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Friday, July 9, 2010

Genres and Pseudonyms

First of all, thank you to all the people who entered my latest Bookshelf Giveaway! Again, I'm going to give away three books from the shelf. Drum roll, please...

signed copy of GUARDIAN OF THE GATE goes to Bookaholic (Jessica)!

REVOLUTION goes to kate at Read This Book!

signed copy of TORMENT goes to Courtneyreads

Congratulations to you all! Please send your mailing addresses to me at d (at) denisejaden (dot) com and I'll get them out in the mail to you as soon as I can.

Now that we have that little bit of business out of the way, I want to have a little chat about changing genres and pseudonyms. Oh, and did I mention that I have three fabulous books up for grabs to go with this discussion?

Back in May, I was fortunate enough to attend the Teen Author Carnival in New York. It was a blast, and among meeting many other amazing authors, I was able to meet squee-worthy Lauren Oliver. Lauren is the author of the highly acclaimed contemporary YA, BEFORE I FALL and a much-anticipated Dystopian YA, DELIRIUM.

I listened to Lauren and many of the authors at the carnival speak on panels, but one thing that Lauren said really stuck with me. Someone in the audience asked about why she had switched genres so early in her career, if it was a purposeful move, or if it was just the way her muse had called her. Lauren's answer surprised me.

She said that she switched to dystopian on purpose, to give herself some elbow room as a writer. Now I've always heard that as a new writer, it's best to stick with books of the same kind of feel/genre to brand yourself and create some expectation and fulfillment in your readers. Granted, with Lauren's blockbuster success and amazing prose, her readers would likely follow her anywhere. And I can understand her not wanting to get pigeonholed into writing books with an obvious formula. But maybe this isn't sound advice for every writer. Or maybe contemporary/dystopian is an easier switch than another genre jump like contemporary/fantasy would be. I don't know, what do you think?

Okay, so you might have guessed, I'm going to give away a copy of both BEFORE I FALL and DELIRIUM (they're both ARC's and I'll admit, neither of them are in pristine condition, but definitely readable).

The other book I'd like to give away (another ARC) is...

LOW RED MOON by Ivy Devlin. The back of this book says, "A powerful YA voice makes her paranormal debut with this breathless, spooky novel--a book to be devoured in one sitting."

Now I'm not sure if the publisher wants the real identity of this author to be made public, but that's not what I want to talk about here anyway. What I want to talk about, is why a pseudonym is used in this case. This is an established YA writer, with, let's say, at least five books of a certain "brand" already out there. I'm curious if you think this would have been the author's decision or the publisher's to publish it under a pseudonym? Was it a legal obligation because of switching publishers? I personally can't imagine having to keep up on two different online presences (two twitter, two blogs, two facebooks). Can you say overwhelming?

So I wonder if you're a writer... at what point would YOU publish under a pseudonym? Would you publish through as many publishers as possible using as many names as you had to in order to get your books out there? Would you do what Lauren Oliver did and try to give yourself some immediate "elbow room" or would you try to create a brand for yourself if you had the choice?

If you're not a writer, but a reader, I wonder what you think of pseudonyms and authors switching genres in general? Do you think the names get leaked in most cases anyway? Do you ever get annoyed when authors switch genres or do you find it refreshing? 

Tell me your thoughts in the comments to enter to win the above three books! (I can only mail to you if you're 13 or over and have a Canadian/U.S. mailing address, but I'd love to hear your thoughts regardless!)


  1. I guess I would just listen to the advice of my agent & publisher and if it made sense to do it, I'd do it.

    And, I have to admit, I'm dying to know who Ivy Devlin is now.

    And dying to win those arcs! Please enter me. :)

  2. Well, that was easy to find out (thank you, Google). Now I'm even more excited to read her book! :)

  3. Ha, I googled too, and I wondered if that was who it was. My agent was talking about a panel she was on. Anyway, I want to read it! And I'm so curious about DELIRIUM since I read BEFORE I FALL. She seems to be a really good story teller, so I bet no matter what genre, it's going to work and work well!!

  4. Oops, I forgot to weigh in with my opinion.

    I think she could have went with her own name and been fine. I believe it was her publisher who wanted her to to take on the different name. It still has romance in it, and she is great at romance! But maybe they are hoping Ivy Devlin is the next Stephenie Meyer, and wanted people to pick it up with no preconceived notions of what they'd get between the pages.

    The thing is, in the end, the STORY is what matters. If people love the story, it's going to sell, regardless of whether you used your name or not.

