In the comments, Taylor Taylor asks,
How do authors go about choosing pen names? What are the pros/cons of having a pen name? What percentage of authors use pen names versus their real names?
Think of your author name -- whether your real name or an assumed name -- as a product brand. You want a brand that suits the product. Just as we wouldn't name a motor oil "Princess Sparkly Rufflepants" or a formal tea house "Jawbreakers," we wouldn't want an unsuitable author name for your books.
What makes a name unsuitable? If it's hard to pronounce or too closely resembles someone else's name, that might be a problem. Too unusual, too ordinary, too long, too sing-songy. If your primary market is a male readership, you probably want a male name, and a female name for a female readership. (Yes, there are exceptions. To all general rules.)
I don't think anyone keeps statistics on the number of authors that use pen names, but I can report that for my house, we're looking at more than 90% pen names. The primary advantage of using your own name is that nobody can keep you from using it again. Or ever. The primary advantage of using a pen name is not anonymity (though that's crucially important for some), but branding.
Let's say you already write a successful cozy mystery series under your own name, but you have a hankering to try your hand at something different. Your "Annie Author" books are already associated with certain qualities -- mystery, an amateur sleuth, a small-town setting, a cookie recipe in every book, or whatever. If you release an ultra-gory horror novel under the name "Annie Author," how do you think that will play to your mystery fans? Eep. Probably depends on the readers, right? So you create a separate brand, "Kassidy Killsalot," and cross-market the two brands. The "Annie Author" fans who like bloodsoaked pages might be more inclined to buy the "Kassidy Killsalot" stories if you reveal your double identity. And the ones who don't like that type of story will be tipped off by the different author name.
There's a rumor going around that the best author names start with the same sounds. Let's take a look at the top ten authors on the current USA Today list and see if there's any evidence to support that theory. For our purposes, I'll just list the author name and not the book or publisher.
1. Nicholas Sparks
2. Jeff Kinney
3. James Patterson
4. Nicholas Sparks
5. Michael Lewis
6. Stephenie Meyer and Young Kim
7. Chelsea Handler
8. Rick Riordan
9. Rick Riordan
10. L.J. Smith
Well, we have two places to the same author with an alliterative name, Rick Riordan. The rest, not so much. In fact, if we want to draw conclusions from this list, those might be: have a man's name (7/10 are clearly male), write MG or YA books (5/10 or more), and try to have a movie made of your book (4/10, but 5/10 if "Vampire Diaries" is a movie -- I think it might be). In any case, alliteration is probably not the way to the bestseller list. But don't let that stop you, if you really prefer an alliterative name.
Beyond that, you know, just think in terms of what might be appropriate for your genre. I know a lot of erotic romance authors reach for names that evoke female-empowered subcultures like the 60s freedom movement (Summer, Rain, River, Raven, Jade, Winter, etc.) and earth religions (basically anything that sounds Celtic or Gaelic or Native American). But you don't need a name like that. It's just that many authors writing this kind of story take on those types of author names.
Why do erotic romance authors choose names evocative of those particular subcultures? Because for many erotic romance readers, the stories and the subcultures share common traits -- open female sexuality, an end to the double standard, love as an empowering force, and so on.
So now I want to throw this back to you. Think about your favorite genre or subgenre. What type of name do you associate with that type of story? Why do you think it works?