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Do You Use a Pen Name?

I’m not going to use a pen name for Rise of the Sparrows. Or rather, I wasn’t going to; however, over the past few weeks I’ve read a lot of different opinions on this topic, so I thought I’d open the question up for discussion! πŸ™‚

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What is your opinion on pen names? If you’re a writer yourself – do you use a pen name, or would you and why/ why not?

I’ve read several times over these past few weeks that the name on the cover needs to match the genre you’re writing – and my name, Sarina Langer, hardly screams High Fantasy.

I know of authors who write some books under a pen name, but use their real name or a second pen name for others!

What are your thoughts on this? Does my name tell you that I don’t know what I’m writing about? Does the name matter to you?

Personally I’ve never purchased a book because of the name on the front cover – the only exception being when I’d already read something by the same author before, and was sure that I was going to love another book by him/her, too – which has nothing to do with the name and everything to do with the content.

pen name

Pen names don’t make me more likely to buy a book, neither do they put me off. I went from not having considered it to not wanting to use one, to not being all that sure.

How important is the author’s name to you? If you have used a pen name yourself, why have you chosen to do so, and do you feel that it has impacted your sales in any way? How did you choose it? Should I use a pen name?

Get a coffee/tea and some biscuits, and let’s have a chat! πŸ™‚


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Published inA Writer's Musings


  1. I honestly don’t even look at or remember an author’s name until I’ve read the book. If I enjoyed it then I’ll take a good look at it and seek out their other stuff!

    I’ve heard cases where, particularly in certain genres, women writers prefer to use their first initial because they feel agents/publishers discriminate against women. Now, while this may be the case, I don’t know if reader do this. These genres are sci-fi, fantasy and crime.

    The reverse is true in women’s fiction/romance. Lots of male authors publish using their first initial because apparently the mostly female readership is put off by a man’s name on the cover!

    I guess it must happen because lots of authors prefer to use their initials for this reason, but personally I don’t care who writes a book, just whether I enjoy it or not πŸ™‚

    • I’m the same, I’ve never picked up a book because I liked the author’s name. Unless I’ve read a book by the same author before, the name has no effect whatsoever on my decision to buy it.

      I have heard the same, though, that female writers often only use their initial or use a male pseudonym instead. I do think that it’s about time the discrimination against either gender stopped, but God only knows when that will actually happen.

  2. I think people sometimes end up losing credibility by choosing an overly florid nom de plume. For instance, a fantasy novel by someone called Sarina Langer is something I would judge on the merits of its insides.It’s likely that I would be subconsciously predisposed towards aversion to a book by someone calling themselves Minerva Ravensmoon LeFay. In the end you can probably get by calling yourself whatever you want, but the brand you make for yourself will influence your market.

    • I agree, I’ve read some names so obviously made up that it put me off, because it looks like the writer is trying too hard to stand out. I agree again that a book should be judged by the story, but a novel by Minerva Ravensmoon LeFay (nice example!) sounds too desperate – and that’s before I even open the book!

      I’m glad to hear my name wouldn’t put you off πŸ™‚ Thanks a lot for stopping by!

  3. I like your name. It sounds as a writers name may sound and in my opinion wouldn’t look odd on the cover of a high-fantasy novel. I’ve seen far worse, though not sure if actual names or pen-names.

    If you do pick a pen-name, try to keep it natural. For example Robert Galbraith is good, Robert is an usual name and Galbraith adds it a special flaovour, but not too special or too weird. Princess Consuelo Banana-Hammock on the other hand is not so good for obvious reasons, I hope.

    I think it’s also important that you like the pen-name. Maybe imagine what kind of character would have a name like that, do you like the persona, would you want that persona with this name represent you, be your PR?

    But in the end, what matters most is the contents of the book, and maybe it’s cover design and title (Rise of the Sparrows sounds really nice btw). Which ever way your name is displayed on the cover, once the book inside is great and successful, the name becomes and advertisement for next books no matter what the name is.

    Good luck with publishing your book! πŸ™‚

    • Thank you! That’s very reassuring πŸ™‚ I’ve definitely seen far worse myself, but it’s never easy to judge your own name.

