Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pen Name Revisited

Well, if you were here on Monday, you saw that I'm thinking about a pen name for my women's fiction books.  Robynne Rand was the clear winner, with all the rest coming in a close second. I didn't realize Ann Coulter was who she was, so that name is definitely out of the running. (Although I wonder who would get more publicity out of that kind of book??)

Anyhoo, Anne R. Allen brought up a really interesting point -- about how I've already spent so much time building up my author name as my brand, and with my covers, and how long it's taken me to do this, then why would I want to start again from the bottom. And she's right.

However, here's my itch -- I know how I felt when I found out Lisa Kleypas (of Regency romance fame) wrote a contemporary romance, and used her own name. I wigged out. Yeah, I did. I don't know why, but I did. I did read her contemporary stuff, and truth to tell, I didn't like it all that much. It was a good book, I guess, (It was a long time ago, I really don't remember it all that well.) but I know it definitely wasn't her finest hour. I don't know if I was expecting something else, if it had to do with the publisher, the editor, or what, but I didn't like it. The sad thing is, I haven't read anything else by her.

Which isn't fair, but that's how I feel.

The same thing happened with Susan Wiggs. I loved her historicals. I hated her contemporaries.

Now these are just two authors that I know of. And I'm not saying it's a bad thing to want to branch out, hey, I'm all for it. It's just that once you brand yourself to a particular genre, you should keep the name that made you famous, and if you want to write something else, then you should change your name. I mean, what if Stephen King wrote romances under Stephen King? He'd probably get laughed at by some people. And other people wouldn't read it. Because it's not what he's known for. But I bet if he wrote under Stephanie Kingston, then nobody would know or even care.

Because I don't know about you, but I just read an authors' name and don't even wonder who they really are. I had absolutely no idea that Nora Roberts and J.D.Robb were the same person. Honest. That goes for a half dozen other authors too.  They brand themselves and as far as I'm concerned, that's what they write under that particular name.

Which is where I'm waffling. I've made a successful branding of my name, Anne Gallagher, to my Regency romances, right? And for however many fans I have, that's what they expect of me. Regency romances that are exceedingly sweet, and predictable, with just enough twists and turns to make you really wonder if the hero and heroine are actually going to make it to their happily ever after.

Now suppose, I released a book about a rape victim, incest survivor, and a wife-beater? Do you think I'd lose some of my Regency fans? Especially if there were f-bombs and gruesome beatings, and full on rape scenes? (I mean, not that I am going to release that kind of book, I don't have it in me to even THINK about writing something like that.) But I mean, can you get my drift here?

So my question to you is -- Do you think that authors who brand themselves in one genre, should rebrand themselves in another? Or do you think it's possible to keep your same name and be successful in both?

21 comments:

Laura Pauling said...

What I've seen other authors do is use a variation of their name and have a tab for it on their website. So readers know there is a difference in rand but they also know it's you.

If you let readers know and signify that with a slight change up in name, then they will be prepared and you can still use your platform.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Not sure! You could ask Elizabeth Craig at Mystery Writing is Murder about it. She also writes under the name Riley Adams.

Em-Musing said...

This is just my personal take - I think you need two brands. It will take more effort, but if your two genres are worlds apart, I don't know if it's wise to combine them under one name. F.Y.I...I'm in Mexico now full-time and working on getting my retreat built.

Jessica Bell said...

I have two words for you. James Patterson ;o)

Talli Roland said...

Oh yikes, what a question. Okay. Well, my quick answer is that if the genres are really different, then yes. But I don't see contemporary and historical fiction as being contrary - they could work together. It's a tough one, Anne!I don't think there's one clear answer.

Linda G. said...

I like the idea of having different names for different genres. It's fine (probably even good) if it's no secret you're the same person, but I think it's a good way to let the reader know what they're in for, especially if one name is already heavily branded in one area.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

It depends. Will your contemporary works maintain that underlying sweetness, or will they be more edgy? A change in time frame won't make much difference in brand if the stories themselves are similar. If the differences are so great than you can't imagine both kinds of books appealing to the same audience, then a pen name might be a good way to go.

