When people talk about creating a pseudonym for their writing, most existing writers fall into two camps…the “no, never” camp that thinks it’s better for people to find you as easily as possible and the “well, what if you write in different genres” camp where people are afraid your reader will pick up your book expecting your traditional Western and get your erotic thriller instead, and presumably be unhappy. Or vica versa. (As an aside, there’s something strangely amusing about the reader looking for an erotic thriller and getting a Western instead while thinking, “What’s going to happen with the horse?”, but I digress.)
I confess that on occasion I have thought of pushing out some fiction under a different name. Mostly because I love the idea of writing anonymously for fiction. It would feel a bit subversive to me, almost clandestine. I have this illusion of seeing someone I know reading my book but having no idea that I wrote it. But that’s just a fanciful dream, at least until I ever get around to finishing anything fiction-related. But when ThePassiveVoice shared an article from Nail Your Novel, I had to click.
The article runs through the basics early on:
- The “pseudo-excitement’ of using initials;
- Gender specific names depending on genre;
- Trying to sound like a specific nationality (or alternatively not);
- Having multiple identities for separate markets (like genres or fiction/non-fiction);
- Separating writing from other employment roles;
It talks though too about the ability to keep your real name separate (with a good link to Kristen Lamb’s post too):
But these days… is there anywhere to hide?
In these superconnected times, a pseudonym is easily busted. Kristen Lamb makes some good points here about the realities of using pen names, particularly if you’re trying to keep your writing activities secret.
Basically, the internet will outsmart you. Real-life friends will innocently post pictures of you on Facebook, and even if they don’t think to tag you, Facebook’s facial recognition software will prompt them to. People who know you as two names may use the wrong one at an inappropriate moment because they didn’t know it was important to keep the distinction.
The comments to the article are also super illuminating, identifying the benefits in the digital name of a hard to spell last name i.e. UNIQUE for branding and google searches, the pain of managing multiple accounts (personal and pseudonym), the added challenge of having the same name as another author, sticking with maiden names after marriage, and even legal challenges in some jurisdictions (of being registered as a business under a different name).