When Having a Pen Name Sucks

Thursday, August 22, 2013



I'll start by saying that I didn't think the matter of a pen name through thoroughly enough. One reason I decided to use one was that I received three publishing contracts in a short time frame—two books with one publisher and one with another. 
 
I thought it would be better not to have the books competing since they were with different publishers—talk about warped reasoning—and secondly I had a really nosy character in my life at the time that I didn't want to even get a whiff of what I was doing. 

More warped reasoning, I know.


Long story short - I have a book languishing on Amazon that I don't do enough to promote. The irony is that Hardware is probably my favourite book. It took me ages to whittle it down from a 100k word romantic suspense monster, to a manuscript that the assigned editor praised as being very clean. It was also the first book I outlined—by that I mean that I wrote an index card for every chapter just before I sat down to continue the story. And I'll admit a lot of my character is reflected in the female lead. Now that I think about it, that book also taught me how to juggle three female characters at a time.

The trouble is, I thought I would have continued to write a series under the name Jayda McTyson, but now it doesn't seem like a smart thing to do, since I've built a brand based on my own name. The people who are reading my books find everything most of what I've written easily enough through the Amazon system. However, only a few have made the link to Hardware, which I've tried to work in through another Amazon Author Page. Can you say sole occupant? 

So, meantime, I have two more books written, thanks to the female characters in Hardware, who demanded their own stories, but I'm not sure what to do about branding. Would it be wise to continue under the pen name with a notation that I'm writing as McTyson? Or would it be smarter to include a snippet from Hardware in the back of the second book to point people to my orphan child? Or do I go on publishing the others under the McTyson label? 

Any advice from my trusty writing buddies?

My publisher has been good at coming up with marketing ideas, so I have to take the blame for the tanking of this book. It's a pity because I know it's a good story. Make no mistake though, I'll be pulling up my socks and I've started by putting the book back on my sidebar. I will admit that the thought of building on the McTyson name is daunting, but as we all know, a writer's job is never done.

The point of this post?

1. Weigh all the pros and cons before you take on a pen name. One of my compelling arguments against taking this path would be the orphan situation discussed above, as well as the social media aspect. Imagine the tweeting and Facebooking time suck being doubled or tripled for someone like me who writes in various genres.

2. Be very sure you're taking on a pen name for the right reason/s eg. writing in vastly different genres.

3. Don't be afraid to round up your trusted writing buddies and/or a marketing expert to help you make the decision. Two heads are better than one. It's kinda the same as needing other eyes to look at your work. You won't always see the glaring errors until it's too late.

If you're still thinking about taking on a pen name, carefully consider number one above. Again. It might save you untold mental agony. 

Trust me, you don't want to have your blood, sweat and tears (aka novel) stuck in limbo like this author.

37 comments:

  1. Can you re-release it under your name? Maybe that's not a viable option. However, until this post, I had no idea about Hardware either. Now I want to read it. It may open up a new audience???

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    1. Shouldn't you be asleep? :D Re-releasing would be an option if it was self-published. I guess if I asked for that to be done, I'd have to pay to have the cover redone. That's a thought though. Didn't think of that.

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  2. If you're able to re-release, or just update the cover, why not do what other people have done and put the author name on the cover as:
    J.L. Campbell
    writing as
    Jayda McTyson
    Then on Amazon where it has the author name, list both J.L. Campbell and Jayda McTyson. Then people could click on either link to be taken to either Amazon page. And obviously if you publish any subsequent novels in this series, do the same thing with the author name on the cover and Amazon.

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    1. Rachel, it's worth it to at least approach the publisher on that and see what she says. Any sales that may come from linking bios would be better than what's happening from Hardware now.

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  3. Since the penname situation is so daunting to you I say nip it in the bud. Let it be known thaat you are Jayda McTyson. Authors have books with their real name and the pen name (e.g. Jayda Smith writing as Stephanie Isles) so readers know that it's still their author but this story might take a different path. I have to agree that since this book isn't outside your genre you shouldn't have used a pen name. Hindsight is 20/20 and all you can do in my opinion is publish the rest under your real name and maybe do some promotion of Hardware from time to time. Also try to spice up your Jayda profile a bit, use a different profile picture that shows you a bit more adventurous and makes readers go hmmm I wonder what J.L. has Jayda has to say. Since your're using a known pen name you might as well sell it.

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    1. Sheena,
      Thanks. You make a lot of sense and have given me food for thought. Sometimes, when you're too close to the situation, you can't see as clearly.

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  4. Ask Elizabeth Craig at Mystery Writing is Murder. She writes under her name and a pen name, Riley Adams, and both series do well. She both has an agent and she's self-published a couple older titles in eBook. She'd be the best one in the world to go to for pen name advice.

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    1. Thanks, Alex. I'll go over and have a look-see at how she manages it.

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  5. Interesting post. I enjoyed reading those details about the process of creating your characters for your novel.
    Pen-names are necessary. I wouldn't be able to survive without my pen-name.

    Hugs,
    Julia

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    1. Thanks, Julia. It the extra work that keeps stopping me in my tracks.

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  6. I have read the comments and I hope it works out for you.i have a couple of pen names too and I know u t gets complicated.

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    1. Thanks, Clarissa. I just need to get on that and work out what needs to be done.

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  7. This is a very interesting point of view on pen names. I'm writing under a pen name but only to keep my private life separate from my writing. But you've brought up some interesting points and I can see how it can get a bit confusing. Luckily for me, I don't have any books printed but if I ever do switch genres, I'll think twice about adopting another pen name. I know some authors like Anne Rice who wrote books under a pen name years go and then later revealed their true name. What about adding a link here to your Jayda McTyson site to help people make the connection?

