By David Kudler
Anyone who has published a script since people started sharing their favorite readings on clay tablets has considered using one pseudonym or pseudonym.
George Eliot, Mark Twain, George Orwell, Dr. Seuss and many other famous authors published not under their first name, but under a pseudonym.
I have probably thought about it myself, so I understand the impulse. However, I will make an argument for it Not with a pseudonym – or at least to stick to just one.
Arguments for aliases
There are many good reasons to write under a pseudonym, but they are essentially limited to two things:
- Market segmentation / branding
I understand: when you publish your letter, most of us feel… exposed. Naked. Hundreds – or hopefully thousands and thousands – of readers will read your words and judge you by them. They will post reviews and not all of them will be nice.
I have been a professional actor for many years and have been writing since 1997; As thick as my skin has become, it still feels uncomfortable to know that there are people who think unkindly thoughts about my work, and more broadly about me.
Still, thoughts will emerge as to whether or not they are associated with my name and face in real life.
Nevertheless, this is a particularly difficult topic for many authors, especially for those who write in extremely personal genres such as memoirs or roman à clefNot to mention those who publish works that contain content that some find uncomfortable, whether it be sex, violence or moral polarization.
This is one of the reasons why the oversold children’s fantasy author, J.K. Rowling tried to publish her adult crime novels under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. (Spoiler: it didn’t work.)
Many women have published over the years either under male names (ie George Eliot, also known as Mary Ann Evans) or with initials (ie again JK Rowling!), Since they did not inappropriately believe that this would not be the case at all can be taken seriously, let alone under their real name.
In such cases, it is understandable that the author would like to publish anonymously or pseudonymously.
Market segmentation / branding
This is somewhat the opposite of the previous reason and justification that I have seen from many traditionally and independently published authors for using multiple pseudonyms. The impetus here is the desire to get the author’s name out as clearly and aggressively as possible – just not the actual birth name of the author.
Essentially, the idea is that the authors’ names are a central part of their names brand. The idea is that you want readers to build a relationship with you, identify the person you take on when writing a particular type of book, and return to that brand name if you are hungry for another solution to that particular type of script .
For authors who write multiple genres, it can be particularly tempting to split their readership into separate groups so that they can target ads, blog posts, mailings, etc. with great precision.
This is called Market segmentation.
So I’ve heard from many other authors who have created pseudonyms for their work in different genres – one for mysteries and one for romance. or one for business non-fiction and one for historical secrets.
This can go to the extreme. I recently spoke to an author who publishes a number of very popular paranormal teen love books (what she calls YA PNR – think dusk). She set up a separate alias because she wanted to write a series of middle-class (for teenagers) books about young vampires and segment the audience.
In the past, publishers had a strong incentive to encourage successful and productive authors to use them noms de plumes when published in multiple genres, as the publisher’s imprints are generally limited to a single genre (or sometimes) sub-Genre). The publisher wanted the reader to associate the brand with the imprint and not with the author’s name – why promote the books of another publisher? Because of this, you will find some early Stephen King books written under the name Richard Bachman and a quartet of very very racy Anne Rice books under the name ON. Roquelaure. (Really – they’re extremely sexual and not for everyone. Certainly not mine. So if you look at them because you like it Interview with a vampire… Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
What can you lose with these very compelling reasons to use one or more pseudonyms?
Argument against aliases
I am firmly convinced to avoid separate pseudonyms unless they are absolutely necessary for a main reason that sees these two advantages and disadvantages.
The central concept behind marketing books these days is what is called the author platform. And having multiple pseudonyms means having multiple platforms.
And let yourself be told – this is a burden.
In essence, an author’s platform consists of all the ways in which the author can reach and get in touch with his potential readers and existing fans. A website and / or blog, social media, a newsletter or an email list – all of this is part of the author’s platform.
On a platform you can get in touch with readers, give them a preview of an ongoing work, exchange covers, discuss key issues for your books, offer competitions and discounts, announce events and (of course!) Create links to places Buy yours Titles and more. It gives you the opportunity to build a relationship with readers for whom writers would have worked twenty or a hundred years ago. (Or at least a foot, because who needs a foot to write?)
The thing about an authoring platform is that building a platform takes a lot of time, effort, and not a small amount of money. They build relationships with people and don’t just sell widgets. You want them to come back and read your other books. You want them to evangelize your books to their friends and family.
I have managed a dead author’s literary legacy for the past two decades and have written my own titles. I had no choice at all to create separate platforms for his and my works. So I’m very, very clear about how much effort it takes to get these separate people. And let me tell you: it is Indent. I spend (on average) about eight hours a week promoting his work, and about the same for mine (and for the authors that I publish through my micro press).
These are two working days that are completely over – before I write anything, before I pay bills or clear my (general ledger) books and before I do paid design or editing work that helps me pay or balance these bills these books. (Not to mention before I spend time with my family.)
The promotion of his work does not help to promote mine. Promoting my work does nothing to promote his. While my name appears as an editor in his books and my publication imprint appears on the copyright page of his e-books, this does little to get people to do my own literary creations.
That is the disadvantage of market segmentation. There are no economies of scale if you split your platform like this. Each pseudonym requires its own full platform with a blog (if not its own website with its own URL), a presence on Twitter / Facebook / Instagram etc., an email list and much more. Each of these parts of each of these platforms must be fed regularly:
- regular blog posts
- regular tweets
- regular LinkedIn articles
- regular newsletters etc.
It’s a lot of work, and it has to be done, or you will certainly not reach the audience you deserve – and you will slowly lose those you have already reached.
In addition, the time, energy, and money you spend building one platform will either come from the other platforms – or from the rest of your life, including your writing time. There is no crossover. If you used separately noms de plumes, Readers who love Your New Adult Fantasy thrillers will never find out about your dystopian science fiction for young adults. If you advertise your western “sweet” (ie, gender-free) romance novels, you won’t sell any of your more gauntlet Regency romances.
The thing is, there are other ways to segment your market and focus your marketing. You can create different brands – with different cover styles, different fonts, different color schemes, etc. – to make this clear these books are different from these books. Most email providers allow you to segment your target audience by asking them what types of email they want to receive without having to create completely separate lists for each email.
Since discovery and authoring platform are now the name of the game, it seems to be an incentive for authors to work with a single name. Nowadays, the old marketing segmentation logic makes less and less sense. As a writer Conda V Douglas says: “Readers will read things from authors they like.”
You are Your author brand. Why water that down?
When should I use an alias?
However, there are times when it really makes sense to publish under a pseudonym.
The obvious examples have to do with writing in genres that Really don’t play well together A classic: picture books for children and erotic. Yes. That would not be a good combination – and yes, there are authors who write well in both areas.
I work with an author who is a teacher who writes YA books but also very racy erotic romance. The teacher’s colleagues and students would not only be shocked by the unveiling, but would also complicate the marketing of both genres. And it’s not just eroticism, although that’s obviously the biggest problem. I know a lawyer who doesn’t want her partners to know that she wrote crime novels and a writer who publishes picture books for children as well as paranormal novels. Not a good crossover!
What if you really, really don’t want your legal name to be associated with your letter? That’s a good thing.
But consider using a single one pseudonym for all your work, so that the pseudonym becomes a recognizable trademark.
If it was good enough for Mark Twain and Voltaire, it should be good enough for you.
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