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I find that we—those of us who blog, blog-hop, participate in message boards, readers/authors loops and groups—tend to forget that we are, in fact, a minuscule percentage of the total of readers.

This is, of course, not an original observation—Super Librarian Wendy has often talked about this—but it seems to be a frequently held belief that online readers are, in fact, the majority of romance readership.

What brings this on, you ask?

Well, when news that author Anne Stuart will have books under a different pen name with her new publisher, Janet W. said (among other things) that “…we always know that Jane Smith is now Sally Jones when she’s not writing as Judy Smart …”

Yes, we—people who are active online or are avid followers of Ms Stuart—may know this from the get go, but there will be many readers who will not have a clue. Readers who shop primarily at brick and mortar stores, and whose method of choosing something to read is check out the covers, then read the back cover blurb. Those are the readers the publisher is hoping to entice to read these books by the same author under a different name.

As Jayne Ann Krentz aka Amanda Quick aka Jayne Castle mentioned during her speech at RWA’s Awards Luncheon, it was the change of pseudonym (which included different marketing by herself and the publisher) that allowed her to keep her career alive whenever the previous one… well, flopped.

Yes, now we know that all three writers are the same person writing contemproraries, historicals or fantasy romances (hell, now she’s making a point of tying all three together through her Arcane Society novels!) but at the time? No one knew1, and that was what saved her bacon.

On top of that, there is the little fact that publishers tend to be old, well established corporations (read: lots of inertia to overcome) who, as far as we can tell, are not keen on change. In their view, if it worked twenty years ago, then of course it’ll work now!

Unfortunately for many a publisher, this doesn’t quite hold true anymore—people are people now as they ever were, but we communicate more and much faster now than we did just a decade ago. It is not only young tweens who spend hours glued to Facebook, and it is not only teens who twitter and text constantly. The likelihood of keeping Ms Stuart’s new pseudonym under wraps for long is much smaller now than it was for Ms Krentz in the eighties or nineties.

Which doesn’t have to be bad news—as a matter of fact, these days many authors are using different pseudonyms as marketing tools, to reach out to different audiences: Ann Aguirre aka Ava Gray; Beth Williamson aka Emma Lang; Jennifer Ashley aka Allyson James; Margaret Rowe aka Maggie Robinson—and many more. Whether or not a reader of Ava Gray (romantic suspense) knows that she also writes as Ann Aguirre (futuristic urban fantasy, contemporary urban fantasy and young adult) is not indispensable to the success of her career, as each subgenre has its own audience. Of course, she won’t cry if there is overlap and readers of romantic suspense find her Skin series by reading her Corine Solomon series.

This means that what Pocket is planning on doing with Anne Stuart (i.e., having her ‘debut’ as Kristina Douglas) may very well work for both author and publisher, but not necessarily for the same reasons it did for Ms Krentz twenty plus years ago.

However, generally speaking, what does work is when the publisher knows its market and it’s willing to follow—or even herd along—its customers in profitable directions. A perfect example of this would be Harlequin: in a troubled publishing world, it has continued to post profits without noticeable hiccups. Harlequin has made their authors’ backlists available digitally and promoted that catalogue to all its readers, traditional or digital. Harlequin has also expanded its horizons with the launch of Carina Press, its digital-first venture.

In contrast, Dorchester’s seemingly impromptu decision to go digital first, POD2 (trade size to boot!) later seems… well, off the wall at best, and doomed at worst. If the company actually knew its market, it would have realized that there are many readers who will simply assume the publisher disappeared once they don’t see the novels and the authors on shelves at their local brick and mortar bookstore.

Yes, of course some readers will head online to a favorite author’s website to find out what happened to that ‘upcoming’ book that was never released, but as I said at the beginning, many more won’t—in my real life experience the percentage of avid readers that actually keep a running list of upcoming releases is still relatively minor. Most simply wait until they see something new by a favorite author at the bookstore.

I guess now it’s basically a wait and see situation—while keeping fingers crossed for the many authors who are caught in the crossfire.

(For a more detailed and articulated piece on what Dorchester decision means for readers, go to Super Librarian Wendy’s blog; also, check out Dorchester’s email to Jane at Dear Author)

Update: via Ann Aguirre’s blog, Jim C Hines on The Death of Print Publishing Part MCCLWTFXVIII

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1 In fact, please raise your hand if you knew Ms Krentz also wrote under Jayne Bennet, Jayne Taylor and Stephanie James all through the 80s, and had one book out in 1989 as Amanda Glass. Yeah, neither did I until I checked her website while writing this piece—go figure, huh?

2 Print on demand


  • May
    August 11
    12:55 pm

    I totally agree that the majority of readers are not online. Sometime spending so time online, make me forgot this fact. So when I reviewed sales record of book sold, I found “strange” thing, which not really strange at all. Like a very good sales of Harlequin Presents, it seemed to fly out of shelves when a book with internet buzz did not sell.

