Is a Pseudonym a Good Thing or Not..?


Pseudonym – definition: a fictitious name used by a writer to conceal his or her identity : a pen name

What do you think? Is this a good idea or not? My own pen name is actually a combination of my given names so not really a pseudonym in the true sense of the word. Many ‘famous’ authors have used pen names, some to experiment with another genre or to avoid a misconception by their readers. Using initials can ‘hide’ the true gender of a writer – well for a time anyway. But is it really a practice required in this day and age?

stephen-king

Let’s look at Stephen King (yes I know – but he’s my hero!) King used the pen name Richard Bachman for seven short novels in the late 1970’s, early 1980’s. There are two trains of thought about why he did this. 1) He wanted to find out if he could replicate his success to ensure it was not an accident or 2) the publishing standards only allowed a single book per year. As a prolific writer the restriction must have been very frustrating. (If only we could be so lucky)

English: Portrait of Charlotte Bronte by J. H....
English: Portrait of Charlotte Bronte by J. H. Thompson Русский: Портрет Шарлотты Бронте работы Дж. Х. Томпсона (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A pseudonym was also used to hide gender when society dictated a woman’s role, such as Charlotte Bronte, writing under Currer Bell while Emily Bronte used Ellis Bell. Another surprise pen name is George Orwell, whose Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm caused such a sensation in the 1940’s. He was actually named Eric Arthur Blair. More recently Joanne Rowling used J.K. Rowling in an attempt to attract boy readers. It was thought if they perceived the author to be male they would be more likely to read the books about the young wizard.Is this really the case? Do you have a pen name? What were your reasons for using one?
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3 thoughts on “Is a Pseudonym a Good Thing or Not..?

  1. I can see there are many reasons people would use pen names. Especially in a world where most writers work full time and write on the side. Maybe they want the two things separate. I do think there’s still some merit in what Rowling did unfortunately. Adult men may be able to not care who wrote the book but if you’re aiming for children, they’re more led by emotion. There’s also the issue of writers covering different genres. Sometimes it’s probably suitable to use a pen name there. For instance my personal thoughts are that Rowling could have put Jo Rowling on the front of her adult book. The adults would have known but it could stop some children picking it up. No matter the era we live in, I think pen names will always have a place.

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  2. Nice post! 🙂 In many cases, it may be easier to market books published under an author’s actual name. The author has friends, family, and acquaintances. Meeting the target audience in person and interacting with them can be effective marketing. Telling people your pen name sort of defeats the purpose.

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