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Should I get a pen name (nome de plume, literary doubt, etc)?
Michael Guarneiri
Posted: Sunday, May 15, 2011 11:02 PM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 29

So... my name's Michael Guarneiri. That might be description enough, but I'll elaborate. 9/10 people can't pronounce my name (I do not fault them) and 10/10 people can't spell it when I pronounce it. It seems a bad place to be when you want your book to be a hit. 

This is how I imagine things going: 
Hey mom, I want that book by Michael Garneery! 
Inevitably, dear mom will give in to her darling son/daughter and browse Amazon for Michael Garneery... but to no avail. 

What are your thoughts on pen names? With a name like Michael Guarneiri, should I get one? HOW DO I FIGURE OUT WHAT IT SHOULD BE?

Thanks for all of the help! Look forward to hearing from all of you, 

Michael Garneery. 

CY Reid
Posted: Monday, May 23, 2011 9:27 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 52

I shortened my name into "CY" because my first and middle names are very traditionally Greek Cypriot. They're also constantly misspelled, mispronounced, and being stuck with a deeply Mediterranean first name and a last name that's the Scottish equivalent of Smith is a tad frustrating.

However, in your case, it's up to you - I don't think Audrey Niffenegger has had any problems whatsoever thus far, and I honestly feel that little bit more knowledgable once I've learned how to pronounce a surname I'm unfamiliar with. If you're interested, here's a list of authors with "difficult" names:

You can see there that some of the authors are far from small-time. J.M. Coetzee, Eoin Colfer, Chuck Palahnuik - all with surnames and first names some people would struggle to get past their chompers correctly, so I say go for it. Personally, I have a lot of respect for authors with names that aren't necessarily the "average Western Joe" type that stick with them, because I think it makes them feel somewhat more legitimate due to their reluctance to pander to people who aren't fussed to learn new names.

Oh, and as a final point - we live in the generation of autocomplete, so once a few people get it right (I'll do it for you, if you like, with a few others!), you're golden.
Colleen Lindsay
Posted: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 8:29 PM
Joined: 2/27/2011
Posts: 356

Hi Michael!

Yours is a great question, actually. Normally I would say that having a pen name is most useful for writers who write in two very distinct genres, for example, a writer who writes middle grade books for kids and also writes erotica.

Difficult names can also be a good reason to select a pen name. Your argument is a valid one, especially in the age of Googling everyone and everything. It would be a shame to miss out on a book sale simply because nobody can remember how to spell your name.

If you do pick a pen name, you may want to pick something that's close enough to your real name, like Michael Garner. Or you could make a play on the anticipated misspelling of your name and call yourself something like Michael G. Neary.

But either way, make sure it's a name you feel comfortable using for a long time.

(Personally, I think that Guarneiri is a lovely name, and quite distinctive!)


Posted: Friday, June 3, 2011 5:38 AM
Joined: 3/16/2011
Posts: 216


Interesting question (I can pronounce your name, BTW – ho studiato l’Italiano da tre anni). You make some valid points about not only the pronunciation, but the whole Googling aspect. The auto-correct feature sometimes ain’t that smart.

If you want your name to be recognized – if this is important to you – I’d keep probably use your real one. If it doesn’t really matter, I suppose it could go either way. I do professional work for government clients, and I put my real name on my work. I don’t think they’d be too thrilled about me writing romance. Dense literary fiction? Fer sure! But like it or not, romance writing still has that patina of “Ew! She must be a dimwit!”

So yes … gonna use a pen name. ☺

Tim Johnson
Posted: Sunday, June 5, 2011 5:57 AM
Joined: 3/7/2011
Posts: 15

I have a similar question regarding names that are overly common, to be honest. It's been plaguing my mind a lot lately. More than I'm comfortable admitting to be honest.

I've begun establishing a pen-name, but I'm unsure about which direction to go.

My name, Tim Johnson, is almost as common as John Smith and with several television personalities and a few professional football players, I have a lot of competition on google.

Do I create a pen-name, and if so... how much immersion do you make a pen name? I mean, do I blog as my pen name, sign into twitter as my pen name, etc.?
Sinnie Ellis
Posted: Sunday, August 7, 2011 2:01 AM
Joined: 4/3/2011
Posts: 67

I have a pen name, Sinnie Ellis and everyone believes my real name Autumn Rosen to be the pen name. I can't win so I use both. I write in 7 genres, so I have no choice, I don't want my YA readers to pick up my Adult stuff and I don't want to mix up my romance novels with my YA, scifi, thriller, crime stuff.
IF anyone understood that please explain it to me.

Jennifer S Wilkov
Posted: Sunday, August 7, 2011 12:31 PM
Joined: 8/7/2011
Posts: 7

Hi, Michael!

I recently wrote about pen names in a blog in conjunction with an interview I did with thriller writer C.E. Lawrence. Here is the link:

Pen names have been used for a variety of reasons over the centuries and serve different purposes.

There are collaborative pen names representing multiple authors such as Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew Mysteries) and Franklin W. Dixon (The Hardy Boys).

There are pen names used by writers you know like Richard Bachman (Stephen King) and J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts).

Pen names have been used either by the choice of the writer or by demand of the publisher. Even J.K. Rowling ran into this situation with her publisher re: Harry Potter. (PS - she doesn't really have a middle name - no "K" in real life).

I hope this article will help you and others to better understand pen names.

~ Jennifer