Google+ Jen Ryland/YA Romantics: Trending Thursday: Author Alter Egos

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Trending Thursday: Author Alter Egos


Welcome to this week's installment of Trending Thursday, a weekly post in which I pick out a trend in the YA book world so we can all discuss...

I've been doing a theme week on the blog this week -- Spies, Alter Egos and Serial Killers -- and I think it may continue into next week. We'll see. But in any case, I decided that today would be a good day to discuss something that seems to be on the rise in the YA book world:


AUTHOR ALTER EGOS

Try to say that 10 times fast!  My definition of an AAE is when an author takes on more than one name to write. I've been seeing this a lot more in YA recently. Here are some examples:


Model Spy by Shannon Greenfield pic name Killer Instinct by S. E. Green
Shannon Greenland                                                              S. E. Green



Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce pic name Tsarina by J. Nelle Patrick
Jackson Pearce                                                                     J. Nelle Patrick



Secret Society Girl by Diana Peterfreund pic name One and Only by Viv Daniels
Diana Peterfreund                                                               Viv Daniels



Reign or Shine by Michelle Rowen pic name Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes
Michelle Rowen                                                                  Morgan Rhodes



Venom by Fiona Paul pic name The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes
Fiona Paul                                                                           Paula Stokes



Still Waters by Emma Carlson Berne pic name Choker by Eizabeth Woods
Emma Carlson Berne                                                         Elizabeth Woods



Clarity by Kim Harrington pic name Forget Me by Kim Harrington
Kim Harrington                                                                  K. A. Harrington

Why do authors use multiple pen names? For a variety of reasons that can involve branding, marketing or contractual obligations. Some authors want to differentiate their work when they are writing in multiple genres. Others write work-for-hire* titles under one name and books that they have copyrighted under another name. Others might be self-publishing versus being traditionally published.

Work For Hire Name Changes


"Q: Didn’t you used to be Fiona Paul? Why the name change? 

A: You caught me ;) Yes, I wrote Venom, Belladonna, and Starling as Fiona Paul. Those books were developed collaboratively with Paper Lantern Lit, meaning we outlined the books together, I wrote them, and PLL served as pre-editors before the manuscript went to my Penguin editor. One of the contract stipulations was that I use a pen name. I will probably be writing mostly as Paula Stokes from this point forward."


"So, my 2014 book, Tsarina, is being released under a pen name– J. Nelle Patrick. Which means, naturally, I am getting a lot of tweets/emails/comments/carrier pigeons asking me why I chose to write under a pen name and how I chose that particular pen name.
WHY: Contract-y reasons with my publishers. Tsarina is what’s called a “Write For Hire” or “Packaged” book, which means that Razorbill approached me and said “Faberge eggs. Russia. Romance. Danger. GO.”
And I said “HELLS YEAH WATCH ME DO THIS.”
Anyhow, publishers often want write for hires to be done via pen name for a myriad of reasons. Sometimes it’s so they can launch the book as if the author is a debut. Sometimes it’s so they own the name and can expand on the series without working the original author to death. Sometimes it’s just because they want to keep their write for hire books separate from the author’s other books."

*Note from Jen: Work for hire books, or packaged books, are commissioned. Typically, the author doesn't hold the copyright, and is paid a flat fee rather than receiving an advance and royalties. You can read more about writing for hire in general here.  And here is a very interesting look on the history of book packaging.  Some of your oldie favorites, including Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley High, were packaged books!

Genre-Shifting Name Changes


"Q: Why do you write under two names?

A: S. E. Green is the dark, thriller side of me. Shannon Greenland is the romantic, adventurous side."

Diana Peterfreund has a lot of interesting things to say on her website about branding, genre divisions, pen names etc. She started out as an NA writer (even though it was called chick lit back then) with Secret Society Girl, then wrote YA, and now with her self-published Viv Daniels books, is back to NA...

