What you should NOT take into account when deciding whether or not to use a pseudonym
Several people have mentioned that it’s no good having a real surname that starts with a letter towards the end of the alphabet because you end up on a lower shelf in the bookshop. Sorry, I think that’s a non-starter. Every bookshop is different. You can’t even guarantee that Aaron Aardvaark will be on the highest shelf, because your genre may start on the third bookshelf down, after say, the crime fiction. Anyway, the highest shelves can be too high – or just right.
The books are shelved in alphabetical order down to the bottom, and then continued on the next top shelf. So I have seen Mercedes Lackey down there on the bottom and Glenda Larke at the top of the next set of shelving. And everyone says being an “L” will put you in the middle? Forget it!!
If Zoe Zachary is the publisher’s flavour of the month, they they will pay to have her in the front of the store. If your books sell well, the bookstore will feature them.
You simply cannot second guess where you will be in any bookshop. If you sell well, people will seek you out even on the bottom shelf. And maybe ebooks are the future, where shelving won’t matter?
What your family says
Sorry, this should be a non starter too. We are not talking about your private life here. This is your business side, and writing is a business if you are going to do it as a professional. If Mr Lemon is starting a used car business would it be wise to call it Lemon’s Used Cars simply because he’s proud of his name?
If it is professionally a good decision to make to use a pseudonym, then do it.
(If you want to spare your dad some hurt, tell him this is a commercial decision taken so you will be rich and able to look after him financially in his old age. Or your publisher insisted. Or you want to have a private life, especially when you are as famous as J.K.Rowling. Or the family wouldn’t want their name associated with what you will be writing anyway…hmm. Maybe that last one will take his mind off the whole question. )
Hard to pronounce?
Hard to remember?
Too much like someone else who’s writing books?
One which has inappropriate connotations for what you are writing?
And then there’s the whole gender question…
Other reasons to think about it (or not):
You would rather be anonymous because your books may upset people close to you
You want everyone to know you write books
You intend to write in different genres
You are a very private person and like to keep it that way
You have a real public persona already and that will help sell books
Tomorrow I will talk about some of those points, and answer a couple of questions posed previously in the comments section.