Posted by whom? Writing under a pseudonym

Guess who?

I know it’s no longer news, but a couple months back, the author of a well-reviewed book was unmasked as J. K. Rowling, the bestselling author of the Harry Potter series. Rowling was delighted with the experience. When critics praised her outing as Robert Galbraith, she knew the compliments were genuine, that her novel really deserved them all. She wasn’t just riding on the waves created by her earlier fame.

The article about Rowling’s literary adventure stuck out for me, because at the time her identity was revealed, I had recently published for the first time under a pseudonym. I chose to do so for different reasons than Ms. Rowling: I needed to protect the identity not of myself, but of various people within my community who were part of a real-life cautionary tale.

My turn

Unlike Rowling, when my short story came out, I had very mixed feelings. On one hand, I felt that I had done a service, telling an untold story and drawing attention to an under-reported phenomenon. I hope that readers learned something from reading the story, perhaps something that will help them make different, better choices than those made by myself and several members of my community.

On the other hand, I felt it was one of my best pieces of writing ever, and no more than five people will ever know that I wrote it.

I’m writing something again that will — if accepted — be published under a pseudonym. Again, I want to champion a cause without causing embarrassment to others, and without infringing on their privacy. But it will come again at the cost of my ego.

Have any of you writers out there had the experience of publishing under a pseudonym? How would you describe the experience? Please share in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “Posted by whom? Writing under a pseudonym

  1. Hmmm…. I’m way too “young” a writer to be able to do that. I need the glory too much to be able to keep the secret. So I think being able to do it shows a maturity to which I aspire. I also like the freedom that comes with it. I don’t think it should come at the cost of your ego, though. You could still share the piece and gather reactions from folks that way. What would be tough (IMHO) is withstanding, and perhaps restraining from response to, feedback.This is interesting to consider.


    • I think it depends on your motive for writing:

      If you’re writing for self-expression or others’ entertainment, you can choose whether you want to publish under your own name or not with little effect on anyone else.

      But if you are publishing under a pseudonym to protect other people’s privacy, the choice isn’t whether to publish under your own name or not, it’s whether to possibly humiliate someone else or not.

      For example, imagine someone was the victim of a horrific crime. Do they want everyone to know about it? If you (the author) know the person personally, it takes very few details about the person to figure out which of your acquaintances the subject of your piece could be.


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