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Romance Authors Face A Pseudonym Marketing Dilemma

By Brian Feinblum

About 15 percent of the authors that I work with write under a fake or incomplete name. It is quite common for romance writers not to use their real name. They use initials instead of full names or they change their name completely.

Why do they seek to hide their identity — and what are the marketing challenges in such a situation?

Authors hide who they are because they:

* Don’t want an abusive ex-domestic partner to find them.

* Are concerned they will lose their job if discovered.

* Would be sued over an NDA if exposed.

* Fear reprisal from dangerous crazies or stalkers out there.

* Want to experiment in genres (children’s book author wants to write erotic novels).

* Can’t afford to face any public criticism.

* Never want strangers to taunt them.

* Seek to avoid their children or family being the target of an attack.

* Feel freer to say anything without fear of retribution.

Romance authors, particularly those who write LGBTQ or erotica, especially have concerns to protect their identity. They are concerned they can lose their job or get ostracized from their community. We still have Puritanical people out there who simply can't accept that people have sexual proclivities and needs that differ from them.

Yes, whistleblowers, victims of physical and psychological abuse, and those in legal limbo cannot afford to go public with a book unless they can safely do it anonymously and disguise their true story as fiction. But they still want to be heard, to have a voice out there.

I had a few authors suggest they write under an assumed name because they are concerned they may become so popular that they won’t be able to safeguard their privacy. Authors should only have such problems!

Some successful authors write other books under another name so as not to be perceived as oversaturating the market with their books.

A few authors do it for effect. I once had a white guy pose as a black woman so that his race-centric novel had more believability.

Regardless of why one uses a pseudonym, a problem arises when it comes to marketing a book. Well, two problems.

First, you have a novel that may be interesting on its own, but could be explosive if one could say it is true. However, to say it is based on real events or people works best if we know who the author is and can verify their story. When you have a made-up name, nothing can be validated.

Second, because you use an alias, you are unlikely to make public appearances. No speaking engagements, no TV appearances, and nothing that shows your image unless you hire an actor or model to sub in for you. Too costly, too tricky.

Fake names could have paper trails. When you copyright your book, when you print the book, and when you leave digital breadcrumbs through having a website or social media page, you could be exposed by savvy researchers, vigilant private eyes, amateur sleuths, and highly-paid hackers.

Still, to publish or not to publish, is not the question. Every story deserves, even needs, to be told. Though it would be great if everyone could use their real name, some simply can’t or won’t. I respect the bind they are in. It all makes marketing a book that much harder, but there are still things that can be done.

You can still advertise, buy or submit to book reviews, and apply for book awards. You can put out content online and do lots of audio podcasts and radio shows if you feel voice recognition is not an issue (or disguise your voice)). You can submit byline articles to newspapers and magazines or guest posts on blogs. You can get a co-author who is willing to be the public face as well.

There is hope, but the challenging task of getting your book known while seeking to remain unknown is a delicate balancing act for the determined, the brave, and those who truly have a good story worth telling.

About the Author

Brian Feinblum is a leading book promoter and marketer based in New York, having helped thousands of authors to succeed over the past three decades. He founded his award-winning blog,, a dozen years ago and has garnered over 3.5 million page views. He can be reached at

Want to hear me in action? Listen to this podcast -- I was interviewed recently...

For the past three decades he has promoted over 1,000 authors, ranging from bestselling authors such as Dr. Ruth, Mark Victor Hansen, Neil Rackham, Harvey Mackay, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Warren Adler, Cindy Adams, Susan RoAne, Jeff Foxworthy, Seth Godin, and Henry Winkler, as well as first-time, self-published, unknown authors -- and everything in between, across all genres

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