How Do You Host a Signing For Someone Who Doesn’t Exist?

I got this email today:

I have a question regarding your entry on authors changing names. Don’t
authors need to do tours and talks to publicize their books? I’ve heard that
much of a book’s success depends on the author’s own initiative to do
publicity. But if they’re using a pseudonym, isn’t this impossible? It would
only take one person to reveal him/her.

A good question…with lots of answers.

In many cases, the pseudonyms are an open secret (for instance, Jeremiah Healy makes no secret that he’s "Terry Devane" nor does Gar Haywood hide that he’s "Ray Shannon") and the authors go on the signing circuit anyway. The only ones who are "fooled" are the computers at the chain stores.

Other authors turn their pseudonym into a marketing tool, creating some mystery and buzz around the book. They require booksellers to drop shop books to a third party for signing so that the mystery of who they are remains intact. "Boston Teran" and "John Twelve Hawks" are recent examples, "Trevanian" is an older one. Stephen King, Nora Roberts, and Robert Ludlum also wrote books under other names as well as their own. So have pulp authors like Marvin H. Albert (aka Albert Conroy, Ian McAlister, Nick Quarry, Tony Rome, etc.) and  Harry Whittington (aka Whit Harrison, Blaine Stevens, Ashley Carter, etc.)

Others just avoid the signing/promotion circuit and hope for the best…which, of course, could work against them and undermine the chances of their new identity increasing their sales or, in the case of already famous authors, matching the success they enjoy as themselves.

Finally, there are writers who make their living as ghostwriters…writing books for celebrities, politicians, other authors, or house names (names created by the publisher so that several writers can contribute to a series of books without the readers ever knowing). Don Pendleton hasn’t written an EXECUTIONER/MACK BOLAN novel in decades.

James Reasoner, for example, has been writing westerns under other authors’ names and house names for years. Donald Bain writes the MURDER SHE WROTE books under his own name as well as a NY Times bestselling series under someone else’s name (a someone who widely promotes the books he or she doesn’t write). Reportedly,  Robert Tanenbaum doesn’t write his legal thrillers (Michael Gruber did for many years)…but that doesn’t stop him from going on booksigning tours anyway.

In short, there are lots of reasons for writing under other names and lots of ways to promote your books despite the illusion.

7 thoughts on “How Do You Host a Signing For Someone Who Doesn’t Exist?”

  1. “They require booksellers to drop shop books to a third party for signing so that the mystery of who they are remains intact.
    As I said on Sarah’s blog, this bugs me for some reason. I like reading mysteries, I don’t need or want another mystery about who really wrote the book I’m reading. I like to know something about the author and see a photo.

  2. Photos and other evidence won’t help. After all, what makes you think that “Lee Goldberg” is a real person? Hell, his publisher even created a fake “brother” to prop up the illusion.

  3. Graham is right. My research has failed to turn up any Navy SEAL named Lee Goldberg in the last 25 years.
    Obviously it’s some sort of house name.

  4. Lee,
    Don Pendleton indeed quit writing the Executioner series after book #38 back in 1979/80-ish, but that’s not the only reason he hasn’t written any more. He died a little over ten years ago.

  5. The same way you hold a presidential campaign rally for a man who may or may not exist.
    And an actual tasting of a wine from a winery which may or may not exist.
    The answer? See for yourself. You’re all invited to a December 14 event in Sonoma wine country where this may or may not be answered.
    ==== invitation =====
    You are cordially invited to attend the unveiling of General Clark Braxton’s release of Castello Da Vinci’s Xantaeus.
    This first ever Xantaeus, Cabernet Sauvignon (produced to his demanding palate by Cline Cellars) will be released to the general public on the evening of Wednesday, December 14th, 2005.
    General Braxton (Chairman of Defense Therapeutics, is featured as a major character in a new thriller by author Lewis Perdue (founder of Wine Business Monthly and Wine Business Insider) who will also be in attendance and available to sign his newly released book, Perfect Killer (
    This unprecedented event will be held from 17:00-19:30 in the Barrel Room at Cline Cellars, 24737 HWY 121, Sonoma.
    RSVP by December 2, 2005; 707.940.4082.
    Light hors d’oeuvres and Castello Da Vinci Xantaeus 2003 will be served.
    Please download and print out the official invitation ( and present it at the door.
    A map of the event location may be found here:


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