Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Reader Question: "The Numbers"

Are "the numbers" for different pseudonyms kept completely separate? I'm considering writing both contemporary and historical fantasy series, and anticipate that the audiences and sales might be pretty different.

Yes and no. Nora Roberts is a good example. It would be silly to keep her J. D. Robb pseudonym completely separate because it only benefits her if bookstores take more books based on the sale of her Nora Roberts titles. However, were J. D. Robb a bomb, then yes, the numbers would certainly be kept completely separate because you don’t want orders of her Nora Roberts titles to be based on books that are bombing. So, let me clarify: yes they are kept completely separate, but they aren’t always kept a complete secret.

The benefits I can see to writing them all under one name:
*might lead readers to the other series (wider "brand")
*greater name recognition
*not having to build multiple careers

And all of those are true. The con to writing them all under one name is that contemporary and historical fantasy authors don’t necessarily cross over and fans of your contemporary books, for example, might flock to everything you write and be hugely disappointed when they buy a historical fantasy, something they just don’t like. This disappointment could, in turn, effect the decision to buy any future books from you.

The benefits I can see to writing them under different names:
*readers know what to expect (narrower "brand")
*bad numbers from one series might not make another hard to sell
*maybe a little more career protection

And those are all true as well.

Also, could an options clause cover both pseudonyms, or would it most likely only cover one?

That would depend entirely on how the option clause was written or worded. It would cover anything you write under any name, unless it specifies only one name. But of course it could also specify only one sub-genre or one series.

Yes, of course it's all theoretical so far, but I have to know what I want before I can figure out how to get there!

My advice, for what it’s worth, is if you are just starting out it is worth considering two names. If one of your sub-genres becomes a huge hit it won’t take long for readers to learn (and publishers to advertise) that you are the author of both.