Thursday, February 10, 2022

Why Authors Use Pseudonyms: Part 1

I get asked quite often why I’ve had work published under names other than my own. A thought that often accompanies this question is: “don’t you want to see your name in print?”  Well, there are numerous reasons why someone might use a pseudonym in publishing. The topic is complex enough that I’ve decided to do a short series of blog posts about it. Here’s the first one, with more to follow.

First, I’ll address the “name in print” point. When I first aspired to write and publish, I definitely did want to see my name in print. And it was very exciting and ego pleasing and confidence building when it happened. But, I’ve actually had my name in print hundreds of times now and my goals have changed. What I want more than anything today is to see my “work” in print, and to have it read, and to see how people respond to it. And sometimes, the best way to get these three things is to publish under a pseudonym. Here are the reasons why:

1. The material you’re writing may get you into trouble with family, friends, coworkers, or a job. I’m not specifically talking about writing porn, but that’s in there. When I was growing up in rural Arkansas, and even in some places today, writing science fiction or fantasy was frowned upon, dismissed, and even banned. And the people who wrote such material were gossiped about and sometimes even harassed for doing the Devil’s work.

My own mother wouldn’t display the books I gave her when I first started getting published, and I’m pretty sure it was because she didn’t like the content and the covers. None of this was pornographic, mind you. In fact, my fantasy and SF works firmly honored the good over the bad and upheld all the moral thinking I was taught growing up. It’s just that it often did so beneath the trappings of aliens and monsters and strange settings.

If your writing is going to cause fights and problems with your family, or conflicts with jobs and coworkers, and you’re not fully ready to handle the emotional turmoil, write under a pseudonym and don’t tell anyone.

There are plenty more reasons why authors might use pseudonyms. We haven’t even gotten to the reasons why I’ve used them yet. But more is to come in installment 2 of this series. I hope you enjoy.


Frank Coffman said...

My pseudonym, actually used for characters in my stories is "Daniel Francis Chapman." My full name is Dean Franklin Coffman, Jr. But, since my parents didn't (thank God!) want to call me "Deanie" or "Junior," "Frank" it became (well, "Frankie" originally." The name Coffman (original Swiss-German lines Kauffman) means a "trader of goods, merchant, buyer-seller) The English equivalent is Chapman.

Charles Gramlich said...

Frank, as good a reason as any to use a pseudonym

eric1313 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charles Gramlich said...

eric1313, good to hear from you. Glad you are doing well. A very good reason to use a pseudonym!

G. B. Miller said...

I started using one because of some bad (and ultimately erroneous) feedback at work about my earlier writing. Plus, some people had issues trying to reconcile me the writer with me the person, so this kind of nipped that thing in the bud.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sad that people think that way about science fiction and fantasy. I can see why it would be easier to just not tell your family.
This will be an interesting series!

Anonymous said...

Charles Gramlich here: G. B., I remember you talking about that. A good illustration of the issues.

Alex, Hope you enjoy. Thanks for visiting.

Anonymous said...

BY THE WAY, Charles here again. I am unable to comment on blogs except anonymously so if your blog doesn't allow anonymous comments I can't post there. I've been working this morning to get it fixed but no solution yet