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How important is an author’s name for the reader?


This was a question that came up at the lunch table on Christmas Day of all times. I write mystery thrillers for adults. There are twelve books in two series altogether. For both of the series I use the same author name. I believe it’s important to do so, particularly when writers these days spend such a large amount of their time creating a positive ‘author brand’.

What raised the issue over Christmas lunch was that I am currently writing a story for my daughter, which may develop into a novel for the pre teens. My 10 year old is an avid reader and I’m constantly sourcing books and magazines for her. It suddenly struck me that I could write one for her myself, whilst she is so receptive to reading and actually wants me to do it.

So the story began its life. The genre is a departure for me, although a couple of my Imogen and Hugh Croft Mysteries would be catagorised as ‘cosy’ and could certainly be read by teenagers. I ripped through all the Agatha Christie books when I was 11 after all!

But then the question arose of what pen name I would use if I were to publish the children’s book. I’d certainly be reluctant to use the name I already do as the departure from the thriller genre would be too confusing, I think. We decided instead that I would probably use my maiden name. As a married woman, it is occasionally quite useful to possess two identities!

But the debate made us consider how important an author’s name is to their popularity as a writer. Obviously, the big name authors will build a loyal following and their name appearing on the cover will literally sell the book.

In addition to this, we all knew of certain people in our lives who would be reluctant to read a book written by a woman and vice versa. Look at the nineteenth century female writers who were forced to use a male pseudonym in order to be published; like the Brontes or Elizabeth Gaskell.

I initially chose to use my married name so that the people I already knew would easily be able to track down my work. The decision was no more complicated than that! But I know that these days a great deal of research goes into deciding what type of author name sells the best in different book categories. I suspect the decisions made by consumers are largely subconscious.

The majority of my favourite crime writers are female, but I couldn’t really tell you why. I also absolutely loved the books of the late Iain Banks so there is no prejudice involved!

I will be fascinated to discover how my children’s book fares with my new nom de plume. There will be no intention to deceive, simply to distinguish the piece from my adult work. But the experiment will be extremely interesting nonetheless.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. I use a couple different names in my writing for the same reasons you mentioned: to put an umbrella over different types of work, and to, with one name, obscure my gender to the casual reader. I think both are good reasons for doing so.

    There are a couple authors I read who have different names for different genres. I’ve tracked down their other works, and one author I’d read no matter what they wrote, but for the other author, I didn’t care for their forays into the other genre. In that case, it was helpful as a reader to know that their other penname would continue to hold books that appealed to me.

    I also mostly read women writers; I think its due to their characterizations. Of course, for all I know, I’m reading male authors with female pennames. Wouldn’t that be an interesting reversal!

    Liked by 1 person

    January 5, 2016
    • I find the idea that a writer’s work differs quite dramatically when writing under different pen names really interesting. I always found this with Ruth Rendell. I absolutely loved her Barbara Vine books but couldn’t get along with those written under her own name!

      Liked by 1 person

      January 5, 2016
  2. Yes, I’ve noticed too that certain names work for certain genres.

    Liked by 1 person

    January 5, 2016

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