This is Why a New York Times Bestselling Author Changed Her Pen Name to G. L. Carriger: On Pseudonyms, Cover Art & Reader Betrayal (Important for Writers)

In this blog post I’m going to discuss why a bestselling author might chose a new pen name. It’s not for the reasons you think.

Why a bestselling author would change or pick a new her pen name

You may or may not have noticed, Gentle Reader, that my San Andreas Shifter books are written under the name…

G. L. Carriger

The Sumage Solution, is a big departure for me in content, style, and setting. OK, perhaps not that big. It’s still me, full of silliness and fun.

  • It’s urban fantasy, but it’s set in contemporary times, in America.
  • It has more sex than my other writing has in the past.
  • It’s certainly got worse language.

Amazon | B&N | Apple | Kobo

I dithered for a while about what to do about this. You see, I worry about reader betrayal… a lot.

Reader Betrayal

Reader betrayal can take many forms. At its root, it is that sensation one gets if the book you’re reading does something totally unexpected in a bad way. Like if a book you picked up thinking it was romance suddenly doesn’t have a happy ending.

Why does reader betrayal happen?

Well, it can be a flaw in story: you’re reading one thing when the author suddenly takes a dive and turns it into something else. That is the author’s fault. (This is what I call the “scream and hurl” scenario.) Or it can be a flaw in expectation, you thought it was one kind of book, despite the cover and blurb trying to tell you otherwise, and you read it anyway.

This book is a hilarious COMEDY fantasy gay romance. Betchya didn’t know that from the cover.

Far more common these days is visual marker caused betrayal. This means that you picked up the book expecting one thing because of the cover and then got something completely different from the words within.

Controlling these expectations is a serious business. It’s done many ways: visually through cover art (image & text), but also via author name, and cover copy/blurb and description. (There are also things that can’t really be controlled like algorithms offering “similar books you might like.”)

For example, if I showed you this cover:

You’d probably expect a dark gritty urban fantasy. Possibly noir tropes in use. If that’s the kind of thing you like, you might then take a look at the book description and decide to buy it.

But if I gave you this one:

You’d expect something else: upbeat, cheerful, youthful, pulp-ish.

  • Both covers are based off photos.
  • Both are single person images.
  • Both have saturated color use.
  • Both use san serif fonts

But the kind of image chosen, from dress to facial expression, and the tweaks then made to it, from color choice to the overlay of type, all tell you, the reader, something about what is inside.

You may not know exactly what you’re being told, or how to control your own response, but trust me, you’re reacting. The thing that worries a savvy author the most is NOT “does this cover depict what’s inside my book” but “does this cover accurately portray the spirit of my book?”

If you picked up Fairy Debt and did not get a fun little light hearted read about a fairy in silly times, you would be angry with me as the author. You would feel betrayed.

Why talk about covers when I should be discussing pen names?

Because most of the time, covers come first. Covers are the single most important thing when selling a book or establishing a brand as an author.


After that, of course, it’s up to the author to pull the reader in and make them want more.

Which brings us to author name recognition.

After a certain point, if lucky, an author starts to accrue loyal readers.

  • These are the readers who write to say they love you. Who regularly leave book reviews.
  • Who vow to buy “anything you write.”
  • These readers follow an author’s newsletter (if really lucky) and get excited when a new book comes along.

These readers are you, eyeballs reading this blog post right now. I LOVE YOU.

You, Gentle Reader, know what to expect from me as an author because I have tried to give you something quite consistent over the last few years. Yes, it jumped around from YA to adult to novella, from espionage to romance to adventure, but the spirit of the Parasolverse has been unchanged.

Cover art plays into this too, keeping a theme going is pretty darn important. Here is how my traditional publishers did it across three series:

Here’s how I played with my own themes for my self-published stuff.

Romancing the Inventor

I kept the san serif font and the slashes from the first series. I kept a central figure (or figures).

  • Do you see the similarities, and to which books?
  • Can you understand why I might want to make some of the changes I did between my novels and my novellas? (Perhaps that is a whole other discussion if you’re interested.)

One of the things I’d encourage you to notice is that I made my name bigger than the title for the first time when I produced my own stuff.

