Carolyn Keene, F.W. Dixon, Mark Twain and Victoria Holt all have one thing in common. They are all fictitious names used by writers. Nom de plume, pen name, pseudonym — all are terms for names employed in lieu of one’s own.
Common reasons for an author to use an assumed name include personal privacy, genre (not many romances list a man’s name as the author!), writing multiple genres that are very different from each other, choosing a maiden name over a married one, taking the opportunity to right a wrong done at birth, and political reasons, like Francois Marie Arouet (Voltaire) and Thomas Paine.
Some particularly famous pseudonyms are Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson), O. Henry (William Sydney Porter), and of course, Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel). Although their real names are now commonly known, at the time their first books were published, the authors enjoyed anonymity.
Whatever the reason for wanting a nom de plume, how should one go about choosing it? On Agent Query Connect this past weekend there was a thread discussing the topic, and someone suggested the time tested method of combining the name of a pet with the name of the street one grew up on. Some people choose an old family name, or middle name, or the name(s) of their children. Others prefer a name based on the genre that they write, like Carolyn Keene of Nancy Drew fame (feminine, yet no nonsense and clever sounding). Some just pick one that they like a lot. Samuel Clemens used a riverboat term from his days as a captain on the Mississippi.
Whatever the name you choose, make sure to Google it first (in quotations), to make sure that the name of choice has no unsavory doppelgangers.
Based on some of the above criteria, my pen name could be Buster Clifton, Linda Everett Parker, or Layinda Parker, although I’ve written a boy book. Perhaps I should go the Hardy Boys route and pick a man’s name, like George Sand (Amantine Aurore Lucile Dupinand) and George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) did. I could just go with Everett Parker, or Parker Everett… but Jean Craighead George wrote boy books and so did Elizabeth George Speare and they kept their names. All the Georges did pretty well. Perhaps I should add a George to my name…. Layinda George? Hmmm. I just took a moment to Google that, and aside from being the pseudonym of an Argentinian woman who got to Twitter before I did (I had to go with layindalayinda and am still grumpy about it), there was nothing bad. So, maybe.
But I also googled my own name and the first 162 entries were ME! It seems that maybe I should just go with that. I might still add a George though, just in case.