What's in a Name?

Most of us know the reasons behind the use of pseudonyms, especially when dealing with the romance and erotic romance genres. Or, really, fiction in general. And, most of us are ok with authors not using their real names.

But what about authors who change names mid-career? Who build up a (questionably) loyal following only to dump their well known name in favor of a new one. Or those who seem to have a different pseudonym for every possible subgenre of romance out there?

Are we, as readers, ok with that, too?

Personally, I'm fine with romance authors who have multiple pen names. I understand that an author who normally writes Avon historical romance wouldn't want to shock her potentially "sweet romance" readers with hardcore erotica written under the same name. At the same time, though, I don't think the author in question needs to hide the fact that she writes in more than one genre. Because it's dishonest to both those who love her work and those who really aren't fans.

As long as a writer is upfront about it (Jayne Ann Krentz is a perfect example of the multi-named author IMHO) I see nothing wrong with it. It prevents the casual romance buyer from buying something based solely on the name (eg. buying an historical with Jayne Ann Krentz on the cover and being disappointed that it's not contemporary). But it also allows the more savvy (or open minded) buyer to both avoid OR seek out more books by an author they have read.

What I don't like is when an author (either on her own or at the urging of her publisher) decides to drop a well known name, publish under a new name, and pretend that she's starting a brand new career complete with a "Debut Author" tag under her name on the cover. Not only is that blatantly false, it is a betrayal of the reader.

There may well be legitimate reasons behind the name change. But don't try to trick the reader into a purchase by pretending to be a new author. Some readers go out of their way to buy new-to-them authors and use the "Debut Author" wording to help them find new books to read. And I know I am personally more likely to cut a debut author some slack while reading and reviewing that I won't for an experienced author. Tricking them (or me) into buying a book by misrepresenting yourself isn't going to help the 2nd chance career. It's going to create ill will. Especially when most of the offending authors copyright to their own name and are easily outed as veteran authors with previously published novels.

Bottom line: if your old name withered on the vine or you're an author going in a different direction with your work, a name change is just fine with me. But don't lie to me about it. Even a lie of omission. I want to know what you've published and with whom. I want that information on your bio page and on your website. I want you to be honest about it. Because if I'm tricked into reading and/or reviewing a book you've had published as a "Debut Author" and later find out you're an author I've read before under a different name? I'm never, ever going to buy one of your books again. And if your publisher insists you have to lie to your readers, maybe you're with the wrong pub.

1 comment:

  1. I agree...I don't mind the name changes for different genres, as long as the blurbs tell us about it.

    Jayne Ann Krentz is a perfect example. I also know an author named Cheryl Tardif who has written an erotic book under the name Cherish D'Angelo...she's upfront about it, and it's kind of a fun idea.