Nom de Plume or Not?
This is one question many authors have to struggle with when they are getting ready to publish. Funny thing is, there is no right or wrong answer. It truly is an individual preference. There are many established authors who will be ADAMANT you use a pen name, especially in the romance genres. Some may even call you an idiot if you don't have one. Yes, I was called that when one author found out that Tammy Dennings Maggy was my real name at the time. (I've since remarried). It ticked me off to have someone call me stupid because I chose to stick with my own name, but then I had to put myself in the other author's shoes. She wasn't saying it to belittle me. She was trying, in her very rude and crass way, to protect me. Why? To keep my private life separate from my writer life? Maybe. The main reason was to protect me from potential stalkers.
Now while this may be a very valid concern and a very big one for romance writers in the 80's, I'm here to tell you from personal experience, stalkers come in all shapes, sizes and varieties. They don't just go after those in the spotlight. They stalk every day people. I have been a victim of such a person. He grew very attached to me as his dog's veterinarian. It got to the point he was sending me flowers almost daily and flipping out if I was on my day off and not there at his beck and call.
He decided to take matters into his own hands and followed me home one afternoon. I had stopped into the veterinary hospital for a staff meeting. He once again brought flowers for me. Unfortunately one of the staff mistakenly told him I would be there that afternoon, and she would be sure I got his gift.
Instead of being happy with that, he waited in the parking lot until the meeting was over and followed me home. Lucky for me, two of my neighbors were home when I pulled in my driveway and he was scared off. Needless to say, I had a police escort for a bit until my stalker moved out of state. I was not a published author then, just a veterinarian.
Like myself, many of my author friends write erotica and erotic romance...what their friends and family refer to as smut. If I had a dollar for every time a member of my own family said that, I would be able to retire as a veterinarian and devote all of my time to writing. Sigh. A girl can dream can't she?
If you don't want your family, friends, members of your church or PTA find out what you write, then create that alternate personality and let the words flow. The most important thing here is that you follow your dream. If it means you create another name for yourself, DO IT!
Will you write in more than one genre?
The advice of many publishers these days, is to keep separate pen names for each genre you decide to explore in your writing. I can see the questions forming in your minds already. "Wouldn't that make it harder to build up a following and market my name?" Not really.
When you are first starting out, you want your name to be associated with your work. If you write young adult fiction, you want your new fans to be able to find you easily and not pick up books written by you in other genres. Quite a few readers are very fickle. If they like your style, they will expect more books from you in that particular genre. If you zip around and try first sweet romance and then your next book using the same pen name is say a horror novel, you are going to turn off some of those readers you fought hard for in the beginning.
Readers aren't stupid. They will read the covers and descriptions of your books...usually. More often than not, once they get hooked on you, they will grab anything and everything you write under that name, BUT...and that's a big but, if you give them something that turns them off they just may stay away from any more new material from you. For example, quite a few readers who love M/M romances are completely turned off if they find their favorite author has written a M/F romance. I had one such person tag my book For the Love of Quinn as "no thanks" simply because it was M/F and she only read M/M. Why even bother to tag the book you ask? Because she can and it's her way of making it known that she would try my work if it fell into the genres she enjoyed.
So do yourself a favor and use a separate pen name for each genre you wish to explore. I currently have three pen names. As Tammy Dennings Maggy I wrote M/F and F/F erotic romances and poetry. Within those genres I've dabbled in contemporary, paranormal and vampire subgenres. I write M/M and menage erotic romances in those same subgenres as Lia Michaels. Stephanie Ryan is my chosen pen name to write mainstream sweet romances, young adult fiction, and mainstream fiction. Stephanie has control of a few of my old works in progress and a new one called The Do Over where the heroine gets a chance to go back in time, knowing what she knows now, to relive part of her past. I could easily use this same idea and turn it into an erotic romance, but that's not the way my muse is directing me.
Would I want someone under 18 years of age to pick up something written by Lia? Hell no! Would I want to face the wrath of their parents? No frickin' way! It's bad enough under aged kids get their hands on explicit adult materials. I'll be damned if I'm going to make it any easier for those inquiring minds. If you are known for writing young adult fiction and suddenly turn out a GLBT erotic romance, will you be willing to take the backlash?
Remember the hoopla over Judy Blume's coming of age novel Forever and then her adults only book Wifey? No? Look into that when you get the chance and you'll know what I mean. Ms. Blume was well-known for her children's books so when the new ones came out, many parents automatically allowed their kids to read them just because of name recognition. Get the picture now?
Isn't it too much work?
It's all in how you look at it. Yes it means more work for you overall. Nowadays, authors are expected to do the majority of their own promotions. Next week I'll talk more about that, but let's just say in order to get your name out there and be seen, this takes the form of Twitter, Facebook, Google+, websites and blogs just to name a few. For each pen name you should have these things. The more times your pen name is out there, the more likely someone will find you and your work.
Now once you have an established following, if you wish to combine some of those things, then by all means do so. Personally, I'm finding keeping those all separate works best for me right now. I don't keep it a secret I use multiple pen names (obviously), but it helps me, and those who follow me, keep each group of story lines separate.
Again, it's all up to you and your muse.
Take home message
As a writer, it's more important that you stay true to yourself then take one person's advice as gospel. Listen to those who've come before you. Take their advice to heart, and do what works best for you. Pen name or not, your work is your own. Stand up and be proud of it. Work at it daily. Listen to the constructive criticism. Learn from it all so you can be the best storyteller you can be.
Let your Muse be your guide. After all, it's not the name that's on the cover of the book that's important, it's what fills the pages inside that will grab the reader and take them on a wild ride.
See you next week!
Two other authors are participating with me this week. Here are the links to their websites. Go ahead and stop in and find out what they have to say.