Should Authors Have Different Pen Names For Different Genres?

Q: Should an author have different pen names when writing in different genres?

I was asked this a while ago. My thoughts: you can use a single name, but it needs to be very clear to the reader what genre each book is. You want to avoid fans of one genre being disappointed if your other books are very different and they buy one by mistake. An obvious example would be cosy romance fans picking up a BDSM erotica ... bad reviews might follow.

I write in multiple genres using the same name - literary, horror, contemporary, scifi, suspense. It requires making sure each book's genre signalling is spot on - cover, title, tagline, blurb, metadata. For example, my horrors have dark backgrounds and creepy covers, whereas my revamped literary novels will have bright backgrounds and pleasant faces. Though, despite the different genres, there are some overlapping elements (some humour, some darkness, some humanity) that mean my fingerprint is on each book - so perhaps readers of one genre will still enjoy my books in another genre.

If there might be confusion, then yes, use different names. JK Rowling/Robert Galbraith, Stephen King/Richard Bachman etc.

What do you think, either from a reader's perspective, or from an author's?


1 comment:

themself said...

I'd agree with this. As a reader I often go out and read the rest of a favourite author's work. Knowing that there are different series, or genres in the work isn't itself a drawback, but it helps to be able to sort out which a particular book belongs to. So, for example, if I enjoy the SF output of someone, but not their litfic then I can avoid the latter (although I've not yet had that experience with authors I've read that write in multiple genres).

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