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Thread: Pros and cons of pseudonyms

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Pros and cons of pseudonyms

    I'm writing a novel (my first go at full-length fiction) and at this rate it will be ready to send out to agents by January. I'm wondering whether to use a pseudonym or not. I'm an academic and I've written a few journal articles and a book based on my research, with a second book to follow. These are under my own name, obviously. I've also published a candid memoir/self-help guide about life with a disability, which has sold pretty well. From what I've read online, many publishers prefer you to take a pseudonym if your work spans multiple genres. I can see the rationale behind that, as it doesn't make commercial sense for your novel to be buried amidst your scholarly output on wombat reproduction in the Amazon listings, but I can also see advantages in just having one author profile to maintain. Has anyone been in a similar position, and what did you find was best?

    I'm also curious about privacy. Writing a novel feels like the most personal thing I've ever done, which is a bit strange, considering that in my self-help book I wrote frankly about everything from uncooperative bowel movements to the awkwardness of navigating first crushes as a special needs kid. Part of me wants to use a pseudonym just to give myself a little more space, but I'm not sure how effective a pseudonym would be in achieving that.

    (Wombat reproduction isn't the actual subject of my research, just in case anyone was wondering!)

  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW
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    Use a pseudonym even if it's not secret. This will help automatic suggesting engines keep similar things together and keep such groups cohesive. Say Smith writes about 3 very different subjects. Someone buys one book from Amazon and starts getting reccomendations of the others, but most of them are not interesting and pollute the algorithm. If he used a distinct name for each subject, the recís would be spot on, and the system would learn that people who read one often buy others as well, and strengthen its idea that it is fruitful to reccomend.

  3. #3
    Such a nasty woman SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    Don't rely on a pseudonym to protect your anonymity.

    Don't worry about using a pseudonym yet. Write your book. Don't assume it'll be ready by January: you're going to need a lot of time to revise it once it's done, and rushing this stage is a very common reason for rejection. If and when you find an agent to represent you, speak to them about using a pseudonym.

  4. #4
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by JDlugosz View Post
    Use a pseudonym even if it's not secret. This will help automatic suggesting engines keep similar things together and keep such groups cohesive. Say Smith writes about 3 very different subjects. Someone buys one book from Amazon and starts getting reccomendations of the others, but most of them are not interesting and pollute the algorithm. If he used a distinct name for each subject, the rec’s would be spot on, and the system would learn that people who read one often buy others as well, and strengthen its idea that it is fruitful to reccomend.
    Thanks. This tallies with most of what I've read and it sound sensible. It also means I have the fun of choosing a name!

    Quote Originally Posted by Old Hack View Post
    Don't rely on a pseudonym to protect your anonymity.

    Don't worry about using a pseudonym yet. Write your book. Don't assume it'll be ready by January: you're going to need a lot of time to revise it once it's done, and rushing this stage is a very common reason for rejection. If and when you find an agent to represent you, speak to them about using a pseudonym.
    Thanks for the reminder about the risks of rushing. I'm trying not to focus so much on the icing that I forget to bake the actual cake. However, I do find that my writing is better and more focused when I have a deadline, so even if I haven't been given one I like to impose one on myself. I have two friends who can just sit down and write without any sort of timetable, but I've never been able to do that.

  5. #5
    Night Owl GypsyLayla's Avatar
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    I hope you don't mind if I post a question in here. It's on topic, but I don't want to offend. We're at the querying stage. And we are a husband and wife team. We want to use a pseudonym as we will be writing jointly going forward. Do I put that in the query letter? Or just hold off on it and talk to our agent about it-- if we land one.

  6. #6
    figuring it all out
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    @ GypsyLayla The latter. No point potentially muddying the waters, when you haven't yet landed the fish.
    Last edited by Davy The First; 11-12-2017 at 05:34 AM. Reason: grmr

  7. #7
    Night Owl GypsyLayla's Avatar
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    Thank you Dave. I appreciate the response.

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