My real name is not Jim Makos. That is just a nickname I picked when I first connected with the internet world 20 years ago. Nowadays, it serves as my author name appearing in the byline of all my articles. Lately, it has been used as reference for university papers! Am I right using a pseudonym when writing online?
More importantly, should you use a pseudonym online?
For quite some time, I had been contemplating using my real name online. The least that would happen was to fulfill my parents’ pride. The worst that could happen though is letting the world know of a vast of unnecessary information and sensitive data. And there’s no need for that. Better safe than sorry.
Writing under a pen name allowed me to build a brand. When creating social media profiles (eventually turned into business pages!) and joining forums I knew beforehand what (brand) name I’d be using. The pseudonym is now helping my voice being heard more clearly and louder in the abyss of the internet.
But wait, wouldn’t that happen by using a real name?
I suppose so unless your name is a very common one (think of John Doe) or similar to a famous person’s. By renaming yourself before climbing the writing stardom though, you are free to choose the name you like to leave a mark with. And some of us have both long and difficult-pronounced surnames, not to mention foreign-looking first names. A deadly combination for the English-driven internet.
To stand out as an online writer is the same as in the real world. Here are some famous writers using pseudonyms:
- Agatha Christie: Mary Westmacott
- Benjamin Franklin: Mrs. Silence Dogood
- Isaac Asimov: Paul French
- Michael Crichton: John Lange, Jeffery Hudson and Michael Douglas
At times, worldwide famous and popular writers wrote books under a different pen name. Stephen King comes to mind using Richard Bachman for the seven (7) books! Harry Potter’s author did something similar. Did you know that J. K. Rowling’s publisher suggested using her initials to avoid revealing to potential young readers (and buyers) the author was a woman? Although not exactly a pen name, she did use a shortened version of her full name, adding a second initial for middle name (from her grandmother). And that helped her book’s sales!
Check an endless list of pen names at Wikipedia!
Yes, people change their names for the sake of fame, money, privacy and personal safety. Not only writers, but singers and actors. And if they do it, why don’t we do it online, where exposure is uncontrollable and money may begin pouring in unexpectedly?
Sooner or later your real identity will surface, should you become ultra-famous. But until that happens, you will sleep better at night.
Featured image via Flickr