifor as a name…don’t. No one can begin to pronounce that sucka.

Moral of the story: Pen names have a place. But use with caution.

Thanks for reading!



6 comments on “ASK EM — Pen Names

  1. How could you possibly leave out the classic Claude Balz who penned The Lion’s Revenge and other similar works? :p

  2. OMG…this was so funny and it was informative. Thank you.

  3. I use a pen name, and it’s come in handy already. I live in a small town where I used to teach. Don’t want all those impressionable kiddos’ parents knowing what I write for a living now, do I?

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