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
National

California passes 'yes-means-yes' campus sexual assault bill

Californian lawmakers passed a law on Thursday requiring universities to adopt "affirmative consent" language in their definitions of consensual sex, part of a nationwide drive to curb sexual assault on…

National

Syrian refugees top 3 million, half of all…

By Stephanie NebehayGENEVA (Reuters) - Three million Syrian refugees will have registered in neighboring countries as of Friday, but many remain trapped by the advance…

International

North Korean leader's money manager defects in Russia:…

A senior North Korean banking official who managed money for leader Kim Jong Un has defected in Russia and was seeking asylum in a third country, a South Korean newspaper…

Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 29,…

The Department of Transportation and NYPD said there may be residual delays near all of the street closures on August 29, 31 and 31. Several streets and avenues will be…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

Movies

Criterion's new Jacques Demy box mixes the light…

Jacques Demy, the most effervescent of French New Wave filmmakers, gets a Criterion box all to himself, with classics like "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."

Entertainment

Comedian Joan Rivers, 81, rushed to New York…

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Acerbic comedian and fashion critic Joan Rivers was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York on Thursday after she reportedly…

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

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

4 healthy ingredient swaps to make your meals…

When it comes to eating well, everyone knows they could be doing better. But cooking in an apartment on a busy schedule is a recipe…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…