In the past, female writers considered it necessary to have a pseudonym that gave the impression they were male or at the very least made their gender unknown, for fear that their books wouldn’t sell to male readers. The Bronte sisters did this, as did Louisa Alcott but perhaps the most famous recent example is J.K Rowling. Although it’s not technically a pseudonym, she inserted a fictitious initial (K) into her writing name to appear more anonymous, rather than writing as Joanne Rowling who is quite clearly female. As the books became successful and it was evident that both girls and boys were buying the books, her gender became irrelevant. Recently, she has adopted a real pseudonym – Robert Galbraith – a man’s name. In J.K Rowling’s case, she would have no trouble selling books under her own name now but in this instance, she chose a pseudonym for a different reason. The reason she gave is:
The decision to choose a male pseudonym was driven by a desire to “take my writing persona as far away as possible from me”, Rowling said. By choosing as her hero a military man working in national security – taking a lead from former SAS solider and bestselling author Andy McNab – she created an “excuse not to make personal appearances or to provide a photograph”.
Robert Galbraith’s true identity was kept a secret for 3 months before a lawyer firm representing J.K Rowling leaked the truth. J.K Rowling said at the time:
‘I had hoped to keep this secret a little longer because being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience.
‘It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation, and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.’
Another high-profile author to write under a pseudonym is Stephen King. When asked why he wrote as Richard Bachman, he gave the following answer:
I did that because back in the early days of my career there was a feeling in the publishing business that one book a year was all the public would accept but I think that a number of writers have disproved that by now.
There are a variety of reasons why writers have chosen to use a pseudonym or nom de plume. I would like to think that men/boys would not be put off buying a book written by a woman in this day and age but I could be wrong. I understand J.K Rowling’s thinking behind becoming Robert Galbraith. She is in a good financial position, she can write what she likes because she doesn’t need the money. She wanted to receive feedback as an unknown writer and it was good while it lasted. She sold 1500 copies before anyone realised JK Rowling wrote The Cuckoo’s Calling. Stephen King, I suppose, also falls into that category.
Would you use a pseudonym? If so, why?
I’d love to hear what you think about that or anything else I have said in my post.
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