Saturday, November 21, 2015

Does Desperation to Sell Force Famous Authors to Reveal Pen Names?

Why slap on a sticker "revealing" the author's real name? Desperation to sell?

Authors have been doing it forever...writing under a pseudonym. They do it for a number of reasons: to disguise their gender, to try a new genre without linking their actual name to it forever, because they are so prolific that their publisher doesn't think another novel in their name will sell so soon, etc. 

Examples include:

  • Mary Ann Evans - George Eliot
  • Charlotte Brontë - Currer Bell
  • Emily Brontë - Ellis Bell
  • Anne Brontë - Acton Bell
  • Nora Roberts - J.D. Robb
  • J.K. Rowling - Robert Galbraith
  • Stephen King - Richard Bachman
  • Joyce Carol Oates - Rosamond Smith, Lauren Kelly
  • Ruth Rendell - Barbara Vine
And then, too, you sometimes have cases of multiple authors deciding to write under a single pen name:

  • Christina Lynch & Meg Howrey - Magnus Flyte
  • Frederic Dannay & Manfred B. Lee - Ellery Queen
  • Cherith Baldry, Kate Cary, & Victoria Holmes - Erin Hunter
But what I still don't understand is why a publisher and author decide to start overlaying the author's real name on a book published in a pen name? I mean, what's the point of using a pen name if later it's all "revealed" just to sell more books?

The photo up above (that I snapped at Barnes & Noble this morning) is what got me wondering. King did it the same way with the Bachman books that Rowling and her people are doing here. What the heck is that all about?  Surely, neither King nor Rowling needed the money that bad.


  1. Curious. I think in Rowling's case there were a number of leaks, but after the first in the series was successful, maybe it just didn't matter. I've read the first two in the series and enjoyed them.

  2. It always makes me wonder if pen names have become more a tool to sell books than anything else. Create a pen name, create a leak, create a little excitement...sell lots of books to excited fans and curious readers.