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Boost Your Writing Career by Faking Your Own Death

Hacks for HacksWarning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.

You’ve tried everything—publishing, self-publishing, vanity publishing, e-publishing, third-person publishing—but you just can’t achieve the breakthrough success you’ve always desired. No mere mortal can climb Slush Mountain of their own accord; you must become something more. You must encase yourself in a foolscap chrysalis and emerge even better than your best self. You must summon all your creative power, all your skill, all your life experience to give life to—then take it from—the greatest literary mind of the twenty-first century: yourself.

Stage 1: Create Your Ideal Author

The first thing you’ll have to do is create a pen name [1]. What, you thought you were gonna get to keep the loser name you’ve done nothing with? Names are important, which is why you must ditch that anchor of a moniker that’s been weighing you down your whole career. Imbue your new persona with every virtue you wish you had for yourself–not just talent, but good looks, charm, a spotless criminal history. You’re not creating a Mary Sue, you’re creating a Virgin Mary Sue who will give birth to the salvation of your literary dreams.

Stage 2: Logistics

  1. Republish your entire catalog under your new identity. (Don’t worry, no one will notice that the books were previously released by a nobody like you.) Yes, all your future works will be under this new nom de plume, too. “Wow, this new me must be an amazing writer if she writes as well as I do,” you say, meaning it as a joke…but unable to ignore that it’s surprisingly truthful.
  2. Sign copies of your back catalog under your new name to use as memorabilia later on. As you practice Your Ideal Author’s signature, it starts to feel as natural as cracking your knuckles.
  3. Build a website, blog, and social media presence. No, not to build a brand or increase sales. It’s to document Your Ideal Author’s adventures and derring-do. Now’s the time for your pseudonym to blog about their charity work, collection of priceless artifacts, travels across eight continents, etc. You may feel slightly jealous of this new persona. This is perfectly natural, as is the fear you’re going crazy because you’re jealous of someone who doesn’t exist.

Stage 3: Murder Your Darling

Now that you’ve created this literary monster, it’s time to unlife them. This should be easy; ever since you read Game of Thrones, you’ve taken a fiendish delight in butchering your characters in your books. Yet this feels different, does it not? More personal, like one of those spy movies where the hero has to kill a rival agent who is also their lover. Just be kind and make Your Ideal Author’s death a quick one. And glorious, like a train derailment off a mountainside or something. Just like your mermaid samurai in your sci-fi epic came to learn, being a hero means making sacrifices. Except you don’t feel like the hero, do you? Your Ideal Writer was far more heroic, more noble than you could ever…well, never mind that, now. In time, you’ll learn to forgive yourself for what you’ve done

photo by David Merrett [2]
photo by David Merrett

Stage 4: You Am Legend

It’s funny how all the color has washed out of the world now that your other half is gone, isn’t it? When an author as sublime as Your Ideal Writer passes on, it’s up to you to promote their work far and wide so that everyone can experience the greatness they accomplished during their short, imaginary life.

Writers join the ranks of the immortals through the work of literary champions who take up their cause. They write magazine articles, publish literary criticism, organize tributes, and other grunt work in service of their idol. You will sacrifice a great deal of your time, energy, friendships, and children’s college fund to start a charitable foundation in the name of someone who never existed.

But what of your books still to be written? Will you have to reassume your shabby old identity to write your haunted-courthouse legal thriller? Perish the thought! One day, you’ll “discover” Your Ideal Author’s unpublished work. You’ll release “posthumous” books that become instant collector’s items in the wake of “your” “death.”

It’s a lot of work, but you’ll reap a reward not even Shakespeare could—to behold your authorial legacy, and its impact on generations of readers to come, while you still live. It has cost you much, including any hope of finding success under your own name, but it will all be worth it to see Your Ideal Author—your greatest work of all—mentioned among literary legends. To be in such rarified air, you may even wish you were dead.

Got experience killing your alter-ego? Have tips on establishing your legacy from beyond the grave? Share your wisdom in the comments!

About Bill Ferris [3]

After college, Bill Ferris [4] left Nebraska for Florida to become a rich and famous rock star. Failing that, he picked up the pen to become a rich and famous novelist. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and looks forward to a life of poverty and ridicule.