    At this point, would I consider a pseudonym if I changed things up drastically? Yes. If it made good business sense, why not?

  5. This is such an interesting question. I'm pretty attached to my name. If (kind of huge if) I actually develop a readership who expects a certain kind of book and then I write something very different, is that a betrayal of the reader? Maybe I can avoid the problem by putting a disclaimer on my imaginary literary-military-fantasy-scifi-romance-in verse: "If you like my other books, you are gong to hate this. Love, Blythe"

  6. I have to agree with the other posters--if my agent and editor thought it was a good idea, why not?

    Of course, with the internet (and Google), it probably wouldn't stay unknown for very long.

    I do think it makes sense if the writer wants to go into a vastly different genre/age group.

  7. I just googled too. :P I can't wait to read Low Red Moon now!

    As a reader, if I've had good experiences with an author's books in the past, I wouldn't hesitate to follow them if they transferred to a new genre.

    Pseudonyms do give things an air of mystery, though. Especially when the author's identity is hidden really well.

  8. I couldn't resist, I Googled her, too. Interesting!

    I wouldn't have a problem writing under multiple names. I'm already planning to use a pseudonym to begin with, so if there was a good reason to pick a second name, I'd be fine with that.

    I don't think it's always necessary as far as what works to build up a writer. If I like what an author has written previously, I'll try a book that's pretty different even if it's something I might not normally have read. But as I understand it, it's pretty useful if you're a fast writer, too. Not that I am, unfortunately--hah!

  9. I definitely think pseudonyms are a great idea for authors who are switching genres (even when the names are leaked). I think it creates a distinction that lets readers know that they shouldn't expect the same things from the author, which means less outraged/disappointed fans.

  10. I talked to "Ivy" at BEA and she said the pseudonym was her idea. She just thought it would be fun.

  11. I guess some people use them because they are in one genre and they want to branch out. If you've written a specific subject for a long time and now you want to write something else, people won't think it'll be good because they'll think your only good at writing that one genre.

    Some authors do this like Mandy Hubbard.

    She writes YA as herself and romance novels under Amanda Grace. Really, it's a preference. Maybe the publisher thought she would sell better. If my publisher thought it would be the best thing to do, i'd change my name for the sake of getting my book out there.


  12. As an aspiring author, I would just go with my gut. As a reader, I think I'd be aa little annoyed if found out an author I liked was using a psuedonym for another genre.

  13. Personally, I love when authors switch genres. My favorite author is Jeri Smith-Read because of that. I guess all her books have an element of paranormal or fantasy but she can never be accused of repetition. There is a comfort level in knowing what to expect from an author's books but I prefer to be blown away!
    I wasn't aware that Lauren was switching genres but now I'm dying to read her second book - even though I still have to catch up and read Before I Fall :-)

  14. I would really do what my agent/publisher told me to do.

    But, just like everyone else, I googled to see who Ivy Devlin was. She is one of those authors where I would read ANYTHING she writes, regardless of genre. So it's not like I would see a paranormal by her and say, "eew, weird, she's writing a paranormal." I would see the name and snatch it up no matter what.

    In fact, even knowing that Ivy Devlin was a popular YA author under a different name, I STILL wasn't interested in the book until I saw who she really was. And now I'm all over it.

