The concept of various pseudonyms has long been a hot button for readers and authors alike.
There are no real set standard rules about such. Some well-known print authors have numerous pen names. Some shift around until they find one they like and others hop from pen name to pen name depending on genre and even publisher. For example a well-known and best selling romance author Jayne Ann Krentz is also Jayne Bentley, Amanda Quick, Jayne Castle, Stephanie James, Jayne Taylor, and Amanda Glass. Thankfully JAK has always had a full listing of her various pen names (they changed with publisher) and has cut down on the number she uses. Her choice, but confusing for fans. As a reader I often was frustrated and angry at her continual changing of pen names and wanted to slap her (sorry!) and ask she pick just one. My opinion only there! She did make it easy with listing a full book list with the various pen names on her website but that’s a lot of names.
Someone else mentioned the Nora Roberts/JD Robb pseudonyms. When the JD Robb series came out, Nora Roberts said everywhere that she wrote it. I personally was reading NR at the time and that’s the sole reason I started buying/reading the JD Robb series. When you buy a JD Robb book now and even back with the very first JD Robb book there is a list of other Nora Roberts titles right on the inside. There was never an attempt to hide that this is the same author. In fact NR was smart and capitalized on her market but used the different pseudo to separate the entire series. The only thing JD Robb puts out is the Eve Dallas series.
Now other mainstream authors use various different pen names as well. There is rather widespread acceptance of an author changing pen names for genre switches; such as romance to mystery or young adult or inspirational to erotic romance. Here in the e-published world authors also try to differentiate among their erotic romance. If an author pens m/m and m/f, sometimes they’ll use different pen names so the readers know what they’re getting. For example, JL Langley does this. JL Langley is her m/m pseudonym and Jeigh Lynn is her m/f pseudonym. Again, this is clearly stated on her website as well.
There are other examples as when authors group up and co-write and as well when an author just feels another pen name is necessary for whatever reason. An author may choose to make new pen names for every single book they publish – this is absolutely their choice.
Now, as a reader/consumer how does this practice affect you?
Well it depends. When authors are open and obvious about their pen names well clearly you are given every opportunity to avoid or follow the author into their new pen name. For example with JAK’s various names if you do a search the name is associated with say her “biggest” pen name so you can choose whether that writing style is one you’ll want to read. For authors that attempt to hide their pen names, is it devious? Does it really matter?
It’s a courtesy you could say for an author to list all their various names making it easy on the reader should they choose to do their homework about an author. In some ways it’s in the best interest of an author to carry a fan base but differentiate the writing. For others it’s a genre shift, completely out of erotic romance (for example) to mainstream or historical.
There are well known e-published erotic romance authors that also write young adult and some make their new pen names known and others do not. Some have stated they don’t want to make the connection between the two names on purpose. Young adults looking for more books by a name stumbling onto an erotic romance backlist, well that makes sense. I do know that I’ve personally emailed a YA author and they gave me their erotic romance pen name for other books.
Other authors use a variety of pen names as a way of hiding or seeming to be different authors. These authors may publish within the same publisher and there is a reasonable expectation that the average reader would have no idea they are reading the same author. Now this is the practice that tends to bother me as a consumer. If I happen to dislike an author, how do I know to avoid that author when they are penning things under multiple names? I’d have to avoid the publisher entirely to be absolutely sure I’m not wasting my money. What happens when the author goes to lengths to hide their various pen names as well?
Also I don’t want to get into a genre debate about the various categories of cowboys versus marines or contemporaries versus historical. Our little pond is rather small and authors have successfully written in all categories without needing to have different names for each. And if all such categories can appear in the same mix at a publisher, then how is the reader to know? Cowboys are mixed in with marines and next to werewolves. So why would your average reader expect that all three of those would have different author names but by the same author.
Since this was brought up in the TQ pricing thread, the owners of TQ have gone to lengths to hide their various different pen names. The owner/author who pens under Sean Michael has even flatly lied about that pseudonym. A long time back Teddy Pig (and subsequently Karen Knows Best) did a story about the Case of the Poison Pen Names over at TQ. Most supporters said it doesn’t matter but a lot of consumers felt they were being lied to. Teddy raised some interesting questions. A year later and this debate still continues, perhaps in other publishers as well. I don’t want to harp on TQ because they are just one fish in a sea of publishers. The issue just reminded me of Teddy’s post. So what about another publisher? I admit, I’m not that savvy with various pen names so I’m certain it happens elsewhere. Anyone have examples?
But the end result is – does it really matter? It IS the author’s prerogative to have numerous pen names– absolutely. But on the same note, it’s the consumer’s prerogative to feel lied to as well. Does it boil down to ensuring that the consumer can make an educated choice? I think this what hinges it for me personally. If an author wants to have several pen names, I may not understand it but I want to know I can still feel confident in my purchases. For example I read a book recently by a “new to me” pen name, I can’t find any information online, no website, no bio but the style is close to an author I’d prefer not buy. How can I know if it’s the same author? Do I have a right? My head is spinning!
I actually started a list of authors and their pen names (like you’re shocked I’m that anal). But again this can only be guesswork since not all authors acknowledge their various names. Should there be a standard for something so subjective?
So really there is no right or wrong unfortunately but only opinions and choices by authors and consumers alike.
Since I know you’ve got ‘em…go ahead! Let me know your thoughts on pen names. One thing though – this is a debate about OPINIONS! As you know the saying of everyone having them, please respect that someone can disagree and that doesn’t make them wrong.