Home » Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Social Media » Should you write under a pseudonym? Pros, cons and practicalities in a digital world

Should you write under a pseudonym? Pros, cons and practicalities in a digital world

30 November 2015

From author Roz Morris:

Should you use a pen name? Why might you? What problems might it cause? I rounded up a quiver of authors with noms-de-plume and asked them to answer some practical questions.

First of all, why?

An author name is a brand, of course, and traditional publishing has a long history of strategic pseudonymery. Names or initials might make a writer sound more exciting, more serious, more like an already famous author (JRR Tolkien and George RR Martin, anyone?). Androgynous names might do you favours if your readership is gender sensitive. A new surname might put you at a more visible part of the bookshelves or next to giants of your genre (George RR Martin again).

Even a change of nationality might send interesting signals to the reader. Earlier this year I was at an event with Sophie Schmidt, head of author relations and marketing at Epubli, and she told me that German erotica authors often choose English pseudonyms. More tea, vicar?

. . . .

Conflict with professional role – a tale of two doctors

Wolf Pascoe (@WolfPascoe) is an anaesthetist as well as a poet and playwright, andyou might have seen the Undercover Soundtrack for his poetic memoir, Breathing For Two. ‘I decided in writing about anesthesia to use a pen name for patient confidentiality. Of course, I don’t use real patient names, and I take pains to change any identifying details, but I wanted an extra layer of security. Also, as I’m still practising, I didn’t want there to be a chance that I’d encounter a new patient who might worry I’d be writing about them in the future. And finally, I’d rather not have my hospital knowing about my writing activities — this gives me more freedom to say what I want to say about the medical establishment without fear of retribution.’

In the opposite corner, though, is Carol Cooper (@DrCarolCooper) (also an Undercover Soundtracker). Carol writes parenting books, fiction, tabloid journalism – and practises medicine – all under her real name. ‘From time to time, I’ve been advised to use a pseudonym for different types of writing. After all, I still see patients and teach medical students, so I need to be taken seriously. But my name is part of me, part of my brand. In the distant past I’ve used jokey pen names like Saffron Walden and Cherry Hinton, and written a column pseudonymously as a nurse called Rosemary Sharpe, but nowadays I want potential readers to find me.’

. . . .

What about social media?

Now this is where the double life becomes a strain.

Elizabeth Spann Craig: ‘There are only so many hours in the day for us to promote our books. After a few mistakes, including Facebook and Twitter accounts under the pen name, I decided to promote as myself. I mentioned my pseudonym and other series in my bios. On social media sites and in my newsletters, I direct readers to my website, which lists buy-links for both series.’

Deborah Swift: ‘I have two Twitter accounts and two websites. It also helps me when networking with other independent authors if I am clear that Davina Blake is an independent author, whereas Deborah Swift is not. In a sense, the boundaries are artificial, but they help me maintain a more honest relationship with my readers and with other authors.’

Wolf Pascoe: ‘Both Wolf and real-me have Facebook accounts. This is against Facebook rules. I probably should have just had an author page for Wolf, but I’ve left it that way for now. I have a regular Google account for both real me and Wolf. This is probably also against the rules. I don’t really take the rules of corporations seriously.’

Link to the rest at Nail Your Novel and thanks to Elizabeth for the tip.

Here’s a link to Roz Morris’ books. If you like what an author has written, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Social Media

18 Comments to “Should you write under a pseudonym? Pros, cons and practicalities in a digital world”

  1. Interesting that Smashwords doesn’t allow you to publish with multiple names under the same account. Does D2D?

  2. If you’re going to use a pseudonym, use one that will make you some money — like ‘Steven King’! 😛

  3. No, not inspired by D. C. Fontana. 🙂


  4. Thanks for picking my post, David!

  5. I don’t bother with social media for the pen name. It’s amazing how little that stuff actually contributes to sales. 😛

    • That’s interesting.

      I’m doing the double account thingie for Hannah and my real name, and that is a lot of work. However, I’m about to add a second pen name for a different kind of stories. I’m practically decided to let her lead a shadow life, and only allude to her through Hannah.

      Good to know it probably won’t hurt madame new pen name. 🙂

  6. I have a Facebook account under a pen name, but I never promote my work. I have the account just so I can follow others’ posts.

    I write under several pen names. For me it’s more comfortable than trotting my real name out in public.

  7. Ladies, when you’re choosing a pen name to publish your erotic BBW werewolf threesomes, please, don’t use “Lola” or “Wild” or a variation of the word “Wild”. I mean, you mind as well choose “This is a Fake Name”.

    • What!? Good one dude!

      Lola Wild!

      It doesn’t look like it’s taken yet on Amazon. 🙂

      Neither are:
      -Johnson Hipslover.
      -Harry Tailwagger.
      -Bryce Bottomwiffer.

      So many choices!

    • I’ve always assumed all cool names are pseudonyms, especially when they match the author’s genre too perfectly. Most parents are just not that imaginative, if my high school graduation class is anything to go by: Apparently it was a law in the late 70s that baby girls had to have the middle name of Lynn, Marie, Ann, or Rose 🙂

      Maybe Amazon et al can offer exotic-byline generators. It could even double as a James-Bond-Villain-Name generator.

      • There was a time in the 70s that all boy’s names seemed to start with J. Justin, Joshua, Jonathan, Jamie…;-)

  8. Jo B’lo.
    Jergin Broadswagger.
    Julius Sleazer.
    Alexis Longhorn.
    Andreas Gaythor.
    Maxhard Wolfdown.
    Legitamus Negatus.
    Shamus Swineheard.
    Close O’Shave.
    Titus Butukus.

    I. Love. Pen. Names.

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