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To Pseudonym or Not to Pseudonym

To ‘pseudonym’ or not to ‘pseudonym’… that is the question. 

I attended a panel of multi-genre authors at a conference  who were talking about their experiences trying to switch back and forth between different personas. One panelist used three different pseudonyms in order to keep his crime thrillers, literary work, and humour separate. It seemed to work for him. He was writing for three very different audiences and didn’t want to confuse his readers. It reminded me of another conference I had attended years earlier, where Sigmund Brower, well know author of YA fiction, talked about the difficulties of breaking into the adult market. He said people had an expectation that he only wrote for kids and it was tough to dispel that misconception. Although he persevered, he mentioned that if he were to do it again, he would probably choose to write under a different name.

Another panelist had a totally different view. Her agent advised against a pseudonym when she switched from YA fantasy to a different adult genre. He felt there might be enough cross over to merit keeping her original pen name. Presumably, young readers who enjoyed her fantasy series might mature into adult readers ready for something more. Other authors agreed, citing the well-documented case of J.K. Rowlings when she decided to write under a new pen name. When people found out that Robert Galbraith was actually the writer of the beloved Harry Potter series, sales skyrocketed.

 

My situation is a little bit different. Although I try to brand myself as a writer of ‘faith based romantic suspense with a twist of humor’, I have also contributed to a Science fiction series and I’ve written a fair bit of non-fiction. I’m not too concerned about the fact that these genres don’t necessarily mesh. My non-fiction has stemmed from speaking and blogging. I see it as an extension of my life as a Christian writer – a stream that serves to enhance my fiction writing, but not necessarily a genre to pursue beyond that.

However, writing plays for the stage is a totally separate entity. To date I have written and directed dozens of plays, mostly in my capacity as a high school drama teacher. Of those plays, eight of them have been picked up by various play publishers, which has led to performances across North America. In this instance, I am writing for a secular high school audience, mostly using comedy and parody to get the story across.

My plays and my other fiction are two parallel tracks of writing that, seemingly, will never intersect. There is nothing about my life as a playwright that has anything in common with my fiction. It’s a bit of a marketing quandary when it comes to things like my website. Should I be focusing on one audience over the other? I sometimes wish that I had chosen to use a pseudonym – or two – but I feel like I’m too far into the game now to make the switch.

On the other hand, perhaps it really doesn’t matter. While readers who like my fiction are unlikely to want to read a comedy script, those looking for a stage play might actually like to read one of my books.

I like the conclusion that one panelist finally gave. There is really no ‘right’ way to handle multiple genres. What is a disadvantage to one, works for another. Perhaps it’s more about the passion than the formula. Each author must choose his or her own path and then pursue it with all their might.

This article first appeared on ‘Gelatiscoop’ on September 24, 2015

3 Comments

  1. Marnie says:

    So if one chooses to write using a different name for each genre, that probably means separate websites and social media, too. That seems like too much time spent on technology!

  2. I’ve generally never cared for my name, so a writer’s name was always going to be the course I’d follow.

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