      I agree, pen names should be neutral and sound like they could just as easily be the author’s real name. As you said you’re not always sure if an author’s name is their real name or made up, and that’s how it should be. If it’s obviously made up the author loses credibility. Most other comments on this post say the same thing, which is reassuring!

      Liking the pen name you chose is a very good point. If you decide to name yourself you might as well make it a name you like! When I was a child I wanted to be called Trixie for a while, but I don’t think I’d go with that πŸ™‚ I don’t think it would suit me.

      Thank you, I’m glad you like the title! The cover is being designed professionally right now – I expect there’ll be a cover reveal in a couple of weeks πŸ˜‰

      Thank you. It’s my first time so it’s very exciting and a little intimidating, but the writing community here and on twitter has been incredible! Thanks for stopping by πŸ™‚

  4. I don’t use my surname because my son is writing under his own name and I don’t want to get in his way.
    Other than that I don’t think names count for much. Those who try and use what they think of as witty or daring names tend to make themselves so obvious as ‘trying’ that they put my off reading/listening to anything they are producing. (Usually encountered in Music but happens sometimes in Writing).

    • You’ve got a very creative family, from the sound of it πŸ™‚ Best of luck to you both! How is your son doing?
      The feedback on this post has been quite reassuring, so I don’t think I’ll use a pen name. If I ever write a book in a completely different genre I’ll consider it, but I doubt that’s going to happen any time soon.

      • Thanks. My son is working long his own hard path (being a dad to two very busy little boys) but he’ll get there.

        Once more best wishes with your book

  5. Your name would look good on a book, it’s lovely and neutral πŸ™‚
    For me, it’s all about the book. I admit I barely look at the author’s name until I’ve finished reading. If I liked it, I’m more likely to check out other works from the author and keep an eye open for future releases.

    • Thank you! I’m so happy to hear people say that, it’s very encouraging πŸ™‚
      I agree, it’s all about the content! The name is only important to me if I liked the book, and want to read more.

      Thanks for popping in and commenting! πŸ™‚

  6. I used one mainly because my real name is hard to pronounce and spell. LOL I wanted something that would be easy to say and hopefully remember. I picked out 4 variations of names that were a play on my real name or had some connection to me and put it up to a vote with my family and what you see is what won. πŸ™‚

    • That sounds like a nice way of doing it. An anagram of your actual name sounds lovely! Although you may have me trying to guess your real name now ^^
      It’s funny you say that, because people can never spell my name! When I’m asked for it now I start by spelling it, because it saves time that way. I’d like to think that, once they know what it is, it’s not that hard!

  7. I agree with others…your name is really nice. It has a poetic ring to it…Sarina…Langer…all of those great vowels…I vote to stay with your name!

    I don’t tend to read or not read a novel as a result of an author’s name. And hey, once your famous then everybody likes your name…

    “Hey Joe!”
    “Hey Linda”
    “Oh my God, is that the latest Sarina Langer novel!”
    “Yeah, I got up before sun rise and drive two hundred miles…in a storm to get it. And it’s totally worth it.”
    “I’m so jealous. And, I don’t know…a man who reads Sarina Langer must be so wonderful…”
    “Wow, thanks, maybe we can get together…”

    See how great your name will be! Whoa! Don’t change a thing.

    Happy writing to you!

    • Thank you! I never realised my name sounded this nice to people! When I published this post I definitely didn’t expect this reaction to it.
      That story made me laugh, haha! If that was to happen I’d be pretty pleased with myself, haha! Making two people fall in love is no small feat!! I’ll do my best, Paul! πŸ˜€

  8. As a writer I do. I share my name fully with a few family members, and I also just don’t think my name fits well for an author. I just combined my dishwater dull first name with a favorite magical item from a book series.

    As a reader I’m mostly unbiased, but I usually barely notice the authors name until I’m already sold on the other aspects.

    Your name is good for Fantasy. It’s eye catching, and a pretty name never hurt a books chances, with me anyway. If a writer does choose a Pen Name, I would hope it’s not for some archaic notion that their sex can’t write that genre but I notice the trend isn’t exactly dying out. It feels more alive than ever actually, but maybe just because I’ve been reading up on Pen Names and that reasoning pops up a lot.

    Good luck with ‘Rise of the Sparrows’! πŸ™‚

    • Combining your first name with that of a magical item you liked sounds like a wonderful way to create your pen name! May I ask which series gave you the name?

