10. Author’s Fantasy Names
Readers sometimes wonder why authors like to go undercover through the use of a Pen Name. Are they introverts? Or do they want to buffer their private lives away from the public sphere? Perhaps they’re following one of those mystical marketing strategies? Or, “all of the above”?
After some research and reflection, we’d like to help shed light into this riddle.
Pen Names are more popular than you might think. Shakespeare, Mark Twain, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Agatha Christie, and Nora Roberts are only a few examples of undercover authors. Here some possible explanations for their personal naming preferences:
- Their Pen Name is nicer and can become an author brand.
If an author has a long, unappealing, common name, s/he might opt for choosing a new name that better suits his vision or that speaks more clearly to the audience. Would you rather buy a book authored by “Barbie” or by “Barbara Millicent Roberts”? (Who knew that’s Barbie’s real name).
- The author is present in different genres (and is a best seller in one of them).
Some authors use different names to write in different genres. Would you buy, to give an example, a Collection of Poems by Malcolm Gladwell? Not really?
- To keep their identity private.
For instance, some authors publishing their intimate memoirs might do that with a secret identity to protect their privacy. How would Al Capone author his memoir?
- To protect their job.
Some companies run checks on a person prior to hiring. If an author is writing about a controversial or polarizing topic, s/he might want to keep that separate from their “track of record”.
- To test the authoring waters first.
Say this is the author’s first book and s/he doesn’t want to have his name “out there” if the book turns out to be a flop. It might be a good, cautious first step to use a secret and bullet proof name first… perhaps Batman? Or Mrs. Never-Fails?
Some topics are more credible when written by a man or by a woman. Think about a toddler’s parenting book; should that be rather written by a woman? Speaking from a tradition standpoint.
Are there any disadvantages to using a Pen Name?
Authors using pen names need to invest more to market each of them. Also, a Pen Name is normally there to stay; if the author wants to change and publish under a real name afterwards, it’ll take substantial effort to make the shift.
- A Pen Name is also called a pseudonym or in fancy French, nom de plume.
- Female authors in the nineteenth century (and prior) had to write under a man’s name to get published. They adopted alter egos and different pen names in order to write while keeping their real identity a secret.
- Lewis Carroll’s real name is Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.