Monday, March 5, 2012

Pseudonyms: A Guest Post by a "Frugal" Author

Today I am pleased to share a guest post from Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi-award-winning "How to Do It Frugally" series of books and booklets for writers and retailers. USA Book News awarded Howard-Johnson the Best Book Award for The Frugal Book Promoter (2004) and The Frugal Editor (2008) and the Second Edition of The Frugal Book Promoter (2011). Her blog, Sharing With Writers, was also included in the Writers Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers.


To Pseudonym or Not to Pseudonym

by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Nora Roberts, the author of more than 150 romance novels, was asked why she writes romantic suspense novels under a pen name. Here is her answer:

"It's marketing."

She says because she writes quickly that makes it difficult for her publisher to publish all of her work with an appropriate amount of time between each of them. So she writes works which are “edgier” than her romance novels under the pseudonym J. D. Robb. She says, "Putting it under a pseudonym helps brand it for the reader." Children’s writers often separate their real names or their “other” writing names from their children’s work to keep work intended for children untainted.

Writers will find information on the concept of branding in the second edition of The Frugal Book Promoter ( including some of the reasons why you shouldn’t use a pen name. You will, of course, have to weigh the pros and cons, but keep in mind that Ms. Roberts has a powerhouse publisher and its marketing department to help her navigate the difficulties inherent in using a pseudonym. If you are considering using a pen name here's what you should know:

1. It is very hard to keep a pen name secret. Everyone knows who Kristie Leigh Maguire is, as an example, but most know that it is a pen name. If people didn't know that Robb was Nora Roberts' pen name, most of them will now that Time magazine let the cat out of the bag in a featured interview. The magazine also revealed (big time) that Nora Roberts is also a pen name!

2. It is very hard to promote a book in person when you use a pen name—especially if you choose an opposite-sex pen name. In fact, promotion of all kinds can become touchy if you use a pen name because you are intent upon keeping your real identity a secret.

3. Using a pen name isn't necessarily an effective barrier against law suits.

Read more about Roberts in Time magazine's "10 Questions" feature, page 6 of the Dec. 10, 2007, issue.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson, an instructor for nearly a decade at the renowned UCLA Extension Writers' Program, is a multi award-winning novelist and poet and author of the "How To Do It Frugally" series of books.

Learn more about Carolyn and her books at her websites and blogs:

Blogs:  &
The Frugal Book Promoter:

Carolyn's books are available in both paperback and digital formats at Amazon.



Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Did a little tweeting and FB-ing. (-: Nancy, are you on Facebook? I couldn't find you! Of course, a formal thank you will go in my Sharing with Writers newsletter. (-:


Nancy Owens Barnes said...

Thank you Carolyn for posting with us today. I like the idea of using a pseudonym to keep one's name identified with a certain type of work, and separated from others. It makes sense, but I can also see how it could get confusing, like you say, at book signings, etc., especially for those who don't have a big publisher behind them to help out. Thanks for your pointers.

Anonymous said...

You are right, sometimes it is difficult for people to realize who you really are and what to call you. I used to be able to go from hospital to hospital as travel nurse Kay, but now travel nurse expert, Epstein LaRue, has become such a recognized name in the travel nursing world that people got me figured out in orientation. The last five years I have dealt with people knowing both names. People generally are pretty good about switching between names. It's like they call me Kay but know that I have the "Epstein LaRue" books! Btw, I'm in SouthEast, Idaho, near Pocatello!

Nancy Owens Barnes said...

Thank you for your comment Kay. Your Epstein LaRue Highway Hypodermics series that supplies up-to-date information to traveling nurses, staffing recruiters and other nursing professionals looks wonderful. Welcome to Idaho and thanks for writing!

Kathy Cooney Dobbs said...

Thank you, Carolyn for this post about why an author might choose to use a pseudonym. Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain first came to mind, then I started thinking of others - George Eliot, George Orwell, Lewis Carroll, Richard Bachman, O. Henry - all pen names used for various reasons by popular authors . I look forward to reading your book, and visit your blog :)