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    1. I realize that pen names work well if we use only one name across all sites. Unless it's open from the start, bringing other names into play can indeed cause confusion, but I am sure there are writers who manage quite well.

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  8. I don't have any new ideas for you, J.L. I do like the idea of trying to get your publisher to alter the cover of Hardware so that it reads J.L. Campbell writing as Jayda McTyson. I would be inclined to write the remaining books under the same name as the first. If they won't alter Hardware's cover, I bet they would on the second book that came out. That might be the link to bring all of these books together. Your goal is not to disassociate from your pen name, but to find a way to bring it into the "family."

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    1. Robin, I think I'm liking that idea too. Good reasoning. I certainly do want to find a way to bring that book in from the cold.

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  9. Good post, Joy, and a good caution to writers who are considering a pen name. I thought about using a pen name once when I started writing children's books. I'd had stories and flash fiction for adults published under my own name (Elizabeth Varadan), so I toyed with the idea of keeping my writing in two separate worlds. But then that sounded like too much complication. I'm seeing more and more authors writing in different genres and keeping the same name for all.

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    1. Hi, Elizabeth, I thought about that too for my MG novels, but decided to go with my name. I have noticed that people who've read the adult themed books are also buying the MG novel, which is a good thing.

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  10. I like both approaches: J. L. Campbell writing as.... or changing the cover. I do agree that marketing both books requires more time because you'll have to market both separately and that is just too much hassle, unless you have a team that will market for you.

    Regardless, Hardware cover looks steamy and I know you can write hot romantic scenes. I hope to read it soon. Any yes, I still have to do my review of Distraction and Don't Get Mad, Bet Even. I haven't read Christine's Odyssey.

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    1. No team behind the marketing so I guess have to use the least labour intensive option.

      I gotta tell you, the best love scene I ever wrote is in Hardware. :) I won't kill you on the reviews as I'm behind myself.

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    2. No worries. I saw what I thought was there and not what was. :)

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  11. I've written across romance sub genres, everything but fantasy/sci-fi under one pseudonym. I have not had competing publishers in the same sub genre. But my real name did not suit major mass market publishers and I had to choose a pseudonym. Also family/life/area situation created the need. But mainly, my real name wasn't going to cut it.

    If writing under different sub genres, the cover denotes what it is, and the same name can be used. I would do a pseudonym again; it's worked thru 70+ major books. However, if I wanted to do a non-fiction, I would use my real name.

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    1. Thanks for weighing on this, Cait and adding another perspective, which will help me to come to a decision.

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  12. Go to your preferred Amazon Author page and claim the book with the other author name as one of yours. It'll show up in searches when someone searches for your preferred name, and will also appear on your Amazon Author page. If you have a problem, contact Amazon through Amazon Author Central, explain the situation, and ask them to help. I write under two names, and have combined my books on my favored Amazon Author page. Then just add the book to your website with the heading, "Written as..." You'd be amazed how many of us have several names and put them all together on a single site.

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    1. Thanks, Jenna,
      I had gone and opened another Author page to facilitate Hardware after trying to incorporate it on my current page. I'll try your suggestion. Thanks very much for your advice.

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  13. I know other writers who have pen-names still advertise their books on their "real name" blogs and list them in their lists of published works, etc., so why can't you? :)

    I have always been torn with the idea of having a pen name or not having one - there seem to be many pros and cons for both choices.

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    1. Thanks, Trisha. I definitely will be tying the two names together. Working out in my mind how best to approach it. I wouldn't take on a pen name without a compelling reason. It's simpler to work with one name unless you feel you MUST do otherwise.

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  14. I definitely think it's easier to work under just one name, pen name or not. If you're only known as your pen name from the start, then there's not a lot of difference. As you're not writing a different genre under your pen name, I agree that you should try to attach your real name to Hardware somehow - so that people who buy a JL Campbell book would be pointed towards it.

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    1. Makes sense, Nick. Gotta come see what you've been doing lately

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  15. I chose a pen name because my group of crit writers all have pen names just because they feel safer not having folks know them..no stalkers that way I guess...I was going to use J.Q. Rose for my mysteries and my real name for children's stories. However after establishing J.Q. Rose, I didn't want to try and get my real name out there, so I have the two genres under one name. Stephen King does it, so I can too...oh yeah.!! It's so time consuming to have more than one name and takes away from writing. I agree you should connect the two. Look into Author Central to see if there is something you can do to put them together.

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    1. Thanks for dropping in, JQ. I'm trying to work things out and find the best solution. Never even thought of using a pen name across the board. :)

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  17. JL I'm writing a book a book that is what you might call a roman a' clef (its turning out to be) that is somewhat (ok mostly) questionable and I have some very saucy poetry that's also in the works. I've been seriously thinking about this pen name thing because I'm worried about the people's responses when they get the books. But its my stories and i'd like to tell them. I obviously haven't published anything but most people who know me in real life know me online too. So I'm wondering what to do, what do you guys think? Should I use the name and act like I promote this readers books, especially in view of the fact that I'm also writing a faith based inspirational book. Or do i just put on my big girl panties and buckle up?

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    1. Hey, Wendy,
      I guess you have to weigh the pros and cons before taking a decision. Doing this post was helpful for me because of the suggestions I received. It helped to see what others have done and why they took that route.

      "Writing as' will work for me because my aim is to link my books, but in terms of the 'saucy' stuff you wanna write, you might want to keep that writing persona separate from your inspirational titles.

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  18. Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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Don't be shy. I'd love to hear what you think.