Monday, March 29, 2010

What's your name?

Dear Authors: it's dark-hearted muttering time. Ready?

I appreciate your creativity and the thought you've put into your pseudonyms. Honestly. And really, I know you think you're being very clever when you come up with something like:

Stormie Skyes.
Sunny Daye.
Misty Dawn.
Red Hott

But the truth? When I read names like this on submissions, I roll my eyes and gag. It's like being stuck on the Bad Pun Train. Please...when can I get off?

They're nearly as bad as the single name pseudonyms. Pim. Poppins. Pumbleby. (For some odd reason, they always seem to start with a "P".) Poppy. Pippy.


People! A pseudonym is a marketing device as well as a means of hiding yourself from the public eye. You want it to sound professional. And unless you're a stripper or a porn star, Candy Cane isn't professional. It's cloying. And annoying. And--it makes you sound like a first class twit.

Think in terms of product. Your pseudonym represents your product. Do you want people to think your books are nothing but trash written by a bubble-brain? (I hope you don't. The fact that you've taken the time to think of your cutesie name proves otherwise.) Do you want reviewers to have an automatic anti-your-book bias before they even read the first page? No, of course not. You want everyone to say--hey, this is a great book! And the author's name is...

Stop and think about what image you wish to project. And think about how people remember (or don't remember) names.

Lots of letters...probably not. If I told you my real last name, you'd run in the other direction. Seriously. I dated my husband (who was then just a boyfriend, of course) for four weeks before I could remember what his last name was. I knew it started with a D...had a couple of l's in the middle and and o and possibly and i near the end. So when I was deciding on a nom de plume, you can be sure I didn't want to use my real last name. No one would remember it, never mind knowing how to spell it to buy my books.

Same thing for my editing name. Yep--that's a pseudonym, too.

One thing I knew was that I wanted to keep my first name; mostly because I feared being at a conference (or on Oprah) and someone would call me by a fake pseudonym first name--and I wouldn't respond. Duh. So my first name--Cynthia, often Cyn--stuck. But the last name...ah. That was the hard part.

In the end, I went with my maiden name. Why? It's got a literary reference. (You know, that Yeats guy. Pronounced the same way but spelled differently.) It's a common enough name, easy to spell, easy to remember. And besides--I happen to like it.

Perhaps this is an option for you. Instead of Coco Crisp or Strawberry Blonde, perhaps you could just use your real first name and your maiden name. (Assuming, of course, you're a married woman and your maiden name wasn't like my married name. Two t's, one l, two i's and an o. And an a. And a d...)

Another thing to consider is the rhythm of your pen name. I've heard it said (and have discovered it to be true) that if you use one less syllable than the other name, it sounds better. (Whut?)

For example, consider the name, Mary Smith. Mary has two syllables, Smith has one. Sounds nice, doesn't it? (Boring but pleasing.)

Mary Deery, on the other hand--not so nice. Two syllables balanced together--too repetitive. (The double ry's don't help, either.) But if it's Mary S. Deery--you've evened it off again, throwing that extra syllable in there to offset the sing-song quality. Play around with this concept and listen to the pattern/rhythm of the words. You want to create something that will lilt in the reader's (aka "purchaser's") head, make them remember you. Like a bit of poetry, maybe.

Okay, I'm waxing wierd, here. C.D. Yates ain't no poetic name. But it's better than Hott Leggs.


  1. Great post girl! I stuck with my real first name (odd spelling an all) for many of the same reasons you mentioned. For the last name, I've always been a fan of aliteration, so I stuck my dad's first name with my first name and I like to think I came up with a winner - Debora Dennis.

  2. Good post! :)

    My name is a pseudonym, too, but not for privacy. My full name is Simon Adam Slade, and I can't stand Simon. So my nom de plume is Adam Slade.

    Shorter, easier to remember, nice flow (2 syllables then 1), no irritating Simon. ;-)



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