This began with a private discussion, which I'm now opening up to a wider discussion so others can contribute or learn something.
Background: I wrote a story that features a lesbian detective. Despite knowing a few lesbians in my time, we never quite got around to discussing their personal lifestyles. As such, I had to do a LOT of research on both lesbians and big city police detectives. Once I was done, I wanted to ensure I wouldn't offend anyone with obvious errors, so I handed some of my lesbian friends select chapters to read. But then, I asked, 'Should I write this under a pseudonym, or will lesbian readers assume a straight guy writer has no clue what he's writing about?'
It was suggested I use a pseudonym, since they'd never seen any books by guys in the 'lesbian stories' section of their bookstore.
At that point, I asked several authors who'd used pseudonyms, to see whether it was a good idea or not. I had several reservations, and I wanted to see if this was a stupid idea or not.
1) Would it sell better, or worse?
2) Would it open new markets?
3) Did I need a new website to support it, which I'd have to support indefinitely in the future?
4) How would my regular and loyal fans discover it if it's under another name?
I got an interesting response from a 6-figure author (indirectly through an intermediary) who'd published under a pseudonym. Her answer: Don't do it!
There are several reasons, but here are the main ones:
1) It won't sell. A first book by any author doesn't sell well. There are SO many new authors, the first thing readers do when they see a new book is to Google the author. First books sell few copies, but each subsequent book sells more of the previous books. Creating a new ID is almost guaranteeing fewer sales, and less 'associated' sales by releasing a new book.
2) The overhead is killer. Besides the new website, the new Amazon, print and other accounts, there's also the new bio, author photos, etc. If you screw up on either, you're toast. Consistency and brand name recognition are your biggest selling points. Tossing those away will only hurt you.
3) Identify what your market is. Anytime you sell a new book, you potentially uncover new readers. But if you start a new ID, will you win new readers, or lose old ones?
In my case, I wasn't targeting lesbian readers. I was targeting ALL readers, so creating a new ID didn't make sense. My concern was not screwing up and offending anyone, and I think I got that right.
So in the end, I decided not to use a pseudonym.
Note: The above was based on self-publishing. I know many SOL authors write using pseudonyms to prevent one story from hurting their rankings.
How does using a pseudonym on SOL differ from what I outlined? Would the rest of you write a gay porno, or a romance story if you thought it would hurt the scores on your other stories? How do you identify your 'market'? Would publishing radically different (or just new genres) hurt that 'market'?