Thursday, February 12, 2009

What's in a Name?

Good day to you, Pink Thinkers! I’m so happy you could make it to the blog today. Watching the site bloom from a seed of thought since January has been a joy for me, and I truly appreciate all of you. (My fellow Pink Ladies included!)

Being that it’s my turn to blog, of course I wanted to come up with something interesting to write about. I thought about it, and considered doing something cute on the best masculine bodies Hollywood has to offer (sorry, couldn’t resist a little eye candy).

But, after a short deliberation, I chucked the puff piece idea for something more relevant, something that’s been nagging at me and rolling around in my head for awhile now.

Out of the masses of authors available in the publishing world, there are basically two kinds. Those who stick staunchly to one genre, and those who dally, dipping their lil' toesies into different genre pools to check the depth and temperature of the waters.

Myself, I’m fond of dalliance, not quite able to tie myself down to just one genre. I find myself volleying back and forth between my first love, the English/Scottish historical, and the tempting lure of my new flame, the darkly sensual contemporary paranormal.

Don’t look at me like that. I know what you’re thinking. But I’m not the only one who can’t seem to practice genre monogamy! More and more authors seem to be strapping on unique nom de plumes and pasting them boldly onto the covers of a shiny new genres…most prevalently – erotica.

Even mega-author Nora Roberts has jumped onto the multi-genre bandwagon, penning futuristic romantic suspense novels under the pseudonym J. D. Robb. And, from what I understand, Jayne Ann Krentz has slipped into not one, but two other alter identities, also writing as Amanda Quick and Jayne Castle.

Nora and Jayne bring me face to face with my latest writing dilemma…taking on multiple pseudonyms. To name or not to name, that is the question. Most authors (or rather most of the ones I know) are writing under pen names. When they decide to experiment with a second genre, many of them are taking on yet another identity.

I’ve toyed with this idea until it’s so muddled I can’t make up my mind what I want to do. Should I take on another pen name to go with my paranormals?

Is it really easier for readers to discern exactly what they’re getting if I go with a different name that’s specific to my paranormal work, or should I just trust that even though they all have Tracy Preston on the cover, readers can flip them over, read the blurb, and decide whether or not they want to read it?

Do all the names just get confusing and more difficult for readers to keep up with who’s who?

I’d love to hear some opinions on this subject from both authors and readers!

Posted By: Tracy Preston


Magdalena Scott said...


My guess is you'd be better off with a separate name for your other genre. That way you can build a brand for [author name] which will benefit you, and make it easier for the reader.

Taryn Raye said...

If you were to do paranormal historical I would say no because a lot of times they can go hand in hand, but if you're wanting to do contemporary paranormal then a pen name might be a good idea, like Magdalena said. That way you can "brand" yourself in a different genre and your readers will know what they're getting from you under each name.

Emma Lai said...

Two different hats for this one. As a writer, I'd say if you're trying something out and don't want to "risk" your known pen name on it or if it's in a completely different category like erotica to young adult then new pen name please. As a reader, I find it very frustrating trying to keep track of a multitude of pen names for an author. I tend to follow author's because of their writing style not their story type.

Vickie said...

I'd say, after thinking on it long and hard, that I agree with using a different name for a different genre. Once its established, you can always connect it to your other one, and your readers will know you're both.

If you get frustrated by it all, just take a breath and "think pink".

Tracy Preston - Romance Writer said...

Magdalena and Taryn -- Thanks for your input. I know a second pen name can make it easier for readers to differentiate between writing styles, and I can see why some authors make the decision to use it. In a lot of ways it makes sense.

Emma - Your point about the multitudes of pen names and the frustration of trying to keep up with them is exactly what's been bugging me about the whole thing. You also said you read for writing style and not genre, which is another thing I keep coming back to. If readers like my voice, it should bring them back no matter what type of story it is -- unless they just flat out hate paranormals or historicals. And if that were the case, couldn't they just turn the book over and say, "Oh, I don't like that kind...maybe I'll wait for the next one." ??

