Adventures in Writing: Ghosts of Pen Names Past

Where have you gone, oh author extraordinaire?

There are many people out there who write. They write in secret, honing their craft. They use pen names that have no connection to themselves whatsoever. Some of them are absolutely random, just names picked out of a hat or from a baby name website. I’m sure there are lots of people out there who wonder why writers go to such lengths.

It’s because they are trying to find their niche. They’re trying to find the genre that earns them the big bucks. When a new author starts out, they throw different stories, various characters, and kinks at the self-publishing world and hope to get back something that sticks. Something that earns them triple-digit (or higher) days. Sometimes, they get it right quickly, for others they never quite get there.

I find this a difficult thing to do, unless you literally didn’t want someone to read those stories ever again, because in order to vanish you delete the Amazon Author Page, you redact the story files (literally, you upload a blank file with a cover that says “Redacted”) and keep it unpublished in your KDP dashboard, and delete all social media websites associated with that author name. The only people who will have access to those titles are the ones who bought them when they were live or were given an Advanced Reader Copy to review.

Good Reads Keeps Everything! EVERYTHING!

Why am I writing about this? Because I’ve had an author completely vanish on me. Someone that I had done a Sharing is Caring for. I wanted to do a shoutout on social media, but their account was gone. I tried searching Amazon, they were gone. I searched Google – nothing to be found. The domain name is gone. The one thing you can never get rid of though, is GoodReads. For whatever reason, GoodReads seems to have a “Do Not Delete or Change” policy. Seriously, the old black and white with pink text covers for the first three books in the Supervisor Sexcapades Saga are still on GoodReads. They will not update covers to save an author’s life. So, while this author will forever be ensconced on GoodReads, they won’t be found anywhere else.

Now, let me be honest. I do have two pen names you’ve never heard of because I removed them from Amazon Author Central and I unpublished those titles. They never had social media accounts and neither had links to each other. I also only published one title under each pen name. They were testers. I wanted to go through the process of self-publishing. I wanted to learn the ropes by going through the motions. I published two old stories I wrote about 25 years ago, after a quick polish. They had a good number of freebies go out during giveaways, but hardly any sales, and no reviews. I was fine with yanking them down.

Ghosting is not a bad thing, don’t take this as me saying it is…

There’s nothing wrong with testing the waters and there’s nothing wrong with Ghosting (as an author, not to catfish someone into a fake relationship, ahem). However, I wonder why this author vanished wth over 190 reviews on GoodReads. Her rating wasn’t bad (anything that makes a 3 on GR is a good title, anything higher than that is outstanding).

The only thing I can think of is that this author started writing in a different genre or found the niche and kink that made them big bucks and decided to change their name and start fresh with all new stories. It’s kind of crazy, right? Putting in all that work, all that time, all those words, only to yank them down, never to see the light of day again?

That’s not always true, either. There are authors who will do something called ‘mirroring’. They’ll even do it while the book is live (I don’t recommend this because if your readers find out, you’ll be outted). The author takes a well-reviewed, highly beloved by readers’ title, and will write a whole new title. They’ll change a little here, a little there, the looks of the main characters, the town or city they’re in, landmarks, but the story itself remains the same. Sometimes, they’ll publish under the same name, sometimes under another name that no one knows is them. While acceptable by most, it’s a wee bit shady.

So, if you’re wondering where that author went that was supposed to be writing the next hottest read you were looking forward to, they may have ghosted out of there into a brand new pen name and taken everything having to do with that pen name down so fast you didn’t realize it until you went looking.

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