When I self-published my first book Where You Belong, I used my real name (Patrick Dilloway). I also did that for my book of short stories The Carnival Papers and for my second self-published novel Virgin Territory.
Then in 2011 when I was beginning to query A Hero's Journey I set up the first pen name, P.T. Dilloway. I had this idea that since most agents are women and the main character of the book is a woman, maybe it would work better if they didn't know up front that the author was a guy because that might seem weird or creepy to them. It's kind of the inverse of what JK Rowling (and others) did using her initials so people might not know she was a woman.
Now the thing about the "initials" is they aren't even my real initials! My middle name is Floyd (after my grandpa) so my proper initials are PF. But I didn't like that because then people would think of the Chinese restaurant PF Chang's. PT was something my late father sometimes called me and really the only connotations I could think of are PT Barnum and PT-109, neither of which really seemed negative to me--depending on your feelings about the circus I suppose. Thus was that name born!
Then in 2012 I had the brainstorm to set up my own imprint, Planet 99 Publishing. I thought it'd be pretty lame if every book on there was written by the same author. So I decided to use 3 different names and then split the books up between them. I didn't do that randomly; I developed a system. Here's how I decided:
- Claire Lachance: YA books and "quality" romance-type books
- Paul L. Madden: Literary books and "quality" sci-fi
- Eric Filler: All the other stuff
Guess which one has sold the most books? If you guessed Mr. Filler you would be correct!
How did I decide on those names and categories? The Eric Filler one I used an erotica author name generator. It actually came up "Erica" so I just dropped the a and Boom! Since it was geared towards erotica, I use that name for the stuff that has more sex in it and also the stuff I deemed not as up to snuff in terms of quality.
The Paul L. Madden one is based on an old enemy from a writing message board. I used that name on a couple of fake email accounts and on the former Gather social network. Except I didn't have the "L" in it but when I looked up "Paul Madden" on Amazon there was someone (or someones) with that name already and so to differentiate I threw in an initial. My late father's name was Paul and his middle initial was L so there you go.
The Claire Lachance one came about after this old 2011 blog entry where I talked about creating a secret blogging identity. In the entry I had said I wasn't going to do it but then I thought I'd try it out. Had A Hero's Journey not been picked up by a publisher, I might have self-published it under this name. I set up a fake Blogger account and even a fake blog for her. I found that was a lot of work so I don't know how people like the lady in "Catfish" can keep it going, especially not with more than one fake account. After A Hero's Journey got picked up I scrapped that plan but figured I might as well use the name on more female-oriented stories. The origin of the name itself? I just liked the name Claire and the Lachance was named after a hockey player on one of my EA Sports teams.
The idea behind those names was to create different "brands" so in theory people would know what to expect from each author. If it's an Eric Filler then you know it's entertaining trash. If it's a Claire Lachance you know it's more girl-oriented. If it's a Paul L. Madden you know it's of higher quality. If I weren't so lazy I'd have Twitter and Facebook and such for all three along with complete histories and bios and all that stuff. But do you know how much work that would be? Yeesh. At the very least if you browse the site there's a little variety of author names.
Going forward I'll probably just keep using my fake initials name since I've got the Twitter and Facebook and such set up for that already. Though the project I'm working on now is probably more of an Eric Filler one.