During the era of the Bronte sisters, getting published as female writers was a struggle and their work were rarely taken seriously. And hence, they had to use the gender-neutral pseudonyms Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell in order to be considered equal to male writers. Although this time is long past, there are still plenty of reasons an author might want to write under a pseudonym, ranging from a personal to a political scale.
A pseudonym is a fake name (called a nom de plume in French) that a writer (or any artist) uses in order to hide their real identity. It gives authors the creative freedom to explore genres and tropes that might not agree to their already established reader-base. While some publishing companies do not allow the use of pseudonyms, there aren’t many such qualms for indie authors. As self-publishing platforms like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) service, for instance, is perfectly content with having writers publish under pseudonyms.
1. A Fresh Start
Sometimes, if you have a first book that didn’t quite find its audience, it might be hard to sell upcoming releases. You may have learned from your mistakes, but your reputation would still have taken a massive hit that will require a lot of effort to mend. Publishing a new book under a pseudonym can give you a fresh start.
2. Privacy Concerns
If you’re writing a book about your personal life that reveals a lot about your background, it might affect the lives of the people whom you mention—or even embarrass family members. Hence, another reason using your real name can cause privacy concerns is if you decide to write a book that implicates certain political parties or about controversial topics. The anonymity provided by pseudonyms will give you the freedom to write to your heart’s content.
3. Write for a Different Audience
If you already have an established fanbase in a specific genre, you might end up disappointing your fans when you try your hand at something new—say for instance, you’re known for writing young adult fiction but you wanted to experiment on adult science fiction. This might not bode well with your existing fans, which would lead to a decrease in sales.
Agatha Christie, famous for her crime novels (and dubbed the “Queen of Crime”), wanted to explore a new genre—romance—and published these under the pseudonym, Mary Westmacott, to avoid disappointing her hardcore mystery novel fans. J. K. Rowling, after her immense success with the Harry Potter novels, wanted to get into crime fiction but didn’t want people to judge her based on her earlier work, and hence chose to write under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.
While writers may not be using pseudonyms for the same reasons as during the time of the Bronte sisters, they are still very much in use.
Sharika Hafeez is a nerd, and she’s proud of it. Growing up, she fell in love with books and writing, and is currently following her undergraduate degree (for some mysterious reasons) in Physics. She likes procrastinating by watching the stars with a steaming cup of tea, composing poetry in her head.