Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Two-Cent Tuesdays: Confessions of a Serial Nom de Plumer #branding

 Something that confuses a lot of people (including my own family) is how many different pen names I have.  There are at least 4 I've used plus my real name.  Now it's time to come clean and explain the purpose behind those different names.

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.


  1. After all this time...I finally understand. Thank you.

  2. It all makes sense to me. I did a similar thing when I was illustrating, created another persona who created illustrations very different from my usual work. Take care.

  3. I guess that makes sense, but it is kind of hard to manage multiple brands like that, so it probably would make more sense to just use one. Or maybe focus on building up one at a time. I would think you would want people to get to know your work and it might be difficult with so many names out there. I know Nora Roberts uses the JD Robb name for her more sci-fi romance stuff but I don't think you've reached the level of Roberts/Robb yet. Since everyone can publish their own books these days, the biggest thing is building your brand and set it apart from the rest of the crap out there.

  4. I often wondered, on Planet 99, whether you were all those people.

    I read that Stephen King published the Richard Bachmann stories under that name because his publisher didn't think people would buy that many books from one author in one year. My mom used to say that "Piers Anthony" was a conglomeration of people, that one person couldn't possibly write that many books in one year. Other authors write under pseudonyms because they don't want to be pigeonholed.

    Then again, John Grisham writes whatever he wants, and people seem to that's okay.

    I kind of lean towards using the pseudonyms in your case. For one thing, yes, there are a lot of indie writers, but you're prolific and someone looking at a site might be overwhelmed by how many books you write and think they must be terrible if you write that many. For another, if someone reads "Claire Lachance" book and doesn't like it, they might still go for a "PT Dilloway" book.

    My wife likes certain authors and will buy anything by that author, because she knows what to expect. So if I read a "Patrick Dilloway" book and liked (have and did!) and then read "Eric Filler" (NICE NAME, by the way: "filler?") and it wasn't quite that level of quality, it might put me off future books by Dilloway.

    Plus, you're right: it makes Planet 99 seem more legit.

  5. Last you you tried really hard to suppress all knowledge of this. (Or maybe it was earlier this year.) And there's always a chance you'll eventually suppress this as well. But for now, the truth stands revealed! Hurrah!

  6. I've thought about the whole pseudonym thing, but I decided that trying to do that would just be too much work. Besides, if you ever get famous, someone will figure it, anyway, and it won't matter, as Rowling just proved. Unless that was a stunt and the info was leaked, but that's kind of the same thing.

  7. I admit, I'm surprised. I didn't know you were behind the Planet 99 imprint. I've been thinking about pseudonyms, and I don't think I'd ever use one. Maybe I should have, given the diversity of my work, but I can only imagine how frustrated I would be if I had a bestselling novel, and I could never take credit for it and lived in fear of someone finding out I wrote it.

  8. All is explained Pat. A pretty fascinating background too. It backfired on JK Rowling when she published her mystery novel under another name though.



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