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Thread: Pen Names vs One Name for e-publishing

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW Kurlumbenus's Avatar
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    Question Pen Names vs One Name for e-publishing

    I'm a fairly prolific guy who writes across a broad swath of genre. Conventional traditional publishing wisdom tells us that we must invent new pen names when writing in a new genre, lest the poor and easily mislead reader find disappointment when discovering that our existential horror opus is somehow differently written than the wainscot fantasy that they're used to. Disenchanted, they will avoid taking chances on your work ever again.

    The matter is different in e-publishing, where your backlog is your greatest marketing tool. Ebooks can easily and conveniently link readers to other similar works, and thus act as affiliates in the process. The bigger a writer's library, the more entry points to his body of work are available to potential fans.

    Where is the balance point between the exposure that a wide library can offer, and the dangers of brand diffusion with too many genres stuffed under one pen-name? Is each genre and subgenre better off as a separate author entity, or can we take a broader approach? Can an author's pen names link to one another's work, or will that confuse and annoy the readership?

  2. #2
    I don't know the answer, but here's an interesting blog post by Gini Koch on her reasons for using so many pen names for her books:

    http://musapublishing.blogspot.com/2...gini-koch.html
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  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW Kurlumbenus's Avatar
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    Interesting read! Not all of that applies as-is to e-publishing, of course, but still a lot of valid points.

  4. #4
    The cake is a lie. But still cake. shaldna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kurlumbenus View Post
    Conventional traditional publishing wisdom tells us that we must invent new pen names when writing in a new genre, lest the poor and easily mislead reader find disappointment when discovering that our existential horror opus is somehow differently written than the wainscot fantasy that they're used to. Disenchanted, they will avoid taking chances on your work ever again.
    I dont' think you need a new pen name for every genre. But I think grouping genres is more sensible. For instance, if you write horror and sci-fi then you can probably group them together. But if you write horror and chick lit then you'll probably want different pen names.

    The matter is different in e-publishing, where your backlog is your greatest marketing tool. Ebooks can easily and conveniently link readers to other similar works, and thus act as affiliates in the process. The bigger a writer's library, the more entry points to his body of work are available to potential fans.
    Bolding mine. See my point above about grouping genres.

    Can an author's pen names link to one another's work, or will that confuse and annoy the readership?
    I read a lot of authors who write with different pen names, I know this and I read several of them, but, for instance, If I know that Annie Author writes fantasy, but uses the name Jenny Author to write westerns, then I will know what to expect when I pick up Jenny Author, or Annie Author, and I won't feel mislead.

    If I like Annie Author enough, even if I dont' generally like westerns, I may pick up on of Jenny Author's books, just to see what they are like.
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  5. #5
    She of Many Names Irysangel's Avatar
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    I vote that you go with one name. As a writer, having 3 names is a total pain in the butt. As a reader, I gravitate toward authors I know and 'trust' and if you're self-publishing, the genre isn't as important as much as it needs to feel like one of 'your' books, if that makes sense.
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  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW Kurlumbenus's Avatar
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    No, I get it. I do have some variation in voice depending on what I'm writing, though... I tend towards the dark and fantastic (not necessarily fantasy) most of the time.

  7. #7
    "We're all mad here" - Cheshire Cat Silver-Midnight's Avatar
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    I think you would be fine using just one name. I say that simply because you've already got a fan base, I'm guessing, and so, you wouldn't have to go through the difficult task of picking one back up again.

  8. #8
    ubiquitous Keyan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Irysangel View Post
    I vote that you go with one name. As a writer, having 3 names is a total pain in the butt. As a reader, I gravitate toward authors I know and 'trust' and if you're self-publishing, the genre isn't as important as much as it needs to feel like one of 'your' books, if that makes sense.
    I'd respectfully disagree. I read in several genres, but the authors I read also write outside them. I'd be very annoyed to discover something I expected to be an upbeat fantasy adventure turned out to be dystopian drama from hell. Even if both novels were really well-written.

  9. #9
    ubiquitous Keyan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kurlumbenus View Post
    I'm a fairly prolific guy who writes across a broad swath of genre. Conventional traditional publishing wisdom tells us that we must invent new pen names when writing in a new genre, lest the poor and easily mislead reader find disappointment when discovering that our existential horror opus is somehow differently written than the wainscot fantasy that they're used to. Disenchanted, they will avoid taking chances on your work ever again.

    The matter is different in e-publishing, where your backlog is your greatest marketing tool. Ebooks can easily and conveniently link readers to other similar works, and thus act as affiliates in the process. The bigger a writer's library, the more entry points to his body of work are available to potential fans.

    Where is the balance point between the exposure that a wide library can offer, and the dangers of brand diffusion with too many genres stuffed under one pen-name? Is each genre and subgenre better off as a separate author entity, or can we take a broader approach? Can an author's pen names link to one another's work, or will that confuse and annoy the readership?
    I think the answer to this is whether you expect the books to appeal to the same audience. An author's name is a brand.

    I would be that disenchanted reader... all it takes is one really unpleasant reading experience for me to shelve the author as someone whose tastes don't align with mine. (After all, if something's been read, it can't be *unread*.)
    Whereas if he were writing grim gory horror as Author A and light fantasy as Mr B, and cozy mysteries as Ms D, I would be perfectly content to read only the genres that interested me.

    It's not that it's 'differently written' - it's that it's differently experienced by the reader. My concern is not that I'll find a book boring. There's a delete button for that. It's that I will waste time and energy on a book that actively annoys me and forms a "mindworm" (like an earworm, but worse).

  10. #10
    She of Many Names Irysangel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keyan View Post
    I'd respectfully disagree. I read in several genres, but the authors I read also write outside them. I'd be very annoyed to discover something I expected to be an upbeat fantasy adventure turned out to be dystopian drama from hell. Even if both novels were really well-written.
    But that's what packaging and a blurb does - it tells the reader what to expect. Anyhow, multiple pen names might be exactly what the OP wants. I was just speaking from my experience.
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  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW movieman's Avatar
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    There was a thread on another forum recently about authors who write both young adult and erotica, and how they probably want to use two names so the erotica is less likely to show up on the 'also bought' or 'also viewed' for their young adult books. So there clearly are some good reasons for using different names.

  12. #12
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    I would recommend sticking with one name, barring extreme circumstances like movieman mentioned.

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