Friday, January 29, 2016

January Book Lessons

So, I made part of my goals/rules for 2016 to read more this year. I want to be more in line with what is being put on right now in the markets that I write and sell. I also want to improve as an author and often times that can come from reading craft books.

This blog isn't a review site and never has been. You can find tons of those out there that do a much better  job than me. However, I thought it would be interesting to breakdown what I read and share something I learned from reading it. It is also a bit of accountability for me to post one of these each month.

So here are the books I read this month and something I learned from each of them.

Take off your pants by Libbie Hawker

What I learned: When I plan my books, I move from one plot point to the next and then add in the character's emotional reaction to those plot points. But Hawker suggests actually doing this in reverse, starting with a characters goal and flaw and working towards a place where they can only achieve their goal by overcoming their flaw. I thought this was an interesting idea and I've been using it to help me flesh out the next book in the Acceptance series. I like how Hawker explains the triangle of tension that needs to be in each scene. Basically, the character gets wedged into a situation and the the scene spits her back out into the next wedge. Hawker explains this much better than me. I also got a nice reminder to focus my scenes on a character goal which helped to jog my brain a bit.


Unravel Me by Tahereh Maf

What I learned: Good advice is to write the kind of book that you want to read. This book was a good reminder of that for me. The writing is beautiful and Mafi handles internalization like a master. But I didn't love it, because I'm an action kind of girl and this story is more about the main character's emotional reaction to the world around her. As authors, we should know what we like and what draws us in, so we can make sure to have that in our own books. But reading someone with a completely different style is good, too. After reading this, I know that I need to explore more of Rebecca's emotional state while writing the last book in the Acceptance Series. While I don't want to go quite as far as Mafi does, I can see where exploring those emotions can add to the reader experience.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

What I learned: You know how there are books that make you salivate because the author is just amazingly talented? This was one of those books for me. Specifically when it came to world building. Aveyard managed to create a complete social and political system set up in a new world landscape AND a complex magic system, all without stopping to explain any of it. I will absolutely read this one again, just to really study the way she crafts her world so seamlessly into the story. And I'm anxiously looking forward to the release of the next book in this series in February. This should be required reading for anyone who wants to improve their world-building.







Gifts by Ursula K. Le Guin

What I learned: So this book came out in 2006 from a well-established author in the genre. This book taught me just how fickle the publishing world is. While the book is beautifully written, I can say with some confidence that this same book pitched today by a debut author would not be picked up for publication. This book is a reminder of two things for me. First, reader aesthetics change all the time and even ten years can feel like a century in the publishing world. Second, established authors who have sold well in the past, can get away with more than debut authors. This isn't a criticism, it just is what it is. Before you can bend all the rules and eschew today's conventions you have to prove that you can be successful, following a more established formula. A good lesson for all of us to keep in mind.




 Evolution Series (books 1-5) by Kelly Carrero

What I learned: This series started off fantastic and I was burning through a book a day. But then I realized that I was reading these a little too fast. That's when I checked the page count (something I don't normally look at for ebooks) and realized that each book is only about half as long as a typical YA novel. At first, I didn't mind (the books were good), but as the series continued, I realized that each book no longer contained a single story line. They stopped at arbitrary cliff-hangers and then picked up again in the next book. And that's when I stopped reading. There are more books to this series, but I won't be reading them. Because I felt cheated by the author. I don't mind a shorter book, but it started to feel like the author was intentionally chopping up her books in order to get more sales. I'm all for ideas to help authors sell more books, but this was a hard lesson that your ideas have to benefit the reader, not the author.






So that's it for this month. I feel pretty good about my start to reading more. I'm currently reading Scarlet by Marissa Meyer and The Anatomy of Story by John Truby, so I'll have those in next months lessons. I'm always on the hunt for good books. If you've got a great YA or Craft book suggestion, let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Reasons you book isn't selling: Saying No

Welcome back to Reasons your book isn't selling, where every Wednesday I discuss common mistakes I see authors make that are hurting their book sales. Last time I talked about blanket promotion.

