How to choose the perfect romance author pen name

How to choose the perfect romance author pen name

african american woman wearing sun glasses

Finding your romance alias: The journey to your ideal pen name

Choosing the right pen name is kind of like finding your one true love–it’s critical to your long-term happiness and often requires exploring lots of options before settling on the perfect fit.

Back in the days when I attended in-person romance writing meetings (RWA and then our break-off group), we had heated debates about why a person would want to publish under a made-up name. Some people felt it was important to hide their true identity, while others believed just as strongly that people who used a fake name were communicating that they had something to hide—which felt unethical.

Why I write with a pen name

When I published my first work of fiction, I used my real name, which, I admit scared me. But at the time I leaned more toward the, “I have nothing to hide” belief.

As I learned more about publishing and how to turn my hobby into a career, I met over a hundred romance authors who were farther along their path than I was. And what I learned was that the majority published with pen name.

My decision to publish romance under a pen name was made strategically since I also publish non-fiction and, when I first started writing romance, was most known in the work world as a non-fiction ghost-writer. It would have been confusing to see one name with a list of publication credits that included financial literacy curriculum, how to titles, and steamy romance.

And so, I embarked on a many week adventure of dating several names before meeting the one that I would fall in love with: Danika Bloom.

Before I walk you through the questions to consider when picking your own perfect alias, here are some romance authors who also publish under names other than the ones their mama’s gave them. And for the record, these authors are all open about using pen names—I’m not outing anyone.

A few romance authors who publish under an assumed name

                      • Bella Andre
                      • Christina Lauren (a writing duet)
                      • E.L. James
                      • Elena Johnson aka Liz Isaacson & Jessie Newtown
                      • Jayne Ann Krentz aka Jayne Castle 
                      • Jennifer Armentrout aka J. Lynn 
                      • Jodi Ellen Malpas aka J.E. Malpas
                      • Julia Quinn
                      • L.L. Schulz
                      • Laura Kaye aka Laura Kamoie

blond lady holding a fake moustache under her nose
young woman in a yellow shirt hiding her face behind a white mask
  • Lorraine Heath aka Rachel Hawthorne & J.A. London & Jade Parker
  • Nora Roberts aka J.D. Robb
  • Sarah MacLean
  • Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • Sophie Kinsella
  • Sylvia Day aka S.J. Day & Livia Dare
  • Tessa Dare
  • Victoria Holt

Reasons to use a pen name

If you haven’t thought about using a nom de plume—you’re planning to publish under your real name—my intention is not to convince you to do otherwise. But, if you haven’t thought about these reasons other authors have chosen to use an alias, it can be fun to at least play with names that might be a better fit for your author brand.

Whether you choose to go by your real name or opt for a pseudonym, what matters most is that you feel comfortable and confident in your author identity.

tattooed lady hiding her face behind a VHS cassette


Pseudonyms protect personal identity and maintain a boundary between professional and private life.


A well-chosen pen name can resonate with a target audience, ensuring books are easily identified and associated with a specific writing style.

Creative freedom

Pseudonyms offer writers the liberty to experiment across genres without compromising an existing brand reputation.

Meeting reader expectations

Separate pen names can prevent reader confusion, especially for authors who write in different sub-genres (steamy contemporray and sweet small town, fo instance) or entirely different genres.

Legal contraints

Publishing contracts might necessitate the use of a pen name.

How to choose the perfect pen name

Choosing a pen name is your chance to add some spice and flair to your writing persona. Play around with different combinations of names and surnames that sound romantic, catchy, and memorable.

Step 1: Connect with your writer persona

Before you start brainstorming pen names, take a moment to reflect on your author persona. Are you a fiery, passionate romance author who loves to write sizzling hot scenes? Or are you more of a sweet and tender storyteller who specializes in heartwarming tales of love? Understanding your author persona will help you choose a pen name that aligns with your writing style and genre.

Step 2: Do lots of sub-genre-based research!

The genre and target audience of your romance novels should play a significant role in choosing your pen name. If you write historical romance, for example, you may want to choose a pen name that sounds classic and evokes a sense of nostalgia. If you write contemporary romance, on the other hand, you may want to go for a more modern and trendy pen name. Understanding your genre and target audience will help you create a pen name that resonates with your readers.

Take some time to list all the romance author names you can think of off the top of your head. What makes them memorable? Now go to Amazon.com and take a look at the bestsellers in the romance sub-genre you’ll be writing in. If you’re not sure yet, look at the main list of bestsellers.

What can you glean from the names at the top of the list? Do they have anything in common? Do they tend to be short? Do they tend to have a family name that is a noun or something visual? Do they use initials as a first name?

