What’s in a Name? Plenty! Pen names (nom de plume-French for feather an older writing instrument), alias, literary double, nome de ghere-French for war name)  have been used for centuries. Some create distinct identities to avoid confusion when an author writes both fiction and non-fiction or if an author writes in more than one genre. They can separate two parts of a career such as writing and editing, or fiction writing and law. 

One of the allures about a pen name is that it may keep people guessing about your identity.

Some authors write under a pseudonym for anonymity, to stand out with an unusual name or to avoid confusion with other authors who have similar names. Others write under a pen name to avoid repercussions much like the witness protection program. In the past, female authors wrote under gender-neutral using initials instead of a first name, or male names for the sake of acceptability.

In a more unusual way to think, at least one author has used two or more pen names to have multiple articles published in the same magazine issue. Another author writes under different names since he finishes more than one novel a year and thinks people will not buy two books from the same author in one year.

Do you write smoldering erotica with heaving bosoms? Want the neighbors to know? Many writers use their legal name along with their pen names to maintain their followers and to bring in new ones with a name that is sculptured for fiction writing.

Pointers on selecting a pen name include choosing letters to put you alphabetically near the top, like Aaron, or away from the popular letter S. A few authors select pen names that are confused with famous authors, although this seems cheesy.

Names that fit a genre are another point of pen names: Lana Loving, Amber Asp, Dark Alleys or Sky Cubes. Names at the start of the alphabet and those with one or two syllables seem to be preferred. Try the names out in the beta stage to see how they sound to friends and your writing group. Check existing website availability.

Places to find ideas for pen names include my favorite: obituaries and of course the internet. Once you have your pen name, start branding and use it in your website and social networking sites.

Famous writers with pen names include Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain); Jean Baptiste Poquelin (Moliere); Emily Bronte (Ellis Bell), Theodore Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss), and Esther Friedman (Ann Landers).

Photographs of an author with a pen name could defeat the purpose. I've noticed one author in disguise with a hat, wig and sunglasses. Another author took a photo of the back of his head, and a third took a picture of his cowboy boots.

I have a few reasons for using a pen name for my mysteries. My stories include corruption and judges are murdered in several of my Fiona Gavelle series.

Since I developed the name UNA TIERS, one person, another author, honed on it the first time we talked. One person in about nine years surprised even me. 

Una Tiers is the pen name for an attorney in Chicago IL who writes about corruption in the courts.  Her debut mystery, Judge vs Nuts has a female sleuth, Fiona Gavelle, and has been described as a humorcide, a traditional mystery, a cozy and a legal mystery.

©Una Tiers 2020 - contact us for permission to reprint. una@unatiers.com

Authors Helping Authors



Writers Kindness

In 2012, just before my debut mystery was published, I went to a workshop about women and book reviews. The panel said the majority of reviewers were men.

After the discussion, I approached the woman from the newspaper. Learning I was with a small publisher, she declined, describing the room full of books that were available to her.

Barbara D'Amato was signing books and I had a chance to talk to her. I asked her if she would look at my book, Judge vs Nuts. She agreed! 

My publisher flat out refused to believe Ms. D'Amato would read my book and discouraged me from following up. It took many requests to get her to send a copy of the book. 

Ms. D'Amato went to great lengths to do the review, and it is spectacular.

The lesson was not to be afraid to ask. The second lesson is that writers helping writers has amazing results.

Una Tiers