Pen Names

Glenna What do you think of “Glenna Galloway”? Good name for an Irish mystery/thriller writer?

The consensus is that if an author wants to write in different genres, she should have different names for each genre–unless they’re closely related. As Linda W. Yezak, I can write romance and women’s fiction. However, if I want to slip into romance/mystery or straight mystery, or the action/thriller I’m cowriting with Brad Seggie, I should have a pseudonym. The theory is that my romance fans may not read mystery, and if they pick up a Linda W. Yezak mystery expecting a romance, I could lose readers. It’s all in the branding, and I’m “branded” as a romance writer. Which is fine, I guess, I just don’t want to be limited to it.

K.M. Weiland seems able to write whatever she pleases and never lose readers, and I think I know why–she’s been remarkably successful at branding herself instead of her product. Those who read a KMW book know two things: (1) it’s not gonna be the same as the last book and (2) it’s gonna be good. Because everything the woman writes is good.

I haven’t done as well separating myself from my genre. There are folks who love me and will read whatever I put out, but romance readers like romance. I don’t know whether they’ll follow me to another genre. Hence the pen name.

My poor brain is still numb from trying to come up with a suitable name. I tried being clever, using words from foreign languages to come up with cute things. Clare Luna almost won, until I discovered how many other folks liked being a clear moon. Clear sky didn’t work either. One German combination was wonderful for a mystery writer, but I forgot what it was.

Then I decided to stop trying to be “clever” and just come up with a name. Writing under my maiden name came to mind, but there are too many using that name too–a surprise since it’s so unusual. It wouldn’t surprise me if I was related to them.

Finally, while I was editing someone’s piece, I found something I liked. Well, technically, I didn’t like it. Didn’t like the name for a woman at all, although at the moment, I can’t think of what it was. But it got me to thinking of Irish names, and that led me to Glenna, which sounds Irish to me (it isn’t, but I like it anyway). Of the surnames I could think of, Galloway seemed to flow nicely with Glenna. Glenna Galloway.

What do you think?

Do you have a better idea?

The Simulacrum, by Brad Seggie and Glenna Galloway (name subject to change) is supposed to be finished and with our agent by the end of the month. End of this month. Not sure I’m going to make it, but that’s the story–and that’s one of the reasons why I needed to come up with a name.

As for The Cat Lady’s Secret, I haven’t heard anything about it yet. Apparently it’s still with the editor being read. I just hope it doesn’t return to me sweating red ink and crying from its injuries. We’ll see.

About Linda W. Yezak

Author/Freelance Editor/Speaker (writing and editing topics).
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23 Responses to Pen Names

  1. Linda, is your agent suggesting a pseudonym? I’m still a newbie at the agenting game, but it seems to me that having a client with two names is like having two clients and having to do twice the work. And I know from my work as a publisher that we hated it when an author wanted to use a pseudonym, because it cut off contact with friends and acquaintances. I was working mostly in nonfiction, but still, I think the same thing applies. I’m sure that C.S. Lewis, in writing fantasy and sci-fi, would have justified in using a pseudonym to protect his reputation as an Oxford don — but he didn’t. The one time he did use a pen name was when he wrote “A Grief Observed,” but he did that because he was afraid his honest doubts might shake the faith of some of his readers. He needn’t have worried; I don’t think that pen name lasted more that a couple of years. So my suggestion is, unless you’re in the Federal Witness Protection program, forget pen names!

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    • Linda Yezak says:

      Thank you so much for writing and for your advice. No, my agent didn’t suggest it. We had a huge discussion about it at one of the ACFW conferences a few years ago. The conventional wisdom was that if an author wants to write outside her brand, a pseudonym is best.

      As far as family and old friends are concerned, I don’t care if they know I write under both names. I don’t intend to make a secret of it. Those who don’t know me, either in person or cyberspace, won’t know I write both romance and mysteries.

      From what I understand, it’s all part of branding. I don’t want to be restricted to writing romance, but those who read my work will expect romance from me. Gaining a new readership for “Glenna” will take some effort, but like I said, some readers will follow me regardless of what I write, so I at least have a start.

      As for twice the work for my agent, I’m not sure about that. My pseudonym doesn’t have a tax ID number, all the legal work, either through him or the publisher, is done using my given name. My pseudonym goes on the cover and in the promos. Since marketing falls on the author’s shoulders, it’s more my headache than my agent’s. Does that make sense? Or am I missing something?

