Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I’ve been digging into the archives of questions from readers and can only hope that some of those who asked the questions are still around to read the answers.

Today’s question concerns a previously published author who was dropped by her publisher, presumably for poor sales. The author now has a terrific new idea and is more than willing to write under a pseudonym. In fact, she has one picked out already. The question is how should she approach this with agents.

I tend to think honesty is the best policy, that and the fact that since she was previously published it shows others that she’s already been validated as a publishable author. My advice is to let agents know, in the query letter, that you were previously published by Smart Books under Jane Jones, but are now looking for an agent for your next Brilliant Idea that you plan to write as Janet Janes.

Authors reinvent their careers all the time and agents know this. Sure, you’re always going to run up against an agent who has no interest in rebuilding a career. You’re also going to run up against agents who have no interest in unpublished authors and those who really have no interest in books at all (hopefully I’m just kidding here), but you need to advertise your strengths and the truth is that your strength is that others have already seen what you can do and they liked it.



Anonymous said...

What if you're not reinventing your career? What if you don't have your first contract yet, but you plan on using a pseudonym for various reasons...and you wish to establish yourself under that name, say at conferences, in contests etc...Is doing so a waste of time? Once/if you're picked up by an editor/agent, will they most likely ask that you change your pseudonym anyway (if they don't like it of course). I'm not trying to jump the gun. I'm definitely focusing on my writing first, but I've heard conflicting views on this and, with an upcoming meeting, what should I put on the name tag? Any advice on pre-published pseudonym use?

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...


I'm not so sure you need to worry about a pseudonym at this stage, although I've rarely seen publishers tell an author she has to change a name. Of course you never know.


Dawn Maria said...

I have the same question as Anonymous. How do I let agents know I'm using the pseudonym? How do I register for a conference and agent pitch when I'm using one? I've built my blog and website using the pen name, but there are other situations where it's tricky to know how best to approach it.

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

Dawn Marie:

If you're going to use a pseudonym in that case you just become that person. Don't bother using your "real" name until it comes to contract time.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the advice, Jessica. I have a very ethnic name...one that's probably not suitable to the romance genre. I also have three young boys in school who don't want to get flack for having a romance writer mom. Someone told me that it would be a wise career moveto go ahead and establish myself under whatever pseudonym I plan on using. That way, when I'm published (yes, I'm an optimist), I'll be better recognized. I also ditto Dawn Maria's question. I guess clarification in this area is really helpful to newbie writers.

Anon 8:26

Kimber Li said...

I started using a pseudonym for privacy when I first started blogging. After a couple of years of book reviewing, a bestselling published author told me if I ever published I would probably be encouraged to do so under 'Kimber An' because I was already known by that pseudonym. So, that's my plan.

I know there are various reasons for changing one's pen name. However, I'd try very hard not to get myself into a situation wherein I'd need to. I've seen authors lose lots of readers in the resulting confusion.

Anonymous said...

Just curious, Kimber An. Following Jessica's advice on completely assuming the new identity, have you attended conferences, made business cards and entered contests under your pen name too?

Vivi Anna said...

I write under a pseudonym. I am Vivi Anna when I'm online, at conferences, whatever writing related. The only place I'm that other lady (LOL) is at home or at my home RWA chapter.

My agent knows my real name as does my editor.

When I first starting querying for an agent I queried as myself letting them know I was writing under the name of Vivi Anna. It's so common that it is no big deal.

I have had issues at conferences though. Especially when I'm meeting an editor I love and want to work with, and has read a submission from me. Then I introduce myself with my real name, but also mention I write under the name of...

LOL, it can get complicated.

Juliana Stone said...

I changed my last name but only because it was weird and not easily remembered. Stone was my mothers maiden name, easy...I didn't mind where I'd be sitting on the bookshelf either!

Kimber Li said...

Nope, Anon, but I live in the Alaska wilderness, so haven't been to conferences. All I've learned and all the contacts I've made have been through the Blogosphere. When I query, I sign my legal name and beneath it write-

'Kimber An' at enduringromance.blogspot.com

-and leave it at that. Good 'nough for now, I figure.

I'd probably just use 'Kimber An' at a conference or on a business card. My legal name is very long and very common.

Don said...

What if you've always dreamed of being widely known by a clever pseudonym, and writing a book was really just an excuse to use it?

Kristin Laughtin said...

Ahh, I'm glad this came up! My question was answered in the comments before I got here. (I'm a while away from querying, really, and was wondering what to do if I, say, got married but wanted to publish under my maiden name--especially if I got some short stories published before the name change.)

Leona said...

I'm published in science fiction, but I'm writing short stories for romance/erotic genres. I've chosen a pseudonym in the romance/erotica genre for reasons similar to Anon 8:26.

However, should I tell them I'm a published author in another genre. or would that hurt my chances? I read everything from history books to erotica. I also write a variety of types. I'm a fast typist. I have a computer that's a few years old and I type faster than it can keep up.

Being a quick typist means two things - one, I have to make sure I'm using the right (not write lol) words and two, I can write as many stories as my family time allows. I've heard it's not a good idea, but I've seen other authors, especially for harlequin who've done everything from paranormal to western.

Any thoughts?

Juliana Stone said...

Leona, if you've been published definitely include that in any query. I would, shows you have the talent and tenacity to make it to that level, whether it's in a different genre shouldn't matter.

I know several authors who write erotica and use a pen name because let's face it, there are still a lot of people out there that look down on that kind of thing and when families and kids are involved, (other careers too) it just makes sense.

Dawn Maria said...

So what's the official word on using your pen name for contests? I really don't know how to handle that at all.