It’s another Expert Briefs, where I ask really smart business owners to answer your burning questions.
If you've missed past Expert Briefs, you can click on the undies to see them all –>
This week we're talking about pen names. I asked our panel of experts …
Do you Use Author Pseudonyms (Pen Names)? If so, tips,
successes, utter failures? Dish it.
This could be on blogs, on Amazon, in EzineArticles.com or in general.
Why use a Pen Name?
There are many reasons why you might choose to use a pseudonym.
Some of them are…
1. Protect your privacy from your workplace (if there is a conflict).
2. Protect the privacy of your family (if they are subjects in your posts).
3. Protect your own privacy. Perhaps the blog is about something like yeast infections or impotence. (Sorry…)
4. Protect your “brand”. If you're known as the Nutrition Coach, but want to start a blog on parenting an Autistic child, you may choose to use a pseudonym to keep your brand clear on places like Amazon, especially.
5. Added credibility. If you're a woman, but you want to write to men, you may choose a gender neutral name to go by.
Just added: 6. You have a long, hard to spell and/or brand name. Thanks to A.J. Buonpastore for that reminder. 🙂
One of the most unexpected outings of a pen name was in 2009 when James Chartrand of Men with Pens uncovered that he wears women's underpants in this post. Yes, James is really a woman, not a cross-dresser. (That post is very interesting. I recommend checking it out.)
So, this week, I thought I would ask my friends for advice on this sticky subject. Read their answers below.
Ronnie Nijmeh of PLR.me (< -click for a special free offer from Ronnie) says:
Of all people, I probably should be one person who used a pen name when starting up online, haha 🙂
Being blessed with an unpronounceable last name (it's pronounced: “Nish-may” and means “star” by the way!) and being a content publisher doesn't give me great street cred at first glance.
But I didn't let that stop me… it just meant that I needed to up the ante: so I did face to face videos, did a lot of webinars (so people can hear me speak without an accent!), and I always mention that I'm a native Toronto boy.
It's worked out for me, but I can't help but wonder how many sales were lost because someone assumed that “Nijmeh” was a non-native English content publisher from overseas!
The only time I'd use a pen name is if I were to enter into a different niche that is entirely unrelated to my already established niche. I have clients who use pen names to avoid internet stalkers or their day job boss from finding out what they're doing online… and that can make sense too.
Jeanette S. Cates, PhD of Organize Your Online Business says:
I use a pen name on several of my off-topic sites and have done so for many years. The main reason is that I don't want to confuse the marketplace. After all, if someone searches for Jeanette Cates – I want them to find my information on Online Success – not some of my other unrelated topics.
So while I do use a pseudonym, I don't do a lot of article publishing or forum posts under that name. Instead it's used primarily for blog posts. In fact, “she” doesn't even have an email address of her own! So obviously I didn't try to hide it too much.
I think where people get into trouble with pen names is trying to pass them off as real people, instead of a pen name. For centuries people have used pen names, so there is nothing wrong with that. But adding a fake photo and trying to “be” that person is close to the edge. I'm not seeing it as much now as a few years ago, when people went over the line.
Most of all – have fun with it! You can “be” anyone you want to be!
Connie Ragen Green of Affiliate Marketing Secrets Explained says:
When I was just getting started I had a site about relationships. I'm divorced, so I thought that it wouldn't make sense for me to write on this topic using my own name. I chose a nom de plume and began writing.
I soon came to the conclusion that I would prefer to write everything under my real name and share that experience as a Case Study for my students. That became a part of my transparency in my business. My topics include small dogs, home repair, fitness, and, of course, relationships.
My recommendation for someone considering writing on a topic that is very different than what they are already known for is to decide whether the new niche would confuse people. Try using a nom de plume for awhile to see how it feels and plays to your audience before making your final decision.
And what name did I choose for this while I was experimenting? Cydney Greene. It was appealing because my gender could be ambiguous and it seemed to flow well.
Nicole Dean of .. here! .. says:
I get asked this question – often. Particularly, because I started off back in 2005 doing niche sites. Lots of them. So, yes, I have pen names.
In fact, I was asked this question just last week on my public Facebook page. You can read and or comment on that here: Should I use a Pen Name for Privacy?
In case you can't see the graphic clearly, she asks:
“Hi Nicole, I am just about to launch a blog, however, I am struggling with whether to post anonymously or not as I would like to share some of my personal experiences but I want to protect the privacy of my husband and children. My husband loathes Facebook and I have a 12 year old who would be completely mortified if I posted or shared images. Any suggestions or thoughts ?”
And, my answer is this.
“Hi Nat. In that case, just post as a fun name that's OBVIOUSLY a pen name. That way you can still “out” yourself down the road if you choose to do a book deal or something. You have more options. Like “The Mad Hatter” or something totally not a name. Hope that helps! N”
So, yes I have pen names. Is it ethical?
In my work, I strive to provide value and to “make the web a better place”. So, I have no fear of being outed for any of my sites.
Now, if I was using pen names to hide something shady, then that's totally different. But, really, if someone finds out that I've got a site about Romance in Marriage (which I do) or Recipes (which I do) – bit fat hairy deal. 🙂
So talk to me.
What are your questions about pen names? Have any experiences you would like to share?