Monday 3 February 2014

Pseudonyms 101 - Don't Try To Be Cool - It Will Bite You In The Ass.

You see the pretty cover on the bookshelf, pick it up, read the blurb, it sounds interesting so you buy it, read it and put it on your bookshelf to gather dust.

Have you ever stopped to think what the author had to face to get that book into your hot little hands?

There have been many challenges in bringing “Of Fire & Roses” out of my head and onto your kindle.

So what do you do when you have to change your pen name and social media platform 10 days out from your first novel release, when you are stuck at a beach house, with no internet access?


Yes, most definitely panic and some minor vomiting. Throw in a few arguments with the husband, two neglected children and 4 unfed dogs and you might get a brief glimpse into my world over the past few days.  I could be found cheek pressed up against the sliding glass doors or hanging, white knuckled over the balcony with my iPhone searching for that elusive internet connection. 

But with the help of some pretty awesome people, I was talked down off the ledge or balcony as it were and resisted the urge to toss my brand new MacBook Air into the ocean, and calmed the *insert expletive here* down.

While copyright for pseudonyms in Australia and America is technically not possible, and to trademark costs thousands, I thought I was in the clear. After my initial anger and shaking my clenched fists at the Almighty, the reason why using said name might not be the best idea, was explained to me in a frustratingly nice email from an agent. But to be honest, I can see their point.   It's an identity thing.

So what did I do?

The most difficult thing was coming up with a new name.  A name I could live with, be proud of-- and wasn’t already splashed all over social media.

Something unique.  And so, laptop and iPad with portable wifi hotspot tucked neatly under arm, I dashed to the town park with my 2 young children in the middle of cyclonic winds. After a few hours of brainstorming with some very esteemed writing colleagues, amidst a baby poonami, a force 10 gale and dust storm, Danielle Belwater was born. (Although Danielle Toiletwater got a few votes as well :D )

So do you plan on using a pseudonym? And if you do, I strongly suggest the following:

  •         Try and avoid using a name from a book or movie. A reader might be searching for you and end up buying the wrong books and vice versa.
  •      There might be strong branding surrounding your chosen name which other parties may not be happy about your sharing, no matter how well you meant.
  •           If you have your heart set on a particular name from a series of books check with the author first. You might think Anastasia Steele is a really cool name to write under, although E.L. James might have other ideas.
  •      I'm going to say that again, and put it in bold... and underline it.... Check with the author first!

-       Think about how you would feel if someone took one of your dearly loved characters and decided to create their own brand surrounding that name, possibly taking publicity and potential sales away from you. 
  •           Google the name you intend to use.  Is there already someone with that name who has a large social media presence? You don’t want to get lost in another person’s social media platform. You want to stand out and be recognised for your name. You don’t want  readers to confuse you with someone else.

And finally and I think really importantly:

-       Do you really need a pseudonym? Is there anything really wrong with your actual name? Unless it’s Doris Poodlepants, then I’d perhaps reconsider. 

Or if you write erotica, then sometimes a pen name is helpful for keeping that persona different.

So let my lesson learnt the hard way, help you get one step closer to publishing your novel, WITHOUT becoming a candidate for Nutcases Anonymous.


  1. I don't see any nutcase. You handled it well and you survived! Well done!

  2. It was touch and go there for a bit :P

  3. Belwater sounds gorgeous and rather distinguished. Congrats on having your new super-duper author platform.

    1. Thanks! It's turned out quite well hasn't it! I really quite like it and I actually think it's even better, gotta love those silver linings :D

  4. I love the way you portray your angst. So, glad you were talked down off the balcony.

    1. Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed my blog! I'm glad I was talked down too! It was such a stressful couple of weeks but I can look back at it and laugh now and see the silver lining!

  5. Hi Danielle, this and the above post from achoiceread is mine. Jacqui Read. Sorry for any confusion. I've just used my budding CQuni workbook blog name but it hasn't worked how I thought it should. I wasn't sure how else to leave a comment.