Pen Name Pros and Cons

So, a while back I’d sent a Facebook friend request to a fella a know and quite like. Weeks passed, and finally I get the notification that he accepted. Yay!

Right?

Well, except a couple days later I went to message him on there and, oops, he’s MIA. And his profile is back to the “Send ____ a friend request” thing.

Oh.

Was it something I said?

Well, coulda been any number of things but it got me thinking about the wisdom of working under an alias, depending on the sort of art you do.

This is common in all sorts of circumstances, from political counterculture guerilla artists like Sabo, to every exotic dancer in the history of the universe who doesn’t want her mom to find out what she does (or her customers to find out where she lives), to belly dancers who want to sound like they came from a mysterious far away land than any mere “Sally” could have, to actors who want to have a more memorable name than “John Brown”, and more.

I’ve been tempted numerous times, but never really bothered. True story: my name actually IS Pyra Draculea, which is probably why I’ve never gotten so much as an interview for any sort of corporate job… not so much for the name but for the fact that I’m highly traceable online. John Brown might be able to go on YouTube and rant about stuff that pisses him off, because there must be thousands of John Browns out there and Google can’t tell you which one wrote the resume you’re holding. But there’s only the one Pyra Draculea.

It’s a little late now for me to start doing all my comedy under a fake name, though, and I suppose I don’t really want to. Plus, I can see what I might be losing out on by having my opinions and work out in the open, but I can’t really say I miss it. Never had a high-paying cubicle job, would probably hate it — other than the paycheques — if I did.

The one exception is I did write some erotic short stories to publish on Amazon’s Kindle Direct platform, and those were under a fake name, which I won’t divulge now. On the one hand, it’s great that if I want to write more, I don’t have to worry about it diluting or changing the “Pyra Draculea” brand (whatever that is at any given time). On the other hand, I can’t claim credit for that work without blowing my cover. (Not that sales have ever been much to brag about, but then I don’t do much any promotion for them, so…)

But over all, here’s a list of the pros I could think of off-hand:

  • Keeps your day job in the dark
  • Helps you get into character and be someone new
  • Keeps clients and fans at arm’s length
  • Avoids preconceived judgements of you (personally) based on your work
  • Has a cool factor
  • May be easier to spell or say or remember than your real name
  • Avoids brand dilution with other projects you already have going

And some cons:

  • Can’t necessarily claim credit for all your work
  • Need to maintain extra websites, social media profiles, business cards, emails, etc.
  • May worry more about getting “caught” vs. when everything’s out there
  • Won’t protect you from legal repercussions such as libel
  • Possible issues with copyright registration (or at least the US Copyright Office wants your real name too)
  • Complicates contracts and advances (not by much, and this may not apply)
  • Need to build the brand from scratch each time

Of course, if you’re gonna link-spam your Facebook with your latest creations no matter what name you work under, I guess working under an alias doesn’t really help maintain anonymity or privacy.

And in my case, who knows what that guy was thinking?

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