Today's reason your book isn't selling: Saying No

As authors, we tend to come pre-loaded with a certain amount of self-doubt and unrealistic expectations. For example, ask an author how they think their newest book will do and you're likely to  hear that said author doesn't think anyone will buy it. We're not usually the most positive folks.

Unfortunately, this is the attitude that costs us a lot of missed opportunities.

I'm constantly surprised at the number of authors who say no when it comes to marketing opportunities. Mostly because they're convinced they won't work. Here are some of the objections I have heard:

This is too small of an event
Local media can't sell books
That blog doesn't have a large enough readership

But those objections just don't hold water. Here's why.

A live event can be a bust, but it can also blow up in sales
 
First, you never, ever know how something will go. I recently attended a signing where tons of the little old ladies in attendance bought oodles of my friend's children's books. The same author friend who had to be brow beaten into attending said event. Personally, I didn't sell a single book, but that's just the way the cookie crumbles. But you for sure can't sell books at events you don't attend.

And even if you don't sell books at an event, you can never measure the exposure you get from people who had never heard of you. This can sometimes lead to being invited to bigger and better events in the future.

Even the smallest blogs have some readers

Same deal with smaller blogs. No, they don't have the same pull as the big guns. But you never know who is reading on any given day. Not to mention that often times, exposure on smaller sites can lead to invites with bigger fish.

Plus, smaller blogs are still building up their own audience which means your post is likely to get extra time and extra promotion. Something no author should be turning down.

You never know who is watching
 
I advocate making use of your local radio, tv and newspapers. But I'm shocked at the number of authors who ignore these opportunities.  I did a quick spot on our local news channel when my first book came out. A professor at the local university just happened to be watching and decided to add my book to her sylabus and paid me to come speak to her class. No news spot and she has no idea I even exist.

Our local book store manager says that every time a book review runs in the paper, people come in asking if they carry the book, even if the review wasn't great.

Small town media might not seem like it's worth it, but I think you'd be surprised.

Be the author known for saying yes

I'm not saying you have to do every little thing, but when you are new or still trying to build up your loyal readership, think long and hard before saying no to any opportunities. Truly there is no exposure that is too small, especially if said exposure won't cost you anything.


Build your reputation as someone who doesn't see themselves as too big for their britches. When you regularly say yes, people take note. And that means when special opportunities arise you're name will be at the top of the list because people know they can count on you to say yes.

No matter what your reasons are for saying no, next time, take a second to see if you can capture a potential missed opportunity instead.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Agency Lessons: Responding to rejections

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.
Today's question comes from the reader mail bag: When I receive a rejection, is it polite to send an email thanking agents for their time or just annoying? What if it is more than a simple rejection, and they took time to give me helpful feedback?

So, with anything else that deals with agents, this is going to vary. Some agents love seeing these little notes pop up in their box and others hate them with the loathing of a million black holes. You can't please everyone.

But here's how to please me. ;)

In general, I hardly ever see the little thank you emails that come back from query rejections. This is an issue of function rather than purpose. While I individually read and respond to all my queries, I do have help. All queries for Corvisiero go to a central box. Then our fabulous interns screen them to make sure they aren't death threats and they contain all the elements we ask for in a query (Query, synopsis and sample pages, in case you're curious). Then these queries are filtered into our individual query boxes.

I respond to my individual box, but they all show the same reply email address. Which means, if you reply with a lovely thank you, it ends up in the same box as all the other incoming queries. Sometimes an intern will forward this on, but usually, they just get deleted. Not because we are rude or uncaring, but because the influx of emails is so high we try to keep the volume to a manageable level. This is truly a numbers game of minutes in a day versus everything that needs to be done.

Now, what about a rejection on a manuscript. For me, these are different. I respond to manuscript requests from my personal agency account. Which means responses flow directly back into my inbox and I will always see them.