Yvonne Osborne said...

I think you should keep your own name and write what is in you to write without worrying whether Aunt Martha will be offended. IMVHO, you should write what you are compelled to write and credit yourself, Anne Gallagher, with the ideas and craftsmanship.

Laurel Garver said...

I think your logic of branding and reader expectation make perfect sense. I have ended up put off writers who experimented here and there. Had they published the outlier book under another name, I wouldn't have approached it with expectations that it would be similar in tone or subject to the rest of their oeuvre.

Matthew MacNish said...

I completely agree. If I ever get published, and I want to switch genres, I'll use a different name.

Johanna Garth said...

I like Laura Paulings suggestion. I've seen that done quite a bit too.

Anne Gallagher said...

Thanks everyone for your thoughtful input. I'm sorry I can't respond to you all individually because you all make such great points...Monster just got back from the dentist (had a tooth pulled) and I need to make mashed potatoes). Hopefully I'll get back here sometime later this afternoon.

You've all given me a lot more to think about.

Donna Hole said...

My personal take is that readers don't limit themselves to only one genre, why should authors. And, the genre's you are writing in fit in basically the same shelf category. They are not so far apart.

But you gotta do what makes you happy with yourself Anne.

I have several authors I will read some stuff and not others (Piers Anthony comes to mind as he writes in pure sci-fi, pure fantasy, and then sometimes mixes them.) And Stephen King has written several romances - they just take on a more mystery flavor than horror.

Good luck with your name picking. Sounds like you've got your work cut out for you there.

.......dhole

KarenG said...

If I had to do it over, I'd write under a pen name-- but now that I have 3 books out under my name, I tend to agree with Anne. Still, sometimes I wonder...

Shelley Sly said...

I like the name Robynne Rand. It's pretty.

I think your other commenters made great suggestions. My personal take is that if you feel like the content in the two genres you write are vastly different, then write under a pen name. However, like some people mentioned, just because it's a different name doesn't mean they have to be totally distinct in terms of networking. You can save yourself work and have both pen names on the same website. Ultimately, it's up to you. Best of luck!

Jamie D. said...

I'm happy with the choice to write under separate names for each genre. I still mention my other names when a new book comes out, but my readers know what to expect from each, so it's easier on them to know what they might/might not like from me.

Yes, it's more work to build two (or more) brands, and it takes longer. But personally, I do think it's better in the long run.

Sarah Ahiers said...

yeah i don't really know. I can see both sides of the coin and i'm not sure there's an easy answer

DL Hammons said...

I'm in favor of two different names in two different genre's. If you hit the big time in one, you can always take advantage of being linked to the alter-ego later.

Nicki Elson said...

I was thinking exactly what Laura Pauling said as I was reading your post - another name somewhat related that will set the genres apart but still be related and connected at your website and such. Like Annie Gallagher...okay, no, that's terrible, but something along those lines. Hmm, what about initials - A.R.Gallagher or something?

Hope the lil' monster's feeling better. We've been going soft here too as my mini-me just got her braces tightened. :(

Anne R. Allen said...

You know I'm going to agree with Yvonne and Donna. Sibel Hodge writes chick lit mysteries and just came out with a very dark novel on human trafficking and it's selling just fine. The industry is changing. Personal brand names matter more when you're not with a trad. publisher's brand.

But I do hear what the commenters are saying. As readers, they want a signal that this book will be different from the regencies. I think Niki's solution is brilliant: A. R. Gallagher would keep your brand name but show it's a slightly different product. Like L'Oreal Preference vs. L'Oreal Excellence. Both ways, you're worth it. :-)

jbchicoine said...

Oh, I do like A.R. Gallagher--it sounds so very contemporary.