What Did You Call Me?

Have you heard of these authors?

  • Robert Galbraith
  • J.D. Robb
  • Anne Rampling
  • Richard Bachman

They are all authors you know well, but you can’t place their names. That’s because the list above gives the pseudonyms or pen names for very famous writers.

Robert Galbraith is J.K. Rowling.
J.D. is Nora Roberts.
Anne Rampling is Anne Rice.
Richard Bachman is Stephen King.

Pseudonym is derived from the Greek word pseudonymon which literally means false name. They are used to conceal one’s identify in many walks of life from business to criminal activity to fashion or sports, literature, religion, acting, etc. You can probably list a few you know right off hand.

Here’s a quick list I compiled. The person’s legal name is in parentheses. Source

Al Capone (Alphonse Gabriel Capone)
Babe Ruth (George Herman Ruth, Jr.)
Billy the Kid (William H. Bonney; born William Henry McCarty, Jr.)
Butch Cassidy (Robert LeRoy Parker)
Caligula (Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus)
Coco Chanel (Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel)
Elizabeth Arden (Florence Nightingale Graham)
Estée Lauder (Josephine Esther Mentzer)
Kirk Douglas (Issur Danielovitch)
Malcolm X (Malcolm Little)
Mother Jones (Mary Harris Jones)
Mother Teresa (Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu)
Prince (Prince Rogers Nelson)
Rocky Marciano (Rocco Francis Marchegiano)
Shirley MacLaine (Shirley MacLean Beaty)
Sugar Ray Leonard (Ray Charles Leonard)
Sugar Ray Robinson (Walker Smith Jr.)
The Sundance Kid (Harry Alonzo Longabaugh)

So Why Use a Pseudonym?
Your name doesn’t fit the genre. Particularly in romance or science fiction, you may consider using an abbreviated name or something that doesn’t draw attention to your true identity. If you want to write erotica, this is true as well.

You want to conceal your real identity. When I started writing paranormal fantasy and the majority of my stories were about vampires, I elected to create a pseudonym. I wanted to be able to promote and discuss my books without posting anything about it on my social media pages. My family and friends have an idea of how weird I am, but they don’t know the overall range I bounce around in. 😛 Thus Ally Thomas was born. (In addition to a few other pseudonyms I write under.)

Your name is too hard to pronounce or spell. Before I married, my maiden name was difficult to spell. It was so bad, I had to create a story to go along with it to show how to put the name together.

You’ve been given a truly bad name to start with. Sometimes our parents don’t realize what they are doing with they give us an odd or unique first name or we happen to have an unusual family name. I happen to know one friend who named her first some after a demon and I’m not talking about the kid from the movie, The Omen.

You want to expand into other genres. It’s not really a well-known fact, but many male authors write romance or erotica. You wouldn’t guess that because they don’t use their legal names or a male pseudonym.