I never expect an author to respond to my rejections. Afterall, I've just said, thanks, but no thanks. Hardly the opening to a friendly conversation. That said, these are almost always a nice treat in my inbox. 

A few things to keep in mind:

1. I don't keep track of who responds and who doesn't and your friendly thank you note will not increase your chances that I will accept your next manuscript. I hardly ever remember the names of the authors I review (though concepts I always remember). So next time you query me, I will have no idea that you were the author who sent a note saying my comment was the epiphany they were waiting for.

2. A negative response will absolutely ensure that you will not gain representation on your next manuscript. In fact, a negative response at any stage in the process will earn you a quick trip to the garbage can. Yes, we do keep a record of these authors. Yes, we all know about them, even if the response went to another agent. Yes, it does mean that you will not be reviewed even if you next project is the next Great American Novel. Because no one wants to work with someone who is rude or difficult. This industry is hard enough without working with a pain in the rear. No one has time for that.

In the end, there is no standard protocol to responding to rejections. That said, if you want to respond, keep is short and positive and you can't go wrong, no matter what an agent's preferences are.

If you have questions of your own you'd like to see answered, you can leave them in the comments or fill out this anonymous form

Friday, January 22, 2016

My "rules" for 2016

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about how there aren't any rules for writing since everyone is going to work a little different. That said, I do get value out of seeing how other people work to see if there are some take-aways I can incorporate into my own habits. So, I thought I'd share some of the new tactics I'm implementing this year to improve as an author.

This year, my focus is on productivity. I've always felt like I had a good handle on the business side of being an author. How to market my books, create a platform, manage my money, etc. But I never actually laid down a plan on how to be an author. And because of that, I've still been treating the act of writing like a hobby. So, no surprise I only managed to write one book in 2015.

I want to write a lot more than that in 2016 and I knew that wouldn't happen without changing how I currently operate. So here we go.

1. Track my writing
I always get stuck when people ask me how long it takes me to write, because while I have a vague idea of how long it takes me, it's never been something I tracked. So I invested a big $5 in myself to purchase a fancy excel sheet that tracks my daily writing habits from Jaime Raintree. It's not a magic wand, but I can set goals for each project and each month and track my daily writing output. I'm hopeful that being able to see my productivity will keep me on track and help me to plan better in the future.

2. Plan my projects
In the past, I would make plans such as "I want to write these two books this year", but I never gave them actual deadlines or put them on the calendar. I realized that in order to take my authorship to the next level, I need to be more intentional in my writing plans. Unfortunately, because of the downfalls I mentioned in #1, I don't have a solid idea of how long it really takes me to finish a project. So, for this year, my planning is very loosely scheduled, giving myself (hopefully) way more time than I actually need. Ideally, I'll be able to do this better next year, but I didn't want to wait any more.

I've already taken a leap on this one. I got on the calendar for my cover designer before I even wrote word one of the book they are working on. This is big for me, because I am crazy practical when it comes to spending money. So, I have always waited to commit on spending money on my book until it was done. But that adds wait times to my production schedule that don't need to be there. It's time to stop sitting on the fence and commit to doing what I love. I'm an author now, time to start acting like it.

3. Listen/read with purpose
I love podcasts. I learn so much and it's a fun way for me to feel connected to the writing community. But learning doesn't  help me if I skip the implementation stage. So this year I am committing to a new tactic. Anytime I sit down to listen to a podcast, watch a craft video, or read a non-fiction book, I will also have a pen and paper. If I learn something, I need to write it down, and as soon as I'm done, I need to figure out a way to implement that learning into my daily practice or create a reminder to use that information when it is applicable. If I find that I'm no longer learning anything applicable from a particular source, then I need to stop wasting my time. Podcasts and craft videos are fun, but they need to be informative if I'm going to keep reading them. Same thing goes with books and blogs. If I'm going to be more productive, I have to cut out activities that don't contribute to more productivity.