Why I Made My Name BIGGER

When self-pubbing I’m banking on name recognition. Also, it’s more common in romance to up the font size for well known authors (and my novellas touch on romance more heavily). And, I do it because I’ve noticed over the years that male genre authors get this kind of name glorification a lot, while the rest of us, erm, do not. That gets my goat because it smacks pretty darn strongly of sexism.

So, why go through all this trouble to establish name recognition, only to change my name… slightly?

G. L. Carriger

Because we are back to the first part of this post: reader betrayal.

My new non-parasolverse m/m urban fantasy is just different enough for me to worry. Even knowing that I could give you a very different cover (which I have done) I worried that my name was now strong enough to sucker readers into expecting things: gentleness, steampunk, sweet romance, Victorian food & clothing.

I worried that if it says “by Gail Carriger” readers would expect exactly the kind of thing they had gotten from me before. The Sumage Solution is just different enough for readers to get mad at me. Not because I don’t write urban fantasy or paranormal romance well (this book is oodles of fun, it makes me so happy) but because it’s not what readers expected from Gail Carriger going in. Which isn’t really my fault.

Except that it is. It is certainly my responsibility.

I have established Gail Carriger expectations with 17 or so books now. So it’s up to me to shift those expectations.

Thus I’m publishing The Sumage Solution under G. L. Carriger. Still me. Just tweaked. This way, going in, readers pick up the book and perhaps go:

“Huh, I wonder if this is still Gail? I wonder why Gail is doing this? Perhaps it’s not quite the same thing as before.”

It wasn’t an easy decision, I’ll tell you that much.

And, I hope you like her.

The Omega Objection Free PDF

Still and always yours,

Miss G

Want more?

Heroine’s Journey Cover Art


Heroines Journey Gail Carriger free pdf ripped download

  • Tired of the hero’s journey?
  • Frustrated that funny, romantic, and comforting stories aren’t taken seriously?
  • Sad that the books and movies you love never seem to be critically acclaimed, even when they sell like crazy?

The Heroine’s Journey is here to help.

Multiple New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger presents a clear concise analysis of the heroine’s journey, how it differs from the hero’s journey, and how you can use it to improve your writing and your life.


Your Tisane of Smart . . .

“The only thing you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.”

~ Albert Einstein

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

“Writing a book is like telling a joke and having to wait 2 years to know whether or not it was funny.”

~ Alain de Botton

Book News:

The Reading Chick says of Prudence:

“The style of the characters meld completely with the storyline, that it all seems completely believable, in a rather fantastic way.”

Quote of the Day:

“People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.”

~ Logan Pearsall Smith

Want more behind the scenes info? Join the Chirrup!

You made it so far!

Here’s an extra bit, from a true Carriger on the name Carriger!

“You pegged at least the Texas branch’s pronunciation with the hard g, which is the main one nationally as far as I can tell. To be fair to the Carriage Ur people, it’s a made up name to begin with, dating to Tennessee in the latter 1700’s. The original family name was Kercher, originating in Germany and Austria. However, my ancestors there were carriage builders and for some reason changed the name to accommodate transactions with their clientele. The Carriger street* you got the name from dates back to Nicholas Carriger who made it out West in the mid 1800’s and from what I understand had a part in founding Sonoma. Pretty sure they had a vineyard. All in all we’ve been here since pre-Revolutionary times.”

* also a river in Sonoma

Sumage Solution Special Extras ~ All About The Cover Art (Behind the Magic)

Posted by Gail Carriger


So one of the things I knew the cover for The Sumage Solution had to be was different from everything I’ve done before.

GL Carriger Sumage Solution SAS Model Quinn Max

Since The Sumage Solution is pretty darn racy I needed visual markers for telling my readers that this is something different from me…particularly my YA readers! The best way to do this is with cover art.

So in addition to a new pen name (more on that in another blog) I really focused on a spectacular cover that said “sexy and urban fantasy” but was different both from what is out there right now and what I’ve had on my covers in the past. This meant a different layout (centered), different font (serif), and a clean smooth background.

The first thing I had to do was find a gorgeous model to portray my hot mage, Max. So what did I do first? Went to Evan of course!

Evan is a killer photographer, his images are sensual, powerful, and interesting. And, let’s be honest, hot. I found out about him via the Airship Ambassador years ago. Steampunk is such a small world, we tend to all meet each other one way or another. I’ve used his photos before (Marine Biology & Curious Case) but he also has a boudoir line, so I went to check those out for Sumage Solution.

