Reasons for a pseudonym

Brainless Tales has the best one-shot jokes.

Came across a great post recently about choosing to use a pseudonym, and why an author might do so.

Given that a number of Candlemark & Gleam authors choose to use pseudonyms, while others don’t, I thought we’d open the discussion up here.

Why choose a pseudonym? The most common reason I hear is that people don’t want their personal and professional lives entwined. Yes, in the Information Age, it’s pretty easy to put 2+2 together to get 4 (or, more topically, to discover that Sophie is actually Ralph)…but perhaps you work in a field where you don’t necessarily want your genre-fiction-writing exploits to spill over. It’s not looked upon quite so scornfully these days, being a sf/f/wtf writer, but if you’re a high-powered lawyer or banker or you’re a professor of literature somewhere, you might not necessarily want the world to connect you immediately with your space-monkey epic.

This goes double if you write erotica, obviously.

Another good reason for a pseudonym is if you have a very, very generic name. My own, for instance, is really common; it’d be hard to stand out on a Google search, which is increasingly important these days. If you’re Joe Smith, you might just want to consider writing as Alex Slaterkin, you know?

Other reasons I’ve heard involve writing different types of novels – if you write YA but also erotica, for instance, it makes a LOT of sense to keep separate authorial identities. There’s less reason to separate science fiction and fantasy personas, and having a lot of different types of books under the same name can be a benefit sometimes, too – if a reader likes one thing you’ve written, they may consider giving other things you’ve published a chance, even if they’re very different genres. Just ask Justin Robinson, who publishes acclaimed horror and comic noir. Talk about your wide spread!

I absolutely agree with the article referenced above that the worst bloody reason to have a pseudonym is because you’re a woman, though. These days, it really, really should not matter who is doing the writing – it should only matter that the writing is good. And yet bias still persists, and some writers really do feel pressured to go with gender-neutral writing names.

What do you think? Have you considered using a pseudonym in your writing? What do you think some of the best and worst reasons for using one might be?

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8 Responses to “Reasons for a pseudonym”

  1. M. Fenn April 8, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    One of the reasons I use a pseudonym is because my name is the opposite of common, and I’d like to have more control over who finds me online for whatever reason. Oh, and the witness protection program I’m in.

    And being a woman with a pen name is okay, in my book. I just assume authors using initials are women and let them surprise me when they’re not. More fun that way.

  2. Chrysoula Tzavelas April 8, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

    Oddly, when I was researching a pseudonym for erotica/steamy romance, all the wisdom I read said that readers want author names for that kind of thing to be ‘comfortable’. So having a really exotic name was a _bad_ idea. I admit I’ve wondered if my exotic name has negatively influenced sales of my books.

  3. Matt Adams April 8, 2013 at 2:28 pm #

    I thought about this for a bit since both a pro baseball player and golf commentator share my name (a fairly common one, really). I decided to forge ahead with my “real” name–a pseudonym didn’t feel right for me. I can definitely see the need for one, however. If I wrote a seriously epic historical novel, I’m not 100% sure I’d want to associate it with my goofball superhero books.

  4. Candlemark & Gleam April 9, 2013 at 9:51 am #

    I do think that makes sense in a lot of cases, especially if you have very different genres you want to keep distinct…and I can tell you that the Google Alerts I have set up on all C&G authors sometimes come up with some hilarious situations involving like-named people.

  5. Candlemark & Gleam April 9, 2013 at 9:52 am #

    You know, I have no idea about that! I think there’s genre perceptions in there, too…a sf/f writer or a writer of sf/f erotica, I think, can “get away” with a much more exotic name than a writer of steamy romance or historicals.

  6. Candlemark & Gleam April 9, 2013 at 9:52 am #

    Very valid reason, if you ask me! These days, reputation control and privacy are huge issues, and being better able to control the conversation around you – or at least monitor it – is a good reason to use a different professional name.

    Also, I didn’t mean that women should never use pen names! I just think it’s sad that there’s still the impression that women should/must use pen names to be taken seriously. It’s not as prevalent as it once was, but the perception’s still there.

  7. Matt Adams April 9, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    I remember last year when “Matt Adams” got called up to the Big Leagues for the St. Louis Cardinals. It happened not long before Crimsonstreak was released. I definitely got a good laugh out of that one.

  8. Candlemark & Gleam April 9, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    Oh, that’s just awesome.

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