How often have you gone searching the bookstores because you heard that a favorite author had a new book out, and you can’t find it? And then someone says “Oh, she wrote that under her OTHER name.” Or you comment on a great similarity between the writing styles of Annie Author and Wendy Writer, and hear back “Well, of course -- they’re the same person!” Yep, we’re talking aliases - aka’s - pen names - pseudonyms - nom de plumes. The bane of readers trying to locate all the works of their favorite writers.

Why do authors do this to us poor readers? Why do they confuse us and sometimes make it harder for us to buy their books? Well, that really isn’t the intention of authors and publishers. Sometimes they are actually trying to make it easier for readers to find books that fit their tastes. The reasons why an author writes under a different, or many different, names are very varied and depend on their personal circumstances, professional life, and legal arrangements with publishers.

  1. PRIVACY: Friends, neighbors, and the clerks at the grocery store know Ann Smith. She may write under the name Ann Jones because she doesn’t want strangers coming up to her to talk about her books -- the rare but real danger of rabid fans and stalkers is well documented. Or perhaps she is concerned about the impacts of having a child’s teacher know that Mom writes horror novels, or the boss where she works considering whether it’s good for the company’s image to have an erotica author on staff.

  2. PR: Yep, names do affect purchasers. If your parents were so cruel as to name you Buddy Blimpo, it would be very understandable to decide to use a more lyrical and lovely name. (Some erotica and pornography writers like to use suggestive or double-entendre names.) Same goes for very long or very difficult to spell or pronounce name -- something shorter and sweeter will be easier for book buyers to remember.
  3. REAL BUT . . . : The birth certificate may prove that Author X really is named Stephen King or Nora Roberts (after all, both those first and last names are common). But they are not going to be able to get a publisher to put it on a book cover, and will spend their whole life explaining that they are not “that” Stephen or Nora. A nom de plume is definitely needed here to reduce confusion and establish a separate author identity.
  4. MULTIPLE PERSONALITIES: It’s easier to list one name rather than two as the author of a book -- no confusion on which one first, where it gets filed alphabetically, will readers be able to remember both, and so forth. Tori Carrington is really the husband and wife team of Lori and Tony Karayianni; Terry Campbell is actually Bobbye Terry and Linda Campbell. Tom and Sharon Curtis originally published under Laura London.
  5. GENDER BENDER: It is unfortunately true that some readers won’t take a chance on a male romance author or a female science fiction or horror author. So Tom E. Huff writes popular romances as Jennifer Wilde, Edwina Marlow, Beatrice Parker, and Katherine St. Clair. A number of authors use initials to make their gender less obvious: J.D. Robb, J.A. Jance, P.N. Elrod, R. Casteel.
  6. TARGET THE MARKET: Some authors write in multiple genres and may use a different author name in each to help readers find the specific type of book they want. It’s becoming common for romance writers to use a different name for their erotica, so that book buyers don’t get an unexpected jolt. There are several authors who use one pen name for their romances and another for their mysteries. Jayne Ann Krentz writes contemporaries, but look for Amanda Quick if you want her historicals and Jayne Castle for her futuristics. (And in the past she has published under Jayne Taylor, Amanda Glass, Jayne Bentley, and Stephanie James.)
  7. FLOODING THE MARKET: An extremely prolific author may be told by their publisher(s) that they are putting out too many books too quickly, and that readers just won’t buy them or may start to wonder if the author is writing too fast to be producing quality work. Using different names hides the fact that all those books are coming from one person. W.E. Daniel Ross (his real name) wrote as Clarissa Ross, Dana Ross, Jane Rossiter, Leslie Ames, Marilyn Carter, Rose Williams, and more.
  8. PUBLISHER AND CONTRACT ISSUES: Based on contract terms, an author may be required to offer their current publisher right of first refusal on any new books, or may only be allowed to use this name with the specific publisher, or a dozen other possibilities. Therefore, the author may need to use a different pen name if placing a book with another publisher.

  9. PUT THE PAST BEHIND YOU: The amount of advance for a new book is often based on the sales figures of previous book(s) by that author. Even if the new book is something different and may have a much greater sales potential, the author is limited by past sales figures. One way to get around that is to publish the new release under a name that has no past baggage associated with it. Then author and publisher can “start fresh” with marketing, publicizing -- and negotiating terms. Michelle Jerott took this route, which is why her new book is published as Michele Albert.

There are several online sites that list pseudonyms for authors. The two I use most often are:


The Romantic Times website has a pseudonym look-up feature on the author search page. I also use my BYRON software for finding all a writer’s books under any name. BYRON apparently has an internal table of aliases, because if you do a search by author name, it presents a list of all titles by that person under whatever pen names they use. When I search on Sharon Sala, the BYRON book list includes the ones by Dinah McCall.

Okay, quiz time. Match up the name on the left with the same person on the right. (Answers are at the end of the article, but no cheating! Try it on your own first.)

1 Nina Bruhns___Heather Graham Pozzesserre
2 Shannon Drake___Margaret Riley
3 Justine Davis___Barbara Samuels
4 Judy Cuevas___Taylor Brady, Leigh Bristol, Donna Carlisle, Rebecca Flanders
5 Katherine Deauxville___Lanette Curington
6 Sahara Kelly___Nikita Black
7 Ruth Wind___Lael St. James
8 J.C. Wilder___Dominique Adair
9 Angela Knight___Amarantha Knight
10Ann Maxwell___Judith Ivory
11Sherrilyn Kenyon___Sarah Fairchild
12Kimberly Raye___Karen Drogin
13Madelyn Baker___Maggie Daniels
14Susan Kyle___Cynthia Sterling
15Lani Aames___Lauren Giddings, Dana Ransom, Rosalyn West
16Candace Camp___Gwyneth Moore
17Donna Ball___Elizabeth Lowell
18Carly Phillips___Amanda Lee, Samantha Chase
19Cindi Myers___Justine Dare
20Linda Lael Miller___Kimberly Randall
21Patricia Veryan___Lisa Gregory, Kirstin James, Sharon Stephens
22Jaid Black___Anastasia Day
23Nancy Kilpatrick___Kinley MacGregor
24Rebecca York___Diana Blayne, Katy Currie, Diana Palmer
25Nancy Gideon___Amanda Ashley
26Shelby Morgen___Tia Isabella

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by Raelene Gorlinsky (Raelene@thebestreviews.com)
Raelene is the Managing Editor of Sensual Romance Reviews (http://sr.thebestreviews.com) and editor of the monthly Sensual Romance E-newsletter.

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