Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Faking It, or How to Write under a Pseudonym

I, Nan Comargue, write sweet or semi-sweet (bittersweet?) romance novels. Recently, however, I’ve been reading and dabbling in writing erotic romances. In fact, I currently have a manuscript for an erotic romance call for submission on the go and I am dead set on finishing it in time for the July 1st deadline.

The problem is, when someone sees the name Nan Comargue (or will see it in the future, when my books are someday accepted for publication), they will know me as a sweet/ semi-sweet romance writer. They will not be expecting hot and explosive erotic romance, which I also want to publish. For one thing, I don’t want to offend any of my mythical sweet romance readers but I also don’t want to “trick” an erotic romance reader into buying a sweet story.

So what to do?

The answer I’ve come up with is a pseudonym.

But…but…but…is this a valid case for creating and stepping into a whole new identity?

Well, let’s look at some of the reasons writers use pseudonyms.

You teach schoolchildren or preside over traffic court in your day job. You may not, for obvious reasons, want the parent of a child you teach or an offender who comes before you to know your innermost sexual desires…because, to some extent, that’s what romance writing conveys. It may just be a wicked fantasy in your mind but someone, somewhere, will think this is what you do outside of your work.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  But you may not want your erotic writing to be the first thing someone thinks of when they see you in your day job.

In another scenario, your name may identify your ethnic or religious origins, which you may have reason not to publicize.

In both cases, a pseudonym can help for you to eliminate the risk of notoriety.

Avoid confusion:
Your name may be very common or extremely unusual. In the first case, you may not want to be confused with that famous singer because no one who searches your real name on the internet will ever find your romance novels. In the latter instance, you may want to protect your privacy (see above) or that of your family and make it easier on a potential reader to spell or pronounce your name.

Another instance of confusion, which applies to me, is not knowing what you’re marketing. No reader wants to spend time scratching their heads wondering if they’re buying a sweet or erotic romance. According to the trusty internet, writing in multiple genres (or, in my case, subgenres) can be a valid reason to come up with a pseudonym. Yay!

You write too many books and don’t want your readers to think you churn them out by rote (thus leading to the assumption that they can't be of very good quality). Multiple pseudonyms can hide this fact.

You’re Two People:
Collaborators can sometimes find it easier to write under a single name. Let’s face it, the vast majority of authors are a single individual, so you may not want to stand out with your cover page being littered with multiple names. Or, as well, one or more of the collaborators may wish to obscure their identities for one of the reasons mentioned above.

There are probably as many reasons for having pseudonyms as there are pseudonymous authors out there. At the end of the day, you have to feel comfortable with your decision. Think about it carefully, it may affect your writing career for many years down the road.

As for me, I’m still thinking it over. I’ll let you know what I decide.

Photo courtesy of m_bartosch at


  1. as someone with a very uncommon last name, I blogged with a pseudonym from day 1. Now that I'm forging into academia (ack!) I've gone the opposite way, and I have a blog where the url is my first and last name. I like the way you talk about it here.

  2. I completely understand the academia issue - my sister is in that field and we have very similar names so aside from not wanting to slander myself, I have her breathing down my neck!

    I still have to think up a good erotic romance pseudonym it anything like creating a porn name? :)