Concerning Pseudonyms

This morning I woke up to an always welcome sight in my inbox — a “You may have gotten however many rejections before on this manuscript, but this isn’t one. We’re interested in publishing your novel” letter.

They are currently working out a contract, so nothing’s signed (I won’t fully be excited until I’ve looked that over. No counting chickens before they’ve hatched), but it got me to thinking about one very important topic: pseudonyms.

Now, anyone who has ever gone over to glance at my biography page can see a list of published works. I didn’t use a pseudonym for any of them. Honestly, I never saw much of a need to/my name is awesome/I’m a little vain (if the previous slash didn’t get that across, I mean, Dall – beginning of the alphabet, easy to pronounce, generally pretty…)

This manuscript, however, is a little different. While I have never written anything like a memoir (see my “Write What You Know” post to see why. My life just isn’t that interesting) this manuscript is closer to being autobiographical than anything else I have written. And while I will neither confirm nor deny this, there might be some characters surprisingly close to people I know in my real life. None are those people, none are named to be those people, but there may more may not be some striking similarities.

I assure everyone in my life who is now wondering if her or she has told me anything incriminating, everything is completely fictional, and with each edit it has become more and more so (again, my life=boring, had to spice it up a little), but still…

And thus we find ourselves back where I started. Obviously a pseudonym would be handy in separating anything personal that is left in the work from me, and thus anyone who might feel they are unfavorably portrayed in a book that may or may not contain a likeness of someone potentially like them. Of course, I’m not talking about slander (note: pseudonyms do not protect you from being sued for slander), but it would add a little more privacy for everyone. And there are other benefits of course, as outlined in articles such as this, this, and this.

But then, there are the bad things, like what do you do about marketing? Obviously, having written under the name “Jessica Dall”, I have always marketed myself as such. Everything from my webpage (jessicadall.yolasite.com), to my Twitter account (@JessicaDall), to this blog are, quite noticeably, under Jessica Dall. People talk about “branding” in many articles about pseudonyms. This work would be a stark break with the “brand”.

And there’s the fact that everyone who might be in the book would probably know I had written it anyway. I would still have to market it, of course. And I’m not planning on undergoing any sort of identity-hiding plastic surgery just to separate myself from the novel. It is just a novel after all. (Though I bet doing all book signings with my head under a paper bag would be quite a marketing gimmick…)

So is a pseudonym worth it? I actually don’t know. When I sign something (assuming I actually sign something) I will have to come to a decision. But for now, I’m still rather up in the air. Truly, it seems to be a matter of personal preference. People chose to use, and not to use, pen names for any number of reasons. And so, I’ll actually have to figure out those reasons. Great.

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