I asked myself this question just over a year ago. At the time, I said yes. Now I say no.
Why the change of heart?
Let’s start with the reasons why I said yes a year ago.
A pen name can be VERY helpful in defining a brand. When I decided I should write under a pen name, it was because I was going to write something quite different from what I had previously written, and I wouldn’t bring in all of my other creative madness (art, music, etc.). I started out writing young adult books, these new books would be adult of the steamy romance variety.
A steamy romance reader doesn’t necessarily want to read young adult books. Likewise, young adult is intended for teens, and they are certainly not the target audience of an 18+ romance. And a reader isn’t necessarily interested in your other creative activities. Separating my name with a pen name sounded like the logical thing to do in order to become a “real” author.
I wouldn’t say that’s an entirely wrong assessment, but there are many more factors to consider. To be fair, I couldn’t really see them at the time. I was too worried about the problem I presented above, but after a year of writing under this pen name, I decided it wasn’t the right course of action for me.
Here are some things I didn’t consider.
1. I’m one person.
2. A pen name means starting at zero.
3. People need people.
Let’s start with my first point. I’m only one person, surprised? I know. It’s truly unfortunate. The things I’d be able to get done if I were multiple people would be astounding. Alas, I am alone. I’m living ONE life. Imagine splitting all of those one-life experiences between two people and trying to keep them separate and yet fully fledged people. It gets stressful. And both people lose authenticity.
If I wanted to leave all my other creative endeavors behind and simply become Kamryn Hart (my pen name), I think that would have been just fine. I would have put all of my authenticity into it, and it would have been me in everything but the name. But I can’t leave all the other books I want to write behind, and I want to do more than books.
A pen name was not helpful to me in that case. I couldn’t truly be authentic that way. I couldn’t be me and stick to an 18+ romance brand.
My second point might not apply to you, but I already had the beginnings of a platform. I had all my social media set up and actual readers who liked my stuff, but I self-sabotaged by jumping ship and starting all over again from nothing with this pen name. It wasn’t fair to my readers. It wasn’t good for me.
My readers have the right to choose what they do and don’t want to read. Are they an adult who likes steamy romances and fun YA adventures? Who knows. It’s possible. And teens grow up. Maybe they’ll be interested in steamy romances someday. We’re dynamic creatures, and we like a variety of things. It was too bold of me to assume people who like one thing I create wouldn’t like the other things. Art and music included.
My third point might sound funny, but it goes back to authenticity. Have you ever wanted to support someone’s art just because you like them as a person? Maybe you follow them on social media, and they’re an inspiration to you, so you want to try their art too. Or maybe you found their art first and then you followed their social media and happily discovered you adore them as a fellow human being as well. Maybe you weren’t going to try another series by them, but knowing THEM changed your mind.
That happened to me with Maggie Stiefvater actually. I was stuck on The Raven Cycle and wasn’t sure I wanted to try her other books, but Maggie is an awesome person, and she feels like a friend. She’s genuine and shares her passions, and I feel that.
People need people. That’s my third point. Everyone needs a friend. I want to be someone people can turn to. I want to talk to my readers, the people who like my music, everyone. We learn and grow as life goes on, and I’m sorry it took me this long to realize this. I always felt so overwhelmed by keeping up with comments on YouTube when I was doing things under Usachii, and I feel terrible about that. I didn’t know what to say, but how much effort does it take to, well, make an effort? Not much, and it means something. It means I care. It means you care. You’re important, and you’re worth it.
It’s time to make time for people.
That’s just a better life philosophy, friends.
In conclusion, only you can decide if a pen name is right for you. List all the reasons why you’re considering it, pros and cons. Hopefully what I’ve shared about my experience can help you navigate that hard question.