Noms-De-Plum: Why These Authors Used A Pseudonym

While many have decided to maintain the names given to them from birth, other authors have felt compelled to take on a new existence in the world of literature. From switching genres to infatuations with other monikers, there are a plethora of reasons authors have opted out of using their surnames at the time of publishing. With no sense of consequence or regret, all these authors that took on new identities have been successful in their literary endeavours. So let’s take a look at some who decided to change their names on the book covers.

Agatha Christie

It can be difficult having your fans see you in a different genre of storytelling, especially when you’re so good at what you’re writing. Already a known author for her short stories, Christie was a literary star on the rise. So, when she decided she wanted to write something more on the romantic side, she had also made another decision in the process: using another name. Christie used the named Mary Westmacott for six of her romance novels throughout the 1930s, which she has always regarded as a fun experience aside from her mystery fiction stories. Christie thought of writing romance as a hobby and writing mystery as her day job. She kept the identity of Westmacott a secret for nearly 20 years before she finally confessed.

Stephen King

One of the greatest horror story authors of his time, you would wonder why someone like King would need to change a name as big as his own. Throughout the books that he published in the 1970s and 1980s, his publisher was strict about only putting out one book a year to keep themselves on a constant market of demand. King managed to work his way around the restriction by coming up with a pseudonym named Richard Bachman. The name had only worked in his favour for a short time. King used Bachman as a test when he published Carrie in 1974, and its success had already began stirring media buzz for a film adaptation. However, in 1985, a loyal fan to King almost instantly found the similarities of the novel to other works that he had written, and by the time King tried using Bachman again, everyone already knew who the secret writer was. When asked what had happened to Bachman, King replied, “he died from ‘Cancer of the Pseudonym’.”

Richard Matheson

The author of I Am Legend, Matheson was proud of his work, but was not so proud of how filmmakers had transformed his story onto the big screen. Following the release of his novel, fans couldn’t wait to see this plot come to life. However, Matheson was disappointed in the final edit of the 1964 adaptation known as The Last Man on Earth. The writer was so embarrassed, he asked that he be credited under a different name: Logan Swanson. This would not be the last time he would use this name either. When another publication attempted to heavily revise his work on Earthbound, Matheson gave credit to Swanson, and the same thing went for the production credit he did for The Twilight Zone.

Anne Rice

Author of the classic Vampire Chronicles, Anne Rice was one of few authors that ended up using more than one pseudonym for some of her books. Other than her own, she had published under the names A.N. Roquelaure and Anne Rampling. At the time, she believed this had made sense for her to change her name with the type of content she was writing. Rice had published Exit To Eden in 1985 and Belinda in 1986 under Rampling, both of which began the author’s transition into writing erotica. She then continued her exploration of the genre with the publication of the Sleeping Beauty Chronicles under Roquelaure. Despite Rice dismissing the erotic novels as “an obsession of youth – or something”, the books still to this day earn a nice royalty check of over £41,000 annually.

J. K. Rowling

J. K. Rowling is regarded as being the first billionaire author in the world, with her entire Harry Potter series having had over 400 million copies sold and made into a movie franchise. When she first began writing, her publicist was keen about Rowling sticking with the initials ‘J.K.’. Rowling thought they should stick with the initials in order to keep appealing to all genders, as they feared that men would be more prone to turn down reading a book if it was written by a woman. Bloomsbury, the publisher, did not think it likely that the book would be much of a success if people knew Rowling’s real identity. However, Rowling recounts that once the book started doing well enough to win awards, she eventually had to reveal herself, and it clearly wasn’t a big deal to fans of her series.

But, J. K. Rowling is in fact the two-for-one deal of non-de-plumes. In the midst of this success, Rowling was ready to start something new, and not wanting any more pressure to continue the Potter series, she decided to start a new saga, with a new plot, new characters, and even by a new author. Rowling took on the identity of Robert Galbraith, and even gave him a backstory. She named him after her love for the name Robert, and an even bigger devotion to Robert F. Kennedy, the brother of John F. Kennedy. She had informed readers and the media that Robert was a military man, which was a good enough excuse to not have him in public or provide pictures of him to news outlets and fans. Fans already know that Rowling is the actual author, but it does not sound like she is letting go of the name anytime soon. She has already released three books under Galbraith and intends on writing six more.

Nicholas Blake

One of our own here at Agora also became a great published author under another name. Some may know the author as Nicholas Blake, others may know him as Cecil Day-Lewis. By 1935, Day-Lewis wanted to find more money, and figured that he could do so by writing detective fiction. He wrote his first detective novel, A Question of Proof, under the name Blake, and continued to do so for another 19 novels. Because of the success, Day-Lewis was successful in living off writing in the 1930s.


As always, thank you for reading, and be sure to tweet us @AgoraBooksLDN with your favourite author who writes with a nom-de-plume!