In a response to my previous post about Andrew Coburn, I asked about other writers who are toiling in obscurity…one of whom was Robert Reiss. Sarah Weinman replied.
Robert Reiss is still writing, but he’s had to change his name to Ethan Black for his newer books.
I’ve heard this story so many times before… and it raises another growing (and little discussed) problem in the mystery/thriller field: writers who can’t get stuff published under their own names any more… and have been forced to adopt pseudonyms to stay in the game. There are some terrific, highly-praised authors in this predicament, and they include Jeremiah Healy (aka Terry Devane), Gar Anthony Haywood (Ray Shannon) and Tom Kakonis (Adam Barrow). I could mention a lot more authors in the same jam but they, unlike the three gentlemen I just mentioned, are very secretive about their new nom-de-plumes. Jerry, Gar and Tom aren’t.
One of those secretive authors told me that their editor said "We’ll be glad to keep publishing your books, but not under your name. He’s dead. " Apparently, the author had become a fatal victim of his midlist sales figures. Based on his past, the chains wouldn’t order more (and usually less) than what his previous book sold or give them any better placement… thus dooming him to doing no better than his worst-selling book…except, of course, if he was lucky enough to get rave reviews and generate fantastic word of mouth.
It’s a tragedy when the only way you can keep writing, and getting published, is to do it under another name… to become an unwilling ghostwriter for yourself.