Gather ’round, folks. I’m ready to confess. I’m about to share with you the biggest mistake of my career. (Thus far. I know that there are bigger mistakes out there for me to make!)
Once upon a time, I signed my first book contract. It was for The Glasswrights’ Apprentice, a sequel, and a book to be named later. Clever me (OK, clever agent), the “book to be named later” was actually a book already written — Season of Sacrifice. Sacrifice was the novel I wrote during the year that my agent was shopping around Apprentice. While Sacrifice was similar to the Glasswrights series in genre — traditional fantasy — it was set in a completely different world, populated with completely different characters who worked a completely different magic. (OK, actually Sacrifice included characters who worked magic; there is little or no magic in the Glasswrights series.)
So. I thought I’d played the game brilliantly. I wrote a book in its entirety. I interested an agent. While my agent worked, I wrote another book in its entirety. I sold both the first book and the second one. Yay, me.
Except for this little wrinkle: When it came time to publish Sacrifice, there was no good time to bring it out. I could wait until the Glasswrights series was finished (and, in the meantime, I’d received a contract for three more volumes, so that wait would total five years). I didn’t like that option, because it meant sitting on inventory for half a decade. Also, I feared that my writing style would have changed so substantially in that time that Sacrifice would no longer reflect my best work. Finally, I didn’t want to disappoint avid Glasswrights fans who would be required to change allegiances to a new type of storytelling.
In the alternative, I could publish Sacrifice right away, under a pen name. I didn’t like that option, either. I had spent thousands of dollars and countless hours promoting Mindy L. Klasky as an author of traditional fantasy. In my post-book-tour (financed by me!) exhaustion, I couldn’t imagine duplicating that time, effort, and money to promote Pen Name Enterprises. Plus, I really wanted credit for my work, written by me.
Therefore, I chose option three: I released Sacrifice between volumes 2 and 3 of theGlasswrights series. It came out in January 2002, dividing up the July releases of my five-book series.
And that was the last that anyone heard of Sacrifice. It was lost — lost in January, lost in the middle of a series, lost in a mediocre cover…. And I was devastated — I had some great stories to continue telling in that world! Sacrifice remains my greatest disappointment in my publishing career.
At least my agent and editor were kind enough not to say “I told you so”. (Not directly to my face, anyway.)
So, skip forward ten years. I write light paranormal romance. I write steamy category romance. And then I sell Darkbeast, a traditional fantasy targeted to middle grade readers.
At my very first meeting with my editor, she asked if I wanted to go forward with my name or with a pen name. We talked about the impact of my other books (especially the steamy romance) and rather quickly decided that a pen name was the way to go. Morgan Keyes was born.
So far, Morgan has received more prominent and better reviews than Mindy ever did. Morgan has been praised in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Horn Book. She has put together a website — www.morgankeyes.com — that is completely different in look, feel, and content from Mindy’s website — www.mindyklasky.com. Morgan has been asked to speak at events where Mindy has begged to appear, and Morgan is actually getting a modicum of attention from her publisher’s publicity department (something Mindy never enjoyed).
It’s not all sunshine and roses. I need to invest time and effort into building Morgan’s online persona, all the while maintaining Mindy’s identity. (It helps that, so far, Morgan doesn’t blog or tweet, because her target readers are a bit too young for either.) I need to keep straight where I’m known as Morgan and where I’m known as Mindy. I need to educate concoms, trying to arrange for the panels that would have fallen neatly into Mindy’s lap but which may be out of range for that newcomer, Morgan. And I desperately need to keep track of which emails I send from which accounts.
But so far? It’s working out. So far, I’m not repeating the biggest mistake of my career.
How about you? What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made? On a different note, do you write under a pen name? What would it take for you to give up your current name or pen name?