Friday, April 8, 2016

Building a Brand: The Name Game by Jacqueline Seewald

Is branding a help or hindrance to writers? There’s been a lot of discussion among writers as to whether it benefits authors to be branded--by that I mean that writers want to market themselves by promoting their name, associating their name with a particular type, genre or style of writing. The premise? This is the best way to build a readership. For instance, when we see the name Nora Roberts we immediately think of romantic suspense. (“Nora Roberts” real name Eleanor Marie Robertson , also writes under “J.D. Robb” for her mystery series) The name Stephen King is immediately associated with horror, but he has chosen to write under other pseudonyms as well. Jayne Ann Krentz writes her contemporary romances under that name, her sci-fi/fantasy under Jayne Castle, and her historical romances under Amanda Quick. The advantage is that fans know what to expect. Familiarity encourages sales.

Many writers choose to use pen names. They write in a variety of genres and assume a different nom de plume for each. The theory is that it will confuse readers if writers use the same name for different types of work. There is also a tendency for publishers to try to place writers in neat categories. It’s more convenient to connect a name to a particular format.

But what if you resist branding? Are you destroying your chance to be taken seriously as a writer or build a readership? I don’t have the answer to this question. I can only admit that I don’t limit myself to one particular format in my writing. My books are not “in the box.”  I have written romantic mysteries, historical romances, YA mysteries and romances, as well as children’s books and stories. All of these appear under my own name.

My latest novel for Five Star/Cengage, THE KILLING LAND, an historical Western which I wrote under my own name, has elements of romance and mystery as well as being a suspense thriller.


However, when I write mystery short stories from a masculine viewpoint, I use my initials. So, for example, my recent novella for SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY MAGAZINE (Issue #19) entitled “Letter of the Law” is credited to “J.P. Seewald” rather than Jacqueline Seewald. A lot of female writers do this because men seem to prefer reading stories and novels ostensibly written by other men especially when presented from a masculine viewpoint.

Personally, I am very comfortable writing from a male viewpoint. I also enjoy reading books written by members of the opposite sex as well as other women. My husband and I had only sons to raise which made me accustomed to the male perspective. However, male readers may not find a female author writing from a male perspective acceptable or credible.

There are also a number of male authors who write women’s fiction/romances under female pseudonyms for the same reason.Still, successful, admired mystery writer and current two story Derringer winner, John Floyd, who also has a story appearing in the current issue of SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY MAGAZINE, wrote his short story from a female detective viewpoint.

What is your opinion.  Does branding by name recognition benefit writers or not? Is it important? Your thoughts and comments are welcome.


Susan Oleksiw said...

You've picked a good topic, Jacquie. Writers are encouraged now to have a platform, an identity, a brand, and so much of that seems to distract from writing. I know writers who choose a different name for each series, and others who write several different kinds of books under their own name. I began in nonfiction, compiling a reader's guide, and then wrote articles and reviews before writing my first mystery novel. Once I decided to keep my own name throughout, there was no going back. I'd like to hear what other writers think about this question of what name to write under.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Susan,

I also wrote many nonfiction articles on various topics and always under my own name. I do less of that currently and concentrate mainly on novels and short stories.

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

I think branding is important unless you write in multiple genre's ... of course if you can still brand yourself for that alone...that's good too!

Great post, Jacquie.
Good luck and God's blessings.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Pam,

Thank you for commenting.

Betty Gordon said...

A thought provoking blog, Jacquie. I do think branding is important -particularly for emerging authors. Once you have established a readership, you can dip your toes into other genres and, hopefully, your readers will follow.

Allan J. Emerson said...

Interesting topic, Jacqueline. I can see the rationale for using different names for different genres, or for first-person stories when the character's gender doesn't match the writer's.

I do think, though, that unless a writer is very prolific (e.g., Robb/Roberts), there's the risk of fragmenting your promotional efforts. Trying to get attention for one author brand is tough; how much more difficult it must be to spread your time and effort among three or four.

Kathy McIntosh said...

Good thoughts, Jacqueline. I wish I could disagree with you that men prefer to read men's point of view written by a man, but sales figure prove you right.
I write in multiple points of view, male and female.
I do think using pseudonyms can dilute your brand; as Allan said, trying to establish one author brand is tough enough these days. Should I venture into other genres, I'll stick with my name.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Betty, Allan, Kathy,

You've each made good points. I agree that unless you're very prolific, it's probably best to stay with one name even if you do try other genres.

Patricia Gligor's Writers Forum said...

Great topic, Jacquie!
I've read several of your books and I'm glad you write under your own name. I know a few authors who use so many different pen names that it's confusing. Personally, I don't see the need to do that. The genre of a novel will be evident in the book description. But, as you mentioned, sometimes publishers insist on a separate pen name for each genre.
Although I currently write only mystery/suspense, if I ever decide to write in another genre, I will still use my real name. BTW, for those who don't know, Gligor rhymes with tiger. LOL

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Pat,

It can get confusing when authors write under many different names. Only serious fans will follow.

Susan Coryell said...

I, too, write in a variety of genres using only my "real" name: YA, cozy mystery, Southern Gothic, non-fiction and my next work may be "new adult" fiction based on my 30-year teaching career. Haven't yet decided what I want to be when I grow up! I loved The Killing Land, and applaud your literary depth with all your books, many of which I have read. Nice post.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Shucks, Susan, thank you for your kind words regarding my novels! Since I've read and enjoyed both your YA fiction and Southern Gothic, I can say that I do know that your name on a book stands for quality.

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