Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Should I use a different pen name for different genres?

I need your advice. I will soon publish a YA action adventure ebook and I’d like everyone’s opinion on whether or not I should use a different pen name.
My YA book is for anyone 12+ years of age. Very kid friendly, no swearing or suggestiveness, etc.
My Derek J Canyon cyberpunk books have excessive violence (but no gore), suggestive scenes (but no explicit sex), cursing, adult themes, and a high body count. The protagonist is an anti-hero and a criminal, and most everyone in the stories are criminal scumbags.
If I used the same pen name, fans of the YA book would probably also buy the cyberpunk books. I don’t think that parents would appreciate their child reading my YA book and then reading my cyberpunk books, which are not aimed at kids.
On the other hand, I will lose cross-sales if I use different pen names. I can point my cyberpunk fans to my YA books. However, I won’t publicize that my YA author is also the author of the cyberpunk books. So, I might lose some sales.
Then, there are the logistics of 2 pen names. I’ll have to create double Facebook, Twitter, websites, etc.
So, do you think two pen names is a problem?
Has anyone else used two or more pen names?
Has anyone else used one name for two incompatible genres?
(If you want to review my YA book, you can read the first three chapters here.)


  1. I don't think that the cross over is that dramatic. I would keep the same name.

    From what I have read, it is a lot of extra work to not only create all the social networking sites under the new name, but to also keep them current and build a whole new platform. As long as you are clear in your description "This is an adult book" or this is "YA", you should be fine.

    Angeline Kace

  2. I can vouch for using the same name in different genres. For example I have two books dealing with communication and psychology ( Pop Psychology ) and two books dealing with submission wrestling ( The Lazy Man's Guide to Grappling ). These are vastly different subjects but there has never been any problem.

    I believe that the majority of my readers do not know the others exist. What is funny is that the sub. wrestling books took less time to write and didn't require any research beyond my own general knowledge and they sell more than all of my other books.

  3. Check out the Australian author Marianne de Pierres, she writes Cyberpunk and SciFi, light hearted crime and has recently written a Paranormal YA series. She uses Marianne Delacourt for her crime work.

  4. The problem is that most readers *will* know other books by an author exist. In fact, right now Bakari's wrestling books are showing up on the recommended reading lists of Amazon customers who bought his psych book. ;) It's the way the referral system works - if you buy a book by an author, other books by that author will tend to start showing up on your recommendations.

    That means it CAN be an issue. If you write nothing but hard, gritty SF and suddenly start writing a bunch of steamy romances, your readers might get confused. ;) I'm hearing a lot of folks suggest you stop that by using different names.

    Konrath uses multiple names, but he makes most of them known. If you read one of his pen names, you can actually look up the other pen names, and then buy those books IF you want. But they're not force fed to you by a computer program!

    You could even make the pen name YOUR name, modified. So I could write my SF&F under Kevin O. McLaughlin, but modern thrillers under Kevin Owen (first and middle name) and romances under K. McLaughlin (gender neutral name via initial).

    Just saying. ;)

    Another side advantage to using pen names, though: your publishing house (you DID register a business name, right?) begins to take on more life. It's not one author publishing his own stuff anymore... If you use distinct names, it's two or three authors publishing under a single business name. That actually lends you an extra element of credibility in some circles. And if the axe ever comes down at big sites on self-publishing, the folks who have spun their self-publishing into real small press publishers are going to be the ones who continue being able to produce.

    Might never happen. But it never hurts to plan ahead.

    The downside is that you kill the ability of your readers to find some of your new material. Part of Ms. Hocking's success has to do with having nine titles out. That's big - people find her, read a book, like it, and can read eight more books by her. More books out is a powerful boost to sales.

    If you're only producing four books per year under two names, suddenly each of those author names is off the "released in last 90 days" listing for half the year, where if it was all under one name, those books could be spaced to stay on the list full time. So the more prolific you are, the more pen names make sense, I think.

