A reader emailed me the other day to ask:

I want to juggle 3 pen names. I know you’re also juggling pen names and projects and was wondering if you’d done a blog post on how you handle it (schedule-wise), or maybe know what I can look at to get started.

I had intended to deal with the topic sooner or later, but as it happens, I need to update it now.

I have spoken about pen names before, in “Should You Use Multiple Pen-Names?” That post outlines some of the reasons why you might consider using them, but doesn’t go into how to do it, which my reader was asking.

Also, the post misses one of the major reasons why you should consider using a pen name.

Also Boughts hygiene

This one is a biggie, and probably one of the best arguments for using pen names if you’re prolific.

You only have to look at the Also Boughts for my books to understand how being prolific can work against you on Amazon, if you only write under one name.

Up until now, I have been using my real name for all my romance novels, but I write under six different sub-genres:  Paranormal romance, science fiction romance, romantic suspense, historical romance, and fantasy romance.  There’s also urban fantasy romance, but this often gets lumped under paranormal.

And just to really complicate my life, I also write “straight” science fiction (no strong romance elements).

There are a number of indie publishing gurus out there that strongly advocate publishing everything under one pen name, and when readers find you, your oeuvre becomes your brand.

It’s a laudable sentiment, and it seems to make sense on the surface.  Only, the Amazon algorithms kill the argument stone dead, because readers can be crazy stupid loyal.

I have romance readers who frequently proclaim in reviews that they have never read historical romance (say) before, but they tried it for this book because *I* wrote it, and they weren’t disappointed.

If those readers have read nothing but romantic suspense up until now, then Amazon is going to be stumped about who to offer the historical romance to.  Should they put it front of romantic suspense readers?  Or historical romance readers?

And now, because of those loyal readers’ buying habits, my Also Boughts for the historical romance will have a bunch of romantic suspense titles in them.  Other romantic suspense titles on Amazon will feature my historical romance in their Also Boughts.

Naturally, self-respecting romantic suspense readers will avoid the historical romance cover like the plague, telling Amazon that the book has zero appeal to anyone.  Amazon will drop the book like a hot potato.

If you’re prolific, there’s a good chance you’re writing in more than one genre or sub-genre, and if you’re publishing those genres under the same name or pen name, then you’re screwing yourself over with every single release.

Depressing, huh?

This is where pen names come to the rescue.  When you unpublish and republish books in a different genre under a pen name, then you’re resetting the defaults on Amazon, and giving your Also Boughts a clean slate.    Amazon will be able to figure out who to wave your book in front of, and when they buy the book (because it is right up their preferred reading street), then Amazon will know to keep dropping the book in front of that audience…and they will.

Okay, given that using a pen name is a good idea, how do you juggle multiple pen names?

How to do it.

The short answer is, you juggle pen names the same way you do multiple genres under your own name.

You cycle through each pen name, writing a book for each.

Of course, there’s a bit more to it than that, but that’s the basics.

Amazon Cliffs

For years, I have worried about making sure I hit the publish button at least once every 30 days, so Amazon doesn’t penalize me as a non-performing publisher.

I’ve been reading reports from other authors who track their sales closely, stating their belief that the 30 day cliff has now tightened up to 21 days or possibly even 18.  Sales of new releases plunge just over two weeks after release.

As the best I can do, at a steady marathon pace, is 21 days between releases, there’s no point in worrying about the cliffs anymore.

You could get around this shortened period by releasing short stories and novelettes in between novel releases.

Or maybe you’re fast enough to publish a full novel every two weeks.  In which case, you might just avoid the cliff…until Amazon shortens the release aura down to 7 days.

Don’t let the cliffs factor into your scheduling of pen name releases.  Just release as steadily as you can, addressing each pen name in turn.

Don’t forget to cycle through the *series*, too.

If you have more than one series being written for each pen name, then you must also cycle through the series, too, so readers don’t wait too long for each installment.

In practical terms.

Here’s what it looks like on paper, assuming you can release a title every 3 weeks:

PEN NAME A releases on day 1

PEN NAME B releases on day 21

PEN NAME C releases on day 42

PEN NAME A releases on day 63

PEN NAME B releases on day 84

PEN NAME C releases on day 105

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That’s not too shabby, really.  From book to book, under one pen name, readers are only waiting 62 days.

If you have two series for one of your series, then you cycle through those series, too:

PEN NAME A Series 1 releases on day 1

PEN NAME B releases on day 21

PEN NAME C releases on day 42

PEN NAME A Series 2 releases on day 63

PEN NAME B releases on day 84

PEN NAME C releases on day 105

PEN NAME A Series 1 releases on day 126

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It means that your readers who only read the one series are waiting just over three months.  That still isn’t terrible, when you consider they will wait a year for the next book in a traditionally published series (if they get it at all).

If you have a super popular series or genre that outsells all your other series/genres, then you might consider giving it more airtime.  This is what I do, because I have one historical series that forms the majority of my sales at Amazon:

PEN NAME A bestselling series releases on day 1

PEN NAME B releases on day 21

PEN NAME A bestselling series releases on day 42

PEN NAME C releases on day 63

PEN NAME A bestselling series releases on day 84

PEN NAME D releases on day 105

PEN NAME A bestselling series releases on day 126

PEN NAME E releases on day 147

PEN NAME A bestselling series releases on day 168

PEN NAME B releases on day 187

…and so on.

Review your production schedule regularly

The one constant in the indie publishing world is change.  If you have a series take off and hit big, then adjust your production schedule to bring it to the fore and take advantage of the hot streak.

If sales die off in a series, swap it out for another, or push that pen name/genre back to a slower publishing cycle.

There are all sorts of ways to manage the cycling process, depending on where your strongest sales lie.

Once you switch to pen names you may find your sales for all your genres spiking because now Amazon knows how to properly promote your books, necessitating another juggle and reschedule.

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I currently publish almost completely under my own name, in all the genres I listed at the beginning of the post.

Because of the Also Bought pollution, over the next year I will be splitting off the SF and the romance sub-genres into their own pen names, and rapid releasing series under those pen names, to give them as strong a launch as possible.

I also won’t be telling my current readers about those pen names – I want the paranormal romance readers to find my new paranormal romance name organically, which will keep my Also Boughts clean and sweet.

How are your Also Boughts looking these days?  Do they make you wince?  It might be time for a pen name.