Did you know that your most favorite author ever has written and published secret books that they don’t want you to know about?
This last weekend at MarsCon I had conversations with three authors where the use of pseudonyms came up. Two of them used pseudonyms and the other was considering it. These three were all professionally published multiple times and all three lamented sales numbers that were less than their ultimate goals. To boost their sales and to make a little more money, they mused, writing under a pseudonym was a good avenue to explore.
This is old thinking. A holdover from an industry in flux, flailing about in a mud puddle.
The difference between an amateur/hobbyist and a professional is simple: is this where you make your full-time living. It’s not quality of work, length of your reach, impact of your art. Is this where you make your living. By this definition, I am an amateur/hobbyist working towards becoming a professional.
As an independent, I will never have a random hit single and you, my dear favorite author, you will never have a #1 New York Times Best Seller. We will not make a fortune off of a fluke stroke of good luck. I will never make $50,000 in a year from one album but, what about ten albums? How about fifteen albums plus cool T-shirts, a novel or two, and some soundtracks? Maybe. Maybe then I’ll have a shot. One novel will probably not cover the cost you put into it but, what about two trilogies, a bunch of short stories, a How-to-write ebook, and some comic projects?
What would happen, though, if some of my albums were released under a pseudonym, and my books under a pen name, and the T-shirts were just random T-shirts? What if you like one of my albums but you can’t find the others with a Google search? What if I’m uncredited for that soundtrack? If your favorite author is publishing secret books, how will you buy them? How can you help your favorite author make a living as a writer if they won’t let you?
But, you might ask, what if the author wants to write something really different from their last four books? That’s totally awesome! I want to know how versatile they are. Should I release my South Dakota concept album under a pseudonym because folks who like my ghost songs might get mad and stop liking me all together? No. I will say, “This album is about South Dakota. There are no ghost songs on it.” They will either buy it or they wont. It will sell or it wont. As long as I am honest and clear about what I am doing, there is no danger. Low sales numbers do not mean a loss of fans. There are folks who said that they didn’t want to buy my steampunk album because they don’t like steampunk. But you know what? They bought the Christmas album because that sounded like something they would want.
I can think of only one real reason to use a pseudonym. You don’t what your friends/family/church/co-workers to know that you write erotica or some other material that would offend soft minds. If this is the case, so be it. Just make sure that you stick with whatever pseudonym you choose.
Pseudonyms are stupid. If you’re proud of it, put your name on it.