The Writing Craft with Kris Jacen!



And your name is…?

Our names are so important to who we are. Your parents spent time picking your name; if you have children you did the same (probably). You spend time wonder whether the name you picked for your character fits them. So why don’t authors give the same time and attention to picking their pen name?

I can totally understand not wanting to be another Jane/John Doe. I can completely 100% understand not feeling comfortable using your legal name while writing erotic romance/erotica/BDSM. But what I can’t understand is picking a name that will make it difficult for readers/editors/publishers to find you OR address you by name in an interview or at a conference.

Think about it. The last time you heard about book x/y/z but all you could remember was the author’s name BUT you couldn’t find it. It was a bit frustrating I’m sure. The name could have been the easiest one – John Smith but if the author got creative in the spelling (beyond John vs Jon)? They just lost a sale.

Remember to also, after you’ve chosen your pen name, establish an email address that is associated with your pen name only. Something professional that is easy for everyone to know it belongs to you and not the email address you’ve been using forever. You know the ones I’m talking about *cough**cough*

There have been discussions both in the m/m community and the romance community at large about the use of pen names. Is it bad? No – so long as you’re honest about yourself while using that. What do I mean by that? Don’t choose a male name (or a female if you’re male) and then PRETEND you are fill-in-the-blank (gay man, straight woman, etc.) and giving out advice about everything and anything as if you’re an expert. Now, I’m not saying that you need to share your youngest’s report card or your oldest’s prom picture (you can if you want) but it’s okay to keep personal details personal as long as you’re not deceiving others while doing it.

So as you’ve finished your manuscript and are polishing it to submit to a publisher (or thinking about a new pen name writing in a different genre), take some time to think about your pen name and choose wisely.

7 thoughts on “The Writing Craft with Kris Jacen!

  1. These are all excellent points and things to think about when picking and choosing a name that is going to be part of your identity as a published writer (hopefully).

  2. Great post. May I also recommend trying your name on Amazon. My original pick for a pen name is used by an author of children’s books. That is why I change it to Jenn Dease.

  3. Back in the day I wrote a couple of m/f novels from the woman’s POV – I was told they wouldn’t sell as everyone knew I was a guy and guy’s don’t sell m/f romance – they were right. LOL I considered a pen name of Jane or Doris Bowie but never went through with it.

  4. I did as Jenn suggested above when chosing a pen name, and checked on Amazon to be sure I wasn’t going to be confused with someone notable or in the same field (or in childern’s lit – that would have been unfortunate.) I’ve benefited from choosing a fairly unique but short first name – I can use it as a signature and be easily identified, but it’s not too hard to remember. I was lucky – the name was a childhood nickname so it was easy to come up with and I answer to it 🙂

    Initials are nicely gender neutral but a bit harder to keep straight for people with a poor memory like me – I have several favorite authors who use initials and I usually search them by last name only.

    (BTW, for anyone wondering Kaje is pronounced like “cage” – that was the only downside to unique; eveyone can spell it but not everyone could say it 😉

  5. The thing that drives me nuts is when book publishers will put out a paperback with a similar cover to another best-selling author’s but the name is slighty different. Instead of Dan Brown it’s Don Brown but if readers just grab and go…. that’s some shameful Tom foolery there!

  6. Great points, Kris. The late author Jeremiah Healy brought up another point, which is probably less relevant as fewer people buy books in physical bookstores. He chose the pen name he used for a different series in part for its shelf placement — by beginning with a D, he thought it would get his books to the top shelf of the second cabinet, and be near some other author whose work was similar to his. I wonder if anyone is practicing that Yellow Pages trick of using AA to get to the top of a list — Aaron Aarons, anyone?

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