From a marketing perspective, it seems like different authors make different choices. Some popular authors (James Patterson) write in all different genres and age ranges under the same name, while others (Nora Roberts/J. D. Robb) use different names.  And interestingly, most authors who have written books in other genres and then try YA (Jodi Picoult, Elizabeth George, Kathy Reichs, John Grisham, to name just a few) do not seem to use a pen name.

What do you think about Author Alter Egos?  Did I miss any? 

If you want to read past Trending Thursday posts, click here.

44 comments:

  1. That's totally cool! I didn't know about Kim Harrington :D

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    1. I'm very curious about her change because all her books are thrillers and mysteries. So I'm not sure what the reason is for her change. If anyone knows, clue me in!!

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  2. I'm actually really intrigued by the whole pen name thing. As a bookseller, it's important for me to keep track of them - well, as many as I can - so that I can help customers find all of the books by an author they're interested in. Anne Rice, J.K. Rowling (Galbraith), Elizabeth Scott are three others that come to mind when I think about pen names, as both have written under other names as well. The decision to write under an alternate name after being established and well-known in a particular genre... there is already so much pressure to live up to expectations after success in general, not to mention within a specific genre, that have a fresh start with no expectation must be freeing and maybe even necessary in some cases. In the case of Anne Rice, she writes erotica under the name A.N. Roquelaure. These books are an obvious departure from her more popular books (Interview with a Vampire, Queen of the Damned, etc), with a distinctly different audience base and theme/topic. It's entirely possible that, if she'd published them under the name Anne Rice, she'd get much more flack from her established readers who are looking for a book that more closely aligns with the other books she's published under Rice.

    With Rowling, she was able to see how her writing fared a different genre from Casual Vacancy and HP, without the assumed connotation of the name Rowling attached. After all, from what I've read, her Galbraith book did okay on it's own, but only skyrocketed after readers discovered Galbraith was actually Rowling. I have no ill will towards Rowling, but I know some readers & writers do, and I imagine writing and publishing a book without all the hype must have been a nice change of pace personally, if not artistically.

    It's interesting to see how books perform on their own merit, separate from the established names that sometimes carry them. I obviously could go on, but this comment is getting awfully long, so I'll stop. ;) Great topic this week, Jen!!

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    1. Love the comment -- thanks!

      A chance for a fresh start IS probably another reason authors do this. All the authors I listed have been open about their alter egos, but I suppose there could be YA authors we don't know about who have done the super-secret pseudonym like JK Rowling....

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  3. I love your post it was intriguing never knew why the author changed names I had guesses but this post was very helpful.

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  4. I'm glad you brought this up today cause I've been thinking about it a lot. I'm not always a fan of the 'write for hire' books, I don't know that I don't like when the author wasn't the one with the idea. But it really just depends because I love Fiona Paul's series. I'm not sure how much was her and which was Paper Lantern (or whatever) but it turned out good IMO.
    I think it's good when authors use a different name when writing children's books vs. erotica (for an extreme example) but I don't like not knowing when it's them with the same genre or age group. However, I do understand if they are a traditional published author and are self publishing. So I guess I kind of get it, but don't always like it.

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    1. Apparently the write for hire books really vary. Some authors are given outlines to write from, while others have a lot of artistic freedom. Some authors even have come up with the idea themselves and the packagers help develop it and edit the work. So it depends!

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  5. Wow, what a fascinating post! I loved Tsarina, and I was shocked to find out that the author was actually Jackson Pearce, who has written many other books that I loved. It's so interesting to hear the reasons why, and it makes a lot more sense now that I know it's often due to write for hire or packaging agreements. Thanks for sharing and shedding light on this!

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    1. I knew that she wrote Tsarina, but I assumed she wanted to write historical fiction under a new name. Then, when I started researching this post, I found out the rest of the story!

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  6. I had no idea Tsarina was a packaged book! I'm intrigued with the whole packaged book thing and am really interested in hearing all the details about how that works. Thanks so much for sharing this with us. I love this article and have often thought about pen names and why they are used. Love this feature Jen!

