An Annabeth by Any Other Name . . .
First I sold Return to Sender, an erotic romantic comedy, to Ellora’s Cave. Then a few weeks later, I sold a m/m romance Swimming the Distance to MLR’s Going for Gold anthology. Suddenly, I faced a decision—one pen name or two? I think every writer who writes in multiple genres faces this dilemma at more than one point over a career. And I think the answer to this is evolving—as developing a brand requires more attention to social media, multiple pen names are more work. Readers and publishing houses seem to be growing more tolerant of writers writing in different genres. However, with e-readers, readers often impulse purchase more and may get confused by vastly different genres.
In researching the question, I found many different answers—hang out in any writing forum and you’ll find the topic of multiple genres and multiple pen names comes up regularly. Everyone has a different opinion—some people wait until they sell to adopt a pen name at all. Some manage multiple pen names from the outset, submitting and entering contests under different names. Some writers know from the beginning that they only want to publish as their real name and don’t want to do a pen name at all.
Because one of my sales was for a m/m, I also had to consider that many m/m writers do a more masculine sounding name or do the initial thing like L.A. Witt and K.A. Mitchell. But other bestselling m/m authors like Marie Sexton and Heidi Cullinan use feminine names. On the other hand, erotic romance authors sometimes do very “sexy” sounding names to embody their genre. Annabeth Albert doesn’t exactly scream “smexy times aplenty.” But these provocative names don’t translate well when writers want to venture outside of the erotic romance arena. My own erotic romances are fun and spicy, but they’re not as explicit as some—a deliberately erotic or “fun” name didn’t make sense given my voice.
In the end, I focused on a few factors when I decided to keep the same name for both genres. I’d spent the prior year putting a lot of time into building my brand as Annabeth Albert. I’d always said that whichever genre sold first—category Romance, YA, erotica, or m/m—would have “dibs” on Annabeth. But then I sold back-to-back, which was awesome. However, I wasn’t sure I wanted to split my attention right as I finally had sales between two identities. Establishing a brand is a fair amount of work—twitter, facebook, website etc. I knew I’d have two release dates within a month of each other.
And for me, deciding whether to split also came down to how important backlist is right now. If I split and did different names, each name would show a single title for quite some time—no cross-over sales beyond a small circle of friends. I spent some time thinking about myself as a reader—I read many different genres from Regency to Erotica and sweet m/f to spicy m/m and other alternative pairings. I’d never be able to limit myself to just one genre as a reader—why would I want to as a writer? I’ve happily followed many writers into new genres.
At some point, I may have to split—obviously if I sell a YA or a sweet romance, the publisher may well ask me to change or I might want to just to manage reader expectations. I decided to publish under one name right now in part because I didn’t want to end up managing four or more names in the future.
Finally, I thought about my voice—the essential heart of every story I’ve ever written, both sold and those that shall forever live under my bed. My voice for erotic romance and m/m romance is very similar—angsty, touches of comedy, realistic situations, slightly neurotic characters, and deep emotions. I joke that my tagline should be “heartwarming smut.” But that’s really the core of my writing—family values wrapped up in a sexy little package.
So after all these hours obsessing over pen names and brands and identities, I want to hear from you. Are you currently managing different pen names? Do you write multiple genres under one name? How did you decide what to do? What do you see as some of the challenges of multiple names? Single names?
Jack Donovan and Bree Hendricks have been in hot competition since their school days, whether it’s tussling over the best apartment or bickering over local leash laws. Bree never turns down a challenge, so when her new toy in its brown paper packaging is delivered to Jack’s doorstep by mistake, he seizes this perfect opportunity to make her act on the long-simmering attraction between them.
Bree is determined to set a good example for her teenage daughter, and that means no flirting, no flings and definitely no one-night stands. But a bout of saucy cybersex demonstrating her new dildo? There’s no danger in that. Unless Bree allows her heart to become involved…
Buy RETURN TO SENDER from your favorite e-retailer—out now with Amazon, Nook, and other sellers. Buy links here: http://annabethalbert.com/books/return-to-sender/
Annabeth Albert has been hooked on romance ever since Laura gave Almanzo permission to kiss her goodnight. It wasn’t too long after that Annabeth started sneaking romances where a whole lot more than kissing happens. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer in a variety of subgenres. A long-time member of Romance Writers of America, she is also active in the Rainbow Romance Writers chapter.
Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two toddlers.
She often tweets about her latest online bargain finds, newest keeper shelf books, and other random tidbits and loves chatting. @AnnabethAlbert http://www.twitter.com/AnnabethAlbertYou can also find her at http://www.annabethalbert.com and http://www.facebook.com/annabethalbert.com