#AuthorToolBoxBlogHop – Picking A Pen name

Picking a pen name

Happy New Year! I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays however they celebrate! It’s 2020 and time to kick off the first #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop of the year. As with last year I struggled with trying to figure out what I wanted to discuss in this post. Pretty on brand for me.

Then I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and saw a post with someone subtweeting a “hot take” they didn’t agree with: Using a pen name was a cowardly thing to do. This person and others that commented did not agree with that statement and I am also in agreement.

Pen names are not something new that came about in recent years, they’ve been around for probably longer than the Tweeter of that bad take. The reasons a person chooses to or not to use one is up to them, but going with a pen name is far from cowardly!

Those of us on this hop are at different points in our writing journey, so ones with books already out may not find this post as helpful. But if you’re a newbie and still in the beginning stages, hopefully some of the tips here will help you if you decide a pen name is the way you want to go.

Meka James is a pen name and I picked one for two reasons. 1) when I started writing, my daughter was in high school and at the time was mortified her mom wrote “those” kind of stories. LOL (FYI my boys really don’t care either way) 2) the name I married into is hard to pronounce and spell for some. I wanted to make things as easy as possible should someone want to find me.

Reason two was the bigger deciding factor rather than my daughter’s possible embarrassment that her mother wrote sexy romance novels. And it’s my first tip.

Make it easy to search

You want to be found, it’s important in selling your books that readers can remember and spell your name correctly in those search bars on retailer sites. Alessandra Torre in one of her videos mentioned pen names and how the one she picked probably wasn’t the best in hindsight. I mean it’s worked out for her now, but in the beginning, those extra “s” and such could have tripped people up.

Keep in mind spelling and how easily what you picked could be possibly misspelled. Especially if you’re going for something really different or unique to help yourself stand out.

Make it something meaningful

To me this is important with helping get attached to your new persona, but that’s a totally personal take. I mean you could use some online name generator or put things in a bowl and pick randomly, but I think having a name you’re going to be using a lot mean something to you helps.

My name for example, Meka is because for all of my life people have mispronounced my real first name. I decided to own it since it was something I was used to hear being called anyway. The hard part is NOT correcting people when they say it because that has been an automatic response for so long. LOL James I picked because of the husband. It was my nod to keeping a “married” aspect in all of this.

I have a friend that picked her name because she wanted her initials to be “AF” as sort of a fun inside joke to herself. For those that may not know, “slang” for as fuck is sometimes written as “af” and it was something she wanted in a playful way.

Her meaningful is different from mine, but both are super valid and played an important role in the choosing of our names. Think about what you want your name to represent and go from there.

Do your research

Once you’ve decided on a name or three (because options are good) toss them into the retailer search bars and see what comes up. Just like book titles, the name could already be out there. Not that it’s a bad thing, but if you can avoid some overlap then you might want to.

If you’ve picked Renee Jones and you write fantasy, then put in the search bar and come up with another Rene Jones that also writes fantasy, well you may want to pick a different name. Even with the spelling being slightly different (one “e” opposed to two).

Now if Renee and Rene write in two different genres, you might be okay. Readers would have to take a moment or two longer before one clicking to check out covers and blurbs if both names come up on the search. I would suggest going with your back up option in any case, but it comes down to how attached you are to the name.

These are just some starter tips if you’re considering using a pen name. There is zero shame in doing so, and if you go that route have fun with the process. It’s all part of the journey. Make a poll if you have more than one and can’t narrow it down. I did. I had four possible name combos and I made it a full family affair in picking out which would be my persona. Hubby, kids, and my siblings all weighed in. Practice saying each one as well if you have others. What rolls off the tongue better?

We create characters for a living, the name you go by is simply another one of them.

That’s it for me.

Until next time
~Meka

25 thoughts on “#AuthorToolBoxBlogHop – Picking A Pen name

  1. KJ.Chapman says:

    It’s definitely not cowardly. I find it a smart move. I guess K.J Chapman is now a pen name for me as I have since got married and changed my surname. However, I do write a different genre under another pen name. It keeps things simple for me and my target readers. I don’t want them expecting high fantasy or zombie horror and ending up with my contemporary romance.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Meka James says:

      I totally agree with it being a smart move. Congrats on getting married! The different genres is another reason to use a pen name. I write steamy contemporary romance, if I branched out and did something say YA then I would not want the two crossing because that would be bad. LOL

      thanks for stopping by

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Maggie Blackbird says:

    Great blog post. I, too, write under a penname, but I chose it because I wanted to honour two very important people in my life. Pennames are wonderful, I find. And being a very private person, when I write, I’m Maggie, and when I log off the computer, I am me again. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Meka James says:

      Thank you. You went with something meaningful for you and that’s great. Choosing your pen name is important and people have different reasons for why they do and what they choose. It’s a great way to separate as you said. I’m Meka online, but when I’m around family and friends I’m not. Works out well.

      thanks for stopping by

      Like

  3. Carmen Lezeth Suarez says:

    MY first thought when reading this was — JK Rowlings! I mean, she didn’t use her “full name” because you know “girls don’t write like that” and so just hyphenating her name and making it seem like she was male actually got people to read Harry Potter. I mean, like you said, Pen Names have been around forever (certainly before the Twitterverse) and they are helpful and sometimes necessary! This is a GREAT post and really helpful. Of course, all I’m thinking about now is… what’s your real name? Hahahahaha! Happy sweet day Meka!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Meka James says:

      Yes. That is another reason (albeit a sad one) that one might employ a pen name. Pen names are not a new concept but in the social media age people love to give hot takes even if they are wrong. LOL

      Glad you found the post helpful. LOL on trying to figure out my real name.

      thanks for stopping by

      Liked by 1 person

  4. S.E. White says:

    I hear you on this topic and I feel it so hard. I have a super common first name (Sarah), AND last name (White). I’m in trouble from both ends! So I had to consider pen names very hard. There are many authors named Sarah already (OMG SO MANY) and quite a few authors with the last name White. In the end I went with S.E. White, although I did find an author by that name when I Googled it! Ugh. He writes books about faith/Christianity so I just hope his readers don’t accidentally bump into my romance novels (LOL).