4. Sweat the small stuff
No, I'm not going to start micromanaging my every action, but I am going to focus more on small activities this year.  In 2015 I let my marketing efforts fall to the way side while I struggled to write the one book I managed to finish. Not only do I think this hurt my sales, but I felt less connected to the writing community. So this change is both business and personal. In 2016 I want to focus more on small actions I can take every day to stay connected to my readers and promote my books. Things like pitching a guest post, finding new people to follow on twitter, or soliciting new reviews. To help keep track of what I've worked on and stay organized, I'm trying a new program called Trello. I'm still getting used to it, but I'll let you know in the future if it helps. Sadly, I've exceeded the limitations of my composition book to keep track of everything I need to get done, so we'll see if this can be the replacement I need.

5. Read more
I did okay reading fiction in 2015, but I feel like I missed so many great books. I make weekly trips to the library because I can't afford to buy everything I want to read, but I am going to start buying more books. It's hard for me to justify book expenses with a family, but I need to start seeing it as an investment in my career. I'm also going to be more proactive in asking our teen librarian what new books she has in each week. If I want to stay on top of trends, I need to be better about reading books closer to their release date. That said, I am continuing with my decision to not read books I don't want to, regardless of their popularity. It's no secret that I just don't love contemporary, though I will pull one out at least once a year to give it another try. No matter how much attention a book gets, if it isn't something I think I'll enjoy, I'm not going to read it. There are too many good books and too few days to read novels I don't love.

So those are my plans/rules to help make 2016 my most productive year yet. If you have plans of your own, I'd love to hear them.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Reasons your book isn't selling: Blanket Promotion

Welcome back to Reasons your book isn't selling, where every Wednesday I discuss common mistakes I see authors make that are hurting their book sales. Last time I talked about ignoring local marketing.

Today's reason your book isn't selling: Blanket Promotion


So, let's talk about what blanket promotion is, why you shouldn't do it, and what to do instead.

What is blanket promotion?

You've all seen this, even if you didn't call it by the same name. This is when an author just throws their book out into the wild in the hopes that it sticks. Blanket promotion is the twitter user whose entire feed is amazon buy links and reviews for their own book. Blanket promotion is the author who sends out the same, generic "I'd love for you to buy my book and leave me a review" email to every single person in the contact list. I get these in my agency email at least once a week. Blanket promotion is the Facebook user who signs up for 300 different book related groups and then posts the identical "Look at my book" message in every single group, every day, and that's the only time they post. Blanket promotion is the person who can be having a normal conversation on social media, but always manages to twist the conversation back around to "Hey, I wrote a book. Wanna buy it."

Blanket promotion follows this idea that if you just keep tossing your book at the world, eventually, someone somewhere will want to read it.

Why you shouldn't do it?

So let's just assume that you all understand that this kind of promotion efforts make you look like an amature and also the equivalent of a loud fart in a crowded elevator. No one likes it and we can't avoid it, so we hold our breath until the ride is over. Don't be an elevator farter.

But besides this, it is also a huge, collosal waste of time. You can spend hours posting in hundreds of Facebook groups, but your aren't selling any books. And this is where a lot of authors fall into the marketing trap. They point to all these posts and say "Look at how hard I'm working at marketing my book, but no one is buying it. Marketing doesn't work, so I'm not going to try anything else." I swear to you, I have heard this conversation on multiple occaisions. Blanket promotion is spinning your wheels. A lot of effort and no pay off, other than getting yourself banned and unfriended on social media.

What can you do instead?

Discoverability is a real concern for new authors. But you don't solve this by shouting about your book from the rooftops to anyone with ears. Instead, focus your time and efforts on marketing tactics that might actual work to sell your books.

