The Secret Pen Name Experiment

Secret Pen Name

The Secret Pen Name experiment that’s not so secret anymore. Some of you will be aware that I started a pen name in July. There were several reasons for this (in order of importance):

  • All my books are widely distributed. I’d experimented with Kindle Unlimited with the Dragonspeaker books, but didn’t think I got the best of the opportunities because I’d committed to take the books out, because a lot of my readers are reading on other platforms. I wanted a clearly defined set of books that I want to leave in Kindle Unlimited.
  • People are saying things like “It’s much harder for an unknown writer today than it was in [insert year of choice]”. I think that’s 90% bunk. It’s different. Not harder.
  • I’m in a genre (Science Fiction), where 99% of books that sell well are written by men. Is a male name a factor? You never know until you try.

My goals were:

  • Start some series in exactly the same genres with a very similar flavour as my regular fiction.
  • Start slow and aim to merely cover my costs until I have a catalogue that warrants ad money spent on it.
  • Use methods of promotion that are accessible (and free) to all.
  • Keep book 1 cheap to encourage people to borrow and/or buy later books when available.

Secret Pen Name results

I launched book 1 in early July 2019 with exactly zero fanfare. A few friends sent it to their list. I used the Ebookaroo newsletter. I have not used any free days or any other promotional tools and have not bought any ads for it.

So far, the book has sold over 500 copies, but at 99c so it’s not burned a hole in my bank account, but between the sales and page reads, I’ve earned back the production costs. I’m happy with that.

I’ve put book 2 on preorder. Right now, I’m planning some further campaigns to promote the new release when it drops on 26 November. I will probably use friends again. This is a slow project.

So is it harder for a new writer?

I think it’s harder only if you go into this self-publishing gig completely unprepared, unedited and with poor book design.

If you spend a few months reading up, getting genre-appropriate covers, having your book properly edited, and–most importantly–connecting with other authors, I absolutely don’t think it’s harder. Those contacts in the community are very important, because they open doors for you that you would otherwise have to circumvent through selling a metric but-tonne of books. If you’re active, helpful and friendly in the community, chances are that a writer who sells more than you will be happy to give you a leg-up.

What about that male secret pen name?

I guess the jury is still out, but I’ve never had a book of mine sell for so long without me doing anything to help it along. It’s gone a bit quiet now, but I’m quite pleased, considering the amount of effort (very little) I’ve put into this.

Even more strange is that the book is about a middle-aged woman with responsibility for a disabled son. It’s not your typical pew-pew, which I probably couldn’t write convincingly anyway.

So, what sells the book is the cover and the male name? I guess. Maybe.

Future plans

Add more books! Book 2 will go live on 26 November. Next will be an epic fantasy, about half-written. I’m enjoying writing some completely different projects, although of course I’ve just put Ambassador 10 on preorder, and I’ll definitely continue with those.

Sometimes you just need to start something new.

For now, none of the books will have print versions, which means I will still have the option to do with them what I please without leaving trails, including putting the books under my own name if I decide to take them wide (say KU collapses or becomes too much of a bear pit).

Once you put a book in print, the ISBN lives on forever. It’s good but also very annoying.

Anyway, that’s the update on my secret pen name. Why not click the link below and start reading?

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