A Dose of Dijana: Writing Under a Pen Name

Do you know who Robert Galbraith is?

He’s a writer.

He’s sold more than 400 million books worldwide. His work has been translated into more than 68 languages. Millions grew up reading his books. You’ve probably read his books as well.

Really, I’m surprised you haven’t heard about him.

Still not a clue who Robert Galbraith is? It’s actually the pen name of J. K. Rowling!

I know what you’re going to say – why on Earth does J. K. Rowling need a pen name?

She did it to avoid the hype that’d be created when she would announce publishing a new book after her mega-success with Harry Potter. So when writing The Cuckoo’s Calling, a crime fiction novel, she chose the pen name instead.

And can you blame her really, imagining the mass hysteria that would follow if she said she’s writing a new book?

Word has it, she even used the pen name when submitting the draft to publishing houses – and a few publishing houses rejected it! (can you imagine the look on their faces when they found out later they rejected J.K. Rowling?)

After it was revealed Rowling’s the one hiding behind the pseudonym, the sales of The Cuckoo’s Calling went from 43 copies a week to a whopping 17,662 copies a week!

Her act proves at least a couple of points. One, people are obsessed with shopping brands, and famous names, and would buy anything that a famous someone has done. And two, it gets harder and harder to become a successful writer in the 21st century, when we’re living in what’s soon to become a global village where almost anyone can publish books.    

But what if we go back a couple of centuries – we’ll find the Brontë sisters!

Imagine, living in a world that thinks you’re not worthy enough to write just because you’re a girl! But if they weren’t daring enough to start writing under male pen names, the modern world would be left without some of the all-time literature masterpieces!

*  *  *

However, what should we do – the regular writers of the Internet, hoping to find an audience?

Should you publish your writing under your real name – or should you risk the world not knowing the real hero behind a story?

I’ve recently started publishing stuff on Medium using my real name – you can find me here! – and let’s just say that no matter how much time I spend writing each article, they sometimes feel blah to me.

I’ve noticed that whenever I’m telling stories under my real name, I refrain from letting the real me, with the real emotions show.

I’m exposing myself and my life and the lives of my loved ones in front of the world, which sometimes feels like too heavy of a burden. You know, I’d like to keep my privacy intact – and the privacy of the people that matter to me.

And yet, no matter how much I’d like to keep my Medium profile for business purposes only, I can’t help but let certain parts of me slip.

Like the fact that I was diagnosed and treated with Cushing’s. Or that I’m dating someone. Or that I sometimes feel horrible when my hormones get to take me on a rollercoaster.

As it turns out, that’s the part that gives my stories emotion. I can add all the stats in the world and people would still prefer to read about the day I felt miserable.

Apparently, emotions are the part that people come to read – and every good story has emotions in it. Everyone loves to get lost in a good story. After all, aren’t we all bookworms for the exact same reason?

The stories I’ve spent the least time writing – but infused with the most emotions – are my most read stories over there and vice versa. The more I’ve been overthinking something, the fewer people would read it.

But as time goes on, you realize it’s impossible to be one Dijana for friends and family and another Dijana for clients, business partners, and the rest of the world.

If I want my writing to be great, I have to fuse those two Dijanas together.

So I was thinking – if I were supposed to publish a book, would I do the same what J. K. Rowling and The Bronte sisters did?

I think my answer is, yes, yes I would. I’d do it for the sake of my privacy and for the sake of not feeling as vulnerable in front of the public. I’d do it to give myself more freedom of speech while infusing my writing with emotions.

What do you think – do you agree that writing under a pen name allows the author to become more intimate, more personal in their storytelling?

Or do you think that writing under a pen name is too big of a risk because people wouldn’t be able to connect with you personally?


Next time, we’ll be talking about shopping books on a budget! Do you have any ideas? Don’t shy away – pitch them in the comments and let us know!

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

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2 comments

  1. You know, a lot of people on social media use a “pen name,” and it allows them a freedom to say things they would never say under their real name. That could be good or bad, and unfortunately people use it to post abusive comments. When writing a book, however, you do feel more vulnerable writing under your real name. I had co-written a book under a pen name before starting this one, which is still a pen name but not as much so since it’s my maiden name. But it’s my face. Perhaps I am more inhibited this way, but otherwise I’d feel as if I were living a lie. At least there’s no guilt this way. This is the real me, and if you don’t like me then so be it. 🙂

  2. I used a pen name when my first book was published because I thought that’s what authors did. 😀 It actually worked quite well as I was able to keep my ‘author me’ apart from my ‘personal me.’ Although unique, which is a plus, it’s not particularly memorable, so over time I’m gradually reverting to my ordinary name. It might be that I’m becoming more confident or perhaps it’s just I’m finally becoming the master of my characters.

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