What’s in a Name: Writing in Two Genres by Allan Leverone

Books on shelf

 

I’ve been an avid reader of fiction my entire life. I was a book lover long before I was ever a book writer.

 

alprofileAnd as a reader, one thing I never understood was why an author would choose to use a pseudonym. Why on earth wouldn’t you put your own name on your work? Shouldn’t you be proud of your creation? What does it say to the reader that someone would spend many months or even years in solitary artistic pursuit only to disown the result of that labor prior to publication?

 

As a writer, now with seven novels to my name (yes, my REAL name), I understand now that there’s a lot more that goes into the determination of what surname to stick on the cover of a book than vanity, and sometimes choosing that surname is not an easy task.

 

In publishing’s Jurassic Era, say the sepia-tinted years prior to 2011, an author might simply have had a self-preservation motive to use a pen name: he might have been dropped by his publisher due to shrinking sales, and needed to be reborn as someone else in order to continue his career.

 

In today’s much more enlightened Post-Ebook Era, an author can continue her career despite traditional publishing’s usually arbitrary determination that she’s finished. She can self-publish, or go with an Indie publishing outfit if she so chooses, and her sales do not need to disappear, thus her career does not need to end.

 

But that doesn’t mean pseudonyms have disappeared from the landscape, or that they ever will. Until I started meeting and networking with other authors, from big names to people nobody ever heard of like myself, I had no idea that many authors wrote in more than one genre.

 

I thought thriller authors wrote thrillers, romance authors wrote romance, and so on.

 

Turns out I was way off on that. Lots of authors you associate with one particular genre have written books, often astonishingly good books, in other genres.

 

viewAnd that can be annoying as hell to readers. Imagine being excited to pick up the new release by your favorite mystery author, only to discover you’ve purchased an epic fantasy novel, with swords and dragons and damsels in distress!

 

You’d be angry, right? Especially if you spent $24.95 on the hardcover edition. You might just be angry enough to stop buying your favorite author’s books.

 

And nobody wants that, least of all, your favorite author.

 

All of this brings me around – finally – to my point, which is this: sometimes I wonder if I should have used a pseudonym on some of my novels. You see, I write books in a couple of different genres. I write thrillers, and I write horror, and sometimes I write sort of funky hybrids that don’t quite fit exactly in either category.

 

And my own name is on all of them.

 

Lots of readers enjoy fiction in multiple genres, and presumably would have no problem reading a novel that was not what they expected, as long as the book was interesting and held their attention.

 

But what about those folks who pick up a thriller and don’t want to discover they’ve just purchased a supernatural horror novel? How unhappy will they be? This has been my concern.

 

I suppose it’s not too late. I could change the name on all of my titles in one particular genre. But now that some of my work has been available for years, I think that might just cloud the issue, rather than resolving it.

 

I’ve thought a lot about this, because as a writer with a business degree (okay, sure, I earned it more than thirty years ago, but it stillmrmidnight counts, right?) I understand the value of branding myself as an author.

 

When I frame the issue in terms of “branding,” which for most authors translates into nothing too much more complicated than developing name recognition, I realize that maybe what I’ve done isn’t so bad. What’s wrong with being known as the guy who writes fast-moving books filled with crackling suspense?

 

After all, writing books in multiple genres under her own name has worked out pretty well for Sophie Littlefield, the unbelievably talented author who writes crime fiction, women’s fiction, YA, and probably some other stuff, too.

 

Using her own name seems to have worked out okay for her, and if it works for someone that talented and accomplished, it stands to reason it can work out okay for me, too.

 

So I’m keeping my name, even if changing it to Steven King (Stephen King’s long-lost author-brother) or Tim Clancy (Tom Clancy’s long-lost author-son) might get me more sales. I’ll just keep working hard and keep writing exciting books and look forward to the day some author thinks about calling himself Alvin Leverone.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Great post, Allan.

    I’ve spent some time thinking about this myself as I have several yet-to-be written stories that stray far from the political thriller genre where my name is recognized by a half-dozen people or so. 😉

    – Ian

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