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My name is Ana Novkovic and I'm about to start writing and all that. I really really don't like my last name Novkovic. It's so hard to pronounce and I worry it would just distract readers and not look good.

I am considering using the pen name Ana N. Is it a bad idea to have a pen name within only an initial for a surname?

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    If you do think that your last name is not good enough (although I personally just can't see why), you can choose a different pen name. However, I think "Ana N." is just too generic and would hurt your visibility when people start googling this name. – Alexander Jun 13 at 19:36
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    I think Ana Novkovic is a very nice name. It sounds foreign to me (maybe Russian? Not sure), but is remarkably easy to read and would probably be easy enough to say for most English speakers. – icanfathom Jun 13 at 19:50
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    Agree with @Alexander. Test with google (and others) first, it doesn't seem search-friendly.... It does have a kind of '80s Berlin punkscene vibe, which is cool but dated… en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christiane_F. – wetcircuit Jun 14 at 2:50
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    @wetcircuit I'd also give it a spin on Amazon and such if you intend to publish/sell there. The main issue of initials is they can be ignored by search engines or match with anything like rock n roll or N Carolina. – AmiralPatate Jun 14 at 10:32
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    I think it is too generic, and too close to "Anon", a common shortened form of Anonymous. Your name is fine, but if you don't like it, maybe "Ana Nova" as a pen name. – Amadeus Jun 14 at 16:06
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You can publish under any name you choose. Whether it makes a difference to your sales is a very open question, but if it makes you feel better about publishing your work, then by all means use a pen name. Many great writers have done so -- Mark Twain was a pen name; so was Andre Norton. More recently, John Varley was a pen name -- and these are just the ones I know, whose work I've read (and I'm a pretty narrow reader).

On the other hand, people with harder names than yours have published under their birth names -- Somtow Sucharitkul, for instance (though after several years, he changed to using S.P. Somtow). Aleksandr Solzhenytsin was another.

I'd suggest you don't worry about whether your readers can pronounce your name, and concentrate on writing work they'll want to read. If they want to read it, they'll get past your name.

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    Lewis Carroll, Dr Seuss, Stan Lee, George Orwell, Lee Child – OrangeDog Jun 14 at 14:04
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    I don't think Солженицын is hard for Russian speakers. – Grzegorz Oledzki Jun 14 at 16:19
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Partly because your name is the same as a Slovenian politician famous enough to be listed in Wikipedia, you should consider an alternative. Do you like your mother's maiden name? Would you prefer a shortened version or an English translation of your surname (Like Ana Novik or Ana Newson, for example)? It should be short enough, memorable and have some charm for you, and it should "age well."

I've had a pseudo for years for arts things that I do that are completely unrelated to my main career, they definitely come in handy. But do tell your publisher and/or agent your full legal name :-)

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Using the initial for the surname may actually be more distracting for the reader, because it seems like a deliberate attempt at hiding identity, such as is done when writing tell-all books about some long-held secret. It also makes it harder for reviewers and commenters to refer to you by surname; some will end up finding out your real name and using that, and that will create confusion among your readers. And a single letter alone will make it harder to find you in online searches.

You might consider a short and catchy variant of your real name, like "Ana Nov" or "Ana Nova". Or, as others have said, your middle name, or some name in your family that has a nice ring to it and (very important) will be unique when people search for you.

I'm also given to understand that in many cases, pen-names (and stage-names) have arisen from the suggestion of publishers or agents, who may have a good sense for the market you hope to reach. So you might consider submitting your first manuscripts with your full name, and asking for feedback at that time.

Though, having suggested it, I will say that "Ana Nova" has a nice ring to it.

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    ha! I also thought of "Ana Nova", in a comment before I read your post. – Amadeus Jun 14 at 16:08
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    How about Ana Nimus – Robyn Jun 14 at 18:49
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    @barbecue that may be true in the music industry, but CCTO is correct with re to book publishing. – industry7 Jun 14 at 18:55
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    @alephzero Even worse, when I Googled "Ana Nova", it thought I probably meant "Anna Nova" who is, apparently, an East German porn actress. – David Richerby Jun 14 at 23:43
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    @DavidRicherby if you look long enough, you'll find that all cool names are already taken by porn actresses. On the other hand, when you need a cool name for your character, you know where to look for it... – Agent_L Jun 16 at 7:47
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Your name is fine. I would not choose an initial for a surname because people will wonder what you're hiding and you have to file extra paperwork for a pseudonym. But of course you can always tell people "just call me Ana N." when you want. Some of my daughter's teachers at her school go by "Mr. G" or "Ms. O" because their names are long and/or hard to pronounce.

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    In what regions do you need "paperwork" to use a pen-name? – Toby Speight Jun 14 at 10:39
  • @TobySpeight Any region where checks or transfers to your pen name go into a bank account in your legal name. Or where you sign a contract and need to connect the names. In the US you get a fictitious business name ("doing business as..."). I have one for my business and it's cheap and easy to do. But it still involves a trip to the county every 5 years, publishing it in the paper, and so on. – Cyn Jun 14 at 15:48
  • Your publisher isn't going to write a check to your pen name. That's just not how it works. Point 1, in order to get published, your'e going to have a sign some contracts at some point, and if you sign your pen name instead of your real name on a contract that will almost certainly be illegal one way or another. – industry7 Jun 14 at 18:50
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    @industry7 "if you sign your pen name instead of your real name on a contract that will almost certainly be illegal one way or another." Depends where in the world you are. In the UK, you can call yourself whatever you want, as long as it's not for deception. – David Richerby Jun 14 at 23:41
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    In the US you need a DBA (fictitious business name) just to use the business name (and a pen name is a business name), whether you get checks made out to that name or not. While a publisher would know and use your real name for the contract/finances, if you self-publish or otherwise sell books online or in person and don't want checks/transfers to your real name, you need to have a DBA. – Cyn Jun 15 at 0:20

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