Managing Multiple Identities Online (Avoid)

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Inevitably, at some point during author platform discussions, two questions get asked:

  1. What if I want to write under a pen name, or two (or more) different names? Do I need to maintain multiple identities?
  2. What if I have different areas of interest that have no connection to each other? Should I have separate blogs/sites/presences for each?

There are several different facets to these problems that need to unraveled. Let's start with the question of using a pen name.

Pen Names or Pseudonyms
The first question here is: Why are you using a pseudonym? For protection/privacy or for marketing purposes?

If you're using it to prevent market confusion (e.g., you don't want your crime fiction fans to be confused and buy your newest postmodern fiction masterpieces), that's understandable and it's a well-known marketing move to use different names for distinct readerships.

If you're doing it to hide something from friends or family, or even hide something from a segment of your audience, you'll expend a lot of energy "protecting" yourself and your readers. You should avoid this whenever possible—it's time consuming and takes away momentum from both writing and platform building.

Furthermore, in today's world of diminishing privacy (which so far I refuse to put a value judgment on, but read one informed take here, point 3 about privacy being overrated), it is difficult to keep anything a secret for long.

Plus, any work that you cannot directly and openly affiliate yourself with will be a challenge to market, since there will be certain strategies/tactics you can't implement without being identified with the work.

So, You Write in Very Different Genres/Categories?

This could be an advantage—since readers in either category could potentially be interested in the other things you write, or know people who are. Bringing all worlds (readers) together isn't a bad thing if they can easily find what they're looking for.

When you set up your sites, blogs, or social media accounts, you'll want to include mentions of all the pen names you write under, and have subsections for each, as needed.

When Should You Develop & Maintain Separate Identities?

There are usually 2 areas where I see a definite need to separate and maintain different sites or social media accounts:

  • When you write for children (you may need a separate experience/voice for them)
  • When you have a professional pursuit that really can't be mixed with your writerly pursuits

In both of these cases, you aren't necessarily hiding anything from anyone (I would expect you're still able to be affiliated with your work no matter where you go), but mixing things up could prove detrimental.

So, overall: Have a holistic presence whenever possible, and avoid identity segmentation. It will be less work in the long run, and you could see benefits from cross-pollination of your interests.

But tell me what your experiences are. If you maintain multiple identities, what are the pros and cons? And if you use a pen name, what has been your experience in marketing?

Looking for more information on this topic? You can do no better than Christina Katz's Get Known Before the Book Deal, which dedicates a full chapter to choosing your name.