What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,Romeo and Juliet 2.2 .887-891
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet
When I started writing romance novels, I created a female pseudonym. Among other reasons, I write academically, and, at the time, I thought it a good branding strategy to keep my academic writing and my romance writing separate.
Several years passed as I drafted and revised my novels, and with Ocean’s Lure approaching publication, I stopped using the female pseudonym. Most romance writers I met, especially through the Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada, accepted a male romance author. Having made progress on various writing fronts, the notion of establishing my romance writing brand as something separate from my other writing seems unimportant. Maybe this is because I’ve grown weary of the concept of personal branding. I’m just me, with many interests, including writing, of many kinds. And I wanted to spend more time writing, and less time promoting myself thorough multiple social media accounts.
When I made the decision to stop using the pseudonym, several well-meaning people recommended I publish romance using my first initial rather than my full name, to keep my gender quiet. It was suggested that some romance readers would not consider anything by a male author. I decided against this, but last week ran a Twitter poll to check that advice:
First, the good news. The vast majority of respondents answered “Sure, why not?” That’s reassuring. However, the bad news is that there were only 8 votes (that’s out of 198 people that saw the tweet, over four days).
I’m not sure this is a meaningful result, as least with regard to whether or not romance readers would read one by a male author. What I do learn from this poll is that I don’t need to worry about losing sales by using my full name. I need to worry about reaching potential readers.
My marketing strategy, such as it is, is to wait until I have three books out, rather than invest a lot of time, effort, and money marketing one book. But I’ll still let people know when the first one is available. If sales are slow (and, being realistic here, they will be), I know not to blame my male name.
I’m not a prolific reader of romance, but (confession time), I seldom look at the author’s name. I’ve read hundreds of books, and I have no idea who wrote them or whether they were by a man or woman. I’m more likely in the past dozen years to glance at an author’s name because I look to see if I know them in some way. Otherwise, I judge a book by the title, cover and description. My philosophy is, use a pen name if you want, but you don’t have to. In the long run, if you continue to write, readers will learn your real name anyways.
Good luck with your first book.
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