I’m a traditionally published children’s author and I’ve just landed my first adult book deal with a small publisher. I use my real name for my children’s books. Should I take on a pseudonym to distinguish my adult fiction from what I’ve previously published?
Pubbed in Poughkeepsie
Congratulations on your book deal!
There are several reasons why writers and other artists take on a pseudonym. Some like the anonymity they offer, others like the idea of taking on a new persona, and some people want to simplify or jazz up their names. In your case, I would treat this as a branding question and to answer, I would look at the target audience for both of your genres. If there is significant overlap—for instance, if you’re a young adult author who is now publishing a new adult fiction—then I would limit yourself to one name in order to maximize cross-pollination. If the genres are very distant from each other across the spectrum—for instance, children’s picture books and BDSM erotica, then you may have more of a reason to distinguish your bodies of work.
Now, in ye olden days, an author was known simply by their name, which appeared on the cover of their book and not much elsewhere. But nowadays, there is the expectation that an author engages their readers and contemporaries on social media—Facebook, Twitter and the like. For that reason, multiple pseudonyms can get tricky. Therefore, you may want to consider having one umbrella name who writes as others. That way, you won’t have to keep up multiple accounts and personas.
Now, if your fiction is far apart on the spectrum and you’re trying to get school visits while also appealing to the erotica crowd, it may be advantageous to differentiate your online personas. In an ideal world this would be unnecessary because people would understand we are artists and also people with a wide range of taste and artistic pursuits, but we live in a society which likes to put people into tidy boxes. Therefore, for the practical reasons of bringing in enough income to support your art, you may want to keep your brands separated.
These are all things to think about when entering into a contract with a publisher. It might also be wise to talk to your editor or agent and see what they think. They may have some branding ideas for you already.
I’m a graphic designer in addition to being a novelist. I’ve just sold my first book and I’d like to have input on what the cover looks like. How receptive are publishers to the author’s ideas on cover art?
xxoo, Artistically inclined
Dear Artistically inclined,
This question varies widely depending on the publisher. Larger, more traditional publishers tend to have a concrete idea of what they want your title, cover, jacket copy and overall branding to look like. Smaller, independent publishers tend to be more open to the authors’ input. Either way, I would suggest you make a Pinterest board that has pictures of what you think your characters look like, settings from your book, other covers you’d like for yours to emulate, and artistic pieces that you think represent your book’s mood and tenor. For examples, you can check out my Pinterest boards.
Most publishers do take author’s input into account and it always helps the designer if you have a vision for what your characters look like. One thing to be aware of, in particular when it comes to character depiction, is whitewashing, where a publisher lightens the skin tone of your character or diminishes their ethnicity on the cover. I’ve included an example below of this type of activity, LIAR by Justine Larbalestier, where the main character is African American and the cover didn’t reflect that. This cover was corrected by the publisher, but only after a very public outcry. Remember, you are your book’s best advocate and it’s better to push back early on than to let this kind of behavior play out.
Laura Lascarso is the author of two YA novels, COUNTING BACKWARDS (2012) and RACING HEARTS (2015). If you have a burning YA question you’d like answered, tweet it to @lauralascarso with #DearLaura or include it in the comments below.