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.