Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Insecure Writers: Multiple pen names?

This probably falls less under insecurity than I'm just casting about for the appropriate thing to do, and could really use some feedback.

When I began writing, I used my maiden name of Masterson, and my first two initials, C.A. I wrote mostly literary short stories then, but a few mainstream/literary novels too.

Then a friend suggested I submit to one of the online publishers which had accepted one of her stories. A romance publisher. I did, but decided to shorten my name so it was a little snappier. So I became Cate Masters. (Seriously, I think of myself more as Cate Masters than anyone these days - a strange identity crisis.)

I'd already put up a Facebook identity as C.A. Masterson, and so had to make a page for Cate Masters, but whenever I post, I show up as C.A. Masterson. (Confused yet? Join the club!) It seems to confuse and/or disappoint some readers who download my mainstream/literary shorts, and find no romance.

I have some story ideas that are not romance, but wondered - as a reader, does it confuse you to have authors you like write across genres? Do you prefer they keep separate pen names for separate genres, or is that more confusing than one pen name?

Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for launching the Insecure Writer's Support Group! I need all the support I can get. :)


Marta Szemik said...

I do agree with using a different pen name for different genres. Sometimes for readers is all about expectations and it sounds like the Cate Masters' readers are different from C.A. Masterson's. I don't get confused, because I usually know what to expect from a novel or short story before I pick it up, but then again as a writer, I'm biased.
Hope the pen name crisis gets resolved.

Cate Masters said...

Thanks Marta! Less a crisis than a wondering, really. I've read conflicting thoughts from other authors about branding and genre-crossing, so wanted to get some feedback for myself.

Dennis Royer said...

It's been suggested in an agent's panel that unless there is some contractual reason, one should always use their real name. The reason being it's tough enough to sell books in today's world, so if people don't know you (or your persona) it further handicaps sales.

From a practical perspective, at my age it's hard to remember names, so it's easier for me if you stick with just one!

Cate Masters said...

Masters is a variation of my real name, and my initial pen name, Masterson, was my maiden name, which always seemed more like the "real" me. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

At least both of your names are similar. Sorry it's created problems though!

Mary Aalgaard, Play off the Page said...

If the genres are really diferent, like for children vs. adult, it might be best to have a pen name, but it seems like you're trying to build a brand, you, so one name would be clearer.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I use different names for my fantasy books and my romance series. I'm not sure if I'm doing the right thing or not, but I'll probably keep it that way.

Cate Masters said...

Thanks Mary. I'm not sure romance readers would agree! Therein lies the problem.

I wonder how your readers feel about it Susan? Or do they even care? Sometimes I think others make too much of the question, but then it does seem to disappoint some readers who had different expectations.

Fairday Morrow said...

I don't have a problem if an author writes across different genres. I often find it fascinating to see what their other books are like. I prefer one name, but I know a lot of people prefer different names. One name is easier to remember and I usually check out a book's cover, back cover, and first couple pages in order to see if I want to read it- I can then tell what genre it is. :) Good luck!


Peter von Harten said...

This is a tough one for me, since I write YA novels as well as other fiction in sci-fi, horror, and fantasy.

I use my first and middle name for YA books, "Peter Andreas".

My real name, "Peter von Harten" is what I plan to use for my horror and sci-fi books, though I have yet to start a fantasy novel (with some sci-fi/steampunk elements) and I don't think I want to use a real name.

I'm not really established, so I often wonder if my author name factors into the decisions of my readers. I had hoped my vampire horror novel "The Orphaned Ones" would sell pretty well, but either I'm tagging it wrong or perhaps it's my name. I'm not sure, and I tend to suck at promotion in general. It could also be that I finished it around the time the vampire craze began dying down.

I've also planned a crime thriller novel for which I would use the name "Andrei Akbatov" since I think it sounds foreign and a bit edgy.

It's hard after your books are out there to change names.

Interestingly enough, my post-apocalyptic series "Burntown" seems to be taking off better than "The Orphaned Ones" or my YA one, "Blue Car Racer".

I'm not sure if this has anything to do with what name I write under of course, but it's something I haven't considered until today. I just have too many ideas booming at once, and I balk at creating a separate identity for each genre.

Still, I don't want people to be confused, and branding your own name is a tough choice to fit into a particular genre as well.

What would people expect from an author with the name "Peter von Harten"?

I wish I knew the answer, lol.