Maybe you’re just trying too hard.

21 Jan

I follow many people on Twitter, but one that always sticks out to me. She’s an indie author who likes to change her pseudonym every couple of months, and from the number of posts she makes on it, I think she’s trying too hard.

Personally, I love Natalie–that’s her actual name… or at least, her most consistent–but as she writes on so many different platforms and genres, she focuses on the strangest things. Maybe that’s just because she has a far different situation than me. I’m a fat middle-aged white father of teenagers in Arizona. She’s a handicapped black single woman in her 20’s in Indiana. So she has different priorities and concerns than I do.

There are plenty of authors with pseudonyms–take one of the most popular young adult authors–Shannon Messenger. It might be her real name, after all, it’s really hard to tell anymore… but I seriously doubt it. Same with Constantine Storm or P.N. Elrod or my personal favorite, Liam Hearn. “Liam” is actually a professor from Australia who didn’t want his academic research to get mixed up with fiction writing. I’m guessing Mr. Storm just wanted a cool name that would sell books. Shannon’s probably more worried about stalkers.

The sad truth is… I doubt it matters. If you’re worried about stalkers, I fear it’s not going to help. If someone really wants to find you in the digital age, it doesn’t take that long. Someone somewhere is going to slip and your actual location will appear. My favorite internet comedy group–yeah, I know exactly where their office is. One of my favorite authors–yeah, I know exactly where he lives. Why? Because they had to register themselves somewhere public… and that requires an mailing address. It took me all of five minutes. And no, I’m not going to tell you.

A name like “messenger” or “storm” grabs my attention on the bookshelf, sure, but I still haven’t bought any of their books. My kids bought her books and they demanded I read the first two. Still don’t like them, although they do get better, her young adult series simply isn’t for me. Duh. The ones who have something to protect I understand better–you have a reputation or one name works better than two authors. I personally like the guy who shortens his name from Jacob Holowach to Jacob Holo because it’s easier to say and sounds cooler. (Actually interviewed him about three or four years ago, before he co-wrote with David Weber.)

When writing romance novels, I did write under Adrienne Alexander, the name of a retired realtor in Chicago. I had this thought that romance readers want to see a woman’s name on it, but in the end, since none of them ever got published, it doesn’t matter.

Personally, I want to stroke my ego, have my name on the book. So yes, Marcus Johnston is my actual name. It’s generic enough that a Google search comes up with several other people (including a photographer in Scotland) before you get to me. You’re more likely to find Marcus Johnson than the one with the “t.” Believe it or not, I actually change my name professionally (Marc Johnston, M.Ed) because it gets me more work. Why? That’s a post for another day.

What do you think? Do pseudonyms have any purpose in the modern day? Do you like them? Do you hate them? Let me know in the comments below!

3 Responses to “Maybe you’re just trying too hard.”

  1. John January 21, 2021 at 8:59 am #

    I wrote under a “pen name” but it’s just my first two initials instead of my full name. It’s mostly to act as a buffer between my personal, professional, and authorial lives. I don’t think it really does much, but I made the decision and I’m sticking to it. Plus, there’s a great tradition of writers using their initials (and my full name gets a bit long).

  2. Silk Cords January 21, 2021 at 8:50 pm #

    I **suspect** Natalie is frustrated and trying continually to re-start from scratch instead of fine tuning where ever she’s trying to go as a writer. I’ve been there and have known others making the same mistake. The fresh energy of starting anew feels good at first, but reinventing the wheel over and over also wears you down.

    It MAY be that she’s getting stalked and harassed though. Twitter is more toxic than Chernobyl for crying out loud. Your former pen name and thinking are a good example. You’ll find quite a few insecure female writers on Twitter who go out of their way to trash men who try (and admittedly usually fail) to write romance and erotica. Personally, I have a shut up, write and let the market decide mindset.

    Pseudonyms serve the same purpose as flashy nicknames or titles though; they get attention and stick in the memory, and act as that divider… even if it is often easily penetrated by somebody who knows what they’re doing.

  3. Editor Ed January 21, 2021 at 9:41 pm #

    A lot of the writers for the classic pulp mag “Weird Tales” used pseudonyms simply because Weird Tales was so “disreputable” (for the times) that they didn’t want their real names associated with it.

    Unfortunately, that makes it extremely frustrating for editors like me trying to track down an author to lease reprint rights. 😦

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