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I've published a few books in fantasy so far, and my next book will be a mystery, totally unrelated. It seems to be accepted knowledge that you should use a different penname for each genre, but why?

Would it be a really bad idea for me to use the same penname I used on my fantasy novels, in my mystery novel>
 

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Personally, I have no clue why a writer would ever write under a pen name.  If you are not proud enough of your work, you should find another profession. That's, of course, a personal opinion from a writer that has been publishing for more than thirty years - both fiction and journalism.

Lots of people do it. I can never quite figure out why. If you make a name for yourself, why would you attempt to disregard all that, and begin again making a name for yourself?   
 

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I don't know about anyone else, but in my case I used a pen-name because I had a 30 year career in something that wasn't writing, and I didn't want my two personas to overlap. I write in two different genres under the same pen-name.
I've now published sonething under my real name as well because it's an account of my family history and it wouldn't make sense to use a different nane.
 

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Under my name I write how-to and historical fiction. But, a few years ago I wanted to take a stab at steamy romance. I wrote a few short series of these books under a pen name. Your audience expects a certain genre from you. When you go all over the place, they trust you less and you are seen as a Jack of All Trades and a Master of none.

When you pick up a Steven King book, what do you expect? A Western or Horror/Suspense?

That is why.

You have to also consider nurturing your audience.  When you put a newsletter together, it should be clear what your genre is.  It helps people decide if they want to subscribe or not.

I'm also a screenwriter and belong to the Writer's Guild. I am currently looking for staffing work on TV shows.  As a writer, no one will hire you in television if you say, "Oh, I write it all; comedy, drama, historical, sitcoms, single-camera, multi-camera comedies."  If you ever said that, you would NEVER be hired.  They would rightly assume that you have not mastered any of them.  But if you say, "I write police procedural dramas," then they know exactly who you are and what you are capable of. 
 

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It depends of course. I used a pen name to separate my YA from my Adult books.
 

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boxer44 said:
Personally, I have no clue why a writer would ever write under a pen name. If you are not proud enough of your work, you should find another profession. That's, of course, a personal opinion from a writer that has been publishing for more than thirty years - both fiction and journalism.

Lots of people do it. I can never quite figure out why. If you make a name for yourself, why would you attempt to disregard all that, and begin again making a name for yourself?
There are plenty of reasons to use a pen name that have nothing to do with not being proud of your work. Writing in very different genres that wouldn't work well if your audience crossed over - erotica and kids books, for example. A man writing in a female-dominated genre like romance. A woman writing in a male-dominated genre like horror. Not liking one's name. Having a name that is extremely difficult to pronounce or spell. A professional writing in a field that their peers might not approve of. A person trying to establish an author career without disapproving family knowing about it.
 

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boxer44 said:
Personally, I have no clue why a writer would ever write under a pen name. If you are not proud enough of your work, you should find another profession. That's, of course, a personal opinion from a writer that has been publishing for more than thirty years - both fiction and journalism.

Lots of people do it. I can never quite figure out why. If you make a name for yourself, why would you attempt to disregard all that, and begin again making a name for yourself?
What if your name is Seymour Butts?
 

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Ecomism said:
I've published a few books in fantasy so far, and my next book will be a mystery, totally unrelated. It seems to be accepted knowledge that you should use a different penname for each genre, but why?

Would it be a really bad idea for me to use the same penname I used on my fantasy novels, in my mystery novel>
depends on the subgenre

i'm sure it would be fine for a fantasy-related genre, say witch cozy

mostly, of course, it's a terrible idea

say you're writing a police procedural, well, i for one am never reading it if a quick look at your pen's bio & catalog reveals you used to write fantasy

i don't assume competence, i assume a fumbling failed fantasy author flailing around

a debut author looks more enticing than an author who already tried & failed at something else

too many genres on a pen & it looks like an "ego" author in love w/ the sound of their "real" name-- not a sharp indie professional who knows what they're doing
 

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You can do whatever you like, of course - many authors here publish multiple genres under a single pen name - but there are some benefits to separating very different genres with different names.

It can be easier to build a brand if you know exactly what you want to specialize in and your audience learns you're a reliable go-to source for that same experience again and again. Once you've established yourself as a successful thriller writer, then you can get away with putting out a non-fiction book, for example, for first you want to concentrate on building that large thriller catalog (or whatever genre). Especially at the start of a career, it simplifies things to keep a narrow focus and really build your audience there, rather than scattering your efforts in many directions at once. It can also be confusing to readers to dig through 5 pages of miscellaneous offerings on an author's page when all they want is more of what they read last time.

As to why use pen names at all, Shayne has already described the usual reasons above. Privacy is also a big one, as is having a very common name that could easily be confused with someone else's. And, of course, some people want separation between their personal life and work life.

