How To Publish Your Ebook, Pt. 2: Yay or Nay to Pseudonyms

Read Part 1 of the series.

Hi guys, and welcome to part two of How To Publish Your Ebook. Now, I know a lot of you are dying to get down to brass tacks, but we have a few more things to talk about before you can truly approach the publishing process with your eyes wide open. And one of those things is a question I’m pretty sure every new author struggles with when publishing first crosses their mind: should I use a pseudonym?

Some writers decide to publish under a pseudonym without hesitation, and rightfully so. After all, nobody wants to Google their kid’s second grade school teacher to pull up an erotica author. For some writers, pseudonyms simply make sense. But some doesn’t mean all, and some is the minority. If you’ve deliberated about this topic whatsoever, chances are you don’t need a pen name. Deliberating means you aren’t sure that you need it at all.

So what’s stopping you from publishing under your legal name? Maybe you’re embarrassed about what you’ve written, or maybe you’re worried that it’ll fail and your name will be tarnished by the ‘failed author’ badge forever. Here’s a newsflash for you: unless what you’ve written will jeopardize your current job, being embarrassed and afraid of failure is a pretty lame excuse. As an author, you should be proud of your work, not ashamed that you’ve created it. If you’re genuinely embarrassed or seriously scared of failure, you may want to ask yourself if you’re ready to publish at all.

I can't believe that came out of my brain!

Here’s something else to consider: having a pseudonym creates an alternate you, and an alternate you means you’ll have to manage your real self and your author self; that’s double-duty, and double the work. You’ll see why this will quickly become a problem when we talk about self-marketing and connecting with your audience, but it’s a pretty simple concept to grasp. It’s a lot easier to connect with people while marketing yourself if you’re, well, yourself.

I once saw a guy tweet something that really confused me. His book had just been released, so he said ‘well, it’s time to start a new twitter account for my book! Gotta keep the author and the work separate.’ Is it just me, or does that confuse you too? That’s like a car company making a separate website for each model they make, or Baskin Robbins having 31 websites for each flavor of ice cream. It baffles me that people would do this to themselves. To me, it feels like if you take that kind of a step back from your work, it’s almost as though you don’t want it to be your work at all. After all the blood, sweat, and tears you put into your book, you’re kicking it out the door and telling it to fend for itself.

As a self-professed Twitter-head and Facebook veteran, I’ve learned one thing about being a writer and connecting to people through social media. People like to connect to the author. Sure, they may love your book; they may sing its praises to everyone they know… but they’re less likely to do it if they can’t connect to you personally. Separating the author from the work might be a security blanket for you, the writer, but it isn’t going to win you any fans. And since we’re talking about publishing your first ebook, that should be a concern. You want to draw in readers, not alienate them.

With that said, back to pseudonyms. Do you take one? Do you use your own name? I struggled with this question as well, but it took me all of twenty-four hours to decide it was a silly thing to worry about. Like many of you, I’ve been waiting to be published for a good long time, so to publish under a different name… it felt like I was betraying that dream I’ve had for so long, at least a little bit.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to decide how you’re going to publish your work. If you decide to go with a pen name, great… but remember that it will make extra work for you down the line. So unless you really need it, being yourself is probably the best idea.

Until next time!

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27 thoughts on “How To Publish Your Ebook, Pt. 2: Yay or Nay to Pseudonyms

  1. Pingback: How To Publish Your Ebook, Pt. 1: The Road Ahead « 21st Century Author

  2. I use a pseudonym, but not for any of the reasons you mentioned; I use it for my own safety! If I didn’t have a psycho ex to worry about I wouldn’t think twice about using my real name!

    Another great post, as always!

    A x

    • That’s definitely a legitimate reason to use a pseudonym. Safety comes first, and I’d do the same thing if I was in your shoes. πŸ™‚

  3. Hey there Ania! Liking this blog series.

    I use a pseudonym, but also not for the reasons you mentioned. For me, it’s because my real last name is atrociously hard to spell.

    I imagined the hell that the average reader, who didn’t know me and was just told about my book by a friend – who also wouldn’t remember how to spell it – going into a bookstore or online and trying to find anything written by me.

