Series genre books are more popular than ever, from James Patterson and his multiple thriller lines to the hugely popular paranormal romance stories. Readers love to pick up a new book that contains something familiar, whether it's a town they recognize or a recurring cast of characters. While the loyal readership this can create is great for sales, it can create a killer writing schedule, as fans start clamoring for books faster and faster. Making your supply keep up with demand can sometimes make you feel like you're working on a hamster wheel.
There's a solution to all this exhaustion, though. It's creating or joining a collective pen name. Multiple authors write books under the same name, and each one gets the royalties from her own work. Your series grows much faster than it could have with you going it alone, and you'll reap the benefits of all those extra eager fans.
Collective Pen Name History
Some authors have discovered this idea and thought it was new and innovative, but it's really as old as some of your favorite books. Many of us grew up reading Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew books. Franklin W. Dixon and Carolyn Keene may have seemed like the most prolific writers of their day, but they were actually the pen names for a stable of authors. Each pen name had a set of rules and a general outline, and authors wrote their stories to fit in the guidelines. Some of the more well-known Harlequin novelists of the mid-20th century were collective pseudonyms, as well. With today's genre fiction it's a common practice among author groups, with many of them creating a pen name just for this purpose.
Set up Your Own Collective
In order for the readers to look on your books as the work of one "author." it's crucial that you set up a list of guidelines that every author follows. These can cover every aspect of the book such as:
- The amount of humor in the books, if any
- Main characters and secondary characters
- The setting, including businesses in town, maps, and surrounding countryside
- The heat level in each book, very important for the romance genre
Everyone has to agree to write every piece according to these guidelines in order to make the books as uniform as possible.
Nuts and Bolts
Every author in your collective should agree on the publishing venue for your books. Use one editor, one formatter, and one cover designer to keep branding consistent. Create a basic agreement that states rules about what happens if an author wants to leave the collective, or if other authors want to eliminate an author from the group. Plan marketing campaigns as a group, and prohibit individual marketing efforts.
Creating a collective takes a lot of work and compromise, but if you write genre fiction the increase in your income and readership can we well worth it.
Keep the Faith and may the Force be with You!