I recently reached out to media trying to pitch a by-lined article (that’s an article placed in a print or Internet outlet where credit is given to the author, along with a nice “plug” about his or her book). I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that virtually no one answered (they never do), but I was surprised by the one response I did get:

“O why the pseudonym. If YOU have something to say, say it. Otherwise shut up.”

Ouch! The original message was riddled with typos and misspellings (e.g., “pseodnymn”), but that didn't strike me so much as the sheer hostility embedded within these few words. This publisher’s utter lack of professionalism aside, I felt this guy deserved an answer. After all, here I was pitching a piece on racism to mainly Black publications. I could see why a Black man (I’d assumed he was Black) might be offended by an obviously white woman writing such an article behind the protective veil of a pseudonym. So I apologized for offending him, and explained myself.

As many of you know, I’ve been an attorney for nearly 25 years and am my family’s sole breadwinner. The law gig pays the bills, so I choose to keep my livelihood separate from my writing “career” (which is more in the nature of an unpaid labor of love). When people Google me looking for an attorney, I want them to find my law practice, not my fledgling fiction.

I made the decision to use a pseudonym when I released my first novel, Later With Myself: The Misadventures of Millie Moskowitz. This story, while fictional, is highly personal and discloses many embarrassing facts about my own childhood and my (now deceased) father’s life. However, it wasn’t intended as a “tell-all” memoir; I admittedly tried to safeguard my family's privacy and avoid damaging my professional reputation if the book wasn't well-received. At the same time, I wanted to honor my mother’s memory by publishing my story under her maiden name. Since then, I have developed a modest following as "Sheryl Sorrentino," and now consider it something of a "brand."

One bright spot on “Sheryl Sorrentino’s” uphill journey to literary stardom was when the Midwest Book Review requested a copy of The Floater back in August. However, despite several diligent follow-ups on my part, they have since ignored me. Meanwhile, I regularly check the MBR website to see whether, by sheer miracle, they posted a review of my book. During one such neurosis-driven search, I stumbled upon the following, under their “Getting Reviews for Self-Published Books” tab:

“By the way . . . an author who writes using anything but his or her own name, an artist, actor, musician etc that uses anything but their own names are lying and 'cheating'.” [Sic]

I resisted the urge to edit these grammatically questionable lines and email my improved version to their Editor-in-Chief because, more to the point, MBR apparently won’t review my brilliant third novel, simply because it is pseudonymous! With all the other obstacles I have faced trying to get recognized as a talented, self-published writer, now you're gonna tell me there's some sort of stigma to using a pseudonym? Tell that to Mark Twain, Anne Rice, George Orwell, Lewis Carroll, Pablo Neruda, Ayn Rand, Joseph Conrad, and J.K. Rowling (real name, Joanne Rowling—the “K” doesn’t stand for anything)! http://www.11points.com/Books/11_Auth...

As for my by-lined article, the newspaper man who sent that email turned out to be white, Jewish and widowed. He located my picture online and said I was “cute.” He wanted to “pen pal a bit”—even told me about his “hobbies/passions.” I guess it’s easier for a 50-year-old woman to land a man than a break in this lousy business. Too bad I’m not in the market for a "virtual boyfriend;" maybe then he might have published my article!