It used to be the best way to hide, now, it might be the best way to make money. Here’s some benefits of using a pseudonym as an author.
For centuries, writers have been using pen names for all sorts of reasons, most commonly to protect the identity of the author. The famous Bronte sisters used pseudonyms to ensure their books got fair criticisms without the fickle mind of critics making biased reviews on their works simply because they were women.
Charlotte Bronte once said, ‘I am neither man nor woman. I am an author.’
Today, the publishing industry is a far better landscape for inspiring female authors, or so we’d like to hope. But whether it’s just to tick a box or if they are truly interested in diversifying their voices, most publishing houses have titles from every kind of author.
So one might think, ‘What’s the point of using a pen name in 2023?’
Garry Kilworth, the famed author behind the novelization of Highlander, says: “Initially, I used pseudonyms to separate genres. I thought I could expand my possible market by using a name that could be either male or female.”
Garry has established four pen names over the course of his impressive career, publishing a total of 21 books under names separate from his own, and each was made to serve different purposes.
Kim Hunter: The selling point
“Kim is androgynous, and I chose it because Kim by Rajard Kipling is one of my favourite genres. I chose Hunter because it’s in the middle of the alphabet, and when people are in a shop, the eye line is in the centre. You don’t want a Z down there somewhere. I chose it because I thought it would be in someone’s eye line’.
FK Salwood: Building different audiences
“The publishers of my science fiction novels didn’t want more than one book a year. They had their limits so they weren’t going to take three science fiction novels from me. So, when I was writing full-time and I had a family to feed, I had to write three novels a year, and I wrote them all under different genres.”
‘I wanted to work on Aga Sagas, books that are orientated towards mostly in the 1800s and carried through a sort of family saga into modern times. But as a science fiction author, I didn’t want someone to see my name on a book and go, ‘Oh, there’s another science fiction’.”
Garry Douglas: Hiding in plain sight
“I’d written a book about the Polynesians Islands, and the critics gave it five stars, but it didn’t sell. It bombed because it was publicised as a fantasy, which it was, but it didn’t have any dragons and medieval stuff so the fantasy readers didn’t like it. And the normal general public didn’t like it either because it was built as a fantasy.”
“So it fell between two stores, and my publishers at the time, told my editor, Tim, ‘get rid of that author. Tim and I had lunch together, and he said, ‘The chairman of the publishing is going to be leaving soon, within a year or two, so you can choose a pseudonym to write your next three books and by the time we publish them, he’ll have gone, and you can continue with your name.”
Garry Kilworth grew up with his father on remote RAF stations, which expanded his creativity and left him without much else to do but explore and read. After establishing an impressive career as a sci-fi and fantasy writer, he was approached to write the novelization of the film Highlander. His novel Rogue Officer won the Charles Whiting Award for Literature and The Ragthorn, written with Robert Holdstock, won both the British Science Fiction Award and the World Fantasy Award.
Liseli is a journalism student with a costly love for travelling and new books. She loves a good solo adventure but when she can’t be jetting off to a new destination, the next best thing for her is discovering new places through books. And if she’s not reading a book, she’s looking for her next read. Liseli is passionate about how our identities are represented within literature today.
Favourite genres: Romance and Sci-Fi.