    For my erotic romance books I just chose a completely different name so there will be no confusion and poor other SE White won’t be confused with me at all. I was also afraid the whole erotic romance thing might impact my job if my employers went to Google me. So it’s safest and best all-around if Lili Draguer does the filthy writing and SE sticks to general romance.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Meka James says:

      Yeah, that can the the other end of the spectrum, your name being too common. Initials are a good way to go but oops on it matching another author. Fingers crossed the readers pay attention to more than just the name. LOL

      I’ve heard of people using two if the genres they write are different. I have a friend that does mild-ish contemp romance but also MM romance and she uses two different pen names. You don’t want it impacting work.

      thanks for stopping by

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Brigitte Kirady says:

    I’ve been going back and forth on the pen name thing for YEARS! Honestly, I bounced between Danielle (or Dany) Ashworth – which came from a game that generates your stripper name LOL (ex: favorite spice + street name of your childhood home, kind of thing) and Pheobe Keaton (a play on my kids’ names and our last name).
    My kids want me to use my real name, because they like the idea of their mom’s name being printed on books. *insert a million heart emojis* So I think that’s probably what I’ll end up doing in the end. Yes, I may get the usual Bri-JEET KEER-ah-dee, but I get that now all the time anyway. (It’s pronounced Bridget Ker-RAY-dee, for the record) 🙂
    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Meka James says:

      LOL on the stripper name generator, but the name it gave you isn’t all bad. Awww how sweet of your kids. All the heart eye emojis!!! That is the most adorable thing ever! Thanks for the breakdown because in my head I had sounded out your name last name as the first option not the second.

      thanks for stopping by

      Like

    • Meka James says:

      Trying to come up with one isn’t always easy. Maybe take a poll of close friends and family if they know you write. That could be fun. Or maybe make a play on your real name to change it up just a little, but remain close. Glad you enjoyed the post.

      thanks for stopping by

      Like

  6. AuthorSarahKrewis says:

    I agree 100% with your post! Mine is a pen name, and I too wanted something personal and meaningful to me. Sarah is my real first name given at birth. However, my married name is very short and also the last name of a former SIL whose first name was also Sarah. I chose Krewis because it’s still a part of me. I went the Hollywood route: K for my Daughter’s first initial, rew is the middle three letters of my husband’s first name, and is is the last two letters of my sons first name. ❤ I am #TeamPenName.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Meka James says:

      Aww I love how you created your last name! It’s great when you can piece together something that has a connection to you. I think it helps adapt to having another persona a little easier. 🙂

      thanks for stopping by

      Like

  7. Iola says:

    There are some good reasons for using a pen name (e.g. if your name is Steven King), and I don’t think it’s being cowardly. However, I do warn authors with pen names that if JK Rowling and Stephen King (the famous one) couldn’t keep their pen names secret, then it’s unlikely you’ll be able to.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Louise Brady, Author says:

    I’ve been thinking about using a pen name. There was a serial killer in the UK with the same last name as me (not related, thankfully!), and whilst that might be good for a horror writer, maybe not so much for fantasy!
    Great tips, I’m seriously considering choosing a pen name more relevant to fantasy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Meka James says:

      Oh wow! That is something. Though if it is Brady, there are other “famous” people with that name, though I know of mostly in the US not so much UK. Is there a typical type of name found common with fantasy authors?

      thanks for stopping by

      Liked by 1 person

  9. J.Q. Rose says:

    Love your take on pen names. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t chosen JQ Rose for my pen name. The initials cause problems. Is it JQ Rose, J.Q. Rose, J.Q.Rose. Depending how readers search for me online, a silly space or no period may throw the search off. For pity’s sake, JQ and J.Q. IS me (or is it I?) J. for first name, Q. for maiden name,and Rose, my fave flower.

    I write several genres and non-fiction but keep JQ Rose for each–nope no erotica here. hee hee. I don’t want to have to establish a platform for each genre. Guess I’m lazy.
    Enjoyed everyone’s comments on their pen names or no pen names.
    JQ Rose

    Liked by 1 person

    • Meka James says:

      I read a post a few years ago about pen names and why using initials wasn’t advised. But then you look at people like JK Rowling and others who have done just that and realize that in some cases it can and does work.

      I’m all for being simple and I too would be one to keep the same pen name unless I branched off into something way different. It’s a lot of effort to maintain platforms, I couldn’t imagine having to do more than one.

      thanks for stopping by

      Like

    • Meka James says:

      LOL yup it sure is. And thank you. I did apply my own advice when I picked it and so far it’s worked out for my needs. Spelling can be so hard and even worse when you don’t know how it should actually sound. I get mispellings a lot of my real name.

      thanks for stopping by

      Like

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