Marketing Considerations When Choosing a Pen Name

I'd like to explore the role of pen names in book marketing a little bit more today. We've already talked about whether pen names help or hurt marketing efforts, and I think we established that pseudonyms can in fact be beneficial in some marketing campaigns.

Today I want to talk about how to actually choose pen names, keeping marketing considerations in mind. Here are some things I would suggest thinking about regarding the marketability of potential pen names before settling on one for your own book(s):

  • Make sure the name is easy to spell (and pronounce). You want your market (your readers) to be able to recognize your name when they see it, and remember it!
  • Consider gender's effects on sales. While it would be nice if an author's sex played no role in sales, it would be naive to think that's the case. Readers of certain genres have certain expectations, and they'll buy more books from men than from women, or vice versa, whether or not they make that kind of decision consciously. Fortunately, pen names allow authors to break gender barriers. For example, a male author might choose to write under a female pseudonym in the romance genre, or a female author might choose a gender-neutral name (like Joe or Jesse). Another option would be to go with initials and a last name - think J.K. Rowling.
  • Choose a Name you Like. If you hate your pen name, it will show - when you're doing interviews, when you're making appearances, etc. To a degree, the name you choose will affect how you portray yourself.
  • Consider Genre Appropriateness. More than gender can play a role in whether a pen name is appropriate or not for a given genre. For example, someone writing erotica could get away with a more "colorful" pen name than someone writing a piece of political nonfiction.

What are some other marketing considerations you would suggest authors think about before choosing their new pen name?

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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2 thoughts on “Marketing Considerations When Choosing a Pen Name”

  1. I picked Madison McGraw as my pen name after months of thinking. I get many compliments on it, though one time, someone said it sounded like a stripper name (??!!),
    I would have reconsidered the McGraw part though, as no one ever seems to know where Mc fits in the alphabet when they shelve my book @ the bookstore!

  2. lol I don’t quite get the stripper vibe, but I do like it. While it’s more syllables than I’d generally consider, the neutral-sounding first name on top of the nice flow of it make me like that quite a bit. Thanks for sharing your example! 🙂


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