By now we’ve all heard of the famous case of JK Rowling writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. In this instance, she did it as an experiment, but many authors write under secondary names when they branch out into genres other than the ones for which they’re known. For example, Nora Roberts had several names, including J.D. Robb, and gothic novelist Carol Goodman writes under the name Juliet Dark for a gothic fantasy trilogy that’s a little spicier than what she’s done previously.
Some writers do this on purpose, especially those who write in genres that may affect the reputation they’ve built. Others do it because they are asked to do so by publishers or agents who are worried how the change of subject matter may affect the brand they’ve built. It used to be a requirement any time you switched genres, but more and more authors are choosing to own up to their pseudonyms or forgoing them all together. I’m no expert, but as far as I can tell, it doesn’t seem to have negatively affected their sales.
This has been on my mind lately because I recently completed my first non-historical novel. It actually couldn’t be more different from my previous books if I tried. I’m not exactly sure how this one will be classified (that’s up to my agent), but it’s contemporary and has a romantic comedy vibe about it. I never intended to write a non-historical book, but when this plot popped in my head, I knew I had to follow it – and I ended up with a product I can’t wait to edit and show to the world.
But now that it’s drafted, my PR background is kicking in. I’ve spent the last two and a half years building up my credibility as a historical fiction author (and that is still by far my first love). I find myself wondering if when this comes out, will it harm my brand? Will readers take me less seriously if they see my name on something that’s a lot lighter and more fun than what I usually write or will they take it in stride? Perhaps they will be interested to see some range from me. And who knows if I would attract more readers by crossing genre lines (i.e. fans of one may discover the other).
As a reader, I don’t personally care if an author writes different types of books. If they’ve hooked me with good writing, I know I will likely enjoy their other work. The only thing that might stop me from buying a book in another genre is if it’s a type I don’t enjoy. (I don’t like westerns, erotica or horror, no matter who writes them.) But otherwise, I’m just thrilled to have new content by a writer I can trust to take me for an amazing ride.
Ultimately, I’m going to be looking to my agent and publisher for advice when the time comes, but right now I’m wondering how all of you feel about this subject. Do you prefer your authors to stay in their defined genres so that you know what to expect? If so, would it upset you to see them write something different? Or would you rather be able to see everything they’ve written just by searching a single name? If you’re a writer, what’s your preference? Why do you feel the way you do? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this subject.