You won’t find 100% consistency but make a note of what you notice so you can play with those ideas in your own name creatio

Step 3: Aim for simplicity

When it comes to pen names, simplicity is key. Avoid names that are too long, difficult to spell, or hard to pronounce. You want readers to easily remember and recognize your pen name, so they can both find your books easily and tell their friends about the great author they just found.

Another great tip I was advised (and ignored!) was to choose three-syllable name—first and last together. Three syllables is said to be easier to remember than longer names and has the benefit of (very likely) taking up less cover real estate, leaving more room for your future bestseller status line!

Even though a pen name like Valentina Kissingwell, Fanny Tickler, or Bella Lovejoy would be memorable, I’m not sure any of those would be taken seriously in the competitive world of romance writing. While full creativity is always encouraged during brainstorming, dial it back if the names you start thinking of sound like a joke or a parody. Save those fun names for your characters!

Step 4: Time to brainstorm

My own hindsight advice is to write all your ideas in a notebook you plan to hold onto. Make a list of first names that appeal to you. Make a list of family names that you’d love to have on a business card—and book covers!

If your list is short or you’re not feeling inspired, try what I ultimately did to figure out my perfect pen name. Put your full real name into a tool that will make it into an anagram and see if anything sparks joy. Don’t be too precious about creating a true anagram, though! You’re allowed to add letters to create the perfect-for-you name. (If I hadn’t done this, my pen name would have been Danika Blo … not a great last name to project the feeling of success!)

Once you have your starter list, the actual hard work starts!

Step 5: Avoid duplicates

The goal now is to eliminate, eliminate, eliminate. Pop back over Amazon.com and search for the top ten names on your list. While it’s fine to choose a name that doesn’t have a unique first or family name, you do want to be careful that the complete name you choose is not identical to, even too close to another author’s.

I was published in non-fiction under my real name back in the late 90s and as recently as 2021 (tin English) and 2022 (in a Korean translation). My real name is as common as muck so I wasn’t surprised when another non-fiction author started mixing up with the books assigned to me on Goodreads. It’s frustrating on many levels.

Step 6: Steer clear of potential lawsuits

Once you’ve determined the name is not being used by an author, check Google to make sure it’s not already claimed by any famous or high-profile people (or products!). While having a birth certificate that shares the same name as someone in the public eye is defensible (my real name is also “owned” by a famous Christian singer), it’s risky to choose the same name as someone who might have already—or could one day—copyright the name (yes, pen names can be copyrighted but our real names cannot be, weird as that is).

Step 7: Test your pen name

Once you’ve come up with a list of two to three potential pen names, don’t rush into a commitment just yet! Test-drive your pen name in different writing circles, forums, or social media profiles. See how it feels to introduce yourself with that pen name and how others react to it. Make sure you absolutely love your pen name! It should feel like a perfect match for your writing style, genre, and author persona. Your pen name should make you feel excited and proud to be associated with it.

A piece of advice I got from my friends when I was going through the process was to pick a name that sounded close enough to my real name that, if someone called to me at a conference (or in a shopping mall— we can all dream!) that I’d register it as mine and react. She spoke from embarrassing first-hand experience of having ignored people calling her pen name.

Need help picking your nom de plume?

Why it’s important to articulate your ‘why’

Why it’s important to articulate your ‘why’

You’re probably wondering, “Why do I need to articulate my why? And what that heck does that even mean?”

I believe it’s crucial to know why you are writing your book because, if you aren’t clear about what you want to accomplish with your writing, odds are you won’t be satisfied with the work you’re doing. 

Knowing your ‘why’ is about giving you a point on which to focus (kind of like that sweet dimple on your true love’s chin) when you’d rather be doing anything other than slogging through a scene or editing a chapter of your love story.

When the work of writing feels like work, knowing your why, being able to point to the reason you started this crazy adventure, the passion you have for your story, or for connecting with future readers, can give you the push you need to keep at it.

There’s a reason you chose to stop and read this blog post. There’s a reason you’re here on this website, and my guess is that you’re here, now, because the romance book that you want to write has been living with you without the courtesy of declaring it’s exclusive. How rude! 

Odds are that you’ve sat down many times to work on this story. But something’s kept you from fully committing to getting it done. An excuse from a voice, likely inside your own head, that has whispered cautions to keep you from writing.

Well, that voice loses its power right now. Once you know the answer to the most important question you’ll ask yourself thsi week, you’ll have the snappy comeback that that mean girl needs to hear to settle down and let you write!

I’m going to ask you the questions that are on this page, but don’t stop to write them down yet. You’ll get better results with this exercise if you close your eyes and just listen – both to my voice and the answers that you hear in your head. You won’t forget them.

