By Kassie Burns
From the moment I decided I wanted to be a writer (sometime in the eighth grade), I indulged in delightful fantasies of my eventual best-selling status. I particularly loved to picture my beautiful book cover and — of course — those all important words in really big type: By Kassie Burns.
Wait a minute! Kassie Burns. Who’s she and how did her name get on my book?
Although I’ve never taken a formal survey, I’d be willing to bet that most writers of erotic romance use a pen name. They make that choice for a variety of reasons. So do you need a pen name? As with any writing decision, there are some pros and cons to consider.
The No. 1 reason to use a pen name is so you can retain your anonymity. This can be important if you’re the type who worries about obsessed fans or potential stalkers who want to see if you’re as sexy in real life as one of the characters in your books. I had an experience with a phone stalker once and it was terrifying. And I’ve heard it does happen sometimes in the writing business.
Anonymity can also be important if, in real life, you teach kindergarten or hold public office, or just worry about giving your Aunt Mildred a heart attack. With a pen name, you can write your stories as wild and sexy as you please and yet never have to wonder why your neighbor is giving you that very strange look at the block party.
Unfortunately, the No. 1 pro reason is also the No. 1 con reason. You write great stories with wonderful characters, thrill-a-minute plots, hot sex and breathtaking covers. Moreover, the reviewers have run out of adjectives to describe how much they love your books and your desk is buried under fan letters. But who are you gonna tell? Whoops, no one is supposed to know it’s you. Maybe if your success is big enough — say, a New York Times best-seller — you can afford to blow your cover. Otherwise, you may have to keep those lips zipped just when you want to shout your success to the world.
Some writers with a pen name aren’t worried about anonymity, though. They see another benefit to their pen name. If you write in more than one genre, it’s a handy way to keep your readers from getting confused. Nora Roberts is one well-known example. It’s no secret that she’s also J.D. Robb. She uses her Nora Roberts name to brand her romantic suspense and her J.D. Robb name for her very sexy SF police detective series.
This was actually my biggest reason for choosing a pen name, although I don’t mind a little anonymity either. I’ve published several fantasy novels and a young adult book under another name. If they were movies, they’d all be rated PG. In seven books I have two very mild romantic scenes. Contrast this with Sexual Rx where the hero and heroine get it on innumerable times. You can see that a reader accustomed to my fantasy books might get a shock picking up an erotic romance. The pen name prevents that from happening. When a reader sees a Kassie Burns book, they know they’re in for a hot ride.
While this protects the readers from unexpected surprises, there are some downsides. First, you now have to do promo under two names. And the fans you make as writer X aren’t necessarily going to buy your books as writer Y. Secondly, when they find a writer they like, some readers do like to get every book that writer has written. You’re going to miss out on those sales.
As you can see, there are a lot of pros and cons to consider. But I’d like to close by mentioning a somewhat minor — although delightful — reason to go with a pen name. How often do you get to pick your own name? Some writers of erotic romance favor names high up on the alphabet — thinking ahead to book store shelves or their position on lists. Others favor a sexy name for somewhat obvious reasons. I happen to think Kassie Burns is sexy, in a subtle kind of way.
I hope you agree.
Kassie is the author of two books from Loose Id: Disaster Earth and Sexual Rx. You can visit her Web site at http://www.kassieburns.com.