If you’re writing a novel, is it OK to use a pseudonym? Is it wise?
Maree posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:
The only thing that’s holding me back from publishing my book sooner than the next few months is finance but otherwise I am extremely serious and more serious that ever. I want to use a psuedonym for personal reasons and have fun finding one with heaps of belly laughs to go with it. Could you please give me some pros and cons about the subject?
Randy sez: I can think of a few reasons why you might want to use a pseudonym:
- Embarrassment. Your book contains material that you don’t want your parents/spouse/children/grandmother/friends/minister to know that you wrote. For example: you write erotica or your characters have potty-mouths.
- Libel. You say things in your book that could get you sued.
- Fear. You’re afraid that you’ll offend some terrorists or government or big corporation and they’ll come after you.
- Privacy. You just know you’ll become famous after your novel hits it big and you don’t want to be bothered by all those pesky groupies who’ll be beating a path to your door.
- Moochers. You’re certain that your novel will make you wealthy beyond all imagination and you want to avoid the gold-diggers, especially your freeloading brother-in-law who is such a horrible mooch that you’ll never get him off your couch if he thinks you’re stinking rich.
- Dweebishness. Your parents saddled you with the world’s most dweebish name, such as Throckmorton B. Grieselheimer the 23rd, and you really don’t want that loser on your covers.
- False fame. By horrid chance, you have the same name as somebody who’s already famous, such as Richard Nixon or Monica Lewinsky, and you don’t want to be confused with That Guy or That Girl.
- Unpronounceable. You have one of those names that people can never pronounce, such as Grzsazg, and you suspect that isn’t going to help on the word-of-mouth thing for your book.
- Almost dirty. Your name looks for all the world like a dirty word, such as, um, well I can’t put a name like that in a family-oriented blog like this, but you’ve seen names like that and your worst nightmare is having to introduce somebody like that for a speech, because you just know you’re going to say it wrong.
- Cool. You just know in your gut that “Mark Twain” will be a lot cooler name for an author than “Samuel Langhorne Clemens.”
- Sexism. You’re a woman writing military technothrillers or you’re a man writing romance and you fear your readers won’t take you seriously.
- A fresh start. Some writers with weak sales adopt a pseudonym so the bookstores won’t hold their past track record against them. Yes, really.
- Overproductivity. Some authors write so many books that their publisher fears that they’ll saturate the market. So they write some books under their real name and some under a pseudonym.
Any of those is a decent reason to use a pseudonym. I bet there are some other excellent reasons. Maree, if you have a good reason to use a pseudonym, then do.
I can think of a few disadvantages to using a pseudonym:
- Confusion. You need to remind your publisher to make your checks out to you, not to your pseudonym. You may also have some explaining to do to the tax authorities when you claim all that income for books written by somebody who apparently isn’t you.
- Fame. So you’re a best-selling author and you pay for your meal in a restaurant and that darned waitress looks at your Visa card in your real name and DOESN’T say, “Oh my gosh! You’re that famous author! I love your books! I feel like I know you! I want to bear your children!” Sometimes it really is fun to be recognized, (although it can also be weird.)
- Credit. When you go to your high-school reunion and tell all those meanies that you really did make good and publish a novel, do you think they’ll believe you if you wrote under a pseudonym? Uh-uh. Jim-Bob and Mary Sue will still mock you for being a hopeless geek.
Maree, if you can live with those downsides, then writing under a pseudonym should work just fine for you.
If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in public on this blog, hop on over to my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page and submit your question. I’ll answer them in the order they come in.