I have been trying to find an agent or publisher for a literary fiction novel of mine, and after sending dozens of query packages have found no one who wanted to read the manuscript. I suspect the reason is that I have very few publications to my real name, which is the name under which I have sent the queries.
However, under a pen name I have had a great deal of success publishing some half dozen erotic stories in major hardcopy anthologies in the last two years. Most of these anthologies are or have been sold in major bookstore chains, in fact. At the risk of sounding boastful I can say that I am one of the best writers now working in this genre.
I would really like to capitalize on my success as an erotic fiction writer in order to get the attention of a publisher or agent, but would rather publish my non-erotic novel under my real name. Do you think it would be at all feasible to write agents and publishers under my real name, tell them of my intention to publish under my real name, but also tell them my pen name, just to demonstrate that I am already a published writer? Can they be trusted with this kind of confidential information? Would it be better to write them under my pen name and agree to reveal my real name if they showed interest in my novel? Perhaps these are impossible questions to answer, but I would very much appreciate your thoughts on this if at all possible.
I guess the author of this email didn't consider that I answer these questions in my blog! So, if you're worried about confidentiality, perhaps this is not the way to go about it. Anyhow, I have opted not to publish this author's name, so that he can retain his anonymity.
That said, Yes, Yes, Yes. Tell potential agents that you are a previously published, great- or best-selling erotic fiction writer. Why wouldn't you? In telling them, you deliver more than one important message:
1. "I have been deemed worthy of publication. Thus, I am not one of the thousands of writers contacting you who have never been published and have never been evaluated objectively as being worth publishing.
2. "I can actually finish something. I've written stories or books that have been published, so I'm not just playing around with this. I'm dedicated and have proven that I can finish what I start."
3. "I recognize that this is a business. By using a pseudonym to write in one market, I have proven that I'm not just desperate to get published. I'm working the angles to make sure that I'm planning for a career that's more than one thing."
4. "I can do more than one thing. I've written in one genre, but here's another. Sure, there's no guarantee that my science fiction novel is as good as my erotic fiction (hey, I've had erotic encounters, but I don't own a space ship or travel to the 24th century often), but certainly the fact that I am published in one genre increases the odds that I have some basic skills and am worth considering in other genres."
Of course, just because you write one thing doesn't mean you can write another. I remember working with a best-selling romance writer and lecturing her on all of her bad habits, each of which was entirely acceptable in romance, but not in general fiction, I felt. I mean, it's one thing to write about your hero's "throbbing manhood" or the "rising pulse" between your heroine's thighs in romance, but try that in regular fiction and I think you'll just get a belly laugh.
So, can an erotic fiction writer write in another genre? Who knows? But certainly if he has been writing successfully in that genre, he should use that as a selling point to find an agent for other works.
As for the question of whether or not agents can be trusted with the author's real name and pseudonymous writing credits, I would venture to say that agents who are not interested in his work of literary fiction will not be interested in telling anyone about his erotic writings. And those who are interested in his work of literary fiction will have an incentive to be discreet.