And wait. One tip. Each time you answer, I want you to go deeper into your previous why answer. Don’t  just repeat the same thought since the questions are meant to build on each other.

You ready?

Hit the little play button and then close your eyes.

What is your why?

by Danika and you!

Take a deep breath in and hold it …. Now release.

One more. Deep breath in. Hold… release…

  • Why do you need to write the romance novel you’ve been thinking about?
  • Why do you need to write this specific book?
  • Why are you the best person to tell this love story?
  • Why do you need to write this romance novel now?
  • How will you feel once your book is written?
  • Why do you need to write your  book?

Open your eyes. Spend some time writing down and thinking about your answers.

If more than one of your answers is out of your control (“My contract requires it”) or because of another person (“My partner thinks it’s a great idea”), do the exercise again until all of the answers you hear are personal and within your control.

If you can’t get to that place, of having a personal reason why this book is so important to you, maybe consider that the story you’re focused on telling might not be the one you should be writing, right now… just consider it.

headshot Danika Bloom romance author

Written by Danika Bloom

Danika Bloom is a USA Today bestselling romance author who writes heroines with all the degrees she wished she could have pursued as a university student.

How to set an achievable writing priority

How to set an achievable writing priority

We’re going to start by gaining some focus on what your own personal, happily ever story is right now. Today. In this moment.

This post is specifically for those among us who have more than one hero and heroine’s story (or any number and combination of genders in one story)  bouncing around inside your head. Or in files on your computer, or folders and papers with ideas for lots of different stories.

This is something that many writers face at some point: so many ideas that you just don’t know where to start, where to focus, which book baby to give your love to.

So you stroke this one on Monday and another one on Wednesday and third gorgeous story on Thursday…

And that can be crazy-making!

Confusion is not a lack of motivation or time

People who study the habits of successful people have determined that when we, as creators, don’t have clarity, we stumble and often start to believe that what we’re missing is motivation. And we start to believe we just don’t have enough time, so we become overwhelmed and in that state… nothing. Happens.

I suspect you are highly motivated to finish your romance novel. But the fact that you haven’t yet means that something is getting in the way. There’s a chance that that something is lack of clarity or overwhelm. So that’s what today’s post is about!

I suffer from this myself. And although I’ve gotten better at managing different projects I still find myself pulled around. What saves my bacon are deadlines since most of my writing has to be delivered to someone by a certain date. And, with the writing I do for myself, I’ve created an accountability team to help keep me focused where I need to be focused on any given day or week.

So, today’s challenge is designed to help you see all of the writing projects you have at any and every stage of creation and then to decide which one will get your attention until it reaches a stage of development that it either needs to put aside (to get distance from) or is sitting with critique partners or beta readers (because you can’t be fiddling with it while other people are reviewing it to give you feedback).

Have too many lovers filling your wee head? Try this exercise.

1. Start by writing down all of the heroes, all the stories, all the writing projects or writing-related activities that are flirting with you. Let’s say in the last month or so. 

2. Once you’ve got all of your writing projects listed, label them from A to Z.

3. Now do a little grounding exercise—whatever works for you. If you don’t know what to do, try taking three long, deep breaths, holding for a few seconds, and releasing reallllllly slowly. That works wonders for me.

3. Think about Idea A and Idea B. Between those two writing projects, which one are you most drawn to work on right now? Put a check mark beside that idea. 

4. Take a breath to reground yourself, and now consider Idea A and Idea C. Between those two writing projects, which one are you most drawn to work on right now? Put a check mark beside for that Idea.

5. Do this until you’ve compared each of the possible writing idea pairings.

6. The last part of the exercise is to add up the check marks and see if the most checked writing project really is the one the calling to you. Let your gut tell you the truth on this one! If you’re disappointed or find yourself looking lovingly at a story idea that didn’t have the most check marks… go to bed with the two stories and see who you’re thinking about when you wake up.

Once you commit to a couple (or harem), make a conscious decision to move them toward their happily ever after. That will help you find your own happy place, too!

How to create loving self-talk, affirmations & visualizations

How to create loving self-talk, affirmations & visualizations

How many times have you read a self-help guru suggest that one of the steps to achieving a big goal is to write positive affirmations, to visualize yourself as the person you’re trying to become? Dozens. Hundreds. Uncountable times if you’re in an aspirational mindset stage of life.

And how many times have you dutifully followed the directions and written your affirmations, just like they recommend—

  • I am a writer.
  • The story I’m telling has value.
  • I am the best and only person who can tell this story in this way.
  • I am becoming a better writer every day.
  • I will write today and every day.
  • I am stronger than rejection.
  • I believe in myself and in my story.

