Thinking about using a pen name? Think again – Jayne Ann Krentz
By Jayne Ann Krentz
Let me start by making it clear up front that I never intended to end up with three pen names. I assure you that was never the plan – not that there was much of a plan. (Who could possibly plan a writing career? But that’s the subject of another blog). ♥
Ahem, where was I? Oh, right – the pen name thing. I write romantic-suspense. It is the only genre I write, the only genre I have ever written, the only genre I want to write. It is my core story and, yes, I’m convinced every author has one. We spend our entire careers exploring it. (Again, the subject of another blog). But I set my stories against three very different fictional landscapes and people mistake those landscapes for genres or sub-genres. Currently I use Jayne Ann Krentz for contemporary settings, Amanda Quick for historicals and Jayne Castle – which happens to be my birth name – for futuristic/paranormal settings.
I often explain my name issues by telling people that I use three names so that readers will know which of my worlds they will be entering when they pick up one of my books. But between you and me, that is not true. The dreadful truth is that at various points along the way I managed to commit career murder. I was forced to reinvent myself each time. Using a new pen name – one without any terrible sales baggage attached to it – seemed like a logical approach to the problem. But I was wrong.
In hindsight, it would have been better to try to resuscitate a name rather than invent a new one. I think that makes even more sense today in the era of self-publishing and ebooks. Why? Because some audience, no matter how small, is better than none. Building an audience is hard enough in today’s over-crowded marketplace. Attracting three different audiences to three different names is three times the work. These days most of that work is done via social media platforms and that means that it falls on the shoulders of the authors. This is true whether you are self-publishing or going the traditional route.
There’s another reason for sticking with one name – the vast majority of readers will only remember one of your names, at best. Trust me on this. I’ve been there. No, it doesn’t matter if you put “Jayne Ann Krentz writing as Jayne Castle” on the cover or in the author bio. I’m telling you, most people don’t read and recall details like that. Why make it hard for them in the first place? Let the cover art and back cover copy supply the information about the fictional landscape.
Your writing voice is your voice and yours alone. It is what sets you apart from every other author in the known universe. Give ten writers the same plot and you will get ten very different stories.
It is your voice that attracts readers, not your clever plots or brilliantly realized fictional landscapes. You want readers to remember that voice and associate it with one name.
If you are thinking of using a couple of different pen names my advice is to turn back now while you still can. Save yourself.
Jayne Ann Krentz is the author of over 50 New York Times bestsellers. She writes contemporary romantic suspense under her own name and also as Amanda Quick (historical settings) and Jayne Castle (futuristic/paranormal stories). She lives in Seattle, Washington.