 

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Carol (was Dara) said:
Especially at the start of a career, it simplifies things to keep a narrow focus and really build your audience there, rather than scattering your efforts in many directions at once. It can also be confusing to readers to dig through 5 pages of miscellaneous offerings on an author's page when all they want is more of what they read last time.
As a reader I find this kind of thing to be a huge turn-off. I find a book that looks good, so I go to the author's page to see what else they've written, in the hopes of finding more books in a similar vein, and instead of a nice line-up of well-branded books in a series or some nice standalones with similarly themed covers, I see a total hodge-podge of odd covers and every genre under the sun, which basically crushes my hopes of finding more books like that first one. As opposed to, if I went to the author page and only found two books, but both were in similar genres and had similar feels, I would be much happier, because it feels like the author has a plan, and will likely write more books like those first ones.
 

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ShayneRutherford said:
There are plenty of reasons to use a pen name that have nothing to do with not being proud of your work. Writing in very different genres that wouldn't work well if your audience crossed over - erotica and kids books, for example. A man writing in a female-dominated genre like romance. A woman writing in a male-dominated genre like horror. Not liking one's name. Having a name that is extremely difficult to pronounce or spell. A professional writing in a field that their peers might not approve of. A person trying to establish an author career without disapproving family knowing about it.
This. It's a bad idea to publish mystery under your existing pen name. Your also boughts are crucial and must be kept clean. I'd look for more detailed info on this in the 20booksto50k group on Facebook. Seeing a lot of weird replies here.
 

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Using your real name is probably a good thing if you're an acknowledged expert in some non-fiction field, where using your real name could give the book some gravitas, or if you're writing a non-fiction (or fact based fiction) family biography or family saga or the like, where using a real name would make sense.

But in most genre fiction your author name is a 'brand', and that's why a lot of authors use different pen names for different genres if they write in them. The name becomes part of the overall marketing package, part of the brand.... It comes down to that marketing thing.

There are some here on KB who have gone into different genres, using the same pen name, stating that it makes it easier to track things for marketing purposes, as well as having only one web page instead of several, but ultimately that's something you'd have to determine.
 

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In my opinion, choosing a pen name depends primarily on the genre. You wouldn't write a police procedural thriller under a name like Ravenna de Montmorency, would you? A name like that would befit a historical romance. Also, I agree that if I checked an author's page to find "more of the same" and saw a mishmash of unrelated genres instead of what I was looking for, I'd be disappointed.

So yes, I agree that these days it's a brand name more than anything else and has to be treated and promoted as one.
 

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If you plan on doing any advertising with Facebook or Amazon you definitely want to use a different pen name for each genre. Both platforms are very dependent on finding relevance of your ad to specific readers. On Amazon for example, they will show your ad to people who have bought similar books to yours (think also boughts). If the ad doesn't get clicks and purchases it'll stop showing your ads (or charge you more to show them). So, if you have multiple genres advertising from the same author and you get some crossover readers it will decrease the effectiveness of your ads. Same thing happens on Facebook but based on a profile of people who follow your author page and those who click on your ads. If you want lower cost ads and higher conversion rates you should keep the pen names separate.

As Shayne has mentioned, an author page with several different genres can turn off readers. For me, it's a sign of low quality books. I assume the author is genre hopping trying to catch the next big thing instead of writing solid books based on knowledge (and love) of the genre.

 

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boxer44 said:
Personally, I have no clue why a writer would ever write under a pen name. If you are not proud enough of your work, you should find another profession. That's, of course, a personal opinion from a writer that has been publishing for more than thirty years - both fiction and journalism.

Lots of people do it. I can never quite figure out why. If you make a name for yourself, why would you attempt to disregard all that, and begin again making a name for yourself?
A pen name protects the writer's privacy and career. Just because they use a pen name does not mean they're not proud of their work. Not every writer gets success overnight and are able to quit their regular job, many have day jobs that pay the bills. Why would an elementary teacher use his or hers real name to write something like 50 shades of grey or erotica? Success is not always guaranteed, and even if it is, not everyone gets lucky right off the bat to get an advance like Anna Todd or a gets highlighted by an A list actor like Matt Damon did for Andy Weir's novel The Martian, sometimes it takes years to even make a salary or get traction.
 

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boxer44 said:
Personally, I have no clue why a writer would ever write under a pen name. If you are not proud enough of your work, you should find another profession. That's, of course, a personal opinion from a writer that has been publishing for more than thirty years - both fiction and journalism.

Lots of people do it. I can never quite figure out why. If you make a name for yourself, why would you attempt to disregard all that, and begin again making a name for yourself?
Uh no.

When I wrote gay romance, that would have been a problem for me IRL, garnering unwanted attention by my community and my church that I didn't want. It had ZERO to do with being proud and EVERYTHING to do with protecting myself from backlash from my 'supposed' loving, kind, Christian neighbors.
 
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