♦Welcome to another edition of the Open Book Blog Hop!♦
Do you write under a pseudonym? If so, why?
If not, would you ever consider it?
Welcome back to another Open Book Blog Hop! The authors included in this ongoing series wish to thank you for your reads. We appreciate, even more so, when you share our writings with your friends. If you’re new to the series, welcome aboard. The authors engage and impress weekly. Prepare to become a regular reader.
My perspective on pseudonyms is framed by my ideas on ghostwriting. I don’t agree with ghostwriting, because I think a writer should never not take credit for their work and earn their worth. That a ghost writer doesn’t mind the situation isn’t entirely true. It’s more about a vehicle from which to gain credit and respect in the field, but one that is distinctly parasitic–much like those hiring writers that will get paid with exposure.
If someone would like to produce a work, they they should facilitate a team, but the author of the project should always be the real author, and they should be paid the larger percentage of the take. Opportunists take advantage of artists daily. Art is not as respected as other crafts. It doesn’t help that a large portion in the field will go ahead and ghost write, or write for free to get advancement, or others who make the gauntlet much harder than it needs to be for writers to achieve their goals (either by holding things secret, or closing down on opportunities).
When someone has an idea for a book, then their option should be to pitch it to the publishers for a percent or do it themselves. This would cut down on all those fluff pieces by celebrities who are looking to pad out their resumes without actually doing any of the work (there are celebrities who can write and do, so this is not a shot across their bow). Just because you have an idea, it doesn’t mean that you should get credit for making it happen. In film, artists can get credit under story by. A book should be no different, considering you have front matter to list the editors, publishers, etc. Put the idea person there. The author who spent all that time writing should be the person named on the cover; given the credit for the work (because they actually did write it!). But, you came here to hear about pseudonyms …
Pseudonyms are similar to me in the aspect of an author not taking credit for their work. They’re hiding behind a veil. Now, this has good reason, unlike ghost writing. A pseudonym allows someone who could get in trouble for writing what they did: either because it is unacceptable in their culture or unacceptable to their loved ones, friends, or even workplace. It also allows someone to shuck off the shackles a name can saddle them with as readers assume things about them because of the name. Yeah, I’m talking about bias.
Whether it is gender or ethnicity, the publishing field isn’t as equal as we’d like to believe it is. Preference is still for white men over other identities. Why is that? White male experience is centered in our culture. Thus, we assume they have authority the second they present. It doesn’t have to be true. This privilege is taught early, reinforced daily, and blind to feelings we might have about it. Women writers, therefore, work harder to be taken equally as serious, just as they struggle to be taken seriously in everyday life. When you make the addition of non-white ethnic backgrounds, you find opportunity and respect dries up further. Someone trying to navigate this situation, in order that their stories might find readers is very likely to use a saleable pseudonym. That, leads me to the final type: a saleable name. If you have a common name, will you stand out? It should be your work that stands out, but in 8-seconds, if you can’t grab em, you never will. It’s a rough market.
Do I use a pseudonym? I don’t call it that, although some might call it a pen name of sorts. It does seek to somewhat mask my identity. I use my initial instead of my full name. This choice is based on how women writers are not taken as seriously in either of my genres: historical fiction and fantasy/sci-fi. I also chose it because my great grandmother went by Kay.
At the outset of my career, using a pseudonym still made me squeamish. Then, the choice was reinforced (and has been many times over). I remember when I was working with an agent to publish Blue Honor, and the feedback was around where to place it in genres. To me, this was a work of historical military fiction, a drama, literature. They thought it would do better in romance–because a woman wrote it and the drama dared to suggest a relationship.
Honestly, it wasn’t sexual enough to fit that bill, and I had made a point of not delving into that trope. Had I gone along with publishers to pursue my story as a romance over the genres I intended it for, my story would have required the addition of scenes in a gratuitous manner. Blue was never intended as a romance. The addition of these things would have been particularly out of place. Trust me, romance readers would have called it out and I would have known the truth of how disingenuous it was. Yet, the material’s right to be on the shelf labeled literature or military fiction was questioned because its creator wasn’t a man. Surely he would know best where his own book belonged, unlike myself. (Yes, that was sarcasm.)
Blue never had to go through this. I chose to stick with my literature and eventually I moved on to other opportunities that have been fulfilling just on the measure of integrity. Yes, I have used my first initial and last name throughout my publishing thus far. The market is tough. I know from research that this bias is well-documented. Women’s books struggle more, especially in my genres. Sure, they can see my picture, but there is a psychological aspect to the initial that overrides the image: the name sounds authoritative. A reader is more likely to pick up the book, read the description, and give it a chance before realizing the author is female. Readers admit to this bias all the time, so let’s not be disingenuous. I’m going to use what will give me the best advantage for my brand without losing credit.
Has it been effective? I think so. When readers meet me online and don’t see my face, they’re more interested and ready to give the books a shot. In person–I get the eye (even from women) and the question: “You wrote this?” Have you ever been asked such a deprecating question? If you have, was it regarding a project in which you poured your everything? Was the inference that your anatomy somehow precluded your ability? Growing a graying beard would not help me be taken more seriously, however, so I chose the initial.
The sad thing is that our society unconsciously attributes greatest ability to certain members of our group–unquestioningly. Why don’t we question this? Why do we question a writer’s accomplishment because it happens to be a young woman sitting before you or a person of color? Why would that be surprising? It shouldn’t be. If it wasn’t surprising the question wouldn’t come up at all. And this phenomena crosses all kinds of work. Writers aren’t the only people to employ a pseudonym!
Watch that YouTube I shared above, because the presenter does a fantastic job of presenting the idea of bias as someone who was once not at the mercy of it and now finds themselves the brunt of it. If the fear of listening to another’s experience and taking them seriously would let up, I bet we could all use our full names on the covers of our works, without having to weigh the worth of pseudonyms. In that world, it would just be about having fun branding oneself instead of overcoming obstruction.
Be sure to check out the pseudonym answers of the other authors on the list by clicking on their links below…