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Should I use a pseudonym?

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Have you ever considered using a pseudonym, or given thought to what yours might be? I have, and I’m near enough decided that I’m going to abandon my real name for my writing. Here’s why.

If everybody looked the same…

mystery silhouette

Original image from Alex France on Flickr. Click to see more.

Have you had that strange experience where some famous person has your name? It’s fun, right? Ha, I never knew a was a personal trainer to celebrities! Think of all the money I must be making, and I never had to lift a finger! Ha ha.

You haven’t had that? Oh well, you’re probably better off. After all, what happens when someone wants to find you? It can be hard enough making yourself visible as a creative, whether you’re a prose writer or freelance designer, or trumpet player. Now imagine you’ve got to make yourself seen in a crowd of people with the same name!

Ego Google, Ergo name change

Try this. Put your name in Google. I won’t tell you how many results show up under my name search – it’s a largely irrelevant number after all – but it’s a safe bet that I’m not on the first page, or the second. Or the third. Of course, I shouldn’t expect to be there yet. I’m not a famous author or blogger or a BBC MotoGP presenter. But I’d rather be able to use Google as a tool to get me there, rather than after the fact.

So if people decided they wanted to find out about me, and googled “Matthew Roberts”, or even “Matthew Roberts author”, it would be really great if there wasn’t so much noise. As it is, it’s very clear just how unimaginative my parents were (although, with a name like Roberts, it’s a bit hard to find something that isn’t taken. My new boy will have the same problem I fear. Maybe I’m unimaginative too!)

But there’s something I can do about that. I can write under any name I want, and it’s something I increasingly feel will be necessary. After all, why would I not want to make myself more visible?

A nomme de plume to pick

I have occasionally wondered what kind of cool name I could give myself. Something unique and memorable; maybe a combination of names from people I admire, to inspire me.

But it wasn’t until someone mistakenly called me Matt Gibbon online, that a (perhaps) more obvious choice emerged. Matty_gibbon is my Twitter handle you see, so it was an easy mistake to make. It’s been an online identity for me since secondary school when I had to pick a unique email address (with a name like mine, you get used to inventing unique names for such purposes).

As people already know me as matty_gibbon, would a pseudonym like Matt T. Gibbon not be a good idea? No, don’t snigger – I’m serious! I know it’s not a name one would ordinarily choose for oneself, but it does have the following advantages:

  • People already kind of know me by that name.
  • It’s unusual. Or at least more unusual than my real name.
  • It’s memorable.

In short, it’s everything you want from a pseudonym, apart from the following:

  • It sure ain’t cool.
  • It gives no indication about what I might be writing about.

The last one might be a bit tricky anyway. Short of giving myself the name of Futureboy, it’s hard to pick a Sci-Fi sounding name. I guess this is largely irrelevant anyway. No matter what your name “sounds” like, people will associate it with whatever work you do once they know.

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself anyway, but I reckon it’s best to be prepared, and thinking about these things now can be quite motivational as well.

So what do you reckon? Would you buy a book by someone named after a monkey? Is my reasoning sound? Have you ever used a pseudonym?

Comment away!

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  • http://creativeblob.com Rob James

    I suppose it depends on how famous you intend to be. If you were a famous author, I’m sure you would rank highly under Matthew Roberts author.

    Still, I like Matt T. Gibbon.

    P.s. There’s also a Matt Roberts on breakfast TV

  • http://getmewriting.com Matt Roberts

    Is there? Oh for goodness sake! Yes, sure if I were to become famous i’d be easy to find, but that doesn’t help me much now!

  • Craig

    I am so bad at coming up with character names that I reuse the same ones over and over, so coming up with a non-in-universe name for myself to write under would be a complete nightmare.  Then again (not to get all nameist or anything) my name isn’t all that common, so I think I might be able to get away with it.  But if I *were* to use a pseudonym, I’d probably go with something unrealistically out there, like Israel Carthaginian.