Some writing experts say your name as a writer is your brand. Readers come to expect a certain kind of book from you. They expect me to write paranormal mysteries. They expect Diane Vallere to write cozies and love fashion.
These writing experts say that if you’re to going to write something really different to use a pen name. So if I’m going to write say contemporary women’s fiction, they think I should do it under a pen name.
Hugh Howey just recently blogged about how marvelous it is to be an indie writer. He said he had an idea for a story, wrote it, edited it, and put it up on the e-sites—all in one day. He said being indie allows him to write anything he wants—in any genre. He doesn’t use a different name to write in a different genre. He’s, after all, Hugh Howey, best-selling author of Wool. Readers want to read the next thing Hugh Howey wrote, and they don’t much seem to care what genre it is.
On the other hand, best-selling billionaire (or is it millionaire now?) J.K. Rowling uses the pen name Robert Galbraith to write her detective series. Why? Well, we can be sure she’s not using a male name to gain readers, but maybe she first used initials to gain more clout in the publishing world. Maybe she did it for the same reason Doris Lessing put out two novels under a pen name—to see how her writing would be received minus the fame. There is a certain pleasure in voyeurism—watching to see what people say about your work from the safe distance of a pseudonym. If readers find your work, that is.
The advantage to keeping the same name is that the more books you write using it, the more you’ll pop up in the search engines. And then there’s the mysterious algorithms on Amazon and other places that somehow magically catapult your titles to the top after you’ve reached some certain number. (Yeah, I don’t quite understand it.) Perhaps it’s worth it to keep the same name.
What do you think? To pen name or not to pen name—that is the question.