Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Word Witch Wednesday - pen name vs. real name


I've been meaning to do this for a while, but I've fallen behind with my writing schedule. Where has this year gone? I had hoped to have two books out for my pen name and two for me, but I've only gotten one out for each. So this comparison will be based just on this year.

I decided to write under a pen name with a specific audience in mind hoping it would be easier to market. And it was.

Pen name: reverse harem fantasy romance (RHFR)
Me: paranormal romance and urban fantasy (short stories of every genre)

It is easier to market a very specific genre if you know where to find your audience. I knew exactly where the RHFR audience was and what they liked.

It is so much more difficult to market yourself as an author if you write multiple genres.

Romance is one of the easiest genres to promote, because the readers aren't so discerning and eat up books fast. Urban fantasy and speculative fiction are difficult, because readers are very discerning and take their time with books.

Pen name: markets primarily on Facebook and with a newsletter
Me: Facebook, Twitter, a blog, and a newsletter

The RHFR audience is found mainly on Facebook. There are lots of groups with huge followings, and they spread their favorite reads by word of mouth like lightning. Promotion takes very little time each day. (Ten minutes usually.)

I spend way too long every weekday promoting myself. Usually it takes my entire morning. (Three hours.) I tell myself to cut back to an hour, but I feel guilty when I do. I also feel much of what I do does not make a difference, and I'm only nurturing the audience I already have. Which is important, but finding new readers is just as vital, and I don't seem to be having much luck in that area. I'm struggling with finding a way to do so.

Pen name: story is fun, light, full of tropes, and doesn't involve much thinking
Me: story is dark, snarky, twisting tropes, and full of thoughtful things

Readers love my pen name's debut novel. It has a strong heroine and involves a mix of myths. I purposely wrote it with popular romance tropes laid on thick. It was exactly what readers wanted.

My books, well, strong heroines and myths, but I try to twist around tropes. Is that why I have very little success?

Pen name: I had fun writing the book. It was easy and quick.
Me: I have fun writing my own books too. None are easy and only a few were quick.

While I did enjoy writing romance filled with tropes, it wasn't as fulfilling in the way writing my own books is. Writing my dark urban fantasy, every story challenges me. I believe with each book, I become a better writer because I push myself through these challenges.

I have considered just writing for my pen name as she has enjoyed more financial success, but I'm concerned that doing so would not help me grow as a writer. I have known some authors who started writing under pen names, and when they achieved success with them, they abandoned their own names. They also abandoned writing what they love. The quality of their stories has not gotten better, and in a few cases, it has gotten worse.

Lessons learned:
- writing and marketing toward a very specific audience is a good strategy.
- readers want the popular tropes. Don't be afraid to use them.
- some promotion is needed to the genre specific audience. (I have to cut back on the time I spend on it.)
- write what you love, even if it's not making you a best seller.

I will continue to write for my pen name. It's a nice change between the darker stuff I write for me. Yet it won't be my main focus. I still want to go the dark urban fantasy route. I know I've chosen the more difficult road. And I don't know where it will go, or if I will even get close to the dreams I have for myself, but the journey so far has been wonderful. I can't wait to see what else it has in store for me.

I'm curious about other writers' experiences with writing under two different names. Please share in the comments below.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends and family. I'll be back in December for the IWSG!

15 comments:

  1. You've learned what many authors don't - write for a specific market and one that is hungry for books. Your pen name books can now fund your other books.

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  2. Thanks for sharing all of this, Christine. I still don't know how you manage to do all you do. :)

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  3. It is a hard decision to choose between the name making money and the books that may be a bit more fulfilling. I think you can still do both.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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    1. Thank you, Cherie! Happy Thanksgiving to you too.

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  4. Hi Christine - what an interesting post ... and I'm sure will help other writers and inspire them to branch out ... loved reading it - well done - cheers and enjoy Thanksgiving - Hilary

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    1. I hope so. Thanks, Hilary! Have a lovely week. :)

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  5. I haven't written under two names, but I can definitely sympathize. I wrote my first Regency romance novel quickly as a bit of fluff after having labored over a couple much denser novels. But the Regency has been my best seller--largely because that audience is easier to find.

    Now, as I rewrite "Hamlette," I'm planning to self-publish it, but probably under a different name. I already write too many genres under my name, no need to cloud things further. We'll see how that goes.

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  6. Wow, fascinating. Sorry to hear the stories you find most fulfilling don't earn as much as the fun and light ones do. Can definitely see how a story full of classic tropes would be easier to market, and have sometimes toyed with going that route myself, but I personally love it when they're twisted-up. Hope your dark urban fantasies eventually become just as profitable for you--they're amazing and more than deserve it!

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  7. Wow, the penny just dropped. I can't believe I didn't realize that you're the author of the reverse harem book. For some reason, I thought that was a friend of yours who you were promoting. Great post! I've always wondered about pen names and when/if to use them. One of these days I may try to publish something non-cozy and might go down the pen name route.

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  8. You learned a lot. Thanks for sharing. What a wonderful journey. I've enjoyed watching you.

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  9. Happy Thanksgiving. Getting by late.

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  10. I'm glad you're going to do both. I love your dark urban fantasy stories and would bad sad if you stopped them.

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  11. This is really interesting. It shows having a pen name doesn't have to be time consuming. I'm like you, though. I personally don't want to write a lot of tropey stories, but writing something lighter and easier would be a nice break from time to time.

    Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

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