In a previous blog post, I wrote about 4 Reasons To Use a Pseudonym. The reasons are personal and varied and no one reason is right for every narrator. Just as varied is how you put that pseudonym to use. Note that there are positives and negatives to each approach, so let’s dive in.
A repeated word of caution: A pseudonym offers only a modicum of privacy. Always choose a pseudonym with the assumption that you will eventually be “outed.”
- The most common way that narrators use a pseudonym is to do the “controversial” titles (e.g., erotica, political, off-brand, etc) under the pseudonym and the non-controversial titles under their real name.
This creates a dilemma. For the actor who is actively pursuing a career in both the controversial sector and the non-controversial sector, this requires the narrator to build the careers of different narrators: both their real name and that of the pseudonym. They will each need their own marketing efforts, social media profiles, websites, etc. And if they go to an audiobook conference… who do they go as?
- The ”dumpster pseudonym” is what I call the method of using a pseudonym to simply toss controversial books into that the narrator has zero interest in being associated with. They are not trying to build the career of the pseudonym or get that narrator more work. It’s a dumpster to toss the trash in. They don’t market, sell, or have social media presences as that narrator. It’s the Alan Smithee of the audiobook world.
The downside of this is that a newer narrator trying to build their portfolio essentially has nothing to show for the work. They don’t use it to help their career. It’s, literally and figuratively, in the trash.
Why would someone need a dumpster pseudonym? Perhaps the book was more sexually graphic than originally indicated or the book’s political views more extreme. Or it could simply be for the money; the author was offering a substantial rate to do off-brand titles and the narrator needed the money. There’s no shame in doing the work. But understand that a dumpster means you get no credit in your portfolio.
- The “all-in pseudonym” is a simple, but often overlooked method of “hiding.” Simply do all audiobooks under that fake name. Really, that’s it. Mainstream, erotica, political, all done under a fake name. That way you don’t have to worry about harming that narrator’s reputation since they don’t exist. No books are done under the narrator’s real name. Simple and effective.
However, it poses its own problem. How do you tell family and friends about your books? You’d have to give them your pseudonym. You’d also have to attend audiobook conferences as that person, effectively becoming that narrator.
- The “reverse pseudonym” is a solution for the all-in problem. The narrator does all books under the pseudonym EXCEPT for the really high profile titles that they want friends and family to know about. That way they can show off some great titles without giving away their pseudonym and avoid getting ‘the look’ at the next Thanksgiving dinner.
But of course, there’s a drawback. Namely, they will only have a few titles under their belt. So anyone looking for their real name will see a rather underwhelming portfolio.
- The “Pseudonym That’s Not Really Doing Much” is what I call the method of hiding in plain sight; employing a pseudonym for only “light” protection. This is good if the narrator doesn’t have kids or isn’t worried about how friends and family will react. It’s best served if the narrator is trying to separate different brands.
What do I mean by that? Example: I have a friend who uses a pseudonym for his romance titles, but he doesn’t really hide behind it. He has no kids (yet), doesn’t attend religious studies, doesn’t have any real need to not be associated personally with those titles. The reason he does it is that he also does a fair amount of anime dubbing, so he wants a bit of separation if anyone goes looking on the net or if he goes to anime signings. The difference is, he’s not keeping it a secret. He openly acknowledges that he is both people. Heck, his social media picture for both narrators is the same one!
As I mentioned before, using a pseudonym is a personal decision and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. I suggest you talk to other people (especially those of your gender) to get a feel for what the overall ramifications may be. Then make your decision.
So go forth and speak words! Know that you’ve made the right choice for you, your family and your professional career.
About the Author
Jeffrey Kafer is a full-time SAG-AFTRA audiobook narrator and consultant. He has narrated over 500 books in almost every genre for such authors Clive Barker, Steve Alten, Maya Banks, Gregg Olsen and many others. He has 2 degrees in cinema and broadcasting and spent the first part of his career as a video game tester for Microsoft before following his true passion of acting. He’s been on stage since he was 13 (his mom still has the bellhop costume she made) and currently lives in Los Angeles with his family and dog. Visit him at http://audiobookmentor.com or checkout his audiobooks at http://audible.com/