Me and my friend are currently writing a Sci-fi novel. When we publish it, we want both of our names to be on the cover. Do I have to put our names in alphabetically, or some order?

  • 3
    Do your first or last names in some combination sound cool? Then use them that way as a pseudonym. It worked for Nicci French (Nicci Gerrard and Sean French), Grant Naylor (Rob Grant & Doug Naylor), etc.
    – Gwyn
    Nov 14, 2020 at 11:58
  • 1
    Just toss a coin.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 15, 2020 at 17:57

2 Answers 2


It's complicated

Usually, on novels, names go in order of importance or popularity. It's good to be honest about this - if James Patterson and a small author co-author a book, you know that James Patterson's name will go first and appear largest on the cover. It won't be marketed as "[other author] and James Patterson's book" - it will be marketed as "James Patterson's book with [other author]."

In your situation, however, I'm guessing that you are both unpublished and/or small authors, and therefore both of you would be viewed as equally "famous" when it comes to who gets placed on the book cover. As a result, you have a different, but related problem to worry about: whoever's name appears first will seem more important and be cited more as the author. They will likely be the one to appear in search results, in articles, etc. if your book happens to get popular. That's unfortunately just a fact of co-authorship, despite your best efforts to avoid this.

So, what do you do? How do you decide who goes first?

Here are some approaches:

  • Alphabetically. We had the "naming problem" when I was writing some biochemistry research papers with some coworkers, and we had to decide what order our last names would appear on the paper. We eventually decided that our names would just go alphabetically, to avoid favoritism or implying that one person was more important than the others. One person still had to go first, obviously, but at least we felt it had been fairly decided.
  • Flip a coin. Obviously you could just decide at random, again to avoid favoritism or looking at it subjectively and possibly hurting feelings.
  • Who contributed more? This is going to be tough to discuss depending on how good of friends you are, but if you feel you are brave enough to discuss it and it won't hurt anyone's feelings, talk about who objectively contributed more words, chapters, etc. to the book and therefore should appear first.

Whatever you decide, keep in mind that you want both of you to agree to whatever you decide! Don't let somebody stew or resent the decision - talk about it thoroughly beforehand and make sure both parties accept the choice.

  • 7
    Another factor that might be considered is euphony: does it sound better in one order?
    – Mary
    Nov 14, 2020 at 2:04
  • 1
    Another warning is that whichever way you pick in your first book, if you get successful then you need to keep the names that way round. It makes indexing by author harder if you don't, and you don't want customers to have trouble finding your books.
    – Graham
    Nov 14, 2020 at 10:59
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    "We eventually decided that our names would just go alphabetically, to avoid favoritism". I found that argument to be heavily favored by people whose last names start with "A" or similar "low" letters.
    – Polygnome
    Nov 14, 2020 at 19:34
  • @Polygnome It does favor that, but at least that way we picked something objectively :) people in my field usually don't make a fuss about it.
    – Sciborg
    Nov 14, 2020 at 20:05
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    @Sciborg It isn't objective in any way. If you really want the order to not be influenced by someone's agenda, pick it randomly, and let a computer do the random picking. Everything else favors someone.
    – Polygnome
    Nov 14, 2020 at 20:14

Use a pseudonym

When writing Red Dwarf, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor used the pseudonym of Grant Naylor for their work. This avoids the problem of whose name comes first, by using a single arbitrary name as author.

Neal Stephenson took the same approach when he collaborated with his uncle George Jewsbury to write Interface, using the pseudonym Stephen Bury.


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