Some authors hide behind Pen Names, and for good reason. Go take a look at all the authors in the Erotica Genre and think about how many of them are actually using their real name. Not many, is my guess. Sex is human nature, but discussing it in public, or (gasp!) writing descriptive tales of threesomes is for some reason frowned upon in society, often met with exclamations of You need Jesus! Yet, readers gobble these things up like Skittles, and authors can make good money writing for them. But still, they prefer to remain anonymous. I get that.
Other writers use Pen Names to dabble in other genres but keep their work completely segregated. J. A. Konrath writes a great Crime Thriller series under his actual name, but writes his horror under Jack Kilborn. We all know it’s him, but we know what to expect with a novel by Kilborn vs. one by Konrath. It’s like branding.
I published my suspense novel REGRET and the tie-in collection of stories THE TEACHERS’ LOUNGE as Dan Dawkins for neither of these reasons.
So, please, tell us, Michael. Why did you do it?
Glad you asked.
That’s it. That’s the only reason.
To understand this more I’ll have to tell you the story of how I decided to self-publish REGRET. For nearly a year after writing REGRET, I queried agents, sent samples, did rewrites, queried more agents, did more rewrites, sacrificed virgins (hard to find in a college town – FYI), took up drinking, queried agents, sent more samples, gave up drinking, and then just gave up.
Well, not entirely, but I was close. In my year of querying, I had multiple agents express interest in the story, requesting the manuscript and suggesting re-writes and changes. I juggled these responses as well as I could, and with every bit of praise and positive critique also, ultimately, came a rejection. I was fed up, I had people telling me they liked the idea, liked the story, liked the writing, liked this, liked that—but nobody wanted to go the next step with me. It seemed like REGRET was going to die.
I had a choice: Let REGRET get tossed into my own personal slush pile and start the next book, or self-publish. Now, I work with computers and spend a ton of time on the internet. So in my voyages to one end of the web and back again I was fairly well researched in the current self-publishing movement. I had read about success stories ranging in small to HUGE, and then I found J. A Konrath’s blog and was nearly convinced. It just took a little push from my best friend (Hi, Jason!) to send me all the way.
Jason: “Mike, you wrote this story for people to read, right?”
Jason: “Then what the hell are you waiting for?”
Truer words were never spoken.
So, I did. And I chose to publish the book as Dan Dawkins, make a website and a Twitter Account and Facebook page as Dan Dawkins, because I knew that to have any kind of chance at success via self-publishing, I needed every little advantage I could grab to make my story stand out.
REGRET is a first-hand account of an author who loses his wife in an accident and, overrun with grief, mentally deteriorates and adopts the persona of a fictional character he writes, who happens to be a murderer. The author’s name is Dan Dawkins.
It’s a tragic story, and could only be more tragic if it really happened.
See where I’m going?
Remember The Blair Witch Project? The company behind that film did everything it could to convince America that what they were watching was real, had actually happened. From the movie trailer, to the lack of any credits after the film, to the unknown actors/actresses – Hell, Syfy even aired a special talking about all the legends surrounding Burkittsville, Maryland. And it was good.
The way I figured it, if I could put just enough information out there on the web to make even a few people think that Dan Dawkins’s story was real, I’d have a few more sales. For somebody who had sold zero books before this point, a few was, well… a lot.
I never hid behind the Pen Name, people eventually would find out that it was I who wrote the book, and right there on the copyright page it states that REGRET is work of fiction. But I did get a lot of emails from people after reading who wanted to know if REGRET was a true story. It always made me smile.
I had done my job. And I’m glad I did it the way I did. The mystique is over for REGRET (which will have been out for 1 year this coming Saturday), and I’ve added my actual name to the Amazon product pages because I want people to recognize my name now. The books by Dan Dawkins have been downloaded over 11,000 times, and I’d love for some of those people to read a book by Michael Robertson Jr.
RIP Dan –Thanks for everything.