Posted by & filed under Publishing and Publishers, Writing and Writers. 8 comments

Newbie writers hear it a thousand times: Just write the damn book. Don’t worry about what comes after.

Here’s the thing. After arrives a lot quicker than you think.

With a handful of stories and a finished novel, I know I have to put on my big girl pants and be professional. I’m an indie author, no one’s going to make me professional. I have to do it myself. I have to think about putting myself out there, reaching readers, and hopefully delivering them something they want. After is NOW.

This month, I sat down to make the cover for my current project, The Wall, and when it came down to it, feeling like a fool, I didn’t know what name to put on the cover. The Wall is a YA fantasy vampire romance – quite a divergance from Skyland and my short stories! And it’s not alone.  I love writing YA fantasy, and have many similar projects in the works.


Does vastly different subject matter require different pen names? When a reader picks up a book by an author the know, shouldn’t they know what they’re getting?  You don’t pick up Stephen King expecting a Harlequin.  The consensus seems to be yes. Dean Wesley Smith puts it thusly:

“A reader picks up and likes a romance under “Real Name Writer” and then sees another book from the same author name and buys it and it’s a horror novel with ugly guts and blood. Reader says, “I’m not buying anything by that author again.””

And his explanation for why people do this is dead on:

“And you know the biggest reason I hear beginning writers saying they didn’t want to put pen names on books different from what they already have under a certain name? “It will take too long to develop the name.””

I don’t doubt that he’s heard this reason ad nauseam. I’ve thought that too. However, it’s not just about the time and effort taken to develop a name, it’s about reputation.  If I didn’t want to put time and effort out, I would have found another line of work. Making shit up and selling it is hard. But so is building up a reputation, and people know me as Aelius Blythe. They may not know if the next book is going to be fantasy or scifi, YA or adult, vampire-y, or elf-y, but they know my writing style and the quality of my work. I know I don’t exactly have a HUGE following – but I don’t care about having a HUGE following!  I care about the small number who have read, bought, reviewed and recommended my work. And they know me as Aelius Blythe.

But then again, they don’t know me as Aelius Blythe YA fantasy vampire romance writer.

When I last wrote about pen names, I thought after would be further away. I thought I had more time. But after is now, and I still don’t know what to do!

Do you write – or plan to write – under a different name for different genres? When you pick up a book, as a reader, do you want to know what you’re getting into based on the name on the cover? Just how important are pen names anyway?

8 Responses to “Professional Authordom And Pen Names Arrrrrg! AGAIN.”

  1. Carrie Rubin

    That’s a tough one. As a writer, I’d like to say you can write any genre you want to under a single name. As a reader, I’d be a little disappointed if Sue Grafton didn’t give me a mystery. Guess it’s good I plan to stay in the thriller genre. At least for now. :)

    • aeliusblythe

      Yeah, that is lucky that you haven’t strayed into something drastically different. I can’t see myself writing anything THAT different, like furry erotica or space westerns. At least Sci-fi and fantasy are somewhat related, but I don’t know…….. Will have to think quite a bit on it.

  2. Lafemmeroar

    Branding is very important! I mean who would pick up a horror book written by “Lafemmeroar”? No one probably unless the book involved schlong whackings, but I think that would go under “Crime Fiction.” Tweeting this post now :)

    • aeliusblythe

      LOL Yeah…. I bed that’d be under Crime, but Horror could work too, depending on the intended audience!

      And yeah, I know branding is key…… I’ve always HATED the idea of branding – I’m not a brand, I’m a person! People have different facets, they aren’t just one thing like Romance Author, Fantasy Author, Outter Planetary Colonization Expert or Whatever.

      But I know that branding is also about responsibility to the users/fans/potentials, and I get that it’s important to meet their expectations.

      Thanks for the reminder – and for the Tweet! :-)

  3. John Garrett

    I thought of making up a pen name…mostly because if my stuff sucked then I could just fade away never to be heard from again…until reborn as a new name lol.

    But then I said screw it. I’m too lazy for all that. The things is, though -my efforts to build an audience have suffered from all my “genre jumping”.

    Even within my comics, the subject matter goes from humor to fantasy to super-hero. I’ve had people say “oh I don’t really like these ones I’ll check back when you put another funny one out.” Not to mention going from comics to prose and back again.

    Still, like you, I’m working toward the point where people will check in on what I’m doing just because it’s me doing it. I’ve got a long road ahead of me but I’m definitely sticking with my own given name. Gotta ride this thing out and see where it takes me…

    • aeliusblythe

      “………I’ve had people say “oh I don’t really like these ones I’ll check back when you put another funny one out……..”

      That’s an interesting confirmation of the fears of disappointing, or at least confusing readers. Hmmmmm…….

      I too have thought that a pen name would be useful in case of total failure – starting over would be easier. Over at Absolute Write I heard tons of stories (maybe rumors, maybe legit, hard to tell with AW…) that a lot of newbies and first-time novelists would start over by submitting under a new name if their first book didn’t do so well. I guess agents and publishers wouldn’t touch a failed author, but they might take a chance on a “new” name. So there is something to that.

      But again, there’s this:

      ……..I’m working toward the point where people will check in on what I’m doing just because it’s me doing it………..

      And I think that’s where web fiction may be a different animal from the trad world of publishing. Online, people tend to look for personalities, rather than just words on a page. And maybe building up some credibility, by associating work of all sorts with your name, is more important than being one pure “brand.” I dunno….


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