10 Things You Learn Trying to Hide Your Indie Smut from Your Family

So, I got a little curious about what compels someone to use a pen name. Good thing I had my buddy, Lila Vale, on hand to explain it to me. She decided to give me her reasoning in list form, like any rational person. (I’ll probably end up doing a lot of these in list form now!)

 

Hello, my name is Lila Vale and I identify as a pen name. Ha! Just kidding.

I do write under a pseudonym, though, which is nothing new to the literary community. It’s not to deceive or trick my readers, but more or less to protect my loved ones from backlash… we have a few conservative types that run in our personal circles.

It’s a useful tool for keeping my personal and professional life separate, but it comes with its own challenges. Such as…

 

  1. You have to build a platform from scratch, and that sucks.

The plus side to using a pen name is that all your friends, family, and coworkers don’t have to know about your newly-released smut book. The downside is… well, none of your friends, family, or coworkers know about your newly-released smut book.

And making friends is difficult… when you start a brand new account, you tend to sketch people the fuck out. Nothing says “bot” like a two-day-old profile with a cartoon picture and 3 friends. You are virtually unknown to nearly everyone, and that can be a problem.

a

Pictured here: A house party with all the people who were really excited about my debut release.

It is an absolute grind obtaining that first batch of followers, especially when nobody knows who you are or whether or not your writing is worth a damn. Let’s face it – there is a lot of crap out there in the self-pub world, and many readers are especially wary of picking up a new read from an unknown author when they’ve been burned so many times in the past. (And by burned I mean, they set their own eyes on fire to relieve themselves from the pain of seeing one more improper form of “their” in a self-published book.)

So, sometimes it’s a struggle to convince people that your book is not going to trigger an anxiety attack or bore them to sleep. When you don’t have the benefit of friends and family hyping up your work and peddling it to everyone they know, you have to make some new friends and hope they like you enough to at least give your writing a shot. That’s a fun part, but it brings its own unique issue along with it…

 

  1. You have to decide just how far you want to take the mystery.

The truth is, the more you reveal about yourself, the closer people are to putting two and two together. As soon as you make your online persona, you have to decide just how much you want to keep secret, and how much you want to disclose. You do have a few options: share nothing about yourself and hope that your fan base has a thing for faceless entities devoid of personality, share info about yourself and hope that the people you’d rather remain anonymous to don’t give a shit enough to figure it out… or, you can just make absolutely everything up like a shiesty motherfucker.

Making it all up just doesn’t work for me, because it gives me an uncomfortable feeling and I can barely keep my own information straight, let alone an alter ego’s. I decided pretty early on that I just wanted to write under a different name, but I’d keep everything else the same. When it comes to anecdotes, gender, age, games, birthday and the like – I keep it real and I answer honestly. I plan to attend signings in the future, so my appearance won’t be a mystery to my bookie friends forever, anyway.

For now, though… I’m a real person, just with a fake name and a cartoon profile pic. I try to be very obvious that I am using a pen name to avoid any feelings of deception or tomfoolery from my friends in the book world. So far, so good… except, not quite, because when you’re obvious about your pseudonym…

  1. Facebook Fucking Hates You.

(There’s a reason this is the longest entry. Rage-typing.)

You know how I said I like to keep it obvious that I am using a pen name in order to be straightforward with those I interact with online? Facebook notices, too.

If you use any name other than your birth name on Facebook, you are at constant risk of losing your profile to the uncaring and unapologetic Facebook Overlords. There are tons of articles on just exactly how bullshit this policy is, so I won’t get too deep into it. This not only affects authors, but actors, musicians, and certain members of the LGBTQ community – trans and drag folk, in particular. I’ll assume you can figure out why using their birth name might bother them a little bit.

So acting under a pseudonym, not only are you fighting an uphill battle as you build a presence from scratch on the most commonly-used social media site out there… but you also have the fun experience of starting back at zero every so often whenever FB decides to cut you off at the knees… at least as far as your profile is concerned.

I’ve been told there are ways around it… and I may or may not have a ‘friend’ who spent an afternoon patching together an alternate ID to use when they were flagged for being a pseudonym account.

b

For the life of me, I still don’t understand why they wouldn’t accept this clearly legitimate form of identification.

Although, to be fair, a photo ID only works when there is a face to compare it to.

When you don’t have a personal photo on your profile, you end up in profile limbo while you argue back and forth via email with the overlords, complete with delightful broken links to service tickets and absolutely no indication of when the madness will end.

No worries, though, because they will give you a solution. Eventually. It’ll likely be along the lines of, “Since you have no real photos, you’re clearly a business… so take this Facebook page with limited functionality and a messaging system that is as efficient as tapping out shit in Morse Code as a consolation prize. You may only get 2 views per post on your 600+ like page, but don’t worry… you can pay us and we’ll start putting your posts in people’s feeds.”

You can probably guess what my ‘friend’s’ response to that was.

c

…Followed by the creation of a thousand backup accounts to use the next time her author profile gets locked out.

(Anyone else see the irony, here? In enforcing these strict regulations to cut down on fake accounts, they only inspire people to make even more of them to avoid losing their online presence. Corporate efficiency, at its finest! So glad I’ve been trusting my personal information to these people for over a decade…)

So, if you plan to use a pen name, be sure to build your online presence everywhere, not just on Facebook. Pretty simple, except the thing that sucks about that is…

  1. You have to learn to juggle.

Not literally, although that would be a bonus for those fun “What are your strange talents?” games. When you’re being two people at once, social media becomes an exhausting web of multiple browsers and open tabs and feeling like this guy when you forget who you are and accidentally like your own comments:

d

My original social media accounts are not breaking the internet by any means, but I do share and interact with my friends and family on those regularly. I also spend a large chunk of my non-writing time trying to interact with the indie community under my pen account.

