ASK PZM: June 2013 – Author Pseudonyms

Because today is the first Wednesday of the month, you got it! It’s IWSG day, compliments of Alex J. Cavannaugh, our Ninja Captain! 

It’s a simple process:

“Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time. Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.” 

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG  

Because IWSG Wednesday falls on the 5th, I’m sharing Ask PZM’s Q&A, chalk full of excellent info. 

Q: What do you think of authors using pseudonyms for their books?
First, let’s break down this question into different reasons for using a pseudonym:

Authors may be writing a whistle-blowing book, for example, and for their own security they may feel they need to use a pseudonym.  In this case the identity of the author is kept secret and thus the author does no publicity efforts.  (Okay, maybe a TV interview with the person’s face disguised and the voice electronically altered.)

The topic of the book is usually so explosive that the identity of the whistle blower, besides obviously being an insider, is not important to promoting the book.

In the past a pseudonym was also used for various other reasons.  As I recall, at one time publishers felt that an author should only publish one book a year in a series.  If an author wanted to publish a second book during that year not in the series, then a second author name was used.
Anyone disagree with my memory that this was a prevailing concept at one time?

Eventually this changed and books started carrying author identification such as “Ruth Rendell Writing as Barbara Vine'” to utilize an author’s fan base in one genre to promote the author’s book to a different fan base.
In another example, I know of one mystery writer who chose a different last name because she wanted her books to be shelved in bookstores near the front of the alphabet instead of at the end.  In this case, she was the “face” attached to the author name, but the name wasn’t her own.

Now let’s look at the world of pseudonyms in today’s publishing world, especially with the popularity of ebooks:
One interesting consideration is that many self-published book authors have been having major success with releasing several books in a series a month or so apart from each other.  Instead of waiting to release a book a year in a series, authors can enable the fans of a series to read a new book soon after reading a previous book.
I personally like this option and think it makes for happy readers and happy authors.  

Clarification:  If you are using your own name but shy away from photos of yourself, you can choose to use a drawing of your face rather than a photo.  But you should have a personal human “look” rather than a book cover as the image on your Facebook profile, for example.)

Now we come to social media in this discussion:
Social media has opened up online connections between authors and their fans, and the importance of this is demonstrated by Amazon’s recent acquisition of Goodreads.
Due to the relationship building ability that social media gives authors, I personally do not see the advantage to using different author names for different types of books written by the same person.  I recommend you create your online social presence with pictures and personal information using whatever name you have chosen as your author name and stick to it.  

After all, do you really want to create a fake social media persona to use with a pseudonym?  What does this do for building trust with your readers? 

And what about social media sites whose terms of service expressly forbid you from having two personal accounts under different names?  You can risk being thrown off the site in both your names.
Okay, I may have convinced you not to use a pseudonym for different books by the same author.  But what about signaling to readers that the current book you are promoting is not in the genre of other books of yours?

In my opinion, the answer is making sure that your book’s cover, title, subtitle and description clearly “telegraph” the genre and, if appropriate, the target reader age (Middle Grade, Young Adult, etc.)

For example, look at Yael K. Miller’s Middle Grade novel on Amazon: JACK STROM AND NEW ORLEANS HOODOO: BOOK 1 OF HURRICANE HOODOO at


The cover has the image of a young teen boy.  The title and subtitle are in a familiar format for Middle Grade supernatural stories, and the description immediately notes the age of Jack Strom, which is another way to signal the target reader age.

If you write books in different genres, look at your covers, titles, subtitles and descriptions to see what these “telegraph.”

And after all, since many readers enjoy different genres of books, why shouldn’t an author enjoy writing different genres?

Just make sure that your fiction and nonfiction books do not confuse people as to which is which!

Q.  What can you tell me about author taglines?
I read an interesting post from blogger Jean Oram about this topic, and her post inspired me to write a blog post of my own (see ) because this is such an important question.

I think an author tagline can help deal with possible confusion over an author writing in several genres.  For example, you could choose a tagline that specifically states your genres – “I write hard-boiled detective novels and bodice-ripping romance novels.”  
Okay, maybe this is not the best example, but you should get the picture.

In my case I added my current tagline to the top right-hand corner of my author site www.PhyllisZimblerMiller.comand then added a second sentence of clarification that included a call to action:
“I write what I love and what I know. See my fiction and nonfiction books on Amazon at
(Note that this URL is one I got and redirected in order to shorten my customized Amazon Author Central profile URL at )
Try coming up with author taglines for yourself – and then think of places you can use the taglines. 
And do use the comments section on this post to share your taglines.

Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of fiction and nonfiction books, including TOP TIPS FOR HOW TO PUBLISH AND MARKET YOUR BOOK IN THE AGE OF AMAZON.  You can see all her books at www.ZimblerMillerbooks.comand find her on Goodreads at

She also writes about book-related topics at her author website at www.PhyllisZimblerMiller.comand is the co-founder of the online marketing company

“Breaking down Pseudonyms and Taglines.” (click to Tweet)

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