I woke up this morning not having written my wonko-post, not having an idea for one, but then I saw Jane at Dear Author’s announcement. (If you missed it, she writes as Jen Frederick.) So it seemed like a good time to talk about pen names and secrets and writing experiments.
I’ve been pretty quiet on social media lately.
The reason was a combination of things. It started during the Great Hibernation of Late 2014, where I basically slept all day. All freaking day. Not an exaggeration.
Turns out it was depression. I didn’t feel sad, though. Just tired.
When I (mostly) (kind of) recovered from that, I was busy working my ass off to make up for all that I hadn’t done in those few months. It was hard to justify spending time on twitter, especially when a lot of the people I had chatted with were going through life changes and weren’t online much.
The other thing that happened was at the beginning of 2015 I decided to make this my Year of Focus.
I haven’t been big on resolutions in past years, but I knew I needed to make a change. The catalyst was financial, but this impacts all areas of my life—including happiness and sleep and depression.
If your business has two products, which one do you cut? And which one do you double down on? What if they both take the same amount of time and money and effort, but one earns 10X the other?
In this case, the low performer is the Amber Lin pen name. There are some exceptions to this. My debut sold well, especially considering the original price tag, and the second sold okay. More recently the rock star series does well, but while our writing efforts are split pretty evenly, Shari is the driving force behind marketing that.
For the past few years I’ve supported myself primarily through my other pen name, Skye Warren. I never meant for that to happen. The pen name started as an experiment, a way for me to see what book discovery was like for someone with no platform while I got my “real” pen name off the ground. But Skye Warren earned more, by large margins, while I actually poured more time and money into Amber Lin, year after year.
Business is business…unless it’s writing. I didn’t want to give up Amber Lin. I fought with myself about it, a lot over the years. I held onto the hope that this would be the book, the series, the genre, that would finally work for her.
It never happened though.
And business is business, even if it’s writing. So my Year of Focus, the reason why it needed an important name with capital letters, means not writing as Amber Lin anymore.
I’m going to revise and rebrand and re-release the Lost Girls series as Skye Warren books. I think they’ll fit just fine with the other Skye books. The rock star books are the ones left hanging, but they run on their own rockstar-centric audience now, one without much crossover to other Amber books. And I’ll probably move them to Skye eventually too.
The Year of Focus is about doing what I need to do, for myself, for my family, for our finances, for my mental health, so I can have time to breathe, so I can have time to play and rest and watch the occasional TV show, so I’m not constantly afraid of slipping into a half-comatose state again. But it’s also hard to let go of things that I’ve wanted for so long. The Year of Focus is about ambition but it’s also about giving up. It’s about balance, even though I’m not sure what that is.
The relationship between words and money is a complicated one. Whatever I’m writing is alternately the best and worst thing I’ve ever written, destined to be my bestseller or my biggest flop. Every book is the book of my heart, one specific piece of it, a snapshot in time.
As a community, the romance genre is a little more forgiving of writers who write “for money” than some other literary circles. But even here, I repeatedly see the idea of selling out, that trends are inherently bad, that real writers don’t do it for the money. That you can write your dirty fetish erotica to pay the rent as long as you have a poorly selling pseudo literary book to counter it. I dislike that dichotomy, I don’t believe in it, but in a way I’ve also lived it out with these two names, even though Amber Lin has always written dirty books. The Year of Focus is about stopping that, about writing and working fully as Skye Warren, these dirty books of my dark, dark heart.
So, that is what I’ve been up to. What about you?? Any secrets you want to share? Today is the day, apparently :)