To Be Me, or Not to Be Me?

I mentioned about a month ago that I had decided that my current work-in-progress, a challenging and controversial religious exposition, would be published anonymously and I wouldn't therefore be talking about it again. But after further debate and discussion, my co-author and I find we're not sure whether this is the right choice. At some point we need to make the decision. But what are the pros and cons of using a pen-name?

Advantages of Using a Pseudonym

  • On the offchance that your book becomes a rip-roaring success, you can retain your normal life (albeit with more money) and not get pursued by obsessive fans. (Because, like, that happens to writers all the time.)
  • If you've written anything, (say, a challenging and controversial religious exposition) which is likely annoy crazy folk then they won't be able to come after you with an axe.
  • If you happen to be a woman (or two women) and want men to buy your book, you can pull a JK Rowling and have your name mask your gender.
  • If you've already published books in another genre, or hope to do so in future, then using a different name means you don't confuse your readers.
  • If you don't really have the right expert knowledge or background to write your book, then your fake self can have a fake bio to make them look entirely qualified.
  • You can talk to friends, go to online groups, email people as yourself to recommend the book without it looking like shameless self-promotion.
Disadvantages of Using a Pseudonym
  • You can't be interviewed on the radio, or do book signings, (or speak at Greenbelt) or do any other type of publicity which involves actually being a person.
  • Your fake self will need a blog, and a website, and a Facebook page, and Goodreads, Shelfari and any number of online presences which all have to be set up and maintained, and that's a lot of work, especially if you have already done it all with your actual real self.
  • If you've written something likely to lead to debate or differing opinions,  (say, a challenging and controversial religious exposition), it seems cowardly not to put your name on it and own it. If you believe in your position enough to write the book, you should be ready to stand by it.
  • On the offchance that your book becomes a rip-roaring success you can tell potential future agents and publishers that you are already the author of a bestseller - and when they check it on Amazon, they will actually believe you.
  • You can't use your existing friends, online contacts and other networks to publicise your book without looking like a troll and being ignored.
So, what do you think? Any other pros and cons I need to consider? Should I put my name on this book?


  1. Tough decision, considering the advantages and disadvantages on both sides! I guess one more question would be--if it's really controversial, would it bother your current publisher? Good luck with your decision, and I'll be interested to see what you decide to do.

  2. Another consideration is, how do you plan to handle it if the truth behind your pseudonym comes out? I would use a pseudonym if I decided to write in a different genre simply to signal the reader that X writes this and Y writes that, so read the genre you prefer. But I long ago learned that secrets are only begging to be broken. Sometime, somewhere, somehow, the truth is likely to come out, as truth usually does. So the question is, what do you plan to do if/when that happens?


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