  15. Hmmmm, you've brought up some really great questions. For my sake I'm going to organize it into a couple different parts:] I apologize for the extreme length of it.
    1. My take on pseudonyms is pretty indifferent to be honest, though if I had to pick a side it would most likely be authors not using pseudonyms. It doesn't bug me that authors use pseudonyms as I understand that this is usually done after tough thinking on the author's part as to what would be best for them. Though sometimes I do get annoyed with pseudonyms as I think they are two different people and not the same person. What I mean by this is, is that as I am aware who Ivy Devlin really is, but at first I wasn't. I still wanted to read Low Red Moon, but after I found out who the author really was I wanted to read it even more because I am a huge fan of the author’s books and I was much more excited to see her diversify herself like this.
    2. Which brings me to another point; even though I do get annoyed by not knowing an author is really a pseudonym, 99% of the time I do so it doesnt really bug me.
    3. This third point is mainly just away to connect some examples in, I really don't have a backbone for this point, besides both examples being authors using pseudonyms.
    ~For example, Kieran Scott (auhtor of SHES SO DEAD TO US and a few
    other books), has wrote the best-selling PRIVATE and PRIVILEGE series but chose to write them under the pseudonym Kate Brian. At first I understand it was a strategic becuase she was writing slightly different variations of fiction and she could keep them seperated under different names (and I'm not sure in this but I think they were both published under different publishers so there might have been contract issues or whatever.) Now though as Kieran is writing more similar books to her pseudonym I think it might have become a slight problem as she might have lost some of her possible fan base by them not being aware Kieran Scott & Kate Brian were one of the same. Also, I followed both twitter accounts and remember Kieran going on Kate's and alerting her followers that she was in fact the real deal, so I guess she realized this problem too. In this case, I personally wish they were all written under the same author name as I want Kieran Scott to get her much-deserved fan base she would if there was no pseudonym. (I love Kieran Scott’s books!)
    ~ Another example of pseudonym using is Mandy Hubbard. She currently has a couple books out/ coming out PRADA & PREJUDICE, DRIVEN (her adult novella within AT ANY COST), and the upcoming YOU WISH & SHATTERED. But Hubbard also has another upcoming book called BUT I LOVE HIM releasing under the pseudonym Amanda Grace. On Hubbard’s blog she explained that the reason for using the pseudonym was that BUT I LOVE HIM is such an intense and not nearly as easy going book as her others that it was best for her career wise to keep them separated from her other books as she most likely wouldn’t have quite the same fan base. In this case, I agree with Hubbard that it is best to keep them separate, but I am glad that she makes no effort to mask that she is not the one who wrote BUT I LOVE HIM, so that I am freely able to see her diversify. :)
    4. And my final point; authors switching genres. I think it is refreshing when authors switch genres. I love to see the author’s full potential and other sides to their writing. Like Elizabeth Scott (hehe), she was written many wonderful more fun books like STEALING HEAVEN, BLOOM, PERFECT YOU etc., but is also the author of the more intense books such as LIVING DEAD GIRL and the upcoming GRACE. Yeah, she changed genres (slightly), but I love seeing the way her writing changes when she switches genres. Also, if under a pseudonym I might never have known about LIVING DEAD GIRL, which would have been a real shame as I am in love (though it still creeps me out to this day) with that book.

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  17. *continued from above comment, again sorry its so long!*

    5. However, even though I do find it refreshing when author’s switch genres, they cant go all over the place such as keep on switching from genre to genre, I need some solidity. Lauren Oliver is in fact an exception however as her books are sooooo awesome (well I’ve only read Before I Fall, but Delirium sounds so superb that I’m already counting it as awesome. {Plus its Lauren freaking Oliver of course its amazing! :] }), that I honestly don’t care if her 3rd book (which by the way is essential to my living to have her write a 3rd book), was another totally different genre- I would read anything by her!

    Oh my, that was really long. But what can I say these were good questions! Hope you weren’t overwhelmed by my answer though:)

    And I am in serious hope of me winning as reading DELIRIUM and LOW RED MOON are vital to my existence! :)


  18. Excellent discussion, Denise. The shining example I hold up for switching genres is Laurie Halse Anderson. CHAINS and WINTERGIRLS? Wow. Yet, she doesn't write the historicals under a pseudonym. I guess because SPEAK branded her name for success.

    Hope I’m not too late to put my name in the hat for books. Thanks for your generosity!

  19. Hmm, this is a very interesting topic to discuss ! I'm thinking that if someone went under a penname, they just must be really paranoid or something in their personal life was keeping them from putting their real name.

    I'm thinking that maybe it was an author or celebrity out there who didn't want to put their real name so they could get real sales. If you're already known in the world, people will buy your stuff whether they think its good or not. But really, I can't think of anything else besides those two thoughts.

    Great topic! It got me really thinking now.


  20. Interesting topic you've brought up!

    I think that if an author wants to use a pseudonym name, then they should stick with it throughout the rest of their writing life. I don't see the point of continuously changing names - I find it confusing and it would be hard to keep track of the author.

    Overall, I like when authors just stick with their real name to put on their books. It's much less of a hassle and doesn't leave any mysterious gaps open.

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  22. Hmm, I was just talking about this with my writer friend the other day. He just wrote his next book, and had me read it before he sent it to his agent. The book is so different from his other stuff, that I worried about how it would be received, because it is definitely not for his current audience.

    Personally, I really don't understand the use of a pseudonym, most of the time. My first experience with hearing about one was when I found out about Anne Rice and how she used one to put out her sleeping beauty books.

