To Pseudonym or not to Pseudonym?

Okay, first off, pseudonym is not a spelling that comes naturally to me, so from here on out we’ll talk pen names.

Since beginning my writing journey, I’ve progressed from thinking I only had one novel in me, to developing the concepts for multiple novels of multiple lengths in multiple genres. My natural state – if we shall call it that – is chick lit, but I could see myself writing children’s books or even branching out into other genres.


Now Sophie Kinsella’s books include both names!

At what point do you want to begin separating your names dependent on genres?

Here’s my little list of pro pseudonym vs. con:

Pro Pseudonym

  • Ability to sell in multiple genres without turning off one audience based on your previous work. Romance readers may not be interested in horror or fantasy, as an example. (I personally am an equal opportunity reader!)
  • Ability to remain fairly anonymous – personal preference, depends on what you’re writing and how public/private a person you are.
  • Ability to appeal to different audiences without preconceptions – i.e. J.K. Rowling was specifically marketed as such, because publishers didn’t think boys would read a book written by a woman.

Con Pseudonym (btw – I’m getting over my fear of this spelling)

  • You can lose the strength in your brand – for readers that are interested in all your work, they may not find you cross-genre
  • You will need to build multiple platforms to market your different areas of work, as opposed to one central platform
  • Publicity – say you hit the big time (we all dream of this), if you’re traditionally published, there will be the expectation that you’ll eventually need to make public appearances. Look at Madeleine Wickham/Sophie Kinsella. Both sets of books sold well on their own, but now the Madeleine Wickham books have “Sophie Kinsella” on them also. At some point it all comes out in the wash.

Through writing this… I think I’ve landed on no pseudonyms… unless I go rogue and start to write super steamy (I can see my writing pals getting a good chuckle out of that idea). I do have a 9-5 after all.

Your thoughts? Would you/have you used a pen name? Why would or wouldn’t you?

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4 Responses to To Pseudonym or not to Pseudonym?

  1. katelarking May 2, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

    It looks like I am going to have three pen names. One is my real name, then a name for my super steamy erotica, and then a name for my other romance.

    Real name: nonfiction and YA
    Romance: Just to keep the differentiation between the YA and the Romance.
    Erotica: Because my erotica writing will be a lot shorter than my romance, I don’t want people who buy my romance to feel they got short-sold with an erotica (That I imagine they got overly flustered with and had to put down multiple times for a breather :D).

  2. Cole May 4, 2014 at 4:17 am #

    It all depends on how you see your bigger picture. I completely understand the idea of using pseudonyms to differentiate between the different genres writers want to dabble in before finding the one they prefer. And also using a pseudonym because we can’t have Aunty Susan reading *our* 21+ BDSM erotica, now can we?

    However, I say this with conviction because it’s my struggle at the moment: I am branding myself as “writer” (no matter what genre comes out on paper) and building one following; using strength in numbers rather than having to build three or four different audience bases because I’m segregating my market. The truth is: you can’t please everyone and splitting yourself into 10 different pseudonyms dilutes your power to please the readers who DO like what you do.

    Stephen King and JK Rowling (as 2 popular examples) have both tried using pseudonyms to break away from the genres their audiences love, but once found out, there’s a kind of slap-on-the-wrists response from their fans. Perhaps there’s a loyalty towards, and respect for, writers who are more real to themselves and more vulnerable to their audiences. Just saying… 🙂

    • vscot848 May 4, 2014 at 7:44 am #

      I like that “branding myself as writer”. Great POV, Cole.

  3. amyoung0606 May 4, 2014 at 11:35 pm #

    I complete agree with both the pro’s and con’s to this argument. I will add to the pro side: if there is already a published author with your name in the world, then it may be beneficial to chose a different name to separate you from the path he/she has already chosen. There is one such author who shares my name, but writes intense erotic romance, which in its own right would not be an issue. However, my plans for young adult pieces and generating an age-spanning audience would not appreciate this particular genre. Therefore, pseudonym is in my future.

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