Thursday's Thoughts: Author Pen Names....The Good, The Bad & The Laughable!

Thursday, August 9

Last week on Thursday's Thoughts I talked about why I think a free read should be an author's best book ever....and not just some haphazard random offering. Today I thought I would share my thoughts about something that I think is also important, and that is the Pen Name an author chooses to publish their books under. 

Some authors use their real names, other authors select a pen name. Personally, I like the idea of a pen name simply for the fact that it gives you the opportunity to select a name that you think reflects the types of books you write.  When you were a kid didn't you ever wish that you could change your name to something other than what it is?  For some reason I always wanted to be a Hannah.  My niece wants to be called Hello Kitty on occasion, so I just go with it, LOL.  I can't tell you why I liked Hannah, the Hello Kitty should be obvious...she's five :) What it comes down to though, is that I think pen names are important and shouldn't be chosen haphazardly, or randomly, and should definitely NEVER be a play on words.

There are authors that choose to use cities in their name.  For instance, Julia London, Courtney Milan, Elise Rome, or even Cynthia Eden (hey, it's in the bible as a location so it counts).  These are great pen names for historical romance authors because their last names are ancient cities.  However, there are cities you don't/shouldn't want to use for a last name:
  • Moscow:  Or really any Russian city name, because the last thing you want to do is try to figure out how to pronounce it.  And when I think of Russia and books I think Tolstoy, which then leads me to Anna Karenina (another name I guess at pronouncing), which then makes me think of cold winters and jumping in front of a train, so yeah....not a good name to use for a romance author!  Then there is the fact that it ends in Cow.
  • Constantinople....simply because it is toooooo long!  That is unless you have an incredibly short first name, like Ava or something.  Seriously though, from a design perspective, long names, either first name or last name, should be avoided unless you are really in love with it.  Why?  Visibility.  If you have a really long name you are very limited in how large your name can be on the cover of your book.  Longer name= smaller font sizes which means it is harder to read the name in a thumbnail size.  Nobody wants that!  If you are going to the trouble to have a good pen name, you want people to be able to read it.
  • Paris.  Now some may argue with me on this one, since Paris is the "city of love" and we are talking romance author names, but this falls a little bit into the "cheesy" category for me.  City of love + romance author name = cheesy.

Then you have authors who select pen names that are supposed to evoke the types of books they write, but have done so less than successfully to put in mildly.  Not necessarily from a sales point of view, though I truly do believe that their pen name does affect their sales (in a negative way), but....well, they are just absolutely completely and utterly cheesy!  Let me give you some examples of ones that I came across while perusing Goodreads a while back (and yes these are all real pen names that people have CHOSEN to publish under...I kid you not):
  • Alexx Andria : So yeah, she could have been going after a city for her name like the authors above, but instead of using it for just her last name (which we know works) she broke it into parts and used it as both her first and last name (which so doesn't work).  Cheesy!  Not to mention I don't like the double X.  Honestly I'm surprised she didn't just go for it with Alexxx Andria, and have the triple X in her first name.  All sorts of wrong going on here.
  • Then I have a couple of one name wonders for you.  These authors want to present themselves like the author Zane who has achieved success as a one name author in erotic romance.  Personally I don't like just one name as a pen name, but these authors thought that Faze and N'Tyse were a good idea, but I beg to differ.  I think one is worse than the other, can you guess which one? (hint: it has an apostrophe in the name....this is a no no, as in it should never happen unless your real name has one in it and you are publishing under your real name)
You also have authors that use colors, textures, or precious metals in their names to evoke the sensuous nature of their books.  And while authors Shayla Black, Jane Feather, Carolyn Jewel,  Jillian Stone, and Danielle Steele make it work (I know she's not really romance anymore and steel isn't a precious metal, but I think you can see where I'm going with it), these author names somehow just. don't. work.:
  • Emily Velvet...Yes it is a real pen name and while I can appreciate the tone she is going for....for me it just falls into the cheesy category.  Personally I don't think any fabric would make a good last name.  Silk (no), Satin (no), Cotton (no), Corduroy (definitely not!).  Which leads me to believe that any fabric is a bad choice for a last name.
  • Envy Red:  Unlike Emily Velvet which has a good first pen name, Envy Red is just all sorts of wrong.  Here's how I think it went..."Red is the color of sin, I write erotic romance, so people will be more likely to by my books if my pen name has Red in it!"  Uh, no way, no how, no thanks!  I won't even address the "Envy" part because there is nothing about it that makes sense.
  • Leila Bryce SinThis is a good pen name gone bad.  She actually has a good pen name disguised in there.  Leila Bryce is a great pen name.  It has an interesting mix of letters.  Both the first and last name are the same number of characters (great for book cover designs).  It's easy to pronounce.  She has a winner!  That is until she put "Sin" on the end.  *Sigh*.  It totally ruins everything.  And when you write erotic romance the only place Sin should make it on the cover is if it's in the title.
  • Casea Major:  Yep, this author chose the name of a star.  A constellation.  I could see this as the Title or the name of a series, but a pen name?  People, please....just don't do it. 
Ladies, I'm sorry if I've offended you, but someone close to you should have told you that these pen names were a bad idea.  Because when I look at your name and think "really", or if it makes me guffaw, then I can't take your book seriously and I won't buy it.  Period.  Even if it has hundreds of 5 star reviews and even if it is free, I won't get it.  Not gonna happen.  Ever.  Simply because it makes me question your choices on how you wrote your book, the plot, the characters....and I never want to roll my eyes when reading.  On the flip side though I do count my blessings with author names like this because I think it is pretty safe to say that I avoided a very probable train wreck and saved my time for better books.

 There might be some romance readers who like the play on words and such, but for me it's like nails on a chalkboard offensive.  Maybe they thought they were in tune with the market they wanted to attract, but I think that is short sighted because you are assuming you know who your readers are, and you may, but you won't be picking up anyone outside of that narrow marketing margin which is really kind of stupid.  Pen names can work for you, or against you, so choose wisely.

What about you, are there pen names that you absolutely love, or ones that you made you laugh when you first saw them because they are so cheesy?  Do you even use the word cheesy?  Is there a newer term that fits better?  And if you had to make up a cheesy pen name what would it be?

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