Pen Names Affect What Readers Think About You
I recently decided to analyze the organic social media shares of and backlinks to all of my online content. It was quite a task.
It was tedious but fairly easy to do on self-published online content. But the numbers got pretty murky when trying to do this analysis on content created for others or published in magazines. That's because the organic shares and backlinks are hard to separate from paid promotions without more inside knowledge of the business that purchased the writing. The backlinks and shares on content I publish on blogging platforms and other self-publishing platforms is easy to analyze because I do very, very little self promotion and instantly recognize it all. Anything I didn't do myself could be assumed to be organic in those cases.
I wrestled with figuring out what shares and backlinks were organic and which were fertilized with money on those articles I'd managed to sell to magazines or had created for clients. I eventually just decided to split the numbers from any grey areas in half and call it good.
I was doing the analysis to find out who was sharing my content and where they were sharing it. I want to know my sharing audience. After all, they are the key to viral content. Nothing goes viral without getting shared by the right people in the right place at the right time.
I separated the data by topic and I couldn't find much of a pattern I didn't have to squint and stand on my head to see.
It was a complete muddle until I separated the articles not just by topic, but by byline as well.
That's so weird I feel I must repeat it. I separated the articles by byline as well as by topic and patterns clear as glass emerged. The male and female breakdowns are rough estimates based on 25 to 100 randomly sampled usernames and a few bylines and probable legal names that shared each article. I threw out all of the androgynous handles of which there are legion on Twitter.
(Yes, I enjoy sorting data far too much for it to be healthy. I thought sorting buttons was great fun when I was a kid, too. Both are relaxing and distract me when I'm anxious. Nobody said I was normal.)
I keep my writing names separated to an almost religious degree except for my Kylyssa byline. She is my kind of sloppy catchall pen name and very easily associated with my legal name. Obviously, by the nature of non-disclosure non-circumvention contracts, every piece written under a NDNC contract must stay forever secret. Some of the other names my writing has appeared under seem to have an affect on the popularity of material I write so I like to keep them close to the chest, too. So I'll just use only very general descriptors for those other names my work appears under online.
Female and male readers share my female nom de plumes' articles and editorials on social issues and philosophy written from an emotional perspective and their craft tutorials and that's about it. They share mostly via social media but they also share via blogs, topic-related fora, topic-related authority sites, and articles. Male and some female readers share my male pseudonyms' writing on gadgetry, tinkering, intellectual philosophy, and science mostly via social media and blogs. Readers share my best ghost writing on pretty much whatever topic I write when it matches the client's reputation mostly via social media and blogs. But there's one pen name that is weird.
I have one sexy pen name. Mostly men share her sexy stuff and only her sexy stuff, mostly via social media. People sometimes share sexy stuff written by Kylyssa, too, but they share social issues content, philosophy, and craft tutorials from that byline, too.
I find it all extremely annoying.
It's all me. It's actually even mostly all in one voice except for the ghost work. If someone came up with a writing voice matching algorithm you could probably use it to find almost all of my most popular bits online no matter what byline I used. I write things before I decide "who" gets the byline.
I guess now I'll know how to figure out what pen name to use on any given piece. I'm still annoyed, though. Ugh, why do readers care so much about who they think the writer is? Why can't words speak for themselves?
What do you think? Should names matter so much?
Image Credit » photo by Jenny Rollo shared at http://www.freeimages.com/photo/697312