1. Target your readers with audience specific info
Hint, this isn't a buy link to your book. This is information, fun facts, interesting personal tid-bits, and other items worth sharing that your reader audience will enjoy and/or benefit from. 
2. You get to shout about your book for a limited amount of time, then that's it
On your release week, you are a special magical unicorn. Go on ahead and share your buy link and promo those reviews. By all means, share your good news with groups in which you are already an active participant. But you get one week and one week only, because next week it will be someone else's turn and your fans will be ready to hear about something other than you book.
3. Social media accounts are not free advertising
Contrary to popular belief, Facebook and Twitter were not created so authors could spam their books at people. They were created for us to be social. So go use them to be social. Sure, you can do an occaisional post about your books, but for the most part, just be social.
4. Don't be rude
I shouldn't have to say this. I shouldn't have to say this. I'm saying this anyway. No matter what you do, don't be rude in your marketing efforts. This includes interactions online with your readers, your contact with reviewers/bloggers, and anything else you might do. Ask yourself, if someone else did what I'm about to do, would I think it's rude? If the answer is yes, don't do it.

There are a lot of wonderful (and effect) ways to promote your book. Throwing buy links at your readers like throwing spaghetti at the wall, isn't the way to go about it. Don't waste your time and energy on counter-productive efforts. Save the blankets for cozy reading time.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Agency Lessons: Pen names (part two)

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.

I'm back, after my brief hiatus. Thank you all for you kind words over the past week. We aren't out of the woods yet with our family situation, but things are improving so we soldier on.

Let's pick up where we left off a few weeks ago on pen names. We talked about why you may or may not want to use one. But let's assume you've decided to take the plunge. There are three types of questions I get the most.

1. How do I query with a pen name?
There is an easy way to do this and a hard way, and it all depends on how secretive you want to be. For my clients using pen names, they aren't hiding from the mafia, so it's easy. They queried me as Real Name
Writing as Pen Name

That's it. Nothing fancy or formal, just a little line tagged to the end of their query. All their contracts are signed with their real name and the checks get made out to their real name as well. But their pen name is on the cover. 

Now if for some reason you absolutely cannot use your real name, that's okay. It just requires a few more steps. First off, as you agent, I never have to know this. Of course, your secret is safe with me, but If your lips are sealed that's fine. So, I'll call you by your pen name, pay you to your pen name, and all your contracts will use your pen name. However, to make sure that you are dotting your Is and crossing your Ts, you should sign up for a DBA. This stands for Doing Business As. It's a pretty basic form that you can get from your local government offices. You fill it out, pay the nominal fee and then you're good to go. This basically gives you the green light to conduct all of your authorial business as your Pen Name. Nifty!

2. Do I need two websites, social media profiles, etc., if I use more than one pen name?
So, the long and short of this is, yes. If you are going to be two different authors then you'll need two of everything. Two websites promoting your different books, two Facebook fan pages, two Twitter accounts. Two of everything. Now, if your genres compliment each other, you can probably get away with a single mailing list. However, if you write MG and Erotica, best to keep that separate as well. Most authors use two pen names because they want to keep their various genres separate, combining all your social media defeats the purpose.

3. What about my profile pic?
Two different authors, so do I need two different pictures? Maybe. Some authors I know will use different images of themselves. Not making them look drastically different, but more to help them differentiate all their different accounts. Some authors I know stick with the same picture and don't worry about it. In the long list of things you should worry about when building your author career, whether or not to use two different images is pretty low on the list.

Now, If you are going for anonymity, consider changing up your look for your author photo. Use this opportunity to try a fun wig or different make-up. Some authors who need to hide their author identity will use a big hat or take a photo from an angle that only shows part of their face. I'm sure each of you has had a picture taken of yourself when you felt unrecognizable. There are plenty of ways to look different for a picture.

Okay, that's it for this week. If you have any other pen name tips, please leave them in the comments. Also, feel free to drop off your own questions for me to answer in the comment box or you can enter them here anonymously. And thanks again for all your prayers and warm thoughts this week. You guys are the best!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Thanks for understanding

I had posts planned for this week, not written, but planned. But they didn't get written. Because some personal things in my family have just taken it out of me. I tried guys, I really did. But this week just got the best of me.

