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I like to write many different genres in my fiction writing but I think that this would be confusing as an author's name becomes somewhat of a brand. Is it therefore a good idea to invent pen names where genres don't really gel so that the audiences aren't thrown off if they pick one of the books under a different genre they expected? Or is it possible to generate sub-brands for an author so that the readership are clear on which genre a book is under?

What other methods are there for achieving this separation?

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7 Answers 7

One famous author who has done this is Nora Roberts (romance) / J. D. Robb (mystery). I can see that a reader who appreciates a great thriller might not be interested in picking up a book that they associate (rightly or wrongly) with the author of a bodice-ripper. In the case or Roberts/Robb, it probably makes a lot of sense.

This article on pen names goes through pros and cons of using a pseudonym in general. It points out that historically pen names were used for switching genres, but that some authors, such as John Grisham, have crossed genres using their own names with success.

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The biggest problem I've seen is that all the authors books aren't in the same spot in the store, so your more casual fans aren't going know that you have a book out unless they read from multiple genres themselves.

Otherwise I don't think you'll have many issues. Hardcore fans will get the information from your website, and straddling genres will bring some people to your other work who wouldn't be exposed to it otherwise.

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I think it depends a lot on what genres you write -- if you do both mainstream and historical fiction, or suspense/thriller and scifi, stick with one name. If you do erotica and YA fiction, you probably want two.

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I know I already gave an answer to a similar question (see link below), but I wanted to add something onto that. With self-publishing, you have the opportunity to drive your customers based on the genre you write. A lot of people I know are finding great success in writing across genres, and they are using social media to get their books out there to the public. The great thing about this is that they can target different groups to go to different pages for the genre they want. If the new visitors happen to enjoy a book in one genre, they may be willing to try out a different book in a new genre.

One of the things I would recommend is to make sure you have a web site to use as your foundation. Dedicate a separate page to each genre so that folks can see what you have to offer. They don't worry about people getting their books mixed up because people are looking for a good read, regardless of genre.

Having said that, however, if you have genres that are extremeley different, then it might be better to go with a pen name. For example, young adult and erotica are two genres where you (hopefully) won't get too many crossover readers! Science fiction and romance might be another bad mix, but if your genres are not too extremely different, then you should be okay.

BTW - The first man to sell over a million e-books, John Locke, writes action/suspense and westerns! He hasn't had any problems with people buying across genres. Also, JA Konrath, who has sold e-books in the hundreds of thousands, writes horror, mystery, suspense, and now science fiction. While he does use a pen name for each genre, in his books he points people back to his central web site where he reveals his true identity and exposes people to the other genres.

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Oops, I just realized I left out the link to the other question. Sorry! writers.stackexchange.com/questions/2962/… –  Steven Drennon Jul 26 '11 at 2:32
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Personally, I think it's a good idea. I like to keep different types of work separate by genre, although I think one name can be used for similar genres as well.

For example, John Doe (suspense/mystery) and Bob Smith (fantasy/sci-fi)

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The main genre line that doesn't cross well under one line is romance/erotica and anything else. Anything involving sex or romance novels tends to be seen as a blemish on the record of an otherwise well-regarded author - hence, authors like Nora Roberts and Anne Rice write erotica/romance under a different name than other genres.

Historically, women writing in a male-dominated genre (which was all genres if you go back far enough) would use a male-sounding penname, but I have my suspicions that's less important these days.

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I'd suggest that you first get published in one genre more than once and then when you have a piece in another genre see if your publisher/agent wants you to consider another name to address the issue. If they think it will help market your work they will have cogent reasons.

Perhaps you are over-thinking this rather than getting the next work in another genre published.

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