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    1. I don't know ALL the details and I definitely think that packaged books come to be under a variety of different circumstances.
      Thanks so much for the compliment. You know I love your LEGO covers :)

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  7. The only one I recognised was Jackson Pearce. I JUST heard she wrote the Tsarina book...which kind of weirded me out. I mean, I'd never have picked that up, but now I'm totally tempted to, because I LOVE Jackson Pearce. So I can see how pen names can actually work against an author. :/ But I really appreciated Jackson Pearce's little "why" section there. That made a lot of sense. I've learnt, like, a TON in this post!

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    1. Thanks :)
      I'm looking forward to reading Tsarina. My theory on publisher commissioned books is that they really want a certain kind of book on their list and no agents are sending it to them, so they just ask someone to write it. Makes sense to me!

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  8. That was really interesting! I didn't know about any of these "name changes". And the reason to why to do this got a bit cleared up! Very informative!

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  9. Such an interesting post! I'm cool with alter egos. I totally get why an author might want to write under an alter ego - wanting to try something new, but not be judged by previous books maybe? or like Rowling trying to see what people think without all the expectations, etc. There are many reasons I suppose.

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    1. I do think with certain authors, it's to get a fresh start and I definitely understand that!

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  10. I have read a couple that do it because they write YA and Erotica, so I can see why they do it. I didn't realize how many really did this though. Great post. :)

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    1. Yes, in that case, I definitely see that it might be necessary to have two different brands!

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  11. OMG I just wrote a huge long comment and blogger ate it and now I want to cry.

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  12. I understand it - especially if you write in different genres like YA and then erotica.

    The ones that drive me crazy are the authors (or I guess I should say the publishers) that put both names on the cover anyway.

    J.R. Ward writes Historicals under Jessica Bird but now J. R. Ward is now featured bigger than Jessica. I know it's to capitalize on the Black Dagger Brotherhood success but I find it annoying.

    I think they do it with Jennifer L Armintrout too and her alter ego J. Lynn

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    1. Didn't know about the Ward/Bird but it would be interesting if one pen name became more successful than the other.
      I didn't include JLA/J. Lynn because she's so open about her multiple names, but she is another example!

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  13. Okay let's try this again.

    I didn't realize some of these authors had pen names too! Kate Brian is really Kieran Scott. She talked a lot at the Rochester Teen Book Festival last year about work for hire. It was all really interesting. It's got to be harder to lose some of that creative freedom when they want you to go in a certain direction with a series. She also mentioned how pen names can sometimes be developed but looking at popular authors or books and developing a last name that would put your book next to or near them on a shelf alphabetically.

    I am very curious as to Jennifer L. Armentrout and her pen name J. Lynn. It seems J. Lynn is for the more new adult/adult books but then they still put her other name on it anyways so it feels weird to me. Is that a common thing to do on books with popular authors with pen names? I have no idea.

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    1. Ooh -- I didn't include Kate/Kieran because I'm giving her books away tomorrow :)
      Alphabetic strategy -- that's really smart. I never thought of that.
      And yes, Karen mentioned the dual names on one book. It's strange and I'm not sure why that's done.....

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  14. Pen names are so interesting. Personally I think it can be a good idea when authors make a big genre change or age change otherwise people will freak out or dislike it just because it's not what they expected but I agree with Karen, I hate when they put both names on the cover. Drives me crazy!

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    1. Okay, now you guys have me curious about this...

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  15. This is such a fascinating post! I knew about the PLL thing but I didn't think about the fact that publishers commission books. Though it totally makes sense. And I loved Tsarina, so I'd say it paid off. Beyond the vague topic, it sounds like Pearce had a lot of creative control? That makes me think about the fact that so many of the great Renaissance art works were commissioned. All of art was pretty much commissioned for many years. I always think it's funny when authors write as alter egos but put both names on their book so and so writing as so and so. It sort of defeats the purpose. I also didn't know that Peterfreund originally wrote NA. I'll have to look up those books. Were they under her real name? I guess I can see why YA authors want to separate out their younger name, but I also like when authors own their name for whatever they write. Anyway, great post!

