Showing posts with label pen name. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pen name. Show all posts

Thursday, September 6

Should You Use A Pen Name?

Should I Use A Pen Name?

When I stared writing, one of the questions I asked was: should I use a pen name? One of the first people I posed this question to was an enormously helpful mid-list author of spicy romance novels. Her response: Don't do it! She had been forced to take a pen name by her traditional publisher who had then used her real name on the first book in her trilogy and her pen name on the subsequent two. The result: lots of emails from fans complaining they couldn't find her books!

In his most recent blog post Dean Wesley Smith gives the pros and cons of using a pen name.

Why use a pen name?

1. Your output exceeds what your publisher can use
If you're a prolific writer and your publisher will only buy two books a year, writing under a pen name allows the creation of another income steam. Dean writes:
At one point, Kris and I were joking around at a conference and actually counted the career income streams coming into our home at that moment in time. We had nine writers’ incomes coming into the house. That was more than we had cats at that point.

Today we have about that many, maybe a few more, but some are not making much, at least not enough to live on. Luckily the pen-name writers don’t eat much.

The key is the same with all aspects of the publishing industry: Diversity and a lot of product. If you have three or four writer’s incomes hitting your house, it’s a ton better and safer than only one. And nine or ten incomes just makes things much easier.
2. You write in multiple genres
It's a good idea to create a pen name for each genre you write in, that way your fans know what to expect when they pick up one of your books. For instance, if you write brooding vampire mysteries under the moniker Alice Darkbody and then go ahead and write a comedic western under that name your goth readers are not going to be happy.

3. You have a day job and don't want to get fired
If you're a medical doctor, or a psychiatrist, or psychologist, or social worker, and so on, your clients may believe you have used them in your book. If anything can help save you a trip to the courthouse, even if you're sure you'll win, it's probably a good idea. (This was a different kind of suit, but it reminds me of what happened with the Hurt Locker.)

4. Your sales numbers go down and your publisher drops you
I've heard countless stories about book sales tanking even when the book is terrific. What do you do then? Start writing under another name! Traditional publishers use what Dean calls "the produce model". He writes:
In traditional publishing, they have to gamble that your book will sell a certain number in a certain amount of time. Remember the produce model? In traditional publishing, your books spoil, so if they paid you too much in comparison to your sales numbers, you can’t sell another book UNDER THAT NAME.
5. To hide your work from your family
Melinda DuChamp, author of the erotic romance Fifty Shades of Alice in Wonderland, writes under a pen name. Here's why: "My mother reads all of my books, and I decided this one was a bit too spicy for her." (That's from the post Fifty Shades of Alice in Wonderland.) I think that's a great reason! Why make Christmas dinner any more uncomfortable than it has to be? ;)

6. You have the same name as a celebrity
There are lots of folks named Stephen King but only one of them can be published under that name--at least when it comes to works of fiction.

7. You think your book makes Dick and Jane seem intellectually stimulating
Dean writes that if you think your book is awful, publish it under a pen name and let readers decide. Although this advice makes me cringe, I think he's right. (And, of course, Dean has written hundreds of books and knows vastly more about publishing than I do!) I think that we can be our own worst critics. If the book doesn't sell, it doesn't sell. You gained valuable experience writing the book, and no will ever know you wrote it  ... not unless you tell them!

Okay, so, let's say you've decided to write under a pen name. You might have some questions.

- Do you have to keep the name a secret? Only if you want to. If you have a pen name because you don't want your family to find out you write erotica, then secrecy is probably a good idea, otherwise list your pen names on your website so your fans can find your other books.

- Do I have to have separate Twitter accounts, etc., for each of my identities? No! Dean advises setting up a static website for each identity so that your fans have somewhere to go to see what books you've written, how they can get in touch with you, etc., but you don't need to do social media for each identity, especially if the identity isn't secret. Just post the link to your blog and explain that you use a pen name.

- Should I get a separate domain name for each pen name? Yes! The more you use a pen name the higher it will rank in Google, etc., so someone else will buy it if you haven't. It's only about $10 a year, well worth the investment.

Dean's parting advice:
So when deciding about which name to publish a book or story under, think first of your readers.

Then think about your readers some more.

And then decide which name would be best for them. And which name you can live with the rest of your life.

And then have fun.
Sounds about right to me! You can read Dean Wesley Smith's article here: The New World of Publishing: Pen Names

Other articles you might like:
- Stephen King's Latest Book: A Face In The Crowd
- Are You Writing The Right Book? 5 Ways To Find Out
- Fifty Shades of Alice In Wonderland: Sales Peak At $1,000 Per Day

Photo credit:

Tuesday, September 13

Indie Success Story Bella Andre: Two pennames are better than one

In the past 18 months Bella Andre has self-published 12 books in two genres: spicy contemporary romance and sweet teen romance. Further, she has published under two different pen names: Bella Andre (erotic romance) and Lucy Kevin (sweet young adult romance).