—only to fail, fail again and finally decide that positive affirmations and visualizations just don’t work for you? 

Before you cancel your dream of becoming an author and close the door for good on all that ‘woo woo’ affirmation and visualization talk, give me five minutes to share some science with you that might help you write some aspirational statements that actually will help you achieve your audacious writing goals.

1st person vs 2nd person affirmations

Ninety-six percent of adults (and one infamous Hobbit) speak to themselves, something social science researchers call ‘self-talk’. And although most of us use both the first-person (‘I’) and second-person (‘you’) when giving ourselves pep-talks, not until 2014 did a group of researchers decide to differentiate between first-person and second-person self-talk.

Lots of research has been done on the reasons we talk to ourselves and the impact it can have, but until then, the difference between saying, “I am a writer, or “you are a writer” to you yourself hadn’t been studied in much detail. This group of academics did distinguish and study the impact and found that the ‘person’ we choose with our self-talk has an impact on how successful we are using it.

While most of the affirmation exercises I’ve seen recommend writing 1st-person ‘I’ statements, the research clearly shows that in situations that challenge our self-control and self-regulation—like putting your butt in your chair and words on the page—use of the second-person pronoun is much more effective. For instance,

You are committed to your writing.

You need to stay focused. You can do it.

You can make this deadline.

One of the reasons it’s believed this approach works is due to socialization, the fact that we become used to responding to directions from people who have authority over us—parents, teachers, bosses. So, when we call on our inner ‘You,’ that second-person inner voice has more power over us than our inner ‘I.’

1st person vs 3rd person visualizations

The research above focused on people imagining themselves in the first- or second-person. But there’s another way to use ‘you’ when creating motivational statements. The ‘You’ of visualizing an outsider’s perspective to your actions can also have a positive influence on our follow-through with commitments.

In a study done about voter behavior during the 2004 US election, researchers Lisa Libby et all gave research participants one of two visualizations to perform:

One group was told:

You should picture doing the action from a first-person visual perspective. With the first-person visual perspective you see the event from the visual perspective you would have if the event were actually taking place. That is, you are looking out at your surroundings through your own eyes.

A second cohort was told:

You should picture doing the action from a third-person visual perspective. With the third-person visual perspective you see the event from the visual perspective an observer would have if the event were actually taking place. That is, you see yourself in the image, as well as your surroundings.

Participants were also asked to do a series of other tasks related to the visualization. And the results were conclusive:

“Picturing voting from the third-person perspective caused subjects to adopt a stronger pro-voting mind-set correspondent with the imagined behavior. Further, this effect on self-perception carried over to behavior, causing subjects who were instructed to picture voting from the third-person perspective to be significantly more likely to vote in the election.”

This research supports what M.D. Storms found in a 1973 study, “that actions are perceived to be more a function of the actor’s character when viewed from an observer’s perspective than when viewed from the actor’s perspective.”

It would appear that seeing oneself as the type of person who would engage in a desired behavior increases the likelihood of engaging in that behavior.

Are you a 1st- or 2nd-person affirmation or a 3rd-person visualization kind of writer?

The answer, like to most questions in life is, “it depends.”

1st-person affirmations work best when:

  • you generally have positive feelings about the activity you’re undertaking or the goal you’re trying to achieve;
  • you’re trying to create emotions and feelings.

2nd-person affirmations work best when: 

  • you need to distance yourself from negative feelings about a task or a goal;
  • you need to strengthen performance, attitudes and behavioural intentions;
  • you’re engaging in an action or a difficult challenge that requires self-regulation and self-control;
  • you need to adopt a broader perspective.

3rd-person visualizations work best when:

  • you need to adjust your self-concept to match a desired behavior.

Not sure what you need right now? Try this exercise.

1. Set your timer for 2 minutes and free-write in the first-person voice (I) exactly what you’re thinking, hearing, feeling, believing about the quality of your writing, your writing habits, etc.

2. Imagine you’re inside your own head looking at yourself. Set your timer for 2 minutes and free-write in the close second-person voice (you) exactly what you need to do to become the writer you aspire to be. Focus on behaviors and actions.

3. Imagine you’re a distant observer of yourself. Set your timer for 2 minutes are free-write in the distant second-person voice (you) about the kind of person who is the kind of writer you aspire to be. Focus on attitudes and values.

4. Review the three exercises. Which affirmation or visualization approach do you intuitively feel or know will be the most useful to you right now?

5. Write down an affirmation or imagine a visualization that matches your need.

Written by Danika Bloom

Danika Bloom is a USA Today bestselling romance author who writes heroines with all the degrees she wished she could have pursued as a university student.