I need to create a pen name, a pseudonym. My current Local Foods Mysteries contract stipulates that I can't publish a different mystery under my real name (or any name resembling it) during the term of the contract. Kensington Publishing doesn't want the competition, I guess. I agreed to the clause.
I want to publish Speaking of Murder, the first in Speaking of Mystery series with Quaker Linguistics Professor Lauren Rousseau, sometime soon, however. So I have to come up with another name.
My father, Allan B. Maxwell, Jr was a big writer but not a published one. He nevertheless had a pen name he was fond of using: R.J. Nalla. Clever. Pronounceable, spellable, and with logic behind it: Allan Jr spelled backwards. Somehow I don't think LLewxam Htide is going to really catch on with readers. I wish Daddy were still with us so I could ask for his ideas.
So I went looking for guidelines on creating a pseudonym. Jamie Hall's essay on the topic made a lot of sense to me. Besides a name that is pronounced and spelled unambiguously, it should also have the following characteristics:
- Be short (you hope you are going to have to sign it dozen of times in a row).
- Be toward the front of the alphabet, so it's shelved at eye level in a bookstore or library. Of course, with ebooks this loses all relevance.
- Have the URL/domain name available.
- Have few or no existing hits in an Internet or Facebook search.
- Be available as a Twitter handle.
- Be a name you aren't going to mind responding to.
- Sound like the gender in whose voice you wrote the book.
- Preferably have a two-syllable first name and a one-syllable surname.
I'm still working this. I want to come up with name I'm happy with so I can start building that "brand" -- web site, FB page, new photo, and so on (a somewhat exhausting prospect, frankly). Avery Aames did it for her Cheese Shop mysteries, and admirably, successfully (she also got a separate picture taken), so I know I can, too.
What about you? Have you created a pseudonym? Is it working for you? If not, how have you felt when you discovered an author you like was operating under a hidden identity? What kinds of names attract you or turn you off?
(And if you start to see Ruthie Drew popping up here and there, well, maybe she'll seem famliar...)