    As for pseudonyms, I really wish Nancy Gideon used one. I am completely in love with her new paranormal trilogy but have really hard time convince people to try her. They feel that this name is not fresh enough. I do not know why but it is easier to convince people to buy a book from the perceived *new* author. Because sometime, they still think about the previous works, which may not reflect the style the author wrote now.


  • Marty
    August 11
    1:12 pm

    Raising hand about Amanda Glass! I have a copy of “Shield’s Lady” by her sitting on my bookshelves. This will date me but I also have “Candleight Estasy” books on my bookshelf. sigh


  • I actually knew about all of JAK’s pseudonym’s, but only because I was looking at her FantasticFiction page (love that website) awhile back and saw them all listed. Otherwise, I’d only have been able to name about 5, haha!


  • Great post and very true about not every avid reader being online–although I wish they were!

    I have several friends who read tons of romance, and they do not go online for information about books. I find this weird. (And, yes, I’ve been nagging them. 🙂 But for whatever reason, they seem to separate what they read from what they google and email. Although two of them are currently looking at buying eReaders, so this may change things.

    EC (who did not know all of Ms. Krentz’s names.)


  • I find it reassuring that most readers are not online…it keeps things in perspective for me, reminding me that once the book is turned in, it’s out of my control.

    BTW, I read IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER recently and enjoyed it a lot. I lent it to a friend who was about to depart on vacation, who’s been reading a lot of mysteries lately.


  • I knew about Stephanie James – still run across one occasionally while digging through library donations – but not all those others!

    And even with me being online all the dang time (so it seems) – I always forget that Allyson James and Jennifer Ashley are one and the same. For some reason that one doesn’t stick….


  • I actually not only knew about all her various pseudonyms but have all the books–including Shield’s Lady which is one of my favorites…


  • When I told someone recently that Krentz was Quick, they were shocked and had no idea.

    So many people I know have no clue what an ebook is or an e-reader or even a Kindle. I’ve explained so many times, but these are people who stil go into a bookstore and pick a book based on the cover, synopsis or if it hits the NY Times top 10 each week.


  • nothing to add except my agreement. Great post!


  • I don’t know if Dorchester declared bankruptcy, but if they are on the brink of doing so, probably they are pretty much dumping everything before they are actually forced to do so. By shrinking as drastically as they have, and going 100% digital, they are keeping operations costs down, don’t have to deal with as many distribution channels (if any), and given the fact that the trend seems to be that the digital market will continue growing in leaps and bounds, those spearheading the wave are likely to have the edge, an advantage, if you may. The current authors have been royally screwed and I feel sad for them, but other than that, despite the impression some may be getting, this is a risk that in the case of Dorchester, may actually work in terms of stopping them from completely going under. I see it as a bad thing for their current authors, but not necessarily a bad thing for the company itself, in either the long or the short term.

    As to authors pen names, I am oblivious. I tend to go by genre. For example, Christina Dodd and Lisa Kleypas write contemporaries as well as historical romance. I can’t stand contemps, hence, despite the fact that I love the work of those two authors, I can’t stand their contemp work because contemporary romance bores me 99% of the time.


  • Janet W
    August 13
    11:12 pm

    Just FYI, the Book Lovers Message Board is where I expressed my thoughts — other people had some interesting opinions too so I’ve linked to the whole thread:



  • Janet W
    August 13
    11:38 pm

    I’d have to be pretty silly to be under the misapprehension that online readership constitutes a majority of romance readers. I know we’re the merest fraction of an author’s readership.

    And don’t get me started on how I can’t even get books I want at the majority of independent bookstores nearby. This is my 2nd try at loading a comment so fingers crossed. It was cool to see a discussion from the Book Lovers Message Board end up here, after it started at Super Wendy’s blog … the magic of cyber viral! Here’s a link to the discussion: http://members7.boardhost.com/bookreviews/msg/1280547659.html


  • jm
    August 14
    11:09 am

    Jennifer Ashley also wrote a wonderful Regency Mystery series as Ashley Gardner. Since there are no plans to release more of those historical mysteries I guess she doesn’t promote the Gardner name. Too bad, that’s a great series and I think it would do well in ebook sales.

    Dorchester may retain some readers and even gain new ones with this approach but I think more then twice before paying for a trade size and will only pay full mmp cover price for an ebook if it’s by a favorite author. I hope they save themselves but not by walking over the authors who signed with them in good faith.

    Waving! I knew JAK was/is all those writers. Even if I didn’t like the books they were, at the time, really innovative and fun.


  • DS
    August 28
    4:00 am

    Hah, you left out Jayne Bentley, another JAK pseud. That was for MacFadden, another failed paperback publisher.


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