  5. I've had the same concerns, Derek. PJ Lincoln is my pen name and I intend to write Christian-related fiction and a memoir. I have a lot of other ideas for stories that aren't Christian-related that I thought about publishing under my real name.

    The only problem with that is, I'm in the process of legally creating "PJ's Books's, LLC." To protect my real identity, then, I couldn't publish under real name under PJ's Books.

    Eventually, I may have two LLCs and publish a title or two under PJ and under my real name. We'll see.

    Good luck.

  6. Great question Derek. I'd vote on the side of keeping the same name. I understand your concerns about the different audiences--especially with YA. But like you said, you'd lose potential crossover sales and you'd have to double your social media efforts.

    I'm finishing up my third YA novel using my real name. Will stick with it for adult novels when the time comes.

    If you were writing more explicit stuff, it would be a different story. Derek Canyon's got a nice ring to it.


  7. I'm using three names currently - my real one (which I'm commenting under) for romantic suspense/adventure, and I'm establishing two pen names (one of which will have a first story out next month). While it is a bit of work, I don't hide my pen names - but when I mention them as myself, I always mention the genre with them, so that my regular readers don't get confused. That allows crossover to occur, but also keeps a clear delineation between genres.

    I bring them all together under my micro-press, Brazen Snake Books so there's a unifying brand for people who read cross-genre, and also to have a professional storefront for marketing purposes.

    You can do as much or as little as you want with them, really. I have platforms (albeit small) set up for both my pen names, but it's not necessary. I like the separation though, personally.

  8. Thanks, all! You've been very helpful and there's a lot of good info there. Now I'm leaning toward one pen name, and just putting a disclaimer on the adult stories.

  9. Anybody who has followed my short writing career may have noticed that I show up as my full name, with my first and middle initials, and sometimes I comment using my wordpress profile. On the cover of my book, Belvoir, I use my initials. My reason for this has more to do with my fulltime employment.

    But I have also written a novella that has a different feel from Belvoir, and I've been wondering the same thing. Should I use a pen name. Recently, I have decided that I won't. I'm just going to try to let people know that these are different types of books with different types of writing styles.

    Your dilemma, however, seems a bit different because your are writing for both adults and YAs. I just feel like having more than one name would be too much for me to handle.

  10. I can tell you from experience that it's a HUGE amount of work writing under multiple names. I've followed Konrath's example in making my alter-egos publicly available. Those who go to my blog and read my profiles can find my other work. Otherwise, those who grab my latest thriller might never see my latest middle-grade fantasy... and that's probably for the best.

  11. PJ, just curious - if you're considering using a pen name, why use "PJ's Books" as the LLC name? Why not some fictional name instead? If you did that, you could have the PJ name, and any other names you used, all under the same publishing house.

  12. I'm with KevinMc -- go with a pen name, but make it well known. When the YA's turn into A's, they'll be more likely to seek out your other books...


  13. Derek - I would advise keeping everything under one name. It will simplify your life. Also, like stated above, just make sure you explain genre and age range in the description. Another plus for one name? Many adults read YA books and various genres, too.

  14. I like Keven Mc's idea of different forms of the same name for different genre. That way there is one person, but a clear indication the reader is switching genre. That would allow facebook/twitter and other social media to be one constant.

    But by having two authors (of the same name, but different variations), would keep YA from finding DDDD until they're old enough for the book.


  15. Short version: I wouldn't bother.

    Long version on my blog:

  16. Your DDDD books are pretty clearly identified as gritty, violent adult fiction. There shouldn't be any problems with people mistakenly buying those after buying the YA fiction. Rather I'd expect the other way around, since you've already built a fan-base of cyberpunk fans that might mistakenly buy the YA fiction expecting more stories in that vein.

  17. Opps, signed in as wrong account above. But I think it's best to skip the multiple pen names at this point, unless you decide to start writing dwarven porn.

  18. Ed, thanks for the lengthy post on your blog! As I said there, I'm leaning against another pen name.

    VC, hehe! No current plans to branch out in that direction.

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