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      • Yeah, I think you are missing something. The concept of branding is all well and good, but do you really think you will “ruin” your romance brand if you write mysteries under the same name? (You may if they are lousy mysteries, but you’re a better writer than that!) Do you think readers say to themselves, “Oh, no, Linda has written a mystery — I’m not going to read her romances anymore”? Your brand is, you are an author. You should be able to write in multiple genres without any confusion, and many people do. Mindy Starns Clark, for example, writes mysteries, Amish romances, and nonfiction, for crying out loud! Your readers discover that you can walk a chew gum at the same time — big deal.

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        • Linda Yezak says:

          Sigh. I’ve posted to the loops of all my “experts”–pubbed authors, my agent, movers and shakers in this business–and they’re all saying, like you, *not* to use a pseudonym. I’m getting confused. Other “movers and shakers” have basically said I have to stay in my genre or write under a pen name. One of the top agents in the Christian industry left me with the impression I’m genre-locked. Definitive answers are hard to come by in this business!

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          • If you are genre-locked, it means that you can’t find a publisher to take on your mystery series because you are seen as a romance writer. (And that’s not true, is it?) It’s kind of like a character actor being stuck in a particular type of role. A good actor will be able to branch out into other roles, but a bad actor may never overcome the stereotype — and it’s not the actor’s fans that are the problem, it’s the people in charge of casting. See the analogy to publishing?

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            • Linda Yezak says:

              I do see the analogy. But what I mean by genre-locked is what’s being discussed on my loops now. They’re saying “Don’t write in a different genre until you’ve been established in the one you’re in.” So far, I have one romance out and one women’s fiction with a strong romantic thread contracted. My new one is entirely different, and someone suggested I not publish it until I’m established in romance. Problem is, this one is co-written, and my writing partner wouldn’t want to wait until I get established. Frankly, neither do I.

              Best advice I’ve received so far is to use a variation of my name. L.W. Yezak would work for a mystery-type book.

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              • Using your initials is a good compromise, but I still think the pen name is at best irrelevant, and at worst confusing to readers. If you were already established as a romance writer, it could only help your mysteries; if you can get a publisher interested in your mystery without being established in another genre, that’s great. You never know — you might develop a “brand” as a mystery writer, which in turn will help the sales of your romances.

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  2. I’ve always been told to choose a variation of your own name … That’s why I chose Jessica Travis. At least I always answered to Jessica. I hate the thought of a pen name. I just want to be jessica — author. all the silly rules just end up changing over a period of time. Do what you want!

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    • Linda Yezak says:

      Maybe that’s what happened–the “silly rule” changed since the last time I looked into it. I can use a variation of my name. It would work. That’ll be that many more people who can’t say it! 😀 😀 😀

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  3. Awww, thanks for the shoutout! I admit I have moments of doubt about whether I made the right choice in slinging out all my myriad genres under one name. If I did one thing right, I think it was that I started billing myself as an “author of historical *and* speculative fiction,” even before the first fantasy came out last year. Even still, for all that I’ve been able to pull some fans along on the strength of “me” as the branding, as you say, I’m sure I would probably have created a stronger base following if I’d stuck to one genre. But, honestly, the thought of building a blog/site/platform for half a dozen pen names is too exhausting to contemplate. :p Plus, I’m too slow in churning books out. As it is, the wait between books is three years. If I was writing under different names, the output for my various audiences would slow to a trickle.

    I like Glenna Galloway. Definitely sounds like a redhead. 😉

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    • Linda Yezak says:

      It was smart billing yourself as a duel-genre author. I wish I’d thought of that, but I didn’t think I’d stick my toe back into mystery again.

      I *love* Glenna Galloway. She’ll make a great character in some book some day! 🙂

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  4. Danie Marie says:

    I love Glenna Galloway. Very clever. I didn’t realize we need a different pseudonym for each genre. Yikes! My breakout novel is romance coupled with tragedy mystery and suspense, I have another that’s fantasy and one that’s historical. I was hoping to use Danie Marie for all my writing. :/

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  5. Joan Vanden Noven says:

    I totally agree..Glenna Galloway is a great pen name. You are totally amazing. You have so much energy while coping with Crohns.

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    • Linda Yezak says:

      Thanks, Joan, but there’s nothing amazing about sitting on my behind in front of the computer! 😀 I have been feeling much better though. Thanks for your prayers and concern!

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  6. Alex Adena says:

    I went with a pen name that was Google friendly. Not that I dislike my birth name, which I include on the copyright page, but it’s also the name of a professor in West Virginia. Google “Alex Adena” and you only see results for my books. I do think readers will follow you across genes, as long as the content is similar in terms of profanity, violence and sexual content.

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    • Good point, Alex. I put “David E. Fessenden” on my books, because believe it or not, there’s another author with my first name and strange last name! (Writes books about handgun safety!) And because “Fessenden” is so unusual, I’m supposed to be related to him, though he’s on another branch of the family and is probably something like a seventh cousin three times removed.

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