Your Brand Name

12 May

Recently, I’ve seen a few debates about the merits of separating your writing in different genres with different pen names (or not). Some say you should, some say you shouldn’t. Most speak authoritatively when they are just offering a personal opinion with no real facts to back it up. I had to laugh at the muddled analogy employed by one author in the May 2012 issue of Writing Magazine, who argued :  “How would you feel if you bought a packet that said ‘chocolate buttons’ on the outside and found you’d got some fudge?” Well, yes, I would be annoyed – but, ‘chocolate button’s is the equivalent of the book title here and the author’s name is the equivalent of the brand; you might love Cadbury’s Chocolate Buttons, but not care for Cadbury’s Creme Eggs, but you won’t confuse the two just because they are made by Cadbury’s. Thus, unless the author writes books with utterly different content but almost identical titles, there is no problem (with the possible exception of cynical publishers deliberately trying to mislead readers about content, but that is why buying blind is a bad idea unless you enjoy a specific author regardless of what they turn their hand to…).

In general terms, there seems to be little to gain from splitting your output between different pen names – most people can cope with a single author writing books about different genres (one need only see the number of authors who did use different pen names for different genres who, later, are advertising the fact that they are all by the same person because their readers want more of their writing regardless of the genre), and creating a strong ‘brand name’ for your writing seems more effective than diluting your presence.

However, I can see that there is a case for writing under different names when you are either producing writing that is so divergent that it could be problematic (for example, a children’s author who is also writing gory thrillers unsuitable for the kiddies) or where some of your writing could cause embarrassment to you personally or damage the credibility of your writing in another field or even alienate your readership. Sometimes it is better to have two strong individual brands than to combine them and risk damage to the brands image.

Ultimately, whether you opt to use more than one name for your writing, or stick with just the one (and, indeed, whether you use your real name or a pen name), the decision is solely down to you. Others can offer their opinions, but you must do what you feel comfortable with, not what someone claims is the done thing in a field with no established precedent. Is there a compelling reason to divide up your output, or do you want to consolidate your brand? You decide!


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