I am writing a sci-fi novel with a female main character. My style is lo-tech, more about character development and a beautiful and unusual planet than about descriptions of technology. My target audience is women, and I am a female author. I have already decided to use a pen name, and I don't have any emotional attachment to using a female name, whatever works best.

Given these facts, what should I strive for in creating a pen name? Does a more elegant name lend itself to world-building credibility? Does a unisex name or initials still sell better in the Sci-Fi world than a female name?

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    I don't know the statistics on pen name gender, but I would offer the following advice... Don't choose a pen name for your current work in progress. Choose a pen name as your brand for everything that you write. When people fall in love with your writing, they will probably follow you across genre to get more of it. So tailoring a pen name to a particular genre may limit what you choose to write under that name. Instead, choose a name which represents the aspect of your writing which you are proudest of. If it is the elegance of your prose, go elegant. If it is your earthy-ness... Jul 6, 2017 at 17:09
  • mst3k.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_Nicknames_for_Dave_Ryder might help ;)
    – GordonM
    Jul 7, 2017 at 8:54
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    @GordonM What nice manly sounding names, I will certainly short-list them!
    – user25668
    Jul 7, 2017 at 16:05
  • This unfortunately, is hard to answer as it is heavily opinion based. Everyone has a different idea of how names affect books and sales. Stats are stats that can be manipulated any way the wind blows. I think that Henry says it best in his comment here that you need to find a name that works for you and fits who you are as a writer and not tailor the name to a particular genre or book. The only added advice I would like to provide is KISS. Names that are too crazy or hard to say may end up causing issues when someone wants to look up your work and can't remember the name or pronounce it.
    – ggiaquin16
    Jul 7, 2017 at 20:54

3 Answers 3


Choose a male name or use initials only for the first name creating ambiguity. Also if you watch, most folks will go to the middle of the shelf to start browsing. So make sure the last name starts with G-M to get center placement.

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    Or you could write a really great story. Jul 7, 2017 at 13:06
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    Look at sales records. Male names do better. Or names that are ambiguous. I worked in publishing for 9 years and if it isn't chick lit, YA or something else considered "female literature" a male name works better. Haven't seen any changes that make me think that has gotten better.
    – DCook
    Jul 7, 2017 at 13:28
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    Thanks @DCook, glad my current choice for last name, Moreau, seems to fit the bill. Now just to accomplish the really good story part.
    – user25668
    Jul 7, 2017 at 16:08

I would keep it logical and simple. If you make it too wild, people will assume fantasy, or something ridiculous like the Series of unfortunate Events, the author of that being Lemony snicket. I would take from Jules Verne. Two one syllable names. It flows. I personally would stay away from initials and a last name, because one thinks of J.R.R. Tolkien or J.K. Rowling who are fantasy authors. At least don't have a J initial. However, one could also think of H.G. Wells. But mostly you see clear, sophisticated names from sci fi authors. If you decide on a feminine name, I would go with something that sounds classic and smart. Names like Elizabeth, Margaret, Victoria, Blythe. And for last names avoid Z's and X's and anything that sounds too particular to a culture (Like Spanish or Russian names) Easily pronouncable. Unique enough to be the only one and remembered, but plain enough to not make people giggle when they say it.

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    What kind of name in the world would not sound particular to a culture?
    – Patsuan
    Jul 7, 2017 at 14:32
  • Haha, true. I failed to see that. Jul 8, 2017 at 5:32

I don't know about what sells better based on gender but a few things to consider are...
1. Your pen name should be something that is easily remembered. If it is difficult to pronounce or otherwise hard to remember, people are less likely to remember it.
2. It should be something that you like, so that you don't mind other people referring to you with that name.
3. It should be distinct enough that it could not be could not be confused with another author.
4. Personally, as a woman, I wouldn't mind reading more sci-fi (which I enjoy) from a female author.

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