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    1. Very true -- I took art history and a lot of art was commissioned -- however, I do think you could argue that it kept artists painting certain subject matter -- portraits of the rich, religious art, etc. We need Heather to weigh in on this.
      Yes, Diana Peterfreund started out writing the Secret Society Girl series, which takes place in college. So today it might be called NA, even though it's not as romance-focused as today's NA...

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    2. Interesting point. Commissioned art/stories definitely direct the market and channel creativity in certain directions. I think it's obvious why so many publishers put out Russian inspired stories this time of the year. But I'm grateful for this, because I've really liked the ones I read.

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    3. Well, I certainly don't think that artistic freedom and being commissioned are mutually exclusive. It sounds to me like some commissioned books give the author a lot of freedom and (from Sara's comment above) that others limit the author's creativity.
      And if a publisher is dying for Russian-themed historical fiction and is not getting submissions of that, I understand why they'd just find someone to write it. Makes sense to me!

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  16. This is fascinating. Thanks for enlightening me!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment :)

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  17. I find it really interesting that authors would choose to write under a different name but all of these reasons are valid. And, sometimes the idea of a packaged book puts me off but there have been a lot of well done ones, so I think ultimately it's not a bad idea

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    1. I think after the NY magazine article on Full Fathom Five which included the assertion that some authors were being offered only $250 to write a book, many readers assumed all packaging agreements were exploitative. But other writers have weighed in and said write for hire agreements can be fair and a good way to get a break in a competitive business.
      It's an interesting issue -- and many popular books, from Nancy Drew to Sweet Valley High to Pretty Little Liars -- are packaged.

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  18. I didn't know some of those were the same people! really informative ☺

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  19. Hmm, I tried to post my comment and it didn't go through. I apologize if this goes through twice.

    In my previous comment I said that this is very interesting. I know that author use pens names and I had no idea that these author wrote those books. I will have to check them out.

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  20. I LOVED The Specialists! I don't know if you've read it, but it's super fun, romantic, adventurous, and funny- kinda like Also Known As- so you really need to read the series if you haven't yet!

    And I've known about authors using multiple pen names, but wow, I didn't know there were that many in YA as well! I just learned something new today. ;)

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  21. I knew about Jackson Pearce, Diana Peterfreund, and Fiona Paul, but I didn't know about the others so thanks for the heads up! It's great that you explained why authors do it, too--I had just read both Jackson's and Fiona's (well, Paula Stokes') explanations recently, and of course using pen names when switching genres or age categories makes sense to me, too.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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  22. Interesting post, Jen! That whole writer for hire thing is fascinating--I'm definitely checking out your links afterwards. I never knew anything about that.

    Alice Hoffman is another adult author who kept the same name to write both her adult (Practical Magic, The River King) and her YA (Green Angel and Aquamarine.)

    Cate Tiernan is an author who uses that name to write her YA (Sweep series, Immortal Beloved series) and uses the name Gabrielle Charbonnet to write her children's books and books she contributed to w/ James Patterson (Maximum Ride series).

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    1. Oh! And you know what irks me? When a writer uses a pseudonym to write a book but then ALSO puts her other name on the book too. Jennifer L. Armentrout does this with her NA books. She writes under J. Lynn but has the name Jennifer L. Armentrout RIGHT BELOW that on the cover. BOTH NAMES ON THE COVER. Why?? Make up your mind already. Sheesh.

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    2. I see Karen above has the same gripe as me :)

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  23. One of my fav YA authors switched to a pen name for writing her SciFi/Fantasy stuff and it was at the her publisher's demand since the books are quite a bit different from her fluffy high school romances. I do think it's interesting. For me though, I wish they would all keep the same name because I love specific author's writing no matter what they write and I hate when I found out that I would have loved a book that I ended up not reading or requesting. Sometimes they make it really hard to find out if it's a pen name.

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