On one of my writers’ loops today, people were talking about pseudonyms and whether or not they should be used. The reasons for using a nom de plume are as varied as the authors that use them.
Some say they shouldn’t be used at all. Some say they should be used if you’re writing something that might turn off your current readers. Some say use one if your work may cause you some embarrassment, like in your church group (okay, no one actually said that today, but I’ve heard it before).
Some have had agents or editors tell them they should use a different name because theirs is too hard to pronounce or spell. Or it’s too long and won’t fit comfortably across the cover.
Some have said an alias should be used for each genre you write because you may tick off a reader if you’ve written a certain type of book they liked and then switched on them and wrote a different genre or in a different style.
There are well known and much beloved authors out there who have written under aliases, like Nora Roberts. I actually came to read Nora through her J.D. Robb’s In Death series. (Love, love love!) From those, I tried more of her books. Wow! Talk about prolific and different styles…
I read Remember When a few years ago. It was written by Nora Roberts AND J.D. Robb. If I hadn’t known they were the same person with an alter ego, I would have sworn this book was written by two different people. I know I write in different styles, but holy Toledo — not like this. And in my head, I knew the styles were vastly different, but it was never as evident as it was reading them back to back in this one book.
Had the In Death series been penned under Nora Roberts, would I have found all her other work earlier than I did? No way to know. But once I realized this series was written by Nora, I wasted no time finding more to read.
One of my favorite authors as you probably know by now is Dean Koontz. I thought I had read all of his books, even the ones under other names. Just last week, I found out I was wrong and there are a couple of more pseudonyms out there I didn’t know about. How sad for me that I’ve been deprived of those! And of course some of them are very old and I either can’t find them now or they’re pretty darn expensive. I’ll keep looking though. His earlier work is my favorite, although I like most of his newer stuff as well, especially the Odd Thomas series.
Both of these authors and many others are very prolific writers. I have to wonder how many of them chose to use additional names because of the strict guidelines traditional publishing has had of not publishing but one book a year in most cases?
With indie publishing this no longer is an issue. Thank goodness! If my favorite authors can write twelve books a year (although how they can is beyond me), I can certainly read them.
How does this all relate to those of us fairly new to publishing? Well for one thing, using different names because you write quickly is no longer necessary. There may be other reasons one may choose to use them, but this doesn’t have to be one of them.
I write both non-fiction and fiction. I also write different genres. I’m about ready to start self-publishing and I plan to use my real name for all of it. My reasons are:
1. Being in the age of “everything at your fingertips” even if you wanted to keep your real name private, it’s not likely to remain so. (Remember the teacher in the small town that had all the backlash when her erotic romances were first discovered under a pseudonym?)
2. I’m finding it hard enough to build my brand under one name, much less two or more. I have no idea where the extra time for branding and promoting under more than one name would come from.
3. I’m a voracious reader and I read lots of different genres and styles of writing. Why would I think there are other readers out there who don’t do the same?
4. I think readers are pretty savvy. And if you’re doing your job as a writer/publisher, they can tell from the description/blurb if it’s romantic suspense, thriller, horror, erotica, non-fiction, etc. If they don’t read one of those, they may not buy it and there’s no loss because they wouldn’t have bought it to begin with. However, if they do read one of mine they like in a genre they read, they may very well buy something else in another genre they wouldn’t normally consider and give it a try. If I’m using a different name for each genre I write, I lose that exposure.
5. I have an ego. I want people to know what I’ve written. Even if someone doesn’t like it, has an aversion to a certain genre or subject, I wrote it and I’m proud of it.
Of course there are reasons someone may choose to use a pseudonym. Whether you’re thinking of using one or not, this is one of those things that really has no right or wrong answer. It’s an individual preference. And I completely love all the choices writers have these days.
What about you? Do you use or plan to use one? Plan to use your real name? If you don’t mind sharing, please tell us why.