There’s been some grumbling on Kboards about pen names and personas that has struck a chord with me. I use pen names and I don’t think anything is wrong with that. I don’t have a problem with anyone choosing to use them, for whatever reason they want to use them.
But I do have qualms about the use of personas. They ring of sock puppets and scam tactics to me, and although maybe that’s not how the authors who use them think of them, I can’t help but find it distasteful and deceptive.
On the one hand, making up a name doesn’t seem so different than making up a dog you don’t have. But to me, I do think of those things differently. When I interact with people, that fake name doesn’t really mean anything. I still interact with people as myself, even if it’s only using select attributes of myself.
Say I’m shy in real life (I’m not that shy, mostly standoffish, which is actually quite different). But say I am. I might dig deep and pull from the part of me that isn’t as shy and give myself permission to be more outgoing and brave with other people while interacting under the name of my pen name.
That kind of thing just doesn’t feel deceptive to me. That’s me behaving differently because of who I’m interacting with. I could choose to interact that way as me or as my pen name and no one would think much of it.
But if I give myself a fake dog, when I interact with others, if I choose to use my real name, then the people that know me are going to know I’m lying. Just because I choose to interact under a different name, a pen name, doesn’t mean I’m not lying any less.
So, no, I’m not supportive of authors who create entire personas that are fake. I just don’t think it’s right to do that kind of thing and present it as fact. It’s lying. It’s deception. It’s lying and deception meant for personal gain.
The thing about author bios is that it’s not generally accepted that they’re going to be fake. People, in general, expect bios to be genuine. When they’re not, it breaks a trust with the reader. I care about that. I don’t want any readers of mine to ever be able to come to me and say I lied to them or deceived them about who I am.
I hold back a lot in my bios. That’s because I’m not willing to lie about who I am, but I’m also not willing to give everything about myself away to people I don’t know. Personas are a way of trying to have it both ways.
There are authors I’ve read and loved in the past that I don’t read anymore because of this kind of thing. I have no interest in supporting people who enjoy deceiving others or who are willing to deceive others because they think it gives them an edge in whatever market they’re in. The thing about those kind of people is that they don’t care. They’ll probably never care. But I don’t have to like or support them.
Marketing has a bad reputation because of people who’ll do anything to make a sale. In my mind, I have no doubt that authors who adopt actual personas with made up details about their lives are some of those people.