    So, I split the difference, and used my middle name instead of my real last name. Kristopher, while spelled with a K indicating another spelling challenge, is infinitely better than my actual last name. Above all, it’s still *my* name, so I can it really is my name on the book.

    In the end, the pseudonym wasn’t even a choice for me; I’d rather sell more books and slightly compromise than sell none and piss off people looking for my books. πŸ™‚

    Look forward to the next blog!

    • That’s a good reason, to be sure. But you also aren’t hiding behind that pseudonym. Nobody is going to ask you ‘why do you publish under your middle name?’ if they know you’re last name is a nightmare. I can totally relate to this. Before I was married, my last name was a terror.

  4. The reason I’ve been contemplating a pseudonym is purely for privacy. It makes me feel so vulnerable to have my real name out there, like I’ll be stalked or something. Has that ever happened to me? No. It’s a silly worry but there it is. What are your thoughts on privacy? And no, I don’t have a job that would be harmed in any way if I use my real name.

    • I think with the internet the way it is, privacy is something people like to think they have, but it’s a thing of the past. If someone wants to find you, they’ll find you whether you’re using a pseudonym or not. There are ways, and there’s no such thing as anonymity in this day and age. If you don’t want anyone to find you or to invade your privacy, publishing books probably isn’t the right career choice. I’m thinking more along the lines of living in a shack in the middle of nowhere, and even then, the squirrels would ask you what the hell you’re doing there. πŸ˜›

    • There’s really no chance that if someone really wants to know your real name they won’t find it. However, if it makes you feel safer and willing to take more artistic risks go for it. Just know, your grandmother might still end up finding that porn you wrote… Oh sorry… Is it just me that’s happened to?

  5. LOL valid points. So what is your opinion on using a pseudonym to hide the fact that I’m a girl, if only at first glance. I write SF/Fantasy, and there’s still a bias out there about female authors. It’s shrinking, but there’s a reason J.K. Rowling used initials instead of her name. I’ve contemplated using initials or shortening my first name to Mel just to make me more androgynous. But seeing “Mel” instead of “Melinda” in print looks so odd to me. I have no idea why I’m worrying about this so much, except that I’d like to go ahead and set up a domain name and can’t decide which one to get.

    And thanks for talking this through with a random strange πŸ˜‰

    • The reason JK used her initials (and those aren’t even hers, are they? I think I read somewhere that they’re her grandmothers, but I’m no Rowling expert) was that she was writing books that, at first glance, would appeal to a very limited demographic: young boys who wanted to read books about wizards and sorcery. Her publisher was the one who suggested using initials rather than her own name to hide her gender, because lets face it, little boys are silly and fickle, and there’s a real possibility of them being turned off because the book was written by ‘eww, a girl.’

      In that regard, I think Rowling has blazed a new trail into the YA category. I very much doubt that any boy would bat an eyelash at a female-written story if they’re even slightly familiar with Harry Potter. Rowling has taught those boys a valuable lesson: when it comes to literature, gender is meaningless.

      With that said, I think you should be proud to be a woman stepping into a male dominated genre. I think Sci-Fi and Fantasy have far more women than horror does, and that certainly didn’t stop me from using my own name. If you’re good, you’ll be noticed regardless of gender. πŸ™‚

    • There’s bias about female authors? O_o

      Maybe that’s just me…As a gamer / huge nerd, gaming / nerd chicks just become extra cool in my eyes. Likewise for authors, but then again, I’m also a huge book nerd πŸ˜›

      Regarding pen names…I dunno. If I’m ever going to write something non-fictiony (I review games for a Danish site under my own name), I’d probably change around my real name just a little. Just so it wouldn’t sound too off to international audiences πŸ˜€

      • True enough, I think nerd chicks are becoming more popular every day. I do credit J.K. Rowling, among others, for that.

        For what it’s worth, Rowling uses the “J” from her own first name. She didn’t have a middle name so she used her grandmother’s first initial.

      • Well I was half-right about the initials then. I knew it was something having to do with a grandma. πŸ˜‰

  6. I’m using a pen name. I know that if someone really wanted to it wouldn’t be hard at all to figure out who I am. Hell, my publishing company is owned by my LLC! For me it’s more about the fact that I have kids. Add onto that the fact that one of them has a spectrum disorder and I just like the smoke and mirrors between them and the rest of the world.