      Thank you! The response to my name has been unexpected. It’s reassuring to know that people think it’s a good fit. If I did ever create a pen name for myself (say, if I was to write erotic fiction (which I have no plans for, by the way)) it would still be female. Gender should have nothing to do with it, and while that’s certainly still an issue I’m not going to hide my gender. If someone doesn’t want to read my books because I’m a woman then I don’t want them in my fan base.

      Thank you! Happy writing to you, too πŸ™‚

      • The Chronicles of Narnia, they were the first fantasies I ever read. John Elder-Wand, and John The-One-Ring were options as well, but you know, I think I made the right choice.

  9. I have never decided for or against a novel because of the author’s name. Book title, yes. Author name, no. I don’t even know what a high fantasy author name would be or sound like. I think, ultimately, it’s up to you as the author and what you’re comfortable with. It’s the words on the page that should matter, not the name on the cover πŸ˜€
    With all of that being said, I will say that I have a pen name picked out if I ever decide to publish any of my dirty, smutty things ;p

    • Book titles have swayed me before as well, but then book titles should say something about the book. I agree, the only important words should be the ones on the pages πŸ™‚
      Ooh, may I ask what it is? ^^

      • Portia Lucly — I’m still working on the last name, can’t decide between ‘y’ or ‘ie’.

  10. I don’t have a problem with someone using a Pen name. Author name has never been a factor when picking out a book for me. Unless like you said, I had read their work before so knew I would like it. But I know if/when the day comes I get published I want my own name on the cover. I think it’s important to have something your so proud of, you can help but put your name on it.

    • I don’t mind people using pen names, either, but I also don’t feel like I need to use one myself. You’ve put that beautifully – I agree, and I’m definitely proud enough of my novel and my characters to want my own name on the cover! I’ve worked hard to make it happen as have my betas.

      • Thanks! Plus having a pen name or multiple names you publish under might make it more difficult for readers to find your other work.

  11. I use a pen name πŸ˜‰ Well, I say pen name- KJ is for Kayleigh-Jane and Chapman is my maiden name I wrote EVO Nation before I got married. I kept Chapman to avoid confusion, but now it feels like a pen name which is cool.

    I don’t usually pay much attention to author names when buying a book. I like the idea of pen names for authors who usually write in one genre, but branch out into another. Again, this avoids confusion and readers being let down. Nora Roberts does this with her JD.Robb pen name for science fiction books.

    • I’m not sure if initials count when they stand for your real name πŸ˜› It would be the same for me, should we ever get married. I don’t think we will but the name on the cover would become a pen name, too. I wouldn’t change my author name if we were to get married, it’s too confusing I think. Just imagine if I then also started using a pen name for a different genre! I’d have three names!

      That’s the only exception I’d make. I would use a pen name if I ever wrote a book or more in a genre I don’t usually write in.

      • I think if we self publish it’s much much harder to start a second name/ pen name for a different genre. It’ s so hard to build an author brand for one name, let alone two. I think it’s necessary though for big genre differences.

  12. There’s a lot of discussion on this and about selling books. One of the conclusions I have come to is that in many cases, people don’t necesaarily buy the book, they buy the person. Obviousy it’s not a hard rule, but I think the author has a part in what someone buys. The name is a big part of that and like you, I’ve come to the conclusion that my name wouldn’t be fit to sell. So if / when I get there I will be using a pen name more appropriate to put on the front of a fantasy / scifi book. πŸ™‚

  13. It’s definitely a great question πŸ™‚ I think that when it comes down to it, the title on the book is what grabs my attention far more than the name of the author. However, I have been prone to pick up more books with a female names because I want to support women! Otherwise, I think that choosing a pen name or not is a personal decision. I also think that it’s fun to conceive of aliases for different genres of writing, much like JK Rowling & Nora Roberts have done. You have a beautiful name, my dear πŸ™‚ I think it would be wonderful to see it on a book cover, but the decision must be yours πŸ™‚

  14. I think your name is great. Why not use your own name? I’m a huge James Patterson fan and there is nothing special or captivating about his name. His books are great and has nothing to do with his name. An authors name will not and does not determine if I will read their work. Go with what you feel is best!! Best wishes.

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