Confessions of a Pseudonym

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Susan Granger cracks the Japanese market with wit and another name.

For years, I’ve been a movie critic and entertainment journalist. But combining both hasn’t been easy, particularly when it comes to the world market. The entertainment industry has become the United States #1 export – so people around the globe gobble up whatever’s available about Hollywood.

But – as I discovered – there’s bias and prejudice lurking out there.

It all began about 15 years ago when an international agent (Jesse Nash of The Syndicated Group) contacted me about selling my reviews and features to the overseas market. He’d apparently found me through recommendations from various studio publicists.

“I take 50%,” he said upfront. Doing some basic mathematics, I figured that 50% of something was better than 50% of nothing. I was doing the research and writing for many outlets here, often syndicating myself, so why not let him try to sell my work internationally? Besides, he’d handle all the business details: contracts, collections, etc. so it seemed well worth trying.

Thus began a lucrative relationship – and friendship. Soon my stories were appearing in newspapers and magazines throughout Europe, Australia and South America.

But we couldn’t crack the Japanese market. Japan loves American films – but, apparently, not the reviews and features submitted by Susan Granger. What was the problem? Neither of us could figure it out.

Then, early one morning, it dawned on me!

For all its modernization, Japan is a still, basically, a patriarchal society. In looking through their major publications, I discovered that the vast majority of writers are men. So why should I not be a man too?

I conferred with Jesse, who immediately sent off the same ‘Susan Granger’ article that had previously been rejected – but with a man’s by-line. It sold! And my first alter ego was born. Indeed, this mucho macho fellow soon became one of the most prolific writers for Japan’s men’s magazines. Testosterone-propelled, male-oriented ideas flowed from my brain. It was a kick!

Now I have nine different ‘secret’ pseudonyms – for different countries, for different reasons.

On a purely practical basis, it allows me to place multiple articles in the same issue of an in-flight magazine, for example. No editor would knowingly buy three articles from the same writer – but – three articles on three entirely different topics from different writers, no problem.

When the London-based press expressed a definite preference for buying from British entertainment writers, I became an Anglo-Saxon hyphenate. Then my Italian identity kicked in.

In the music world, where names like Iggy Pop and 50-Cent are prevalent, a hipper, more ‘with- it’ name for a writer sells. In that venue, Britney Spears is still referred to as a ‘pop tart’ rather than ‘a perpetual substance abuser’ and rehab bolter. So the writer’s vocabulary necessarily changes, as determined by the target market.

Another adjustment is necessary when writing from a psychological angle – as in “How to Stop Your Daughter from Following in Lindsay, Britney and Nicole’s Footsteps.”

These days, Susan Granger writes fewer profiles, more reviews. The features that emanate from my ‘inner’ writers all have different personalities – the flippant, the gossipy, the serious. There are both men and women -and some of indeterminate gender. Gay publications prefer this.

So how do you find a pseudonym? First, make sure no one else is using the name. Google it. Search the library databases. You want to be sure it’s yours – and no one else’s. Ascertain it’s the appropriate name for your usage, depending on the market. And develop a distinctive writing style that will immediately identify that persona to an editor. It’s not unlike the “Three Faces of Eve,” except you’ve invented them and can access them at will.

Good luck – and have fun!

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.