Of course, you’ll want to start by choosing a name that you like. If someone comes up on the street and addresses you by this name, would you flinch? Definitely discuss it with your favorite person (significant other, mom, best friend, cat, whoever). You’ll probably want to make a list of 2-3 options (or more if you like lists!) while you’re still brainstorming.
Got that preliminary stuff done? Good! Now for the research…
- Think about the genre you’re writing in. Will the pen name(s) you’ve chosen fit within the genre(s) you’ll be writing in? Readers will expect Nancy Lilac to be writing very different books than Daemon Cole.
- Google the name. Seriously. Run it through Bing, too, if you like (or just ask Siri, she’ll Bing it for you). See if there’s a notable person with that name. Actress? Real estate mogul? Famous bank robber? (Actually, that last one might work if you’re writing a heist/thriller…) But find out if this particular name comes with any unappealing baggage or associations.
- Now search for the pen name on Amazon. And maybe Goodreads, too. Once that’s clear (and it probably will be if the Google search didn’t raise any trouble), then look for variants of the pen name, like alternate spellings (is that Kristy or Christie or Cristy or Cristi or…?). Alternate spellings can be no big deal (it’s your call), but if you’re writing Inspirational Romance and there’s an Erotica writer with a very similar name, you’ll want to consider the ramifications of that. If a potential reader finds the ‘wrong you’, will that create a problem?
- And last, if you want to be extra thorough, search for the name on social media: Facebook, Twitter, etc. Especially any site that you’ll plan to create an account on. You may also want to see if a domain name is available if you plan to host a website.
It’s always a good idea to do a little background check on the ‘alternate’ you before you commit to your new identity.