Many writers of fiction, plays, screenplays and poetry struggle with whether they should use an author nom de plume instead of their real name when writing. While there is a trend towards using real names in social media in order to promote more responsible postings on the internet, there are some very good reasons for an author to use a pseudonym. If you are wondering whether you should use a pseudonym, here are six reasons why you might choose to publish using a fictional alter ego.
There are six major reasons to use a nom de plume. You should use one to protect your professional reputation, your social reputation, to protect your reputation with another brand, for personal safety, to build a brand, or to make a fresh literary start.
1. To protect your reputation in another profession
If you are a part-time writer and have a full-time career in another field, you may want to protect your brand in your full-time field. If prospective employers look for your name, you will want them to reach your LinkedIn profile and your professional article contributions in your primary field rather than in fiction writing. In addition, some professions have high standards of decorum that may not be in keeping with your creative writing. If you write novels about mafia kingpins who are involved in money laundering, you may risk your currently more important reputation as an accountant.
2. To protect your reputation socially
As a fiction writer, you put a lot of your heart and soul into your fiction. While literature professors may warn us about the “fallacy of authorial intent” and letting our knowledge of a writer’s personal life shape our views of his or her works, your writing may shape what readers think they know about you. If you write in a genre like romance, erotica, or horror, people may make assumptions about your personality. They may think a romance writer is an unrealistic dreamer or that an erotica writer is sexually promiscuous. If you are a horror writer, people may keep their distance or carry pepper spray around you.
3. To protect your brand in another genre
If you’ve been publishing fiction for awhile, you may have built up a community of followers for your works in a specific genre. For example, if you’ve built up a brand as a mystery writer, your fans may be disappointed if they buy a novel under your name that falls into the teen romance category.
4. For your personal safety
Sometimes a work of fiction can inspire stalkers and other criminals. If you write fiction with a strong political perspective, very realistic portrayals of organized crime figures, or erotic fiction, you may attract unwanted and dangerous attention. A pseudonym can help protect you from readers who might be inspired to cause you personal harm.
5. To build a brand around a pseudonym
Sometimes authors aren’t gifted with a last name that is easy to remember and spell. Your name may not inspire the imagination of readers. From a marketing perspective, it may be easier to sell military techno-thriller novels by an author named “Jack Strong” instead of “Maurice Cuddlestorm.” In the preceding case, the pseudonym evokes quickness and strength while the author’s real name might evoke thoughts of cosiness. Similarly, if your real name is the same as the name of a popular author, artist, or performer, you may want to use a pseudonym to avoid confusing readers or incurring legal action.
6. To make a fresh literary start
According to Brian M. Klems of Writers Digest, many authors use a pseudonym because their initial works did not sell well or, if their contract with a publisher permits, to sell upcoming works to a new publisher. A pseudonym allows authors to make a fresh start without being saddled by the sales legacy of their previous works.
While publishing a book is a major achievement and it can be a real source of pride to see your real name on a book cover, there are many factors to consider when choosing between publishing under your real name or an author pseudonym.
Brian M. Klems. “Why do authors use pseudonyms?” WritersDigest.com. April 29, 2008