To Be Me, Or Not To
©Judy Bagshaw - All Rights
Before I sent out my first
romance manuscript to a publisher, I gave long consideration to
the notion of using a pseudonym. I was an elementary school
teacher at the time, working with young children, and certainly
my professional standing had to be considered. Some of my
writing was a little on the “sensual” side, and certainly not
appropriate for little kids.
So I spent a long time inventing
my alter ego…a romance writer I named Faith Sinclair (I thought
she sounded romancey and, well, Canadian), and I sent out my
When the acceptance came, there
was a caveat. My publisher-to-be didn’t particularly like my
“chosen” writer name. She much preferred my given name, stating
she felt it had more punch. I thought she was nuts, having
lived with the name all my life. It seemed so ordinary and dull
to me. But I bowed to her greater knowledge of the publishing
industry, and discarded my
I’ve never been sorry. It was a
thrill to see my own name on the cover of the books I wrote.
And my parents were delighted that I chose to use our family
name and the name they gave me. And I didn’t have to constantly
explain that, yes, Faith Sinclair really was me. So, for me it
A couple years later, I had cause
to re-think the issue of pen names when a couple of pieces of
erotica I’d written got picked up for publishing. I confess I
was a little embarrassed at the thought of my mother, or my
boss, knowing I wrote ‘dirty’ stories. So I chose a pen-name.
Again, no regrets. I was able to explore this lucrative genre,
not shock my poor mother, and not offend my established fan
base in romance.
The decision to use a pen name or
not is entirely personal, but there are times, as in the above
example, that a pseudonym might be
Consider a writer who writes in
different genres. They become known in romance, then decide to
write a murder mystery or a horror novel. Rather than confuse
or disappoint their readers, they might decide to use a
pseudonym for the new genre.
Or consider the very prolific
author who perhaps has more than a few books coming out the
same year (we can all dream). There might be a concern the
books would compete with each other, so a pen name would solve
that issue. This was the case for Stephen King who also wrote
as Richard Bachman and John
Often, writers of erotica choose
to use a pen name. For some, it’s because their family doesn’t
know they write such “kinky” material, which was the case for
me. For others it might be because of their day jobs, and not
wanting embarrassing situations to arise in the workplace
because they write more lurid material. I know of one writer of
hotter romances whose father is a minister who would be
horrified to know his daughter wrote such material.
You will sometimes find that a
male writer will use a feminine pseudonym possibly because a
female writer in certain genres is more readily accepted. For
example, although there are male romance authors, the field is
dominated by women writers. And there are couples and writing
partners, who choose a pen name to represent their joint
Sometimes the publisher will ask
the author to write under a pseudonym. This happened to me when
I wrote a number of titles for an educational publisher.
Wanting to give the illusion of a large team of writers on the
project, the handful of authors provided multiple pen names. I
was published using six of my provided names, including my
Another circumstance might arise
if an author writes for multiple publishers. The choice might
be to have a separate pen name for each.
A pen name might be a solution if
your real name is difficult to pronounce or to spell, or
conversely, if your name is too similar to another published
author’s name, particularly if they write in the same genre as
you. There can be only one Nora
If you do choose to use a
pseudonym with your writing, choose carefully. Once you’ve
chosen your name, Google it to see if it’s already in use.
After all, you don’t want to get published only to find out
that your pen name is shared by the subject of a tabloid sex
tape scandal, or a serial killer sitting on death
To be you or not to be you…that
really is the question.
Judy Bagshaw has been published
since 2000. Writing romance featuring full-figured heroines,
her publishing credits include several novels, a collection of
short stories, and short stories in multiple anthologies. She
was also part of the writing team for the Ginn Reading Series,
and Reaching Readers Series, used in many elementary schools.
Retired from teaching, she writes full-time from her home
in Ontario, Canada.
Visit Judy's website www.judybagshaw.com