I'm trying to get the skinny on pseudonyms. Okay, I get it when a woman uses her initials instead of her name because of the presumed bias of book reviews (since I've been a reporter for Sisters in Crime media review for over three years now, I can say that: the men are winning in the major newspapers for book review articles and inches people).

But my question really isn't about that. What are the advantages of writing under a different name? I have spent a lot of time establishing the fact that I have a degree in criminal justice, am a trained forensic artist and my nonfiction titles reflect that--it is my "qualification" key. But, if I want to turn the corner and produce a mystery or write a standalone crime novel, should I become someone else? Would I be better served to write fiction as Pryor Sayjack? (how's that for a name!)

And then if you do use a pen name, is there a time when that should be revealed? I mean, were you upset with Stephen King when he wrote a book as Richard Bachman and you found out that was him after all?

So, if you set up a web site for your title, (and I have a feeling all books should have their own sites sooner or later), is that the place to reveal your real name as the book author—in your bio or about the author page—or do you keep up the pretense?

Plus, what are the legal ramifications of becoming someone else? I think I read something just recently in the InSinc newsletter but I can't remember the gist. I'd just like to hear about experiences. That might help to clarify some things for me.

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Comment by Andrea Campbell on May 28, 2007 at 5:09pm

These are absolutely ideas I would have never thought about. My husband's only interest in my career is one of support, and, oh, yes, when I give presentations he often acts as my "lovely assistant"—handing things out, selling books, etc.

But, truthfully, my husband is also a diabetic with heart problems, so, it's true, if I did lose him, I might not want to write under Campbell any longer, I never thought of that.

Thanks for the frank answer.
Comment by Chris Redding on May 27, 2007 at 4:56am
I write under a pseudonym because my husband asked me to.
Also, what if somethine happened and I was married to someone else, If I didn't take a pen name, my success would be under another person's name.
Comment by Andrea Campbell on April 12, 2007 at 8:07am
Hello, Tiffany Leigh—if that is indeed your name?!?

Thanks for this reasoned reply. Yes, I see what you mean about divorcing yourself from previous work with the Alan Smithee debacle; it kind of hides all sins.

But I hadn't thought about the glutting the market premise, (we should be so lucky as King to have that problem).

You sound like one smart chica! Thanks for your input.
Comment by Tiffany Leigh on April 12, 2007 at 5:38am
I don't have experience specific to my own writing but a common thread with nomenclature is "perception." You already alluded to it when you considered gender.

I think in Stephen King's case (he talked about it in his mea culpa preface to Thinner and the Bachman books) he had lots of stuff written and ready to go to print, and his publishers didn't want to glut the market or wait a year to parse it out. That seems to be the biggest and most practical reason, and not just in publishing, but music too (with it's "sideline" groups from major artists and such).

There's typecasting -- King's character Paul Sheldon (another example) wrote the "Misery" novels (which were treacly romanticized historical bodice-rippers) and wanted to write something else, a "literary" work, without the stigma of the former series. Especially if it's a genre or field where you don't want to sacrifice credibility, such as it is, for your established fan base -- or if you are risk taking and don't want your bread-and-butter work to suffer for it.

There's also the "Alan Smithee" defense in film. That's when a director takes his name off a picture he doesn't want to be associated with, usually due to poor quality or creative differences. DGA mandates that a director must be credited, so "Alan Smithee" became the default name. (Walter Hill used a different name for "Supernova" -- Thomas Lee -- after the DGA no longer allowed Smithee as a legal credit anymore, because (get this) it had d oversaturated the market and came to be equivalent to "talent-free zone."

Which is another reason to use pseudonyms. Not everything one writes and gets paid for is necessarily 1) good quality, or 2) something one wants to be associated with. Early in Larry Block's career he was writing tons of books in various genres under various alter-egos. Stuff was getting published and he was getting paid, but he didn't want it all to be credited to him for one reason or another.

I think also it may be "freeing" to be another identity; even if it's psychological or like a pitching coach mindgame, writing as a different persona, with a different voice and "life" behind the name, is interesting and sometimes kick-starting for an artist.

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