Why hide behind a pseudonym?

J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling

When you have a billion-dollar name, why hide it?

“Harry Potter” series author J.K. Rowling admitted she did just that this week, acknowledging she used the pen name of Robert Galbraith to write detective novel “The Cuckoo’s Calling.”

Readers scrambled to purchase the book, which shot up to first in Amazon’s online sales.

Rowling’s not the only person hesitating to take credit for work – others from big-name authors to Twitter parody accounts hide behind a pseudonym. 

Stephen King, outed as pseudonym Richard Bachman, told USA Today, “It’s an impossible secret to keep for long.”

Political-stat virtuoso Nate Silver first wrote under the name Poblano. And fans of Mayor Michael Bloomberg might know @ElBloombito, in real life a local writer, which mimicks the mayor’s press-conference Spanish.

Hiding behind a pseudonym  is a low-risk way to try something new, experts say.

“It’s impossible to separate her from Harry Potter, so in order to have that work taken seriously on its own, she had to become a different puppeteer,” says Michael Plugh, a Fordham University communications and media studies lecturer.

“It’s a clean slate,” adds Temple University psychology professor Frank Farley.

But what ultimately unmasks a pseudonym? Success, he suggests.

“They’re testing the waters, and therefore they want to do it in disguise,” he says. “Then if it works, they’ll yank the disguise and reveal themselves.”

Social-media pseudonyms

On a smaller scale, many tweet out clever – or scandalous – things from behind a Twitter alter ego.

Anonymity is the norm online, Farley notes.

“It’s almost a standard to not put your full name,” he says. “So we shouldn’t be surprised that we’re seeing that elsewhere.”

One parody account unmasked this week was @RuthBourdain, a combination of Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl and TV food host Anthony Bourdain with more than 60,000 followers.

Freelance writer Josh Friedland told The New York Times concealing his second virtual life became exhausting. Taking credit for the work would be nice, too, he added.

Still-cloaked parody writers might hope to perpetuate a spotlight on the jokes, not the person, Plugh says.

“As soon as you know who the puppeteer is, the puppet ceases to be the focus,” he says.

Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter @reporteralison



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

NYPD looking for man they say assaulted elderly…

      The New York City Police Department is asking for the public's assistance in locating a Hispanic male 20's wanted in connection with…

Local

Three arrested after allegedly assaulting off-duty officer in…

Three men were arrested early Saturday morning after allegedly assaulting an off-duty officer at a Bronx bodega, and the NYPD is asking for the public's…

Local

Healthcare union creates vibrant West Indian Day Parade…

Volunteers worked almost around the clock through the weekend, putting the flashy finishing touches on hundreds of costume pieces 1199SEIU members will wear while marching…

National

Top 10 most hipster college campuses

Hipsters are everywhere these days. You can't walk down the anywhere anymore without seeing a pair of skinny jeans on a handlebar mustachioed 20-something, a…

Arts

Theater: Discouraging 'Poor Behavior'

Theresa Rebeck's latest off-Broadway play, about two couples sparring on a weekend getaway, repeats a few mistakes of her past.

Gossip

Chef Todd English arrested for DWI in the…

Celebrity chef Todd English is facing DWI charges after a traffic stop on Sunday.

Movies

Box office: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is 2014's…

This weekend "The Guardians of the Galaxy" passed the fourth "Transformers" movie to become the highest grossing film of 2014.

Gossip

Spears back with controversial ex?

Is Briteny Spears back with Adnan Ghalib?

Sports

Novak Djokovic feeds off US Open crowd to…

Novak Djokovic isn't a native New Yorker, but he sure knows how to use the U.S. Open crowd to his advantage.

NFL

Odell Beckham still 'weeks away,' Tom Coughlin angry…

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has fought a losing battle against the media all preseason over the status of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

Education

These college students think breakfast is the most…

  It should be no surprise that the city that never sleeps is also home to the most students who like to order food in…

Sex

When it comes to dating, height matters

Does a man’s height really matter when it comes to dating? Unfortunately - according to a new study - the answer looks like it’s yes.…

Travel

10 free apps to make traveling easier

Finding the nearest bathroom, calculating currency exchanges and locating your departure gate must have been difficult for travelers of previous generations. But we wouldn't know,…

Travel

How to get a seat upgrade to business…

It used to be much easier to upgrade your coach seat to business or even first class, but rigid rules and tighter schedules have made…