Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Setting up Pen-Names.

Interact with a new audience or readership.

At first, setting up a few pen names seems more trouble than it’s worth. We’re sort of taking it on faith that we are planting some long-living electronic seeds that will bear fruit far into the future. These seeds will have to be nurtured, so that they may grow big and strong. Each pen name only starts off with one or two products, and I’ve been building the Shalako brand for maybe three and a half years now already...

Clearly the whole process is going to take some time. The rest of my life in all probability.

One reason for a pen name is simple author bad vibes. If someone decides they don’t much like Louis Bertrand Shalako, which they have every right to do, there is little chance of them buying a book. Yet their negative perceptions don’t carry over to the next author they look at. When they see my thriller by Nicky Krappazoli, they have no idea that’s me. They’ll read the blurb and look at the cover with an open mind. Nick gets an even break where I might not. By disassociation, none of the bad vibes carry over.

In the short term, Nicky Krappazoli (thrillers and crime for example) hasn’t sold a book. It took a disproportionate amount of time to sign him up for Smashwords, Amazon, Twitter, and LinkedIn and Facebook. All you have to do is put your proper payment information on the publishing platform payment pages. It’s not that difficult to get an e-mail address and set up each character with his own password, and ultimately his or her complete network.

The worst part is getting them started on the social networks which have certain hurdles to get through.

A couple of points. While I’m not fond of total reliance on ‘passive discoverability,’ the fact is that I have sold books in New Zealand through an iTunes store, and I have sold a book in Japan through Kobo. I’m not doing any targeted promotion there that I know of, and yet we have a few followers on Twitter. Some of them no doubt find me fascinating and one or two might live in the Antipodes or the Land of the Rising Sun. Yet it could also be the effect of simply being there, in that store, when that particular customer was browsing. They saw it and they liked it. Maybe they simply didn’t know any better and took a chance.

Now, pen name number two, Astor Fondue, sold a book on Smashwords and one on Amazon within a few hours of publication. Another name, Ludmilla Getonanov, (she’s doing erotica of the raunchy variety) sold a book, but it took her about a week. Those books might sell the odd copy in stores all over the world. Once you have more than one book out, the only thing that matters is total sales. Same with pen-names. The only thing that matters is total sales. I don’t care who is whom and whom is what.

Put some meat on them bones. Hell,
you can even be better looking.
While I am not fond of ‘passive discoverability’ I am also not that big a fan of the total spam blitzkrieg, where you will politely tweet me every seven minutes for the rest of my life how you will get me another 2,000 followers for only $29.95. If only I knew exactly the correct balance.

The world would beat a path to my hut.

Here’s a bit of a problem with pen-names.

They don’t have an e-mail list. They don’t know anybody, and so they have to crack into Facebook and LinkedIn without the benefit of actually having a life! If you friend yourself, you can raid your own friend’s list, and click like on your own stuff, and share things back and forth with different audiences, etc. Whether you try to friend all the same people or extend a whole new network into areas unexploited is again a question of balance. I’m not competing against myself in the same genres, so whole new audiences are called for.

If we are writing fiction, then we are inventing characters anyway. Now we extend that idea to our pen names. Each is an individual, with unique hopes, dreams and desires. They have certain unique challenges. They exist, in a sense, in the minds of other people they interact with.

Assuming you’re not using your own picture, the better written your pen names are, the more likely people are to respond in a positive way, by reading the blog, clicking the links, and ultimately buying a book.

I think of it in broadcasting terms, although it can be so much more intimate than that. But what I have done is to create certain specialty channels. They are tuned to a particular and specific audience. This makes it so much easier to write, and I’ll tell you why.

Because now I’m not trying to please everyone, and appeal to every taste in a book that inevitably pays too close attention to tropes and tripe.

If you figure out who you’re writing for, you can now start learning, by trial and error, how to write the sort of book that someone like that might actually read.

Getting inside of the head of any character and bringing them to life is an art in itself. Being four different people in one day is kind of fun too; although sometimes I do get tired.

Here is my original post on this subject.

I’ve been working towards this goal for many years: ‘The Entity.’

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