Thursday, April 26, 2007


Keith Chapman brings up a good point in his comment on my DUST DEVILS post, so I thought I'd address it in a separate post. He says:

The snazzy cover surely is better viewed at full-screen size. And as you say, it has the Reasoner name on it. Have you ever found house-name anonymity dispiriting? (Don't answer if you consider it wouldn't be politic, or just none of anyone's business!)

I think most writers, if they're being honest, would rather write under their own name (or a pseudonym of their choosing) than under a house-name. At one point in my career, I had written eighty novels, and only one of them had my name on it. People used to ask me if that bothered me, and my standard flippant answer was, "I don't care if my name is on the book, as long as it's on the check!"

And while there was -- and is -- a smidgen of truth in that, of course I'd like for all of my books to have my name on them. I'm proud of what I do. I really enjoyed it a few years ago when I had two historical series going at the same time, in hardback, with my name on the books.

But when I sit down at the computer, I'm not thinking about what name is going on the book. I'm thinking about the characters and the plot and what I can do with them and whether or not I've done enough research and does this scene need to go before that scene and trying to figure out whether this particular line needs some more tweaking . . . in other words, the same exact process that authors who write only under their own names go through. I'm sure there are writers who don't put as much care into house-name books. I'm sure that's been the case as long as there have been house names. But that's not the way I approach it, and it's not the way that my friends who work in this part of the business do, either. They're professionals and they do the best job they can, not only because that's the surest way to get that next contract, but because they care about the readers. And because they love to write.

But yeah, the recognition would be nice. On most of the books I write, I'm contractually bound not to reveal my connection with them, and it's not just a "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" contract where people don't really care who knows. I could jeopardize my livelihood by revealing titles and bylines on here. On some of the series I work on, I can tell people privately which books I've written, but I wouldn't post a list. And some, like the Tales From Deadwood series, are pretty much open secrets. I plan to keep writing the house-name books because I enjoy them, because I have a good relationship with the editors I work for, and because they pay enough to keep me in the business and I'm too blasted old to go out and try to do anything else. But I'm very glad that 2007 will see the publication of two new books with my name on them, the aforementioned DUST DEVILS, and a Western/mystery coming this summer from Pinnacle Books, DEATH HEAD CROSSING.

I just got the cover for that one, by the way, and will post it in a few minutes.


Anonymous said...

James, out of the 400 plus books I've produced I think my real name is on 30 or so. Let's round it out to 10%. That means 90% of my career has existed under 14 or 15 pseudonyms. But the only "house" names I've written under are Nick Carter, Jon Sharpe, Jack Hild and a couple I can't remember right now. I'm often asked the same question as you were, and have given the same answer about the checks. I worked hard on all the books over the years, but it IS gratifying to see your own name on the cover. So congrats on the two coming out this year. That western cover is awesome.


James Reasoner said...

Thanks, Bob! It's been a while, so I hope Western readers haven't forgotten who I am.

Anonymous said...

Many thanks, James, for the full and frank answer. From a distance, major publishers often appear to be putting on a Great Illusion -- a vaudeville act with smoke and mirrors where nothing is as it appears. There are, of course, sincere performers among the con artists!