Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Should You Make Up A Pen Name - Part II

Last week we looked at Sarah A. Hoyt and her multitude of bylines in various genres, a list that's still growing and not causing her much problem yet.


This week, I have a note from a member of Backlist eBooks (http://backlistebooks.com  which has an Amazon store which lists most of the members' titles http://astore.amazon.com/backlebook-20 ), Patricia Rosemoore, who is pondering a career with multiple bylines woven through a collaboration, a career that's still growing and branching out.

If you're just starting out in publishing, even if you are tossing out one or two trivial projects into the ebook market to make your bones, you really should ponder Patricia Rosemoore's point of view, make it your own, see what your career will look like in retrospect, before you type in a byline under the title of your first work.

Even if you've already started publishing, it might not be too late to re-think your overall business branding strategy for the body of work you intend to create and the audience you expect will discover that body of work amidst the flood of ebooks.

Patricia Rosemoor writes Dangerous Love; Kindle ebook "reprints": available from Amazon -- The McKenna Legacy:SEE ME IN YOUR DREAMS, TELL ME NO LIES, TOUCH ME IN THE DARK; from Harlequin Intrigue: BRAZEN; http://PatriciaRosemoor.com

My former writing partner and I are going to try to get rights back from Harper and Dell and maybe even from Silhouette. We wrote as Roslynn Patrick and Roslynn Griffith for Harper, Lynn Patrick for Dell (and for HQ) and Jeanne Rose for Silhouette. And I write as Patricia Rosemoor.

Here's my question--how would any of you who have multiple identities handle the backlist?

Should we pick one of the pseudonyms or use the originals? The only problem with using one pseudonym is that the books aren't all alike. Both Dell and HQ were Lynn Patrick -- some humor with our romance, a few with light suspense. But Silhouette Shadows were the precursor to Nocturne and the Harpers are really dark RS, three of the five being paranormal.

Whatever we choose to do, I'll probably want the cover to read something like (in small print) Patricia Rosemoor and Linda Sweeney writing as (and in big print) selected pseudonym. The idea is that since I have 60 some books as Patricia Rosemoor, and since I'm already backlisting a few Patricia Rosemoor books, it would probably generate more sales that way. For example if someone looks up Rosemoor on Amazon, they'll get those other pseudonyms.

Or is that too weird? What is anyone else doing?



So far I haven't seen more in depth discussion of this problem with definitive answers.

The problem is that most widely published writers have this problem in one form or another.

As discussed last week, bylines are often created at request or demand of Agents and/or Editors -- i.e. of marketers, not readers or writers.

And those bylines were created by Agents and Editors who never planned for the ebook world, or the self-republishing world, or Amazon's computers with tags, customer reviews, and so on.

How can you plan for what will be twenty years from now? 

What will change and what will stay the same?

The only answer I have so far is that you can't.

My sometime collaborator on my Sime~Gen Universe novels didn't plan for Amazon, but their system is working out splendidly for us.

We put both our bylines on each of our collaborations, but followed the academic convention and put the originating author first.  That is, when I first-drafted a novel that Jean collaborated on, my name came first.  When she first drafted a novel that I collaborated on, her name came first.  When we wrote independently in Sime~Gen, the byline was the single name.

The result drove bookstores totally nuts (the more they computerized, the nuttier it got), and we sold really well only at the science fiction and mystery specialty stories where the owner and clerks actually read the novels and recommended them to specific customers.  We gathered a lot of librarians, teachers, bookstore managers and owners who became fans.  .

Oddly, Amazon's method is now working wondrously well in just the way the indie bookstores did, recommending to those who would otherwise miss a title because of the odd bylines.

Jean Lorrah wrote a number of Star Trek novels for Pocket (which are all now in ebook, too) plus a series called Savage Empire, also being reissued by Wildside Press in ebook and paper.

I have a number of other titles, my Vampire Romances from St. Martin's Press, and others with complicated publishing histories including translations.  And now, two collections of my short stories have been issued, Through The Moon Gate and Science Is Magic Spelled Backwards.  

But the publisher, Wildside Press's Borgo imprint, is re-issuing the Sime~Gen novels in order of publication not in internal chronology order because numbered series in order of publication now sell better as ebooks!  (they have the computer evidence to prove it!)

