Struggling to get her sixth novel into print, American author Patricia O’Brien realised publishers had been googling the poor sales figures for her previous books. Undaunted, she pulled a Lana del Rey and adopted the pseudonym ‘Kate Alcott’. It did the trick. Within weeks, her book — just out in the US — had been pounced on by Doubleday and translation rights sold in five countries. In changing her name to boost marketability, O’Brien joins a long list of literary greats, including Mary Ann Evans, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski.
Here are three more writers who could benefit from a pseudonym (or six):
CRAIG RAINE’s second novel, The Divine Comedy is, like his first one, all about sex. A choice quote: ‘The entire glans was not revealed – only the tip with its goldfish mouth. The penis in its polo neck.’ Trouble is, no one likes old men writing about sex. Not even old men. Said Allan Massie in the Scotsman, ‘The book is full of what I suppose is wordplay about “coming” and “going” in a sexual context, about circumcision and the pudenda, about masturbation and fellation, about farts and the various forms of sexual congress, all named – boldly? proudly? It grows wearisome, very quickly.’ If he wants to be taken seriously, Raine needs to translate his book into German and change his name to ‘Charlotte’, a sexy thirty-something who does unspeakable things with avacados.
With the news that JK ROWLING’s next book will be for grown-ups, reviewers round the world sharpened their quills, and we braced ourselves for an onslaught of terrible puns. ‘More hogwash than Hogwarts’, ‘Rowling has gone to pot(ter).’ What this author needs is an invisibility cloak, a defence against the dark arts of book reviewing. Seeing as the press loves a good rags-to-riches tale, she should reinvent herself as ‘Jo Rowling’, an unemployed single mother from Edinburgh who has to write in cafés because she can’t afford to heat her flat. Not only would this make her very Richard & Judy friendly, it would also guarantee her a place on the Booker longlist.
Even the famously prolific Wilkie Collins couldn’t match the workrate of his latest biographer, PETER ACKROYD, who has churned out twenty-five books in the past decade alone. Collins drank gallons of laudanum to keep him going, so what Ackroyd’s on we can only imagine. Sadly, such an incredible output can provoke feelings of envy and suspicion in others. Assessing one of his recent books, a Literary Review scribe noted, ‘Peter Ackroyd has the gift of transmuting other men’s sober research into the golden sentences that make his books on men and cities so irresistible … His researchers have toiled for Venice: Pure City, but it is Ackroyd who has turned their diligence into effulgent, mesmeric, satisfying prose.’ This author either needs to adopt a string of pseudonyms or slow the hell down.