Think aliases are for criminals only? Well, odds are your favorite author has one. Or had one, at some point along their career path. For centuries, some of the world’s most notable authors have sheltered their given name from the world. Although pseudonyms seem to be less popular than in days past, they’re still widely used. Criminal activity aside, there are many reasons to use one. Unless your favorite author is on the lam for tax evasion, (or more likely: suspicious internet search history) here are some of the reasons they might be using one.
1. Past Failures
Authors are constantly looking for ways to improve their craft. That being said, there are bound to be some flops by now well-known authors. In instances where their work just didn’t cut it with previous publishers, they give themselves a nice, new start by writing under a different name.
2. Genre Switch
Authors also like to dabble. Even if they are exceptionally good at one particular genre, odds are their attentions will wander and they’ll want to write something fresh and new — even, if only to satisfy their muse. But imagine if you set out to pick up the newest Nicholas Sparks book, only to find a paranormal slasher story. To keep readers from being thrown through that kind of loop, they’ll use a nom de plume. Sometimes, the new venture garners success and they will continue to write in multiple genres, under multiple names.
3. Name-Bound, Legal Loophole
Suppose a writer wants to branch out or disconnect from their current publisher; they may need to use a pseudonym. If the author has books expected from their contract that are yet to be written, and the publisher owns the right to any book published under the current author’s name, they can get around the legal ramifications of publishing with a new company, if they use a different name.
4. Great Expectations
Storytellers that have enjoyed notoriety may want to publish under an assumed name, simply to see how a new book would sell without the benefit of name recognition. J.K. Rowling did this when publishing The Cuckoo’s Calling, writing under the name Robert Galbraith.
5. Genre Expectations
Imagine being a writer of horror novels trying to publish under your given name, Lacey Goodwell. In this instance, publishers will insist on a pseudonym.
6. Gender Roles
This is not one of the biggest reasons for using a pen name anymore. Typically, women are known for their writing prowess and share as much success as their male counterparts, whereas in centuries past, writing was a “man’s profession.” However, if an authoress writes in a genre that is typically penned by a male (say a nonfiction book on power tools or automotive repair), they may feel the need to make the switch to a more masculine moniker.
Authors who collaborate on a piece of work, especially if there are more than two that need to share the cover page, will write under one name. Maybe they can’t decide whose name goes first?
8. Nom de beurk (A Yucky Name)
Maybe you really, really hate your name. I imagine that if Shannyn Sossamon‘s son, Audio Science, wrote a book he’d want to use a sobriquet. Perhaps he should consider it, regardless.
Do your favorite authors use a pen name? You might be surprised.
Be on the lookout for more on pseudonyms. I’ll explore authors that have used multiple names, ones that couldn’t settle on a surname, gender switch names, and some of the weirdest ones out there.
YouTube Channel: Katytastic
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