If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that in the past few months I’ve taken on a quest to put books into the world at a much quicker pace and that I’m taking my inspiration for that decision from the talented and wise Kirsten Oliphant of Create If Writing. (If you don’t get her weekly email, The Quick Fix, I highly suggest you change that. It’s short and chock-full of great stuff.)
For the past year+, Kirsten has been writing sweet romance novels under a pen name, and recently, she launched another pen name for her YA fantasy books. And when Kirsten does something, I pay attention because she’s done her homework and knows what he’s doing and why. In fact, she did a whole podcast episode about pen names that is really helpful.
To Pseudonym or Not to Pseudonym
I’ve been thinking about pen names for a long time. For many years, I was resistant to them, just as I was resistant to making this blog focus on only one thing because it felt disingenuous to me, like I was being fake or false. . . or pretending to be someone I was not. I wanted “all of me” out there, and I didn’t want to put separation between parts of myself. Take me or leave me, was sort of my attitude.
I also bristled against pen names because the writers I worked with as an editor often wanted to use them to hide their identities so that the books they wrote wouldn’t be linked to them as people. I find that thinking problematic in several ways, but fundamentally, that idea doesn’t work. It’s very hard to keep a in-flesh identity truly secret for a lot of reasons, particularly when it comes to marketing. I got the thinking there, but I thought it probably better to not try to hide behind a pen name.
Now, though, I’ve realized two things:
- People who read my creative nonfiction about enslaved people don’t necessarily want to read my books about writing or my middle grade and YA fantasy novels, even though the themes of the books are similar.
- Thus, it’s really hard to market my books when they’re all written under the name Andi Cumbo-Floyd. The online bookstores don’t know how to suggest my books to people because they’re so disparate in genre.
Finally, the business awareness I’ve been tending for years helped me know I really needed a pen name. And honestly, I wish I’d created one for my magical realism/fantasy books when I began publishing The Steele Secrets series years ago. Sigh. Live and learn.
My New Nomenclature
So when I decided I wanted to try my hand at a new genre – another decision sparked by my growing awareness of market trends AND my deep love for the genre – I knew I needed a pen name. I wanted something that was fun and appropriate for what I’d be writing but also something that felt personal to me, a name that I could stand behind.
Enter ACF Bookens, cozy mystery writer. She’s me, only as Kirsten notes, just one aspect of my persona. In some ways, she is the part of me that was a farmer, the one who cooks and enjoys a great garden, the one who is a small-town girl at heart.
Along with my new name, I’m trying to do ALL THE THINGS right this time.
- I’m hiring a cover designer who creates covers for cozies that I just love.
- I’m getting covers for the first three books AND a prequel create at the same time so I can have them ready to go for pre-orders early.
- I’m launching a prequel as an email list-builder to get those readers invested before the first book is coming out.
- I’m, as always, hiring a professional editor to get the text in top shape.
- I’ve set-up a Facebook page for ACF with a cute little cartoon image of her as her profile pic.
- I’m hiring my website designer to create a subdomain on my website* so that readers can see just ACF’s stuff and her style on that page.
- I’ll be setting up the pen name on all the retailer pages so that the books are not connected to my previous ones, thereby giving my readers a clearer look at who these books are for through things like “also boughts.”
- I’ve created The Cozy Covey, a group of readers who like cozy mysteries and are eager to help me get ACF’s books into the world. (Join us here if you’d like.)
My hope is that all this work – which is really very fun if kind of pricey – will pay off both in terms of sales but also in terms of a series of books – maybe several series – that I just love writing. I’m about a third of the way into the prequel now, and I’m loving every minute. I’ve read cozy mysteries for a long time, especially in some of the hardest moments of my life, and it feels good to get to offer some of those stories to readers who love them and find respite in them. Plus, my mom was a mystery love, so in a way, these books are a tribute to her.
I’m so very excited about this new part of my writing journey, even as I’m deeply invested in my other books, including the TWO that come out this fall. If I think about all of these things at once, I get a little anxious about it all, but the work itself, it’s just joy. Really and truly.
So tell me, what are your thoughts on pen names? Have you used one? Thought about it? Why or why not?
*A quick note on the website stuff. I’m trying to create commercial separation between the various sorts of books I write, but I’m not trying to create distance between me (Andi) and my pen name. So having things on the site andilit.com domain is a bit cheaper (in terms of site-building and domain-buying). It’s also a little simpler for me in terms of marketing since I can point people to one site and know they’ll find whatever. But the subdomains also give me a way to get people right to the books they want to read. I’ll let you know how it goes.
An Update on my quest to sell 1,000 Copies of Love Letters To Writers by year’s end. As of this morning, I have sold 182 copies, so I’m 18.2% of the way there. Progress but still not fast enough. I need to pick-up the pace significantly, and I’ll be brainstorming ideas for how to do that this weekend while people evaluate my gutters. 😉
That said, Love Letters To Writers is just $.99 for the ebook everywhere this week, so you can pick up your copy at your favorite bookseller through this link – https://books2read.com/loveletters2writers.
If you’d also share that link with other writers, I’d be so grateful. THANKS.