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I'm currently in the middle of writing several fantasy books and, even though I'm not done with any of them, I can't stop thinking about how my name will appear on my books once they are finished.

I remember reading somewhere that authors should go by names that are sort of related to their genre. I don't know if that's actually important or not. If my name is Sage Piché, would that be good enough (Piché is pronounced pee-shay, by the way)? Or should it be S. M. Piché? Or should I come up with a new name altogether?

  • Welcome to Writing.SE, Sage! Please take a look at our tour and help center pages, they're helpful. Are you sure you don't remember where, or at least in what context, you read the claim that "authors should go by names that are sort of related to their genre"? The claim sounds rather dubious to me. – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Aug 17 at 7:34
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    Welcome. You're good. The name you give is fine (whether it's your real name or one you made up). Just make sure no one else is using it and don't choose a pen name that might confuse you with another author or known person (it's your real name is possibly confusing you can live with it or tweak it). – Cyn says make Monica whole Aug 17 at 15:34
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I do not know the source of that claim you heard, but I think you're taking it too literally. Generally, most authors just use their name. There's nothing about the name "J.R.R. Tolkien" or "Terry Pratchett" or "Ursula Le Guin" that's particularly related to speculative fiction, except after the fact - those names are related to the genre because that's what those famous authors wrote.

In some genres that are perceived "masculine", a woman might wish to mask her gender. This was the case for J.K. Rowling and Robin Hobb. In some situations one might wish to mask one's ethnicity, as was the case for Janusz Korczak, for example. The situation on those things keeps changing though: things that it was advisable, for the sake of publicity, to mask some decades ago, can now become an advantage.

If you're set on picking a pseudonym, you would want to avoid something that stands out in the wrong way. As an example, unless you're writing sleazy romance, you probably wouldn't want to be called Roxie Lust. But if you do write sleazy romance, you don't have to call yourself Roxie Lust - there's nothing wrong with a perfectly neutral name that sounds like an actual person's name.

That's about it. Don't worry about it. If you want to use your name, just use your name.

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    @Gnudiff as a reader, I disagree with using author name pronunciation as a criteria because it all to easily becomes a stand in for "is this author white? (Or concealing their ethnicity too appear white)", but as an author it's important to recognize that this often is a consideration that readers make. – Arcanist Lupus Aug 18 at 16:22
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    @ArcanistLupus I couldn't really agree with your idea of this particular stand in, as I couldn't imagine author's skin colour from name, but I would say that I, and I suspect many others, probably do have stereotypes about the style of literature commonly produced in different countries. Eg, Scandinavian vs English detective stories, etc. And a particular surname can bring associations with particular sort of field is expectations. – Gnudiff Aug 18 at 18:03
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    The American audience is strange. They would think nothing of buying an english language novel from a male author with an obviously Polish, Spanish, Jewish, German, Italian or even Russian name, but they do not feel the same about middle eastern and eastern names. – dolphin_of_france Aug 21 at 15:12
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    @dolphin_of_france I doubt Ken Liu would have been half as successful as he is, had he tried to publish his very Chinese-influenced speculative literature under an Americanised pseudonym. – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Aug 21 at 15:16
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    @Galastel: never heard of him! prizes are given for many a political reason. but you can always call yourself "Xi Pingping" in your next novel and see how you do (if you don't think it makes a difference at all, why not try it) – dolphin_of_france Aug 21 at 15:17
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Just use your Initials and last name

G.R.R. Martin

J.R.R. Tolkien

J.K Rowling

seems to work well for them...

If your last name doesn't have a nice ring to it, just make one up. Or if your last name is too foreign for english language novels (by that I mean Easter, or Middle Eastern), get a pen name.

Akhmed Bin Al Shahi --> you might consider calling yourself A B A Shane.

Yes the world is racist and sexist. And people do judge a book by its cover, and an author by the published name.

And believe me when I say, my real name is not the dolphin of france, that's just what the president calls me.

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    "Yes the world is racist and sexist" - doesn't mean you have to be. – F1Krazy Aug 21 at 18:58
  • @F1Krazy: I am not racist/sexist to say the world on average is. point is they prejudge you. So you might as well choose a neutral pen name. It is hard enough to sell a book or a story... why have them slam the door on you before they even read the first word. – dolphin_of_france Aug 21 at 19:12
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I don't think it matters. The only fantasy author I can think of who tweaked their name for remotely genre-related reasons was Joanne Rowling calling herself J K Rowling in case boys wouldn't read a story by a woman. I don't think someone new would have to do that today, thanks to her success.

  • if your last name is Suzuki, and you are writing Western Style Fantasy, you might want to use a pen name. Just saying... – dolphin_of_france Aug 21 at 14:49
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The frame challenge of this question is whether you would like to be read by someone who considers your name to be an important factor in the decision on whether reading your book.

If having the largest readership is important to you, then you may also want to consider whether the content of your book would appeal to the majority before you even wonder about the pen name that you are going to use.

If you write for the pleasure of writing, or if the content of your writing is important to you, then your pen name should not matter. What matters is that your title and synopsis are well crafted to tell the interested readers that you have a book for them.

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