Friday, November 18, 2011

To Pseudonym or Not to Pseudonym by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

One of the writers I trust for promotion advice is launching the second edition of her multi award-winning Frugal Book Promoter. And now it is available for Kindle ( . I'm helping her celebrate with this short piece, a partial excerpt from the new edition.

To Pseudonym or Not to Pseudonym

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Nora Roberts, the author of more than 150 romance novels, was asked why she writes romantic suspense novels under a pen name. Here is her answer:

"It's marketing."

She says because she writes quickly that makes it difficult for her publisher to publish all of her work with an appropriate amount of time between each of them. So she writes works which are “edgier” than her romance novels under the pseudonym J. D. Robb. She says. "Putting it under a pseudonym helps brand it for the reader." Children’s writers often separate their real names or their “other” writing names from their children’s work to keep work intended for children untainted.

Writers will find information on the concept of branding in the second edition of The Frugal Book Promoter ( including some of the reasons why you shouldn’t use a pen name. You will, of course, have to weigh the pros and cons, but keep in mind that Ms. Roberts has a powerhouse publisher and its marketing department to help her navigate the difficulties inherent in using a pseudonym. If you are considering using a pen name here's what you should know:

1. It is very hard to keep a pen name secret. Everyone knows who Kristie Leigh Maguire is, as an example, but most know that it is a pen name. If people didn't know before that Robb was Nora Roberts' pen name, most of them will now that Time magazine let the cat out of the bag. They also revealed (big time) that Nora Roberts is also a pen name!

2. It is very hard to promote a book in person when you use a pen name—especially if you choose an opposite-sex pen name. In fact, promotion of all kinds can become touchy if you use a pen name because you are intent upon keeping your real identity a secret.

3. Using a pen name isn't necessarily an effective barrier against law suits.

Read more about Roberts in Time magazine's "10 Questions" feature, page 6 of the Dec. 10, 2007, issue.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson, is a multi award-winning novelist and poet and has a hard enough time keeping those identities separate from her work as the author of the HowToDoItFrugally series of books—one for writers and one for retailers. Learn more about all of them at She also blogs at and at

Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Instructor for nearly a decade at the renowned UCLA Extension Writers' Program

Author of the multi award-winning series of HowToDoItFrugally books including the second edition honored by USA BOOK NEWS

The Frugal Book Promoter (



Web site:

Carolyn, it's been a pleasure hosting you today. Very interesting information on Nora Roberts. Thank you!

Best wishes,
Donna M. McDine
Award-winning Children's Author
The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.


  1. Hi Carolyn:

    It's a pleasure hosting you. Very interesting about Norma Roberts.

    All the best,

  2. Donna, it is a pleasure to be here. Of course, I tweeted! Blogs like yours are so great for new authors to learn to navigate the publishing world--and even those who have been around a bit like me learn from them. (Yes, I just browsed a bit!)
    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Excited about the second edtion of The Frugal Book Promoter (Expoanded! Updated! And now a USA Book News award-winner!)

  3. What a great post. I write under a pseudonym and knew the challenges I would face. It was good to read carolyn's thoughts.

  4. Great post! I tweeted it and FB'ed! :-)


  5. Great post. I love to hear why others decide to write under a pseudonym. We all seem to have individual reasons.

  6. Interesting post, and informative. Thanks for hosting Carolyn.

    Author of The Cancer Prayer Book

  7. Hi Carolyn,

    Lots to think about. Thanks.

  8. Thanks for sharing, Donna. Carolyn always has great marketing insights.

    Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing


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