Wednesday, May 16, 2018

What's In A Name?

by Janis Patterson

As predictably as the seasons, every so often the writers' eloops explode with The Great Pseudonym Question. Someone - usually a newbie - asks whether or not they should use different names for different genres, have separate websites and social media feeds, etc. The answers are all over the place, from yes and no to certainly and most definitely not. And there are good reasons for just about every answer.

My answer? A definite 'It depends...'

Whether or not to use a pseudonym is an intensely personal decision, but it's not all about you. You have to think of your reader. If you write middle grade fiction and hot erotic romance, I say you definitely need a pseudonym, as well as separate websites and social media accounts! Your readers are drawn from two vastly different populations. Can you just imagine what would happen if your middle grade reader, anxious to learn about the new adventures of your heroine Sweetie McNice as she navigates the politics of Prettytown Summer Camp, picks up (on the basis of your author name) the new book featuring Stormy McSexy who happily sets about seducing every guy in the police department to try to get the attention of the new detective? It doesn't bear thinking about - especially the reaction of the parents. You definitely need a pseudonym there, for your protection if not the kiddos'!

I believe an author name is an essential part of branding. I use pseudonyms to delineate my different books - none of which are overtly sexy, except one. I was coerced into writing that by a former publisher, but by today's standards it's pretty close to mainstream, so I leave it under my romance name. (In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that when in desperate need of quick money a couple of years ago I wrote a few full-blown erotics. Needless to say, I used a pseudonym which shall remain forever known only to me and God, and God better not tell anyone what it is, because I certainly won't!)

As I bore easily I write in a variety of genres. I write romance and horror (odd combination and a long story, but I believe the covers will be guide enough for the reader) as Janis Susan May, traditional mysteries as Janis Patterson, children's as Janis Susan Patterson and scholarly and non-fiction as JSM Patterson. I make no secret that all of the above are me, even to having just one website and one social media account. It just makes things easier, which is great, as it leaves more time for writing. Which I should be doing now.

So - everyone says your name is your brand, but to brand efficiently - and to be fair to your readers - think carefully about whether you need a pseudonym or not. It's your decision, but as I said above, you have to think about your readers as well.


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I use my name, Marilyn Meredith for my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series and F M Meredith for my Rocky Bluff P.D. series--both are my real names. That has seemed to work for me.

Marilyn Levinson said...

I use a pseudonym for my new series at the request of my publisher. Most people know that Allison Brook is Marilyn Levinson. I, too, write in different genres, but use my real name for both.

Sandy Cody said...

An interesting question. I use Sandra Carey Cody, including my maiden name because my love of stories comes from growing up in a story-telling family. Most of them, with tongue firmly in cheek, passed their stories off as true. I admit mine are fiction.

Linda Kane said...

Good Morning,
I use L Lee Kane for my adult books and Linda Lee Kane for my children's and YA books.
Interesting blog. Thank you


Jacqueline Seewald said...

When I write from a male perspective, usually short stories, I use "J. P. Seewald" rather than Jacqueline. However, THE BURNING, my novella for Annorlunda, uses J. P. as well and did not get the attention my novels draw. So perhaps branding is preferable.

Christa Nardi said...

I'm posting under my pseudonym - I also publish nonfiction in an academic environment. It would confuse readers of fiction and readers of nonfiction if both popped up together. Imagine pulling up a text book on neurotoxicity and a cozy mystery... I also have written under another pen name initially when I wrote with someone else and she didn't want to have two authors' names on the books and the pseudonym for those books is sort of a combination of your names. For the next series with someone else, we just use our pseudonyms and show two authors... That seems to work okay.

Jacqueline Diamond said...

Early in my career (in the 1980s), I used my real name, Jackie Hyman, on mysteries and fantasy, and a pseudonym, Jacqueline Diamond (Diamond is my middle name) on romances. Over the years, however, the number of romance novels vastly outnumbered everything else. By the time I regained rights to my early books and reissued them as ebooks, I decided to use Jacqueline Diamond on all of them. My current mystery series, The Safe Harbor Medical Mysteries, is published under Jacqueline Diamond. My advice? Stick to one name unless there's a strong reason (e.g., erotica vs. YA or inspirational) for separating your readerships.

Barbara said...

When I added cozy mysteries to my repertoire of contemporary romances, I debated the name thing for about a minute and then decided to stick with Barbara Barrett. I didn't think readers would be confused.

Barbara Barrett