Welcome to part 3 of our series: Why Authors Use Pseudonyms. Let’s get right to it.
3. Writers who write across different genres may use pseudonyms to avoid potentially alienating certain readers. Quite a few people tend to read in only one genre—say Westerns. And this can be a problem for a writer who works in other fields. Say a reader who likes my western stories recognizes my name on a horror novel and decides to read it, thinking he’s going to get the same kind of tale. He soon finds himself...well, horrified. He doesn’t like the blood and gore. He’s not going to read anymore horror novels under my name and he may well push my westerns away as well.
This has happened to me and is one reason I decided to start writing westerns under the name Tyler Boone. My westerns, although often violent and bloody, have nowhere near the gore that appears in many of my horror stories. Nor are my westerns populated by topes like vampires and werewolves. (I’m not sure what I’m going to do if I ever decide to write in the subgenre called “Horror-Western.” I did one flash fiction like that and it caused some issues with readers who wanted more straightforward western tales.)
With likely even more dramatic results, imagine readers of a particular western author picking up a romance novel by him—under the same name. I bet he’d lose readers. True, he might possibly gain some other readers, but if they are romance readers they’re not going to want his straight action adventure westerns.
This use of a pseudonym does have the potential to backfire. Dean Koontz wrote under pseudonyms in his early days for this kind of reason and he later said he regretted it and it cost him momentum. But, for the most part, Koontz was not writing in as dramatically different genres as romance and horror, and since we can’t rerun the experiment we’ll never know whether it actually hurt his career length sales. I do know that I’ve also had a few readers who liked my work under the Gramlich name not recognize me as a modern western author under a different name. So, it’s not a simple matter.
Part 4 is up next: