Don’t ask me why, but I had no idea that Meljean Brook was using a pseudonym. It’s a really good one, and she has a great reason for it: No awkward moments with family members! Other writers, including PBW, have all kinds of pseudonyms because they write in different genres, and that makes a lot of sense, too. Just think Nora Roberts = J.D. Robb. Less confusion, the readers know this will be a different kind of book than they’re used to, and so on. There are other reasons to use a different name – if your writing interferes with other aspects of your career or family life (you write erotica but you’re a preacher’s wife), if you have a history of failure (one flop after another is enough to make you go “baaaaaa” like a black sheep), or if you even hate your name (Ivana Humpalot).
It’s your call whether to use a pseudonym, but make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. When I first sold Tiger Eye, a friend suggested I change my name because he thought no one would buy romance novels written by someone Asian. Holy crap! The idea of not using my own name had never occurred to me, and as you can see, I did not take his advice. I did not even give it a second thought, and the reasons are simple: I like myself, I like my name, and I felt quite certain that all the good readers in the world would not be so ignorant as to judge my writing in a negative way because my last name is Chinese.
I don’t think that was naive. I don’t think I was wrong, either. My publisher certainly did not ask me to change my name (though the middle initial was in question because it took up more space). God forbid if they had. Not just because it would have made me angry (and I would have refused to do it), but I have enough trouble coming up with titles. Can you imagine how difficult it would be to give myself a new name? I’d probably come up with something like Gartore the Loud One or something equally flatulent.
In publishing there are a lot of good reasons to use a different name—and if my sales crash and my career fizzles, I’ll have to consider doing just that. But that’s business. Just…don’t be afraid of who you are. Don’t change your name because you think ethnic won’t sell. Not only is that cheating yourself, but it also perpetuates the idea that the market (and readers) won’t allow the Liu’s or the Lee’s or any name of ethnic diversity on the bookshelves—and that’s simply not true.
Be yourself. Write a good book. The rest will follow.