    Plus, I’ve been Pavarti in online circles since 1998 and have written quite a bit for various online communities where people follow my writing. I answer to it in person and already have dual lives to manage. It is hard, sometimes I sign the wrong name to emails πŸ™‚ But in the end it’s a good thing for me. It honestly never even occurred to me not to be Pav!

  7. Personally, if I were use a pseudonym simply because I thought people would know who I actually was, I’d be a fool not to use my real name. If I truly believed everyone I knew would see my published book, I’d lose a lot of sales on curiosity alone if I used a pen name πŸ™‚

    So I publish under my own name. To be honest, my legal name is still fairly new to me (married less than 2 years), so it kinda feels like a pseudonym. But it’s 100% me. Call me self-centered, but I want people to know who I am, not only as a writer, but on a personal level (within limits). And what if I ended up hating my pseudonym five years down the road? I’m just too lazy to backtrack and release everything to another name – assuming I’d have tons of books published by then.

    I did toy with the idea of changing the spelling a bit. Lefebvre, LeFeve, Lefevre, etc. (The French really know how to spell names don’t they?) But in the end, I stuck with the French-Canadian version my hubby gave me…Lefeve. I also thought about using my maiden name, but folks always spell it wrong. It’s Ybarra with a Y, not an I! Although I might use both last names if/when I publish my paranormal series that deals with curanderas in South Texas. It just seems fitting.

    • I really agree with your comment, Claudia. Selfish as it may seem, I too want people to look at my book and go ‘woah, wait, her?’

      Some people say ‘well, it’s a safety thing.’ Yeah, maybe. But Stephen King is Stephen King and nobody’s shot him yet, right? I mean… he did get hit by a car, but they say that was an accident. πŸ˜‰

  8. I guess I should be concerned about safety, but I already work in a field where I deal with defendants, criminals, and all around bad people on a daily basis. They already know where to find me πŸ™‚ There’s always a risk putting yourself out there, but there’s a smart way to go about sharing your information.

  9. I write under a pseudonym as well – seems like a lot of your blog readers/commenters do! I have a couple reasons for this – one is that my real name is a doozy. I’d say at least 80% of people who read it don’t pronounce it correctly and that pisses me off. It also is just very inelegant and clumsy of a name – I don’t like it. I guess I am doing a bit of hiding myself, though. I have not had great support from friends and family when it comes to writing, and I know I can be found online elsewhere under my real name – I wanted a safe place where I could connect with other readers and writers and get the support that I lack in my “real” life – and it’s totally working. Meaghan is my middle name, and Ward is my grandmother’s maiden name, so I’m still sticking to my roots in a way. Honestly, another exciting part about using a pen name is knowing that someday I can throw off the blanket that’s covering me and show the world how kick-ass my writing is… looking forward to that, sometime in the future.

    • I’m actually somewhat in the same boat as far as support goes. My husband’s family is a million times more supportive than my own, and even my closest friends haven’t said a word to me about it if they do know what I’m doing (and I find it hard to believe that they don’t, since I post articles and links on my facebook page constantly). That would actually make a great topic for a blog post–lack of support.

  10. Pingback: How To Publish Your Ebook, Pt. 3: The Mysterious ISBN « 21st Century Author

  11. Pingback: Publishing Your E-Book: A Quick How-To « 21st Century Author

  12. Pingback: The Pavarti Conundrum: Pros and Cons of a Pseudonym | Fighting Monkey Press

  13. Pingback: The Pavarti Conundrum: Pros and Cons of a Pseudonym | Fighting Monkey Press

  14. As someone who enjoys absolute privacy, and has no desire to acquire a facebook page or blog (useless waste of time, I’m not interested in having a herd of pretend friends, and I consider fame to be an idiot’s quest.) then a false name is desirable. There are dozens of other marketing methods to maintain anonymity. Basically, people can buy my book or not. I already have an income.
    Will Leam

  15. Hi Ania, I can only find parts 1 & 2 of your How To Publish Your Ebook series (which I really enjoyed by the way πŸ™‚ Did you continue the series, perhaps on another blog? If you can find the time could you please let me know? Thanks so much, Ima Bratt

    • I actually consolidated into a single post, because I realized it would take way too long to break things up. The post is here. Hope this helps!


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