Pseudonyms in Writing:
To Be Me, Or Not To Be...

©Judy Bagshaw - All Rights Reserved


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 manuscript. 


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 pseudonym. 


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 worked out. 


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 useful. 


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 Swithen. 


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 efforts. 


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 own. 


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 Roberts! 


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 row. 


To be you or not to be you…that really is the question. 




About the Author:  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



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