Her key to success?
Diversification across genres and author brands.
Thanks to Joe Konrath, here is her incredible story:
In April 2010, I began e-publishing with two sexy, contemporary, backlist Bella Andre romances. After having a bit of unexpected success in those early months, I knew my chance had come to finally write the book my readers had been sending me emails about for five years. When LOVE ME did better than I ever imagined--Joe and I spoke on the phone last summer and I remember telling him I was shocked to have sold 1000+ copies of that book. He cheered!--I realized there was something to this whole e-reading business.

Of course I quickly went out and bought a Kindle and then a Nook later that fall and most recently an iPad. I released a couple more backlist books in October 2010 and then an original sequel to my Bad Boys of Football series that had been released through Pocket a few years back.

Amazingly, GAME FOR LOVE went to #28 at and was one of the top 5 erotic novels on Amazon for months at $5.99. This June 20th I launched a 8 book contemporary romance series about the Sullivan family with THE LOOK OF LOVE. It hit #19 on right out of the gate and has been a consistent Top 30 romance bestseller at Apple. Frankly, the whole thing continues to blow my mind.

Meanwhile, my husband had been watching my e-numbers rise for these self-published Bella Andre books and he kept saying, “Put out those fun chick lit books you wrote that no publisher ever bought!” Because I’d written them several years earlier, they needed significant rewrites, but I had always believed in the novels...and I like my husband to feel like I listen to him now and again. :) But since those books were very sweet (and snarky all at the same time), I knew they couldn’t be published as Bella Andre books.

Lucy Kevin came into being on a cold January morning in the Northern California wine country. Honestly, I figured 6 people would buy her books. To say that I was shocked when more than 25,000 people had downloaded SEATTLE GIRL and FALLING FAST by the end of February is a huge understatement. I released a third Lucy Kevin book in March titled SPARKS FLY.

The thing people are surprised to hear is that I didn’t draw from my existing Bella Andre readership for the Lucy Kevin books. In fact, until the Washington Post article came out, no one knew that Lucy and Bella were the same person, because I wasn’t sure the readerships would overlap between my teen-friendly books and my super-sexy romances. With the Lucy books I got to experience launching a new digital author--and building that readership--entirely from the ground up. It's been a lot of work, but I've loved trying to figure out what made people want to take a chance on a book. Heck, I’m still trying to figure that out :) and then find enough hours in the day to actually make it all happen!

Amazingly, here’s what happened--in some cases retailers were more excited to feature Lucy Kevin because the chick lit/sweet romance novels could reach a bigger mainstream audience. It simply didn’t seem to matter that no one had heard of Lucy Kevin. The fun, flirty covers (Oh, hello new graphic design skills I never thought I'd need!) seemed to draw people to the books and I’m guessing the $.99 to $2.99 price points helped, as well. Once I’d developed relationships with retailers via my Lucy books (I’m a “PubIt! Pro” for Barnes & Noble’s self-publishing wing), my recent launch of the more mainstream Bella Andre THE LOOK OF LOVE became even bigger and better.

But wait, that wasn't all Bella did. Besides being a writer and graphic artist she is a singer-songwriter. She writes:
I took things another step further in April when I decided to incorporate multimedia in my latest Lucy Kevin young-adult romance, GABRIELLE. In my previous career I was a singer-songwriter, so I wrote five original songs (rather, my songwriting heroine, Gabrielle, wrote them during the course of the story) and linked to them via Youtube and iTunes as an ebook package to create not only added value and excitement for my readers, but also another potential revenue stream.

Here's Bella's analysis of her success so far:
I really like not having to depend on one author name to maintain--and build--sales. Having two brands means I can build sales with new books while offsetting risks. We all know that diversifying our financial portfolios is a good money strategy. I’ve found that diversifying my e-book portfolio has not only been a good financial strategy, but as importantly, it had been a really lovely creative strategy, too.

So if you have a new idea or platform – if you want to try something completely different from what you’re doing now – I say go for it! Even if you think no one will be interested, the truth is that until you put your book out there, you'll never know.
Bella is an inspiration; a very talented inspiration! What she says about writing under more than one pen-name, or at least in more than one genre, rings true to me. As independent writers we aren't strangers to risk, why not try and reduce it?

Joe's comments are, as always, one of the best parts of his guest posts. To read the rest of his great blog post, click here.


Sunday, August 14

Google+ Forces Users to Reveal Real Names

At first blush, this may seem off topic for a blog about writing but what group of people use false names on a regular basis? That's right, we do. We call them pen names. Pseudonyms. We adopt them as part of our branding strategy, or because we want to keep our writing private from mother's and fathers, aunts and uncles, colleges and clients.

It seems that Google+'s policy of only allowing real names might make the service unusable for people who write under a pseudonym. That's too bad. Circles are great for sending information about ones different writing lines to only those people who would be interested in it.

- Google+ name policy 'frustrating,' Google confesses
- Use your real name or else. New social network will force Google+ users to identify themselves.. or leave the site
- Google’s Real Names Policy Is Evil
- “Real Names” Policies Are an Abuse of Power