Welcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings!
Let’s talk about pen names. I know authors who don’t use them, but I know more of them who do. I’ll say at the outset that it’s a personal choice. You certainly don’t have to use a pen name, and as far as I know, sales aren’t affected by your choice to do so or not.
But how do you choose one? Let’s start with a bit of reality.
Do a Google search. Seriously. This takes no time at all. The last thing you want to do is choose a name someone well known is already using. For one thing, no matter what some misguided fool told you, doing so will NOT drive traffic to your website or entice people to buy your books. What it might do is piss off the person already using it, and you may well find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit.
Can you copyright a name? Well, yes and no. But seriously, do you really want to get into a legal tangle with someone who has the money to hire a team of attorneys, and tie you up in court for years, over a name? Not unless you’re independently wealthy and have nothing better to do. I mean, come on. Just move on and choose something else. Fair is fair, after all. They did choose it first.
Even if the name isn’t already used by a celebrity, if it’s being used at all, and especially in the same field as yours, I’d still suggest moving on and choosing another one. Again, they chose it first. Don’t be a sleaze bag. Do the right thing and choose one that another author isn’t already using.
Having been on the receiving end of some sleazy author who changed her name to one I had been using for over a year, I know first hand how that feels. She gave me some BS excuse why she’d changed it, and then proceeded to troll my friends list on Facebook to collect “likes” for her page. She did a few other sneaky things, too, before I outed her behavior and then blocked her.
I’ve decided to let Karma deal with her BS, but the author whose name you decide to take, in the hopes of riding their coat tails, might not react so zen-like. So don’t be a scumbag. Don’t risk it. Choose another name.
You want something that is easy to spell. Why? Because if readers can spell it, they can find your books. Having an unusual name with a different spelling may help you avoid scenarios like the one above, but it might also end up keeping readers from being able to find you. The name they’re more likely to find first is the similar name with the more common spelling.
You want a name that flows easily off the tongue because humans tend to remember the lyrical names easier. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson is a fine name, but Lewis Carroll is easier to spell, and it trips off the tongue a bit smoother.
Daniel Handler is easy to spell and say, but it’s Lemony Snicket whose name is memorable.
And of course, Samuel Langhorn Clemens might never have packed the same punch as Mark Twain.
I think it’s fine to choose a name for sentimental or personal reasons as well. Ravenna is a city in Italy, but it’s the city of the same name in Ohio that inspired me choose it. It’s the county seat of Portage County, and the city next to Kent, where I attended Kent State University. Tate was simply a nice, easy last name that I thought balanced out Ravenna.
Whatever name you choose, make it yours. Own it. Brand it. Make it synonymous with the books you write. It’s how readers will identify you, and it’s likely who you will interact with them on social media as. When you have too many names, or post under several, it can confuse people. Not saying you shouldn’t do that. There are certainly legit reasons to, but bear in mind that readers may not recognize all your other names as belonging to YOU.
I wrote as Carolyn Rosewood before I wrote as Tara Rose, and I wrote as Ravenna Tate while still writing as Tara Rose. To this day, I still hear from readers who had no idea that Carolyn Rosewood or Tara Rose are also my pen names. And no, as of writing this post, I do NOT plan on adding any additional pen names.
Until next week, happy writing!