Using a pseudonym used to seem like the best of all worlds if you became successful as a professional writer. You could write what you wanted, get paid for it, plus go out into the world without people bothering you about you being the man or woman who wrote that controversial novel. Writers in this situation could even go to any bookstore in the world and have fun watching what the reactions were to their own book without anyone having a clue he or she was the author.
Unfortunately, the pseudonym business fell a little flat when a few writers had to come forward to admit writing something receiving considerable buzz. This was even back before media leaks and the Internet existed to scope everyone out.
Has the ability to identify just about anybody online made pseudonyms become impractical in the writing world today? It’s going to depend on what genres you want to write. Also, it doesn’t necessarily mean wanting to be anonymous and more a business decision based on certain circumstances.
The Problems of Birth Names
Sometimes you’re born with a name that just doesn’t sound poetic enough to be used as an author moniker. Not everyone is born with those triple surnames sounding like they came out of Victorian England. Some people have overly short names that come up short to the tongue when spoken aloud or placed on the front cover of a book. Perhaps just rearranging an existing name to sound more poetic is worth the trouble as you still place your picture on the book so people identify you as you.
Other times, your name might be too elaborate and you have to shorten it into something more generic to fit the genre of writing you’re doing. Short and generic author names typically become easier to remember in our culture than elaborate and international names.
When you consider your name, you also want to think of the style of writing you’re doing and how your name matches. It’s amazing how some names end up having double meanings and become a major embarrassment when placed in the context of a particular novel genre. Certain stylistic names seem to be expected in specific genres by their dependable readers. Having a last name with a dirty double entendre in the romance genre, for instance, may have to precipitate you changing it for strictly business reasons.
Established Writers Creating Pseudonyms for Other Genres
Those who read Stephen King novels already know he also writes occasionally under the name Richard Bachman, or even Eleanor Druse. Plenty of other writers once did and still do create pseudonyms strictly for writing in other genres where they normally didn’t excel.
It’s worth trying this if you’ve already written successful books in a particular genre and your publisher thinks it would create confusion writing in another genre. If your fans already know it’s you through the rumor mill, there really isn’t anything to worry about. Yet, with marketing being so exacting today in making sure sales are continually strong, you may have to do a few crazy marketing tactics to diversify your writing portfolio.
Writers Creating a Pseudonym of the Opposite Gender
These pseudonyms can be fun, because you can write in a different style from what your fans expect. Most of the best writers aren’t tone deaf to just one writing style and can usually write well in different language styles and structures. By being daring and writing under a different gender name, you can fool everyone–until it inevitably leaks online. J.K. Rowling’s Robert Galbraith is an example of how one of the greatest writing conceits today was ruined due to the ruse getting out in the open.
Pseudonyms for Complete Privacy
It may still be possible to write under a completely private pseudonym, as long as it isn’t a book that shoots to #1 on The New York Times bestseller list. The more curious people become, the more apt someone will be tempted to spill the beans to the press for a chance at gaining money. You’re much better off just marketing yourself, while perhaps using a different name to throw people only slightly off the trail.
After all, if you use your birth name on a book, a detractor could look you up in the phone book and harass you and your family for years. If they only know you by picture, you at least have a sanctuary to escape to afterward.