‘Do I need a pseudonym?’ is a question I have recently asked myself. I have a lot of story ideas and written stories that are a mix of genres: I have a dark fantasy novel idea, a crime novel idea, I have written a zombie novel, I’m editing a psychological horror novel, and I have short stories that are general, horror (all the horror sub-genres), fantasy, and crime. As well as this, I have ideas for different target audiences – I would like to write a horror/dark fantasy series for preteens, and I have an urban fantasy short story that could be turned into a novel, which would be more suitable for the young adult audience. So, I’ve been wondering if I can write all these different stories under Nicole J. Simms.
There have been famous authors who have used a pseudonym. You have Seanan McGuire, who writes as Mira Grant, J. K. Rowling, who writes as Robert Galbraith, Anne Rice, who writes as Anne Rampling and A. N. Roquelaure, and Stephen King, who writes as Richard Bachman and John Swithen. There are so many authors who have chosen to take this route and have all done this for their own personal reasons.
To figure out the answer, I have decided to do some research on pseudonyms and the reasons why authors choose to have them. During my research, I found this interesting article titled, ‘Pen Names: What You Need to Know about Using a Pseudonym’. This article gives these following reasons for why you would use a pseudonym:
- Another author has your name – If your name is Stephen King, then I’m afraid you might need a pseudonym.
- Your name doesn’t fit your genre – I spotted a crime book written by an author called Karin Slaughter. Yes, a crime book, which is likely to have a murder in it, is written by someone with ‘Slaughter’ for their surname. How cool is that? And I’ve checked, this is her real name. Sadly, many of us aren’t lucky to have a name fitting for the genre we write.
- You want to hide your real name – many writers don’t want their family and friends to know about their writing career, or they want privacy, so they choose a pen name.
- Your name is too hard to pronounce or spell.
- You have a bad name – If you happen to be called Ivana Humpalot and you’re not an erotic or romance writer, then you might want to consider using a pseudonym.
- You want to cross genres – Readers may love your fantasy stories, but wouldn’t be interested in your western stories. So to avoid confusing your readership, it would be easier to have a pseudonym for each genre. Publishers and agents also prefer you to have separate names for separate genres, or so I’ve read.
- You’ve been published before and not done well, so you want a fresh start – If plan A. doesn’t work, then sometimes you need to try plan B, but you’ll often find yourself remembered for your first attempt, and if that doesn’t go well, then plan B could also possibly be another fail. So some writers decide to start from scratch and create a new name for themselves.
- You want to write for different age groups – This is similar to point six. You wouldn’t want a child reading a book meant for your adult readers. So, again, to avoid confusion a new name would be a wise decision.
So, do I need a pseudonym? Well, if I want to write for a different age group, then yes, I would need one, or possibly a variation of my original name – just use initials or my two middle names. What about different genres? On my website (and everywhere I mention being a writer), I say that I write crime, horror, and fantasy (I also like mixing both crime and fantasy with horror), so readers wouldn’t be surprised if I write either of those (I hope). However, if I decided to write romance (yeah, that’s not going to happen) because I was hit on the head, then yes, I would need a pseudonym. But, for now, I will stick with the Nicole J. Simms for my horror, crime, and fantasy stories – hey, if Stephen King can get away with it, then so can I, even though I don’t have any of his success. You know, writing this blog post has really helped me to figure things out. In the future, I may have to split the three genres, but for now, I’m not going to worry about that, as I don’t even have a completed novel yet.
So how do you successfully manage different pen names? Well, I’ll be exploring that in a new blog post, so stay tuned.
Have you ever considered using a pseudonym? If you have, then comment below, I’d love to hear your reasons why.
Keep writing, folks!