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The Use of Using a Pseudonym

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150 years ago it wasn’t uncommon for a woman to use a pseudonym, or pen name. Often the reason for this was that a book was more likely to get published and be read if it was published under a masculine name. The Bronte sisters did just that in the mid-1800s. There are numerous other reasons that an individual may wish to use a pseudonym including anonymity.

What brought this topic to mind was the recent exposure of J.K. Rowling’s use of a pseudonym for her newest novel, “The Cuckoo’s Calling.”  She stated that she wanted to “fly under the radar” (Stewart) this time around.  However, only after the information leaked that Rowling was, in fact, the author did sales increase exponentially. Though it is unclear exactly how many copies sold prior to Rowling’s identity being revealed, “The BBC reported that it had sold just 1,500 printed copies” while Rowling stated that “the book had sold 8,500 copies across all formats”  (Stewart). Either way, it seems unlikely that sales would have spiked to “just over 1.3 million copies” and it would have become “the No. 1 hardcover fiction title of 2012” (Stewart) if her authorship had not been exposed.

Personally, I like to know when an author whose work I enjoy reading comes out with a new title. I know that in my case, I would likely not have heard of “The Cuckoo’s Calling” if it had not received the publicity and reviews it did after the discovery that J.K. Rowling was the author. In fact, I would probably never had read it.  So although I understand that there are many motives in using a pseudonym, in a case where you are already a best-selling author, it seems counter-productive to do so.

-Andrea Polzin

Stewart, James B. “Long Odds for Authors Newly Published.” The New York Times, 30 August 2013. Web. 9 September 2013. <>


One thought on “The Use of Using a Pseudonym

  1. If you think about it, the fact that she uses initials masks her identity. However, I find it a little disappointing that her publisher’s or her agent’s wife’s friend (it was some sort of odd relation like that) had exposed Rowling’s pseudonym. That’s the point of a pseudonym, to not be exposed. Alas. In this day and age, it’s bound to be exposed.

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