A few months ago I branched out and started some new pen names. Despite my normally calm and collected appearance, I inwardly brooded over this for a really long time before finally deciding to take the plunge. I worried about having to divide my time writing and promoting. I worried about losing my current audience. I worried about why I was so worried.
Then I was like, who was I kidding? What audience am I losing? I've only been publishing (at the time) for a year and a half and I write wacky science fiction short stories. Which means that my niche audience is probably 1 out of every 100 billion people that shop on Amazon. I haven't been around long enough to have a cult following.
So I took a chance. I waited a few months to see if any guilt has set in and it hasn't. In fact, the opposite occurred. I now feel totally liberated as a writer. I don't feel the need to cater to a particular audience. If I want to write something totally different, I do it.
What about promotion? I actually spend less time promoting and more time writing. Is this counter productive? Not really.
If I am brutally honest with myself no promotional effort I have attempted in the past has really been worth my effort. I write blogs because I enjoy it so I don't factor that into the equation. But the money spent on Facebook Ads, the hours spent looking for people to review my short stories, the trying to spend time on half a dozen different social media outlets... it's not worth it. Yes, I've had a few features that have led to a slight increase in sales for the day. Which was nice. But it didn't change the fact that two days later I was right back where I started.
So I cut back. I hang out on the one writer's forum I enjoy, I blog, use Facebook and Tweet on my phone when I get the chance. That's pretty much it. I really don't care anymore if there's some place that authors HAVE to have a presence. It's a waste of writing time. The only thing that consistently bumps my sales is when I publish a new story. Simple.
The new pen names allow me to target and write for a specific audience. It also allows me to see what sells and what doesn't so I know how to focus my time. In some genres standalones sell better. In other genres series are the way to go.
In the end, the pen name will promote itself. I think this is an important thing for "unknown" authors to keep in mind. People are not going to be typing in your name on search engines. They're going to be browsing by genre. So if they find something of yours that they like they will want more of the same. Eventually that more of the same becomes a brand name.
Just some ideas to chew on.