Many writers face this question when they come to the moment of their first publication. The struggle comes down to how they want to be known and how they want their work to be recognized.
We work hard to obtain the achievements in our lives, starting in childhood with our first trophy, our first ribbon, our first award. I remember as a 10-year old winning the Citizenship Award at Elm Grove Elementary, and how much pride I had in that achievement. What that school, teacher or my fellow students didn’t know was the struggle I faced with self-esteem living in an abusive home. That simple award helped change my identity - how I saw myself and the hope it gave me to gather the strength to overcome my situation. The Perfect Attendance or Honor Roll Award didn’t do the same thing for me, because those awards were completely in my control, and ones I received every year. But, the Citizenship Award was given by a teacher by choice to a student that showed great promise and a good nature. It was unexpected and that much more appreciated. I’m proud of that award, as I am with every other award, trophy, degree and ribbon I’ve earned and received since. So, it’s only natural that I want to carry the same name in which those awards were inscribed. It’s part of my resume, my identity, my accomplishment. I want the world to see that it’s the same person who also wrote my manuscript. But, is that the best choice for my work?
Another achievement that I’m proud of is my business and marketing experience. I’ve gained a lot of knowledge in this field and an understanding of how things work, and learned early on the importance of knowing Product vs. Market. In the publishing universe that would be Authors vs. Readers. As an author, I MUST understand that when I become published, when my name is plastered across the cover of my manuscript, that name becomes a product. I must think of it from that point forward as a product, one that must be packaged and marketed to my target audience (consumer). While I’m a writer; an artist, my books and name are now a product; one that needs an audience; a consumer. I am now a public figure, a marketable product. If I want to keep the person separate from the product, then I need to use a pseudonym. If my personal identity (profession, celebrity status, expertise, etc.) IS my marketing strategy, then I won’t use a pseudonym. That’s about as simple as I can make it.
Are YOU a marketable product? That should be the question one asks when considering using a pseudonym.
Till next time,
~T.L. Gray (My Pseudonym)