For those that don't know, we have some family that visited us over the holidays and never left due to some pretty serious medical issues that occurred. I appreciate all of your kind words and prayers so much and it helps to make all of this a little easier knowing I have people out there praying for our family.

Just so you know, the health situation is improving, but it is slow and there have been more setbacks than we imagined. More family has arrived to help, which I am extremely thankful for. However, this means our regular schedule has completely flown out the window.

I am working very hard to get back into the swing of things, but I ask for your patience and understanding when I miss blog posts (like all this week). I'm giving myself a pass for the rest of this week and then plan to get posts back up starting on Monday.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Now go hug a family member.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Stop following the "rules"

I read an article last week that has been sitting heavy on my mind. The author of this article wrote about her own experience as an author and came to the final conclusion that you have to put writing first to be successful. As in, the first thing you do every day.

And while I'm glad that this particular author found a rhythm that works for her, I was ultimately kinda ticked at her for writing this. Because the take-away of the article was This is what works, when it should have been This is what works for me.

There are a lot of commonly accepted "rules" that seem to float around in the writing world. Rules like, start your day with writing, write every day, don't edit while you write, etc. But these aren't rules. There are no rules. The author police will not show up at your house and revoke your author status if you decide to write at night or edit that scene you wrote yesterday.

This is a trap that a lot of new authors fall into, but any of us are susceptible. We see someone who has the level of success that we would like to have so we listen to what they say the rules are and try to replicate that.

But life doesn't work like that. I practiced the piano just as much as my little sister for the first year of our piano lessons. But she flourished and went on to become an excellent pianist, while I floundered and ultimately quit a year later. We did the same things, but it didn't work for me. Because the reality is, I stink at piano. I struggle with muscle memory and have poor hand eye-coordination. My ability to type without looking at the keyboard is a miracle. In short, duplicating her efforts did not duplicate her results.

It doesn't work with piano lessons and it doesn't work with writing either.


For example, I have a successful friend who writes every morning at 8am. Do you have any idea how horrendous that would be for me? I'm barely functioning at 9am, and I certainly couldn't write anything productive then. So, I could force myself to get up earlier and write at some unholy hour of the day in order to follow the "rules", or I could wait to write at night after everyone goes to bed when I do my best work. I think I'll stick with what works for me.



You can apply the same variances to marketing. What works for my marketing may not work for yours, because we have different books. And even if our books are super similar, we are still different people and our books don't come out at the exact same time and a thousand other variables.

The point is, go ahead and listen to the advice of experts and the people around, take away the nuggets of wisdom that work for you and then dismiss the rest. This isn't ignoring the rules. It's finding the rules that work for you. Do what makes sense for you, your life and your style and then someday you can be the one to write the article about what it takes to be successful.

Next week I'll talk about some of the new rules I'll be following for 2016 to make it my best year yet.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Reasons your book isn't selling: Ignoring Local Marketing

 Welcome back to Reasons your book isn't selling, where every Wednesday I discuss common mistakes I see authors make that are hurting their book sales. Last time I talked about targeting the wrong audience.

Today's reason your book isn't selling: Ignoring local marketing

I feel like this is a dead horse that I've beaten, set on fire and then dragged behind a car. But here I am again, talking about local marketing, because it's still not happening for most authors. Which, I gotta tell you, makes zero sense. Not only is local marketing much more likely to have immediate results, it also tends to be free (or very cheap) and easier to implement. I've talked about using your local media, so let's branch out a bit today and discuss other local options.

Another word on media
Never underestimate the power of local celebrity. Before you start thinking about going big, look at the resources right where you are. Local media (radio, tv, newspaper) can be a lot easier to get access to than the national outlets. If you think a spot on the local media is useless, think again. Our local bookstore buyer said that every week when the paper does a book review, she has people coming in to ask if they carry that book. And I was able to book a paying speaking gig after a professor saw me on the local tv station.