It just seems to me as a new writer I would want to build a fan base with just one name before I go expanding and become TWO unknown authors to try and build a reputation for... Hmmmmm...

Kytaira said...

I'm in favor of two different names.

I don't think it's as difficult for readers to know both names now as in the past. Now readers go to writer's web sites, shelfarie, Library Thing and various other sites that link author's names for you. I use Byron and alternative names are automatically shown.

Teresa Reasor said...

Good blog. And I love the eye candy.
I too toyed with the idea of a pen name when I first started writing. I decided on Tessa Daniel, which doesn't sound anything at all like me. But when it came right down to it, I went with my own name because I had already built a readership with people in my home town and neighboring areas with my children's book and I was afraid they wouldn't know who I was if I went with a pen name.
I think the pen name thing is different for those people who are published with big publishers and those of us who have been picked up by a small press.
If you have national distribution it doesn't matter what name you write under if the reader likes the cover art, the blurb, and the writing style of the first few pages, you'll make a sell. Then you build a readership with the next book, the next, and the next.
Then you wouldn't have to depend on your selling network to sell books either.
So, for now I'll stick with my own name because, it may be an ego thing, but I love seeing my name on the cover of my books.
But if I sell to a national publisher, I won't care who they want to publish my books under, I'm there.
Write on,
Teresa R.

Maddie James said...

Like Teresa, I think it depends on if you've built a readership, and also how different the genres are. Sometimes choosing a different pen name could have nothing to do with the genre business at all -- perhaps it is to protect yourself because of a day job, etc. There could be instances where an author might not want the conflict of writing erotica because of another profession. I heard recently of an erotica author who was having difficulty in her library job because of opinions by the library board. I've decided to go with two pen names and when I did, I drew (for myself) a distinct line between what Maddie writes and what Mia writes. I think the readers will "get" that distinction, too. At first I just left them separate but as time goes one, I've been a little more open with their connection. As more Mia books come out, I'm just not gonna sweat it. I think for me, knowing the difference when I write is important. When I write Mia, I'm a different person than when I write Maddie.

Hmmmm... please don't analyze that!

Great post, Tracy.

Devon Matthews said...

Tracy, for what it's worth, going with several different pen names may be a mistake at this point. Like Teresa said, unless you have mass distribution, you will be selling your book(s) on a local level (not counting the casual traffic on Amazon and elsewhere who will buy your book and don't really care who you are).

When I contracted my book, I chose to go with the pen name I had decided on on the spur of the moment. I've always thought my real name unattractive. But going with a pen name at this point was probably a mistake. Most people around the area where I live don't know who Devon Matthews is and will never make the connection. Many of my relatives remain unaware that I have a book because they don't recognize the name. If I ever get picked up by a big publisher, it won't matter what name I use. But for now, not having a recognizable name has (maybe) knocked me out of sales. I'm such a recluse, no one in my neighborhood even knows I write. But I'll betcha if they knew I had a book out there, they'd buy a copy out of curiosity, if for no other reason.

Here's also a little something I NEVER saw coming. Even though my pseudo is very special to me, (it's my children's names) not having my real name on the cover created some sort of distance between me and my own book. It's like it belongs to someone else. I know that sounds weird, but it's true. I've often wondered if others out there have ever felt this way.


Best of luck with whatever you decide to do. :o)

Tracy Preston - Romance Writer said...

Hey Devon...great to hear from you.

Tracy Preston is actually a pseudonym. Although I haven't lost anything by using it because Tracy is really my first name, so looking down at that book, I still feel it's mine.

I HAD to use a pseudonym because my real last name is the absolute most UNromantic word you've ever heard -- lol. It had to go!

But the more I think about it, the more I'm leaning away from a 2nd pen name. If I were delving into erotica, I would definitely use one, but a paranormal isn't THAT far removed from what I write. It is still my voice.

At this point, despite everyone's great advice (which I totally appreciated!), I think I'm going to stick with Tracy Preston for now...

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