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My question is about marketing and using a pen name. Ofc I want to connect to readers, but I wonder if it's possible to be authentic if you're not revealing your 'true' identity. Is this a matter of 'do what feels right to you'?

Edit: I'm not asking about why authors use pen names, or who (known or unknown) or how. An unknown author who is working to market their own work can go to e-conferences, tell friends and family about their work, share it across all of their social media profiles. An unknown author who is publishing under a pen name has to build connections from scratch. My question is about building those connections under a "fake" identity. How do you authentically connect to readers using a pen name, outside of your work? Or is that not a question, do writers who publish under a pen name just focus on the work and not bother with trying to connect with readers on social or via email marketing?

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  • As it happens, my username here is my real name. But I'm sure you know nothing about me in spite of that. (Barring looking at my profile.) Does it matter if I use one name as opposed to another—especially if nobody knows my real name either? Using a pen name would make a difference to an author who was already famous. Is that the context of the question? Because I can't see it making a difference to anyone who is unknown in the first place. Aug 26 '20 at 17:38
  • I'm asking about connecting to potential readers, if you were to create a new pen name and had to start from scratch. As an "unknown". How authors who publish under unknown pen names connect with their readers beyond their work.
    – NJM
    Aug 28 '20 at 1:23
  • I guess what I'm saying is that if nobody knows you in the first place, I don't see what difference it makes what name you use: your own or a fictional one. The words you write would still be the same. I can see this making a difference if you are somebody famous. For instance, Michelle Obama makes more of an impact using her own name than something made up. But nobody (or almost nobody) would care if I used my own name or not. Oh! I see you just updated the question. It makes more sense now. Aug 28 '20 at 1:27
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Names are only one aspect of "identity" - much like writing is only one aspect of your life, and writing under a pen name is nothing more than giving "NJM-as-author" a convenient label, so long as you aren't actually pretending to be someone else to cash in on their fame or ride their proverbial coattails it's completely authentic. Authors use pen-names for all sorts of reasons, marketing, because they think it sounds cool, because they want to separate the different styles and genres of their works.

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  • I'm asking about connecting to others using that convenient label, and how you build connections to readers under said label.
    – NJM
    Aug 28 '20 at 1:25
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Are people that go by a nickname hiding there true identity?

If so, I have several Bobs that will be very unhappy about this. A pen name is just that, a professional nickname you've chosen to go by.

There is one big upside to a pen name - privacy. You may wish to keep your writing and "day job" separate. On a more serious note, Tim Ferriss, who wrote the "4 hour work week" talked about his life after the book. He's had to deal with stalkers and death threats and has to be much more guarded in public.

Pen names are common enough I doubt any sane reader would see it as inauthentic.

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Whether a pseudonym subtly pushes you, specifically, towards glibness is a question only you can answer.

Writers who are known for their work in a specific genre and want to switch to a different one sometimes write under a different name. Does that mean they're less proud of their work? No. If anything, they do it not to disappoint existing fans. It's a valid reason, and plenty more exist.

Sincerely,

Somebody writing this post under a pen name

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  • As somebody who writes under a pen name, it's awkward when I connect with a (literally one) reader but am not revealing my "real" identity. Maybe that awkwardness is just a fact of pen name life.
    – NJM
    Aug 28 '20 at 1:44

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