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?