Marine Biology 

And who did I see first thing for a recent shoot on Evan’s website? Quinn Knox. And Quinn looked so close to my vision for Max it was almost uncanny. It’s like Evan read my mind! Or read my book.

As always, Evan was grace personified to work with and soon I had Quinn in hand, so to speak. Then it was merely a matter of some chatting with Starla, my cover art designer. She fooled around with silhouettes and fractured mirrors and color options. I dithered over fonts and arrangements and finally everything gelled into a truly spectacular result.

I can’t tell you how happy I am with this cover.

If you want to see the Pinterest inspiration board that I made for Starla to use as inspiration for this cover, you can check it out now as I have made it a public board.

{Gail’s monthly read along for May is Radiance by Grace Draven.}

Want more behind the scenes sneak peeks? Join the Chirrup


Your Moment of Parasol . . .

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

The Groundbreaking Silhouette Animations of Lotte Reiniger

The Groundbreaking Silhouette Animations of Lotte Reiniger: Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, and More

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

A Taste of the Past Podcast discusses Tea Time. (Yes the ceramic stuff is still wrong, but interesting buy in to the propaganda of the Victorian era ceramic production companies.)

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

“If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

~ Toni Morrison

Book News:

Quote of the Day:

“Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled ‘This could change your life.”

~ Helen Exley

Questions about Gail’s steampunk world? There’s a wiki for that!
Share & Enjoy!

Secret Project Revealed ~ The Sumage Solution, Gail Carriger Writes Sexy M/M Paranormal Romance as G. L. Carriger

Finally, the big announcement!

If wishes were werewolves.

So a while ago, Gentle Reader, I started muttering about this stupid trashy-great story that kept waking me up in the middle of the night and bothering me with new characters. I called it SAS. Or occasionally Secret Project Smut.

It’s not steampunk.

It’s not in the Parasolverse.

Although there’s a way this could be the Parasolverse’s future, but you have to read it to find out how.

The Sumage Solution: San Andreas Shifter #1

G.L. Carriger

Preorder: Amazon | B&N | Apple | Kobo

So what is it?

It’s m/m paranormal romance set in the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s raunchy and filthy. It’s hilarious and so much fun.

It’s the follow up story to Marine Biology.

I asked myself what happened after Alec moved with his merman boyfriend and his newly formed pack to San Francisco. Turns out he discovers that werewolves have a bad reputation, his brother has been in the closet his whole life, and there’s a snarky annoyed mage on their case.

The story is told with swapped POVs.

Whose story is it?

Start with a beefcake with a caregiver complex…

Bryan (AKA Biff) is Alec’s older brother and a Beta werewolf. Didn’t know he was a closet case, did you? A redneck jock type, overly muscled, overly gruff, and (as it turns out) overly sensitive.

Meets broken beautiful smart-ass with a heart of gold…

Max (Maximillian Barker) is a sumage (a mage who can’t actually do any magic) stuck in a crap government job with a mouth like a sailor and some serious relationship hang ups.

Max works at DURPS, the supernatural equivalent of the DMV. When Bryan goes in for processing, he discovers Max, and Max smells delicious. But mages are supposed to stink… to werewolves. It all goes downhill from there.

So I’m officially calling this the San Andreas Shiftier Series.

This series includes Marine Biology which is the prequel, and will now get a new cover. (And is, I guess, San Andreas Shifters Book #0.5? Although, Marine Biology shouldn’t really be San Andreas Shifters because it’s about the pack before it was a pack and moved to the Bay Area, but… I digress.)

Yeah. Series. This means there could be more. I suspect once you start reading about the San Andreas Pack that you will love them. I built myself a whole cast of fabulous gay biker werewolves to play with.

What, you doubted me?

What’s the first book called, then, Miss Gail?

The Sumage Solution

You gonna publish it?

Yep. It’s up for preorder right now. Amazon | B&N | Apple | Kobo

I dithered a while, worried about silly things like “polluting the brand.” (There are pros and cons to writing in multiple genres.) And is m/m too smutty for Gail to scribble? And will I get in trouble for writing trash? (In Defense of Trash)

You know what?

I really flipping love this book.

