Changing horses (for now)

I have three dark crime novels (the third Kendrick Chronicles audiobook comes out in Februry 2015), behind me. And a steampunk YA, a short paranormal romantic comedy and an upcoming scifi/thriller novella. I’m now 20K into my fifth novel, which bears no relation to what’s gone before. Think Brit com, “Calendar Girls”, “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “The Full Monty” and the like.

Does anyone else here enjoy changing horses? And what’s your view on marketing yourself if you do? Is a pen name a good idea, for example? Any other pros and cons?

I once heard a wise man say, in relation to successful creativity for money, “Give the audience or readership what they’re expecting - but not in the way that they’re expecting it.”

I believe that to be true. Never under-estimate people’s conservatism. So, in my view whatever your enjoyment from “changing horses”, if you want to develop and succeed as a published writer, you should “stick to your knitting”. Or at least your “brand” - i.e. your pen name. So if you want to change genre or style, use a new pen name. Even the world’s most successful female writer has deemed that to be necessary. (Of course there are plenty of successful exceptions - Michael Frayn, William Boyd, Anthony Horowitz, the author of Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang - but those exceptions were already established as well-known writers before they began to challenge their audience’s/readers’ expectations.)

Naturally, if you’re writing but not for money, none of the above applies.

Even just a subtle change is probably sufficient.
I’m thinking Iain Banks vs Iain M. Banks, here.

Thanks, wise words from both of you. Appreciated.

John Banville —> Benjamin Black

Not exactly subtle, but still close enough to make the connection.

And perhaps on his way to bigger sales writing mysteries than writing “literature.”


Thanks, all. Food for thought in your replies.

I think there’s a lesson in JK Rowling as well.

She went from YA to adult, still under the JK Rowling name, and sold 1 million copies.

Then she went incognito, and did a crime novel as Robert Galbraith, and sold 500-1500 copies depending on what number you believe.

Now, I would be happy selling 1,500 copies of a book, but it isn’t exactly Rowlingesque.

The advantage of going the Iain Banks / Iain M Banks route is that you keep the identity you have built, but your readership can differentiate if they don’t like the genre.

I’ve read every book the late Iain Banks wrote, but I can’t abide the nonsense written by that Iain M Banks fellow! (Except Feersum Endjinn, that was awsum.)


Or keep the same name but give the genre somehow? Like list a category for your readers so they can better find what they like?

And if your horses are far enough apart maybe most people will just never make the connection. I am thinking of the curious case of Russell Hoban.