Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Pseudonyms and Branding: Jacqueline vs. Jackie

Maven Jacqueline BarbourFairly soon after I started writing seriously enough to think I might have a shot at getting published, I decided I needed a pseudonym. There were a lot of reasons for that, including: my real surname is difficult to pronounce, I work in a very conservative industry and wanted to distance my writing life from my professional life, and finally, that I feel rather protective of my private life and family.

Jacqueline Barbour had a lot of thing to recommend it as a pseudonym. To me, at least, it sounds like a historical romance writer's name. It's also relatively easy for me to remember. (My father, who was an anti-smuggling detective in the Border Patrol, used to say that the biggest mistake criminals made when taking aliases was that they chose names they'd never remember to answert to.) In this case, since my real first name is Barbara (but you can still keep calling me Jacqueline or Jacq or Jackie; I'll answer!), so Barbour is a riff on that and, as a bonus, gets shelved at the beginning of the romance section. Jacqueline is also a riff on a real name, in this case, my maiden name. And last but not least, the domain name was available. (This is actually very important. If you can't buy the domain for your real name, you need to consider a pseudonym you can buy.)

I didn't think much about pseudonyms again until I sold Carnally Ever After. I could certainly have published that story under the Jacqueline Barbour name, but I wasn't sure I wanted to do that. Although there's an argument to be made that I'd be building my "brand" by using my existing pen name, I wasn't sure the brand I'd be building was the right one for the books I've been writing under that name. They're traditional historical romances, set in the Victorian era, and while I'd like to think they're pretty hot, they're not erotica. Carnally Ever After, however, is Regency-set and it's definitely erotica. That being the case, I decided it was probably better to establish a second pen name and publish any erotica titles under that name, thereby reserving the Barbour brand for my traditionals.

And thus, Jackie Barbosa was born.

Of course, this isn't to say that pseudonyms are a necessity for branding. There are successful authors who've done it both ways. Lisa Kleypas is now writing both historicals and contemporaries under the same name. Nora Roberts, however, is also J.D. Robb, and even though most readers are probably aware that they are the same person (in fact, I think I've even seen J.D. Robb book covers that state this fact), readers also know what type of book they're getting when they buy a Robb versus a Roberts.

It seems to me that the advantage to branding by a pseudonym is that readers know what type of story to expect based on the name it's published under.

YOUR TURN: Are you considering using a pseudonym? Multiple pseudonyms? Are there any authors you read who have multiple pseudonyms you were surprised to discover are one and the same person?

7 comments:

Erica Ridley said...

Are there any authors you read who have multiple pseudonyms you were surprised to discover are one and the same person?

I remember being shocked (shocked, I tell you!) to discover Jayne Castle, Amanda Quick, and Jayne Ann Krentz were all the same person. The genres were different (and I enjoyed some more than others) so as a reader, I appreciated the branding.

On the other hand, there's authors like Julie Garwood and Christina Dodd who have written both historical and contemporary romantic suspense and whose every published work graces my shelves.

I see pseudonyms as a very personal decision and dependent on many variables, and absolutely agree with Jacq that you should make this choice sooner rather than later whenever possible, so you can brand yourself accordingly.

Bill Clark said...

OMG!! Jacq is not Jacq, but Barbara?!

*Bill is completely floored by this revelation*

I suppose the picture is a ringer, too?

*Bill wonders if all the Mavens are leading double or triple lives...*

Vicki said...

The biggest thing I remember about the choice for a pseudonyms over your own legal name is the contract. You must make sure you have the rights to the name. If not then you could have a huge fan base and leave that publishing house and have to use a new name.

I think there great and I'm with you Erica. I had no idea until recently that JC, AQ, and JAK were the same people.

The funny thing to me is knowing authors who use them. Take Carly Phillips for example. To me she is Carly and yet since I know her I do know that she is really Karen.

Bill - you know all writers live double, even triple lives. How else could we come up with the stuff we come up with. :D Okay, just kidding but it makes us sound 007ish. That's always a fun thought.

Darcy Burke said...

What Jacq left out is that Barbosa was MY idea! We borrowed it from Pirates of the Caribbean - Captain Barbossa. Very current. Very cool.

Great post! I'll be Darcy Burke as long as I can. I can't get my head around an alias, er, pen name. Though my first and real middle is pretty cool...Darcy Elizabeth. Very Regency. :-)

B.E. Sanderson said...

I've got ideas in several different genres, so I've considered using a pseudonym to separate one body of work from the other. For now, instead of a pseudonym, I just use my initials. Lucky for me my married name is common enough to be easily remembered by readers, and different enough to set me apart from the Mary Joneses of the world. If my first name didn't make me sound like I should be home baking cookies instead of writing, I'd probably use it, too. If I ever do pick a pseudonym, it'll probably be a combination of mine and my husband's names somehow. Time will tell.

Carrie said...

Love this topic!

I'd always planned on being Caroline Hancock for my historical romances (first full name and middle name) which I loved! I even had the domain name for a while. But then I moved to contemp and didn't feel the name fit. I think I might stick with my real name, but I too am worried about it interfering with my conservative career.

Honestly, my game plan is just to take my boyfriend's last name when we get married so that I get the best of both worlds: I get to keep my "real" name for writing and keep the anonymity with my "new" name for my career :) Of course, that will only work if I get married before my book comes out (cart well before the horse here folks since I just started subbing...)

lacey kaye said...

I've been Miss K my whole life, due to the complexity of my last name. Just seemed natural.

Getting shelved beside Lisa Kleypas can't hurt, either ;-)

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