So here’s what I’ve been thinking about and lately. I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Lord knows my husband is tired of debating it with me, and neither of the small people we live with seems to care much. I’ll pose a thoughtful question to them and usually get a response along the lines of, “Mommy, my giraffe likes crayons.” So they’re really not much help. Here’s the topic. Pen names. Maybe you guessed that from my clever title. Anyway, if you recall, JK Rowling caught a crapload of crap for using the same name to pen the Harry Potter books and her recent adult novel, A Casual Vacancy. The argument – in case you didn’t catch it in the news was something along the lines of this – should she, in acknowledgement of her great success in the middle grade realm under the name JK Rowling, have published her adult book under a different name? Parents worried that their children, on seeing a new book from a beloved author, might mistake it as intended for them, and the book contained situations that were unabashedly adult. Rowling’s response to this idea was something along the lines of, “I’m a writer, not your babysitter.” I actually loved that she said that, and agree wholeheartedly. She is a writer. And she’s writing. And she’s entitled to use her name, of course!
But here’s a different way I’ve been looking at it… we’ll use my own case as an example. I write in several genres. I write literary fiction – mostly short stories, though I’d like to attempt a novel that could be construed as literary someday soon. I also write romance, YA romance and some new adult. These last three are clearly more “commercial” pursuits. I don’t expect that anyone who picks up my new adult series (yet to be announced…) will necessarily enjoy Through a Dusty Window. They’re drastically different. The voice is different, the content, the setting, the mood… all of it. So would it make sense for me to use a different name for my “commercial” pursuits since “Delancey Stewart” has already been established and branded as literary?
The other side of this coin is equally valid. As a new writer trying to build a following, I’d like to capitalize on every little bit of loyalty I might be able to inspire in a reader. If someone who loved TADW picks up Samantha’s Solace and is disappointed (despite it being clearly marketed as a YA romance), should I feel guilty about that? I might a little bit, but really…I’d be happy that someone liked one thing I wrote enough to buy something else. Isn’t that kind of the goal? To build some momentum?
Of course JK Rowling wouldn’t change her name to write a new novel. Why would she waste the capital she’s built over years of branding the name JK Rowling? Sure, some readers were disappointed. That isn’t really her fault, is it?
But I’m – clearly – not JK Rowling. Don’t worry, I have no delusions there. I just am not sure that it would make sense to start over again with a whole new name for my new efforts… and the social media marketing alone is daunting. Would that mean two blogs? Two Twitter feeds? Two facebook and email accounts? I don’t think I could do it!
What do you think? I know there are authors with several names going at once… I wonder what the payoff is…