And I think you guys can take it.

I slapped sexy cover art on it (more on that soon) and a big old warning in the blurb, and so I hope none of my readers are sideswiped by butt sex. (Sideswiped By Butt Sex incidentally, is the name of my all-drag-queen Smashing Pumpkins cover band.)

Speaking of drag queens, there’s also one of those in The Sumage Solution. Her name is Manifest Destiny, and the biker werewolves are house-sitting her apartment at the beginning of the book. Yes, there is a wall of rainbow feather boas and a werewolf in a kimono.

Oh stop it.

You know you want to read it. Or if you don’t, I bet you know someone who does.

Yes, proper descriptions, and cover art analysis, info about print & audio releases, and all that fancy stuff to come.

Heh… come.

You see what this is doing to me?!

You can leave questions in the comments.

But I’m only answering the indiscrete ones.

Want More?

On a serious note, Romance Novels for Feminists (one of my favorite blogs) talks about the problem inherent in writing the classic Alpha hero and also concerns around women writing m/m smut (yes I share her concerns, but not enough to stifle myself) in two incredibly erudite interviews for LOVE BETWEEN THE COVERS.

“Next time he’ll have me bummed by a big gay werewolf, I swear.”

~ Lesbian Vampire Killers

“When I say ‘spank me with a broomstick and call me Joseph Stalin’ I’m sure I speak for all of us.”

~ Hotel Babylon

“Can’t you tell from the hair and the cheekbones? Humans don’t grow that beautiful. Not outside of Denmark, anyway.”

~ Marine Biology (Alec talking about merfolk)

P.S. Don’t get me started in prostate wands because when you’re writing m/m with mages… comedy flipping gold.

{Gail’s monthly read along for May is Radiance by Grace Draven.}


  • Poison or Protect Audiobook.
    Status: Battling ACX. (AKA Audible/Amazon)
    Can one gentle Highland soldier woo Victorian London’s most scandalous lady assassin, or will they both be destroyed in the attempt?


The Sumage Solution: San Andreas Shifters #1 by G. L. Carriger
Contemporary m/m paranormal romance featuring a snarky mage and a gruff werewolf. Hella raunchy. Super dirty. Very very fun. Spin off of Marine Biology.

Can a gentle werewolf heal the heart of a smart-mouthed mage?


Your Moment of Parasol . . .

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

“When I got my library card, that’s when my life began.”

~ Rita Mae Brown

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

Mourning in the 1880s: U.S. vs Great Britainl

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

“You ask me why I spend my life writing? Do I find entertainment? Is it worthwhile? Above all, does it pay? If not, then, is there a reason…I write only because there is a voice within me. That will not be still.”

~ Sylvia Plath

Book News:

Good Books & Good Wine says:

“Carriger’s Etiquette & Espionage is a female-empowering steampunk read, best opened up if you are looking for a cracking good time.”

Quote of the Day:

“Tell me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are’ is true enough, but I’d know better if you told me what you reread.”

~ Francois Mauriac

Questions about Gail’s steampunk world? There’s a wiki for that!
Share & Enjoy!

Gail Carriger’s Pie Day Video & Links (Q&A with Gail Carriger)

Posted by Gail Carriger


Good morning Gentle Reader, below is a video of a FB Live Q&A that I did on Pie Day. Accordingly, I talk about my favorite pie, drop some accidental teasers, get cagey about the evolution of the Parasolverse, and much more.

Find this Video on:

Gail’s Youtube

Gail’s Amazon Page

Meanwhile if you want to hear me blather on about marketing, I was also on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Marketing Podcast.

{Gail’s monthly read along for March is Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith.}


Romancing the Inventor

Romancing the Inventor: A Supernatural Society Novella

A steampunk lesbian romance featuring a maid bent on seducing a brilliant cross-dressing scientist who’s too brokenhearted to notice. Or is she?


Your Moment of Parasol . . .

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

My Office Reading Nook

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

How to Speak New World Victorian

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

Amazon’s New Pre-Order Policies Give Authors More Flexibility

Book News:

Quote of the Day:

“I don’t at all like knowing what people say of me behind my back. It makes me far too conceited.”

~ Oscar Wilde

Questions about Gail’s steampunk world? There’s a wiki for that!
Share & Enjoy!

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