So here's how they bill the Sime~Gen Universe on the inside cover listing:

THE SIME~GEN SERIES from The Borgo Press
House of Zeor, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg (#1)
Unto Zeor, Forever, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg (#2)
First Channel, by Jean Lorrah and Jacqueline Lichtenberg (#3)
Mahogany Trinrose, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg (#4)
Channel’s Destiny, by Jean Lorrah and Jacqueline Lichtenberg (#5)
RenSime, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg (#6)
Ambrov Keon, by Jean Lorrah (#7)
Zelerod’s Doom, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah (#8)


Personal Recognizance, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg (#9)
The Story Untold and Other Stories, by Jean Lorrah (#10)
To Kiss or to Kill, by Jean Lorrah (#11)
The Farris Channel, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg (#12)

Now, as most readers here know, Sime~Gen is not a "series" but a Universe.

It covers several thousand years of future-history, and only a few of the books revisit a given character's life.  Most are set in different eras, to tell the story of the Universe through the intensely personal growth experiences of a given individual who lives in that time.

The Universe postulates (invisibly to the reader) that reincarnation is real, so many of the characters in later books are reincarnations of previous characters, Souls that have learned hard lessons in previous lives and now are free to go on to new lessons (harder ones).

The internal chronology is cast onto what we call the Unity Calendar, which actually has a Year Zero:

- 533 Unity --First Channel by Jean Lorrah and Jacqueline Lichtenberg
- 518 Unity – Channel’s Destiny by Jean Lorrah and Jacqueline Lichtenberg
- 468 Unity – The Farris Channel by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
- 20 Unity – Ambrov Keon by Jean Lorrah
- 15 Unity – House of Zeor by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
0 Unity Calendar - Zelerod’s Doom by Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah
1 Unity - To Kiss Or To Kill by Jean Lorrah
1 Unity - The Story Untold And Other Sime~Gen Stories by Jean Lorrah
132 Unity – Unto Zeor, Forever by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
152 Unity – Mahogany Trinrose by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
224 Unity – “Operation High Time” by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
232 Unity – RenSime by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
245 Unity – Personal Recognizance by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

So why am I belaboring this chronology issue in a blog about creating a pen name?

Because it all goes together, and needs to be considered if you're starting a series.

What's selling now, really well, is Series that are published in the internal chronological order.  I've reviewed a large number of those.  It's probably connected to the shift from the "anthology" TV series which had to be viewable in any order because of technical broadcast reasons, to the "story arc" TV series which is possible because of DVD's, On Demand, and Tivo.

But will it always be that way?  Can the computerization of databases and google algorhytms make some other method work better for readers?

The Pen Name issue is all about letting the reader find what the reader wants at that particular moment.  Kindle allows instant gratification by mail-order! 

One of the methods we're using to help readers figure out buying Sime~Gen in Kindle and/or paper is the Amazon store approach. 

We are making a store with the NEW Sime~Gen novels, along with a page for other titles by Jean Lorrah and by me. 

Here's the URL:


Consider - will you need an Amazon store? (or a "store" from some other outfit, like B&N?) or all of the above?  What will you call it?

We're trying to keep our store as simple as possible, with more of the stories behind the various covers and editions explicated on the SimeGen Group on facebook.

The Amazon Store is a tool nobody would ever have predicted twenty years prior to its appearance. 

What tools will you have to market your body of work?  What flexibility can you build into your concept that will make that tool easy and natural to use?

Does byline matter? Does sub-title matter? Does order of publication matter? Does interval between new books matter? (i.e. should you write 10 novels before letting #1 come out?)

What is the best way to leverage today's marketing tools? 

Here's a blog by a writer that I was pointed to by @victoriastrauss on twitter:


That's today's Amazon - and if you read that blog, you'll see how "marketing; branding; byline" all fit into it.

So will tailoring your fiction to that method limit what you can do with tomorrow's tools?

How will social networking change the underlying principles of marketing and branding?  And what comes after social networking?

What should you be preparing for?

Oh, we have a lot of work to do on this blog!  And as we work, we may stumble on the key to that whole genre-prestige issue. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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