    As a reader, I greatly enjoy when a writer is multifaceted. They can write one thing, and then write something totally different, and I could easily see it as them having a wide variety of ideas floating through their heads. I agree with Lauren when it comes to elbow room, but you do bring up a good point when you say it may not be for everyone.

    But, if an author really wants to try something new, I don't think they should be afraid to go out of their comfort zone. If they have fans who are loyal, they will follow them and at least try whatever new idea they decide to delve into.

    From a readers point of view, the change could be very refreshing and I would end up having more respect for the writer. As an aspiring writer, I wouldn't want to be stuck in one genre or style forever. Even if I didn't try it, I would still want the choice, and not to feel trapped in a niche.

    But, I also respect the fact that some people feel the need to have a pseudonym. It never annoys me to find out about one, I usually just laugh and see it as a pleasant surprise.

    So, in the end, it's all preference, but I think a writer should be able to write what they want under one name, without needing to change to another in order to brand out. But, that is just my two cents, hehe.

    Also, I'd love to be entered to win those books. I'm really excited for Delirium!


  23. As I reader, I love to see authors switch genres. It simply shows how versatile they are. Readers can be extremely loyal. I follow writers. A pseudonym might be OK, but it also might not draw in all the potential readers.

    But editors tend to know best. Or do they?


  24. As a reader, I don't think authors should need to create psuedonyms to be successful in more than one genre. Pseudonyms just make things confusing and become ridiculous when, such as on the cover of Stephen King or Anne Rice novels, both names are listed. It is the author's decision whether they wish to switch genres, but their readers, who love them for one particular genre, may not follow them to the other.

    Please enter me in this giveaway!

    saemmerson at yahoo dot com

    Sarah E

  25. Personally I don't have a problem with authors using pseudonyms. If it will help sell a book, why not? As for switching genres, I think it's pretty cool if an author is able to write in a variety of genres, then it showns their talent.
    I would love to win these books! Thanks for the chance!

    nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

  26. I like the idea of giving myself "elbow room". Still, if I wrote something for a REALLY different market, I'd seriously consider a pseudonym (like, say, if I wrote something for the Christian market after doing a few mainstream edgy YAs that would shock the socks off some Christian readers, lol). But for the most part, I can't see myself opting for a pseudonym.

    I'm not convinced that branding is absolutely necessary (except insofar as one's name on a book tells the reader she's in for a good story!). It seems to me that differences in cover art and marketing may be enough to indicate if the genre or age-range is something different than an author's other works.

    YMMV.... ;)

  27. PS - Blythe, I love your disclaimer! ROFL!

  28. I enjoy when authors switch up genres, gives me a chance to see how they can evolve themselves in a different genre!

  29. I think it's cool when authors switch genres. If you love books by one other and she writes a new book in a genre you haven't read before, you might get the book just because she wrote it, then realize you love that genre and start picking up other books in that genre.

    Bratdownstairs @ yahoo

  30. I would think with all the success Elizabeth has she wouldn't want to have a pseudonym. I like to see authors switch genres though. It can be refreshing to have a new take on it.

  31. I believe an author is entitled to write about whatever they want to write about. It's also is their decision to change their name if they want to switch genres as well.

    jacindahinten @ sbcglobal . net

  32. I think I prefer authors to stick to their own names, so that I can follow them. I never catch on to pseudonyms, so I'm left in the dark. :S

    I'd love to win these ARCs!!! I've read Before I Fall (borrowed a copy from library) and loved it. I've read the sample of Delirium and it sounds great!


  33. I write recreationaly, mainly to stop the woman who organizes the files of my mind from leaving out of boredom. I like to experiment with lots of different writing styles and can jump from historical fiction to sci-fi to contemporary and so on with varying degrees of success.
    If I was a professional writer I would hate to be limited because of what I had written before. I really appreciate it when authors have variety in genre because I think it takes courage to potentially anger your fans or embarrass yourself.
    I think that by comparing the work of an author in two different genres it is possible to grasp a better understanding of their skills. I think that both strengths and weaknesses (such as dialogue) are easier to see because it is the same technique but in different context. As such, I am impressed when an already accomplished author can pull of a novel in a different genre, and my opinion of them greatly increases.
    Therefore, I prefer it when an author keeps her name when publishing a new sort of book. However, I understand why an author might choose to use a pseudonym.
    Personally, if I was going to use a pseudonym I would use it right from the start to keep my personal life private, but it is easy to say what I would do in theory. ;)