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View Full Version : Pseudonyms : Why do authors bother?



Jennifer S.
01-12-2007, 04:00 AM
If they have to use their real name in the copyright section of the book. Then why do they bother using another name for certain novels?

Richard Bachman springs too mind. Everyone now knows it was Stephen King. But from what I gather. People were assuming it may be him writting under a pseudonym at the time. And then when I was reading his introduction too the Bachman Books,he mentions 'coming clean' with one reason being his name was in the copyright. So it's not much of a secret in the first place. But I guess not many people actually check the copyrights when reading a book?

But then in his book The Dark Half,where the author writes under another name. A charecter tries to expose the author as being the true writer of the 'dirty' novels. But wouldn't his name be in the copyright still,or did he lie on that as well? I don't think that aspect was ever explained at all.

Then we have Jack Ketchum whose real name is Dallas Mayr. And it says so right in the copyright of his books. Again,why write under another name,if you're real name is known anyway because of the copyright?

Fred Adelman
01-12-2007, 04:16 AM
It's probably for tax reasons, but I doubt they'll admit it.

Y. Dudelle
01-12-2007, 05:00 AM
Is it possible that he was referring to his name being on the copyright forms and a matter of public record therefore, rather than on the credits of the book itself? I believe when you copyright something pseudonymously you do it by stating your legal name DBA (doing business as) the pseudonym, then your real name doesn't have to appear anywhere on the published product.

Jennifer S.
01-12-2007, 05:48 AM
Well either way, Jacks real name appears on the credit page in the book. I don't know if they're always been that way. But the latest reissues certainly do. And the way King worded it in The Bachman Books introduction,his real name was on the copyright credit page originally.

Randy Thomas G
01-12-2007, 05:53 AM
I doubt the original Bachman books listed King in the copyright because it was much discussed at the time when Thinner became a minor success whether the author was really King, if he was listed right in the book there wouldn't have been much question about that.

As for other authors, the most common reason in the past, I think, was because the writer still had hopes to break it big in a 'legitimate' literary way but were paying their bills by writing mysteries, sf or porn (one of my old writing profs ground out sf pulp on the side).

Two out of three of those genres don't carry the same stigma they use to so I think pseudonyms are becoming more rare.

Christoffer S
01-12-2007, 05:53 AM
I once wrote a book on Mario Bava under the pseudonym Troy Howarth. Little did I know there was actually someone with that name who would hog all the credit :(

Steve Barr
01-12-2007, 08:48 AM
I've read that these days authors have some other reasons to do it:
a) publishers don't want the same author writing books in multiple genres -- makes it hard for them to position the author, hard for booksellers to know where to shelve the books (Fantasy or Children's, for example), and hard for readers to find them.
b) if the author has a couple books bomb, they may only find willing publishers for their next book if they use a different name.

mark t
01-12-2007, 09:24 AM
King outlines his reasons in the same introduction.....he mentions that the Beatles did an interview once where they wondered aloud if they were to release an album of their own material under a different name, if it would sell as well as a "Beatles" record.

Chris Poggiali
01-12-2007, 10:13 AM
King outlines his reasons in the same introduction.....he mentions that the Beatles did an interview once where they wondered aloud if they were to release an album of their own material under a different name, if it would sell as well as a "Beatles" record.

At the height of their popularity, Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons cut a couple of singles as The Wonder Who? -- including a pretty sloppy Dylan cover that still managed to hit the charts. I don't think too many people were fooled.

Regarding authors and their pseudonyms, one of the most prolific is Donald Westlake. As recently as four years ago, he was still dreaming up new sobriquets; "Judson Jack Carmichael" is one he used for a book called The Scared Stiff, although the ruse was exposed almost instantly since the book was published in the U.K. under his real name. And he vehemently denied being "Samuel Holt" right up until the moment those 4 mysteries were reissued last year. Out of all of Westlake's pseudonymous writings, I think only his 1972 novel Plunder Squad (by "Richard Stark") blew the secret by having his real name in the copyright -- and even then, I know one person who read the whole series as the books came out and didn't know Westlake was Stark until Avon reprinted them in the '80s as "Donald E. Westlake writing as Richard Stark."

Check out the DVD of THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN to hear Michael Crichton's amusing reason for writing as "John Lange" while at Harvard Med. He also wrote as "Jeffery Hudson" and did a book with his brother Doug under the pseudonym "Michael Douglas."

Richard Owen
01-12-2007, 01:53 PM
I doubt the original Bachman books listed King in the copyright

They didn't. He was outed by an overly keen fan who trawled through copyright records.

Ted Cogswell
01-12-2007, 02:42 PM
Just a guess, I would think that sometimes an author is under contract somewhere and does some extra writing on the side, they would use a pseudonym to try and sneak past those they are under contract to. In music, you will see this sometimes when a musician plays on someone else's record to avoid trouble with their own label.

Jennifer S.
01-12-2007, 04:20 PM
They didn't. He was outed by an overly keen fan who trawled through copyright records.

That must be what King meant by looking through the copyright history/papers of the novels or something. That makes sense then,and I was just wondering how it all worked. Especially in the case of Ketchums real name being listed in the copyrights of the reissues of his novels.

The funny thing would be,what happens if a famous authors alternate ego becomes a popular novelist themself. And the publisher and public demands interviews,tv appearances and so forth to promote the work? There would be no way to keep the secret then most likely.

Paul A J Lewis
01-12-2007, 05:12 PM
I've read that these days authors have some other reasons to do it:
a) publishers don't want the same author writing books in multiple genres -- makes it hard for them to position the author, hard for booksellers to know where to shelve the books (Fantasy or Children's, for example), and hard for readers to find them.

On a similar note, some authors like to try their hand at writing in a different genre without it letting it be known that the book is their work, enabling the audience to approach the book without their view of it being prejudiced by the knowledge of the author's prior work.

On a slightly tangential topic, does anyone else have sympathy for the ghostwriters who produce the supposed celebrity 'autobiographies' that proliferate nowadays?

Steve Barr
01-12-2007, 08:58 PM
On a slightly tangential topic, does anyone else have sympathy for the ghostwriters who produce the supposed celebrity 'autobiographies' that proliferate nowadays?Hey, at least they're not writing movie reviews. ;) Lawrence Block got started by writing fake confessionals. I'm sure he would have done celeb autobiographies if that work was available then.

Troy Howarth
01-12-2007, 09:59 PM
People take an assumed name because they're not pleased with the end result - the idea isn't so much to fool people are it is to indicate their displeasure with the final result.

mark t
01-12-2007, 10:14 PM
People take an assumed name because they're not pleased with the end result - the idea isn't so much to fool people are it is to indicate their displeasure with the final result.

Are you saying that the Swede finds his Baba book undesirable, and therefore allowed it to be co-opted by yourself?

Troy Howarth
01-12-2007, 10:16 PM
I vote we make this thread a separate section unto itself.

Paul A J Lewis
01-12-2007, 10:21 PM
Hey, at least they're not writing movie reviews. ;) Lawrence Block got started by writing fake confessionals. I'm sure he would have done celeb autobiographies if that work was available then.
True. I don't know what it's like elsewhere in the world, but over the last year or so in the UK there's been a really strange trend in publishing 'autobiographies' of people who've appeared on reality television shows such as Big Brother. I find this a very odd development, as most of these people are no more than twenty-five, and none of them have done anything exciting with their lives except for being (briefly) humiliated on national television!