Media doesn't have the only voice
There are plenty of other outlets right where you live that can help you find readers for your book. I suggest you make your first stop the chamber or commerce or visitor's bureau. These resources are there the highlight local business (hint: you are now a local business). Talk to them about ways to advertise or opportunities to get your books exposure. Don't stop there, talk to schools and other small business.

And whatever you do, don't forget the library. Not just to get your book on their shelves. Think about reading groups and club meetings. If they don't have one for you, ask to host your own or offer a workshop.

Go where the people are
No matter where you live, there are likely to be at least a few festivals or vendor events you can be a part of.  You can usually get a table at events like this for free or a very low cost.  A note on local events: You are always going to have dud events. I went to two events back to back recently and sold a grand total of four books. Not even close to being worth the gas money to get there. But who knows how many people saw my book and went home to buy it. I've also attended quite a few successful events, so you never know.

People shop in stores
Start with your local bookstore, be it a big chain or a small indie. You can ask them to keep a few copies in inventory or even offer to sell them on consignment. Just make sure you go in with your information in hand and know what you can afford to sell your books for. But don't stop with book stores. Are there other stores that would make sense for your book? A cooking supply store for your baking themed mystery? A western wear store for your cowboy romance? What about tourist stores where shoppers are on the lookout for local purchases? They might say no, but you'll never know if you don't ask.

No matter how big or small, the place you call home can have a lot to offer a local offer. Of course,  you'll need to take off your sweatpants and leave your house.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Agency Lessons: Pen Names (part one)

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.

When it comes to pen names, I get a lot of questions. A lot of them. So we're going to talk about pen names this week and next week. Because it's my blog and I make the rules. Today, let's tackle why you may want to consider using a pen name.

1. Your profession/genre combo
If you work in an insurance office, it's probably safe to say that no cares if you write bondage erotica on your weekends. The same can't be said for a kindergarten teacher. Some people just have a profession, background, or family that doesn't lend itself to certain kinds of books. In those cases, it is probably easier to use a pen name than juggle keeping part of your life hidden with the same name. 

2. Name confusion
If your name is Steven King, you want to use a pen name. Sure, it's spelled a little different than the world famous author, but I'm guessing half the world misspells it anyway. Now, some will say that they shouldn't have to change their name. And you don't have to. It's your legal name and you can use it. But do you want to do that? You're basically ensuring that the beginning of your career will be spent explaining to everyone that "No, I'm not that Stefanie." Probably not the best use of your time.

Let me pause here to address another issue. There have actually been instances of writers assuming pen names that are close to famous authors...on purpose. I shouldn't have to tell you that this is a horrible idea. Any tactic that is based on tricking readers into reading your books is destined for failure. Also, it's a douche move, so don't do it.

3. You are writing in multiple genres
This is the one that confuses a lot of authors. This has become more of a question now that so many authors are writing across genres. Here's the deal, if you write both science fiction and fantasy, you don't need two names. Why? Because these readers are similar to each other. Now, if you write fantasy and erotica, you probably want a pen name? Why: Because these are two different readers. Sure, you're likely to have at least some crossover, but realistically, you will have two completely different sets of readers.

This is also important if you are writing for two age groups. YA and MG are probably safe to keep the same name, but if you write MG and NA, you should use two names. The last thing you want is for one of your MG readers to pick up your NA novel based on name recognition.

4. Name/genre mismatch
This one isn't a huge deal, but maybe something to thing about. For example, if your name is Sunshine Blossom, you might want to think about a pen name if you are going to write crime thrillers.  I don't think a name mismatch is going to kill your writing career, but it might give some readers a moment of hesitation.

5. You just want one
Even if you don't fit into any of these reasons, there is nothing wrong with taking a pen name simply because you want to use one. Maybe you've always wanted another name or just like the idea of creating a new persona. Go ahead and knock your socks off. But be aware, that means working a little harder on building your platform since your friends and family won't have instant name recognition.

Next week we'll talk about how to handle a pen name once you've decided to use one.