To Pseudonym or Not to Pseudonym

Not long ago I wrote a post about whether or not I thought nonfiction authors should use a pen name or pseudonym. Since then, several  writer’s I’ve spoken with have asked me about his topic again. They are either writing nonfiction and fiction on very different topics, planning to blog books, or considering how to brand themselves. So, today I thought I’d add another voice to the conversation. My expert guest blogger, Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the HowToDoItFrugally series of books, has a definite opinion on the topic as well. Here’s what she has to say.

To Pseudonym or Not to Pseudonym
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Nora Roberts, the author of more than 150 romance novels, was asked why she writes romantic suspense novels under a pen name. Here is her answer:

“It’s marketing.”

She says because she writes quickly that makes it difficult for her publisher to publish all of her work with an appropriate amount of time between each of them. So she writes works which are “edgier” than her romance novels under the pseudonym J. D. Robb. She says. “Putting it under a pseudonym helps brand it for the reader.” Children’s writers often separate their real names or their “other” writing names from their children’s work to keep work intended for children untainted.

Writers will find information on the concept of branding in the second edition of The Frugal Book Promoter (www.budurl.com/FrugalBkPromo) including some of the reasons why you shouldn’t use a pen name. You will, of course, have to weigh the pros and cons, but keep in mind that Ms. Roberts has a powerhouse publisher and its marketing department to help her navigate the difficulties inherent in using a pseudonym. If you are considering using a pen name here’s what you should know:

  1. It is very hard to keep a pen name secret. Everyone knows who Kristie Leigh Maguire is, as an example, but most know that it is a pen name. If people didn’t know that Robb was Nora Roberts’ pen name, most of them will now that Time magazine let the cat out of the bag in a featured interview. The magazine also revealed (big time) that Nora Roberts is also a pen name!
  2. It is very hard to promote a book in person when you use a pen name—especially if you choose an opposite-sex pen name. In fact, promotion of all kinds can become touchy if you use a pen name because you are intent upon keeping your real identity a secret.
  3. Using a pen name isn’t necessarily an effective barrier against law suits.

Read more about Roberts in Time magazine’s “10 Questions” feature, page 6 of the Dec. 10, 2007, issue.

About the Author

Carolyn Howard-Johnson, is a multi award-winning novelist and poet and has a hard enough time keeping those identities separate from her work as the author of the HowToDoItFrugally series of books—one for writers and one for retailers. Learn more about all of them at www.howtodoitfrugally.com. She also blogs at www.sharingingwithwriters.blogspot.com and at www.TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com.

About Nina Amir

Nina Amir, the Inspiration to Creation Coach, inspires writers to create published products and careers as authors as well as to achieve their goals and fulfill their purpose and potential. She is the author of How to Blog a Book and The Author Training Manual, both published by Writer’s Digest Books. A developmental editor, proposal consultant, author and book and blog-to-book coach, some of her clients have sold 230,000+ copies of their books and been published by major publishing houses. A popular speaker and workshop leader, she writes four blogs, has self-published 12 books and is the founder of National Nonfiction Writing Month, also known as the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge.

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  1. [...] Here’s another post on this same topic written by my colleague and friend Carolyn Howard-Johns…. Filed Under: How to Decide if You Should Blog a Book, Publicizing Your Blog, Who Should Blog a Book Tagged With: fear, pen name, pseudonym [...]

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