Why Writers Use PseudonymsOctober 13, 2015

Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin knew female authors wouldn't get far in Paris, so she dressed up in men's clothing in public. She even chomped tobacco, much to the chagrin of the menfolk. The attention opened doors for her. She would be known as George Sand.

Sexism existed in the publishing world during the 19th century, but the 21st century would be another thing. J.K. Rowling might had less success if she used Joanne Rowling. And the reasons have nothing to do with female writers having a disadvantage. The reading public are a fickle-minded bunch, so it helps to have flexible career options. Not a few look at Jane Austen as their inspiration.

The author of "Pride and Prejudice" used a pseudonym, but it was an anonymous individual. "A Lady" piqued the curiosity of those who laid their eyes on her books. It was a bold move on Austen's part, as she was aware of the standing of women in Victorian England. Then again, this was the very reason why she wanted the reading public to know they were looking at works of female authors. It was throwing caution to the wind, which paid off.

Nowadays, there are a number of reasons why many writers choose to use a pen name. And it has nothing to do with sexism. Let's have a look:

Some writers want to distance themselves from their previous works. Rowling basked in the success of her Harry Potter novels when she thought of another genre. She yearned for freedom. It was like starting from scratch, with nothing else to prove. Her fans were surprised to know she was Robert Galbraith, who penned "The Cuckoo's Calling". And the sales of the book skyrocketed after Rowling's identity was revealed. It would be unfair to say that Rowling's celebrity status was the reason for the sudden increase in sales, which was the case with other novelists.

Writers want their readers not to put the book down. Most readers would close down a book after reading a chapter. Don't be surprised if some managed to read a few pages. The story must not only be good, but it will also keep their interest until the final chapter. Furthermore, the cover must be attractive enough. It helps to use a pen name, but it doesn't click in cases like Acton, Ellis, and Curer Bell. Fans of Victorian literature knew the true identity of these siblings.

Some literary genres favour male readers. It might be disheartening, but think again. Science fiction, for instance, is one of those genres where the male authors are more likely to succeed. Not that female writers can't handle a dystopian setting, as Ursula Le Guin would prove otherwise. But this is more intellectual in scope, with less room for emotion. Readers can figure out the rest.

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