Many prolific authors find themselves tiring of writing the same storyline or even the same genre at some point in their career. This thought seems to catch them off guard leaving them unprepared for this great debate. They’ll start on their next book only to find it isn’t talking to them, the words just won’t flow. All the while another part of their mind is teasing them with random thoughts about a completely different story, maybe in another genre, or targeted to a different age group.

This is where a few frank discussions with yourself, your critique group, even your editor, or publisher will help. You need to figure out who you are as an author, what’s behind the change, and what does it mean to your success. If you have a strong following for your children’s books and now you want to write a romantic thriller, there are some serious challenges to making the change.

First is what do people think of when they hear your author name? If they think of that cute children’s book about Bernice the Beaver, then you’ll have a challenge using that same author name to sell romantic thrillers. If they always think of the cozy mystery series you write, readers might not like it when they pick up the new steampunk book you always kept bottled up inside.

Authors build a following of readers based on their genre and style, and some don’t want to change to another genre. You’ll find a lot of upset readers if you don’t find a way to help them navigate your change. These changes can be sorted into a couple of change groups helping you to make the important decisions before jumping in. The groups include an adult to children’s (or vice-versa), starting a new series in the same genre, or changing genres.

The easiest to change is a new series in the same genre. Using a series title ties all the books together easily into lists for the readers. You can also provide a list of all the books within each series by groups at the beginning of your books. This alerts the readers to your other groups which can entice them into trying the next series. Your author persona doesn’t have to change between the various series and you can cross-promote all of them on the same author site and to the same audience. You can even write that business or travel book without having to change your author identity.

Changing genres like a mystery to romance, or a romance to paranormal, can follow the same guidelines as series. Just be very clear in your series names to give hints to the genre changes. The Chalice Princess cozy paranormal series versus the Green Dragon Service thrillers. A genre change will require some additional work to find new readers as not all of your other followers will want to read your new genre. In fact, those original followers will continue to look for new stories in their favorite series so be prepared to set their expectations early on with the number of books you plan to write in the series.

The most difficult change is moving between age groups. Adults might read young adult, but YA readers should not read some adult stories. And moving between a young child audience to an adult audience could cause an upsetting surprise to your avid readers or parents who buy books for their children. This is a time when many authors consider an alternate identity or pen name for their change in age focus. And if you are crossing in or out of the highly sexually focused genre, a name change is almost a necessity.

While a pin name makes it easier to set the expectations of the audience by the author name it is published under, it adds some complications for the author. You now have to protect an additional identity, build a completely new audience, remember who you are as each name, and maybe even have to convince your publisher you can support two names.

Sometimes an author will use a pen name to keep readers from assuming the quality of a book if they want to try a new genre. Afterall, your readers believe they know who you are and what type of story you write based on what they read last. J. K. Rowling used the name, Robert Galbraith when she wrote her crime novel. For a while, she kept this identity change a secret making the new series start and build its followers from scratch. Eventually the secret leaked, some of the more curious readers picked up the book to see what they thought, while others ignored the new book.

If you’re starting your writing career in a specific genre and age target, then make your name selection something comfortable to live with. If you have a plethora of topics and books to write crossing some of these critical lines, then do a bit of planning prior to making the changes and be prepared for the extra work if you have more than one persona.

I chose to write all my stories under a pen name for two reasons. The first was to separate my home life from my author life. It helps my brain focus on the differences in these worlds by changing who I am. It also meant discovering who this Pat Sawtelle really is and that has been fun.

The second was to find a name that could be a bit more memorable than something like Smith, Jones, or even Johnson. A best seller called Edgar Sawtelle and the fact that California, Texas and the northeastern US have a lot of people with that last name added to my list of reasons. Oh, and the fact that it was my maiden name, helped a little. {We girls have a few advantages.}

I also made a conscious choice to use a first name that left you unsure if I was a male or female. People interpret names based on what they read. If they read paranormal and that last horrible book was by a male, then they might try a female in the same genre next (or vice-versa). Pat doesn’t provide a clear answer to this problem and hopefully gets them to pick up the book to review the teaser.

However, it does mean getting used to introducing myself by another name, signing books under that name, and flipping between names with family, friends and the day job. I think my brain had a secret plan to make me crazy by juggling names. Ha! I am getting much more comfortable with it and I will win the brain game!

Now get started writing that book and let your brain have a bit of fun determining who you are as an author! Happy writing everyone!