It can get complicated, and after a while…

  1. You start to become a bit paranoid.

You know that mini panic attack you get when you think you might’ve hit the “Reply All” button? I probably have one of those once or twice a day when I type faster than my brain works, and forget to make sure that I’m not wishing Grandma a happy 80th birthday as Slutty McSmutwriter.

True, a solution to this would be to avoid being in the same circles with both names… but where is the fun in that?

e

Not really… Or is it? Muhuahahaha.

Despite all of this juggling and paranoia, the funny thing is…

  1. Your closest family and friends will probably catch on. Or you’ll crack under the pressure and just tell them.

It won’t be lost on certain people that you conveniently start posting at the same time this other account starts posting every day, unless you are especially diligent about things like that. For me, it’s not a big problem; most of the people close to me know about my pseudonym and aren’t bothered by the erotic stuff… or they make like my dad and mercifully stroll out of the room, avoiding the conversation whenever it comes up.

It was actually a bit of a relief to tell my closest and dearest about my alt identity, because when you try to keep yourself hidden…

  1. Bragging and/or venting to family and real-life friends is off-limits, so you have to fess up or find a new support system.

“Oh hey, what have you been up to lately?” -Friend

“Absolutely nothing at all.” -Me (While I internally freak out about all the stuff I need to get done for a new release)

“Oh cool, let’s hang out.” -Friend

“I can’t. I’m just so super busy with my… absolutely nothing… this week.” -Me

I had a few conversations like that before I caved and just told them what I was up to. The fear of judgment turned out to be unwarranted, and as a bonus, I got to tell them which chapters not to read or ever tell me about, if they did.

f

We even came up with a cool system for my mom to use when she reads Monte.

I’m still generally anonymous because I don’t want everyone I’ve ever known to read my sex words, but it is nice to have an inner circle of people to celebrate the little victories with (and share the burden of the occasional disappointments).

There is always a price, however. One of the issues that comes with letting people in on your secret is…

  1. Sometimes, you confuse the hell out of the people who DO know who you are.

Just as it is difficult for you to juggle multiple profiles and accounts and events, your friends will have a similar issue. “Which book are we talking about, now? And which name is writing it?” “Which profile do I tag in this thing?”

You get the picture. It’s not too bad, but it does present another thread of thoughts and self-doubt (because, you know… writers don’t have enough of that as it is.) Such as…

  1. You constantly battle whether or not to just revert to your old self and save everyone the headache.

The thought comes up nearly every day, and is particularly loud on those occasions when you’re locked in a losing fight with the previously-mentioned Facebook Overlords.

However, that would bring forth its own set of problems. Re-branding yourself (is it possible to say that without sounding like a douche?) under your real name would be a task, especially once you’ve gained fans and followers under your pen.

So that thought is usually tossed in the trash, to be mulled over the next time your identity is questioned by the all-seeing eye of the Social Media deities.

g

“We’ve noticed this one does not post daily selfies and photographs of her food. Keep an eye on that worthless scumbag.” -Facebook Admins, presumably.

And besides…

  1. Writing under a pseudonym is liberating.

For all the cons, there are just as many pros (for me, at least).

It goes without saying that demon erotica does not jive well with certain circles. I’m not so worried about me; I’m prepared to answer for myself – believe me, I have all kinds of long-winded opinions on the damage caused by censorship, saved up for such occasions – but, I’d never ask someone else to fight my battles for me. I don’t want what I write to affect those close to me in a negative manner. There’s a feeling of freedom you get when you can write what you want without such thoughts nagging the back of your mind constantly.

And even though it can divide your fan base if you choose to write in different genres with separate pen names, it does prevent unfortunate mishaps with younger/more conservative audiences.

 

All in all, I think I made the right choice for myself, even though it’s a complete pain in the ass sometimes.

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0 thoughts on “10 Things You Learn Trying to Hide Your Indie Smut from Your Family

  1. I share your problem. I am now ‘out’ to a handful of friends, but family are still in ignorant bliss. I slip up from time to time, such as when I sent out an e-mail to a real life friend from my Rachel de Vine e-mail address, and got a reply saying “Who is this Rachel de Vine person?” I simply ignored her question and hoped she didn’t do any Google research! It would be so nice to be able to boast to my family that think I don’t do anything meaningful with my spare time, that actually I have had eight books published. One day!

  2. Facebook is a weird entity for me. In some ways, I believe they are genuinely invested in making the experience enjoyable for their users, and things like wanting to block fake accounts has valid base; they don’t want anonymous trolls and harassers on their site. Then other times, it’s like, “No, you’re just trying to get money,” like why they don’t allow pen names from established people who aren’t getting reported for harassment… do they just want authors to make pages and only pay to advertise through there? Is it to keep the spam down? Or is it to isolate it to the paying spam?

    Sometimes I agree with them, but others I’m not so sure.

    1. The strange thing is that Facebook seems to abhor pen names for writers, and yet how many actors and performers change their names when they begin their careers? I suspect that if Michael Caine wanted to open a Facebook account they wouldn’t expect him to use the name of Maurice Micklewight to do so.

      1. That’s what makes me feel like it’s more about getting money because indie writers are a prime target for that kind of thing. It seems just a little too similar to other people trying to get money for advertising or “getting names out there.”

        If they really wanted to stop the problem of anonymity, they wouldn’t target people who had long standing profiles.

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