5 Rules about an Author Pen Name

Alessandra Torre

March 12, 2020

I use a pseudonym. I’ve never made a secret of it. I flipped through a baby names book and picked something that sounded fancy.


There. I said it. Damn you, baby book. Damn you, worldwide success that makes it impossible for me to now change my pseudonym. Okay, I take back that last statement. I’ll keep my success and deal with the headache of my pseudonym quite happily.

It’s not an easy job picking a pseudo, but it’s something that is often done with little or no thought.

So please, let me help you out.

1.     Don’t pick something that is difficult or impossible to pronounce. I’ve heard ten different pronunciations of both my first and last fake name. With every radio interview, I’m asked the proper way to pronounce it. Honestly, I DON’T KNOW HOW TO PRONOUNCE IT. I know how it sounds in my head. But I’m sure an Italian momma somewhere would scoff at my Southern drawl of vowels.

2.     Don’t use initials. For no other reason than that it is freakin’ IMPOSSIBLE for someone to find you on Facebook. It’s also harder for people to remember. Was it TL Price? Or TM Price? That’s more taxing on the mind then Travis Price. The sole benefit of initials is if you are writing in a genre that your gender might affect sales. Some men who write flowery romances don’t want Jerry Smith on the cover, not when JE Smith sounds so much more approachable (and feminine). The same with westerns or action sci-fi. Would a man be less likely to pick up a novel by Brittany Hoppet? Maybe. So yes, initials can come in handy. But I’d suggest taking the different route – a non-gender specific name. Alex, Jamie, Riley, or Logan. Here’s an entire list of them.

3.     Think about how your name will appear on the cover. I am a big advocate of consistent name branding. My name almost always appears the exact same way: ALESSANDRA in Quicksand Font, with TORRE in Cardo font, directly below it. (see below example). The problem is that Alessandra and Torre are such vastly different sizes. So my last name SCREAMs out, while my first name is practically hidden. And my first name is so long, that it makes it difficult to put them on the same line and still fit. I suggest, for ease in graphic design, a short first and last name. Or, at least, a similar length of first and last name.

4.     People need to be able to spell your name. For example: Alessandra, Allesandra, Allessandra, Alesandra) There are FOUR different ways to spell my first name. How many times has someone looked me up online and not found me due to misspelling my name? How many times has an email been sent to the wrong email address? Pick something easy to spell, and for goodness sake, don’t intentionally tweak a normal name into something that has to be spelled out (Brittani, Sarya, Jessika, Kristee – I’m talking to you!)

5.     Google it first. You may find out that Katie Sparks already exists and is a famous microbiologist. Or that Tricia Banks is a popular historical fiction authors. You need a name that no other author is using AND preferably, that no one famous is using. It would also be nice to have a name for which the URL is still available (for example: katesparks.com). Once you determine that the URL is available, then go ahead and grab Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts under those names.

Okay, that’s it. Five rules on Pseudonyms. Now, go forth and starting picking that next great household name!

Happy Writing!

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