1. mad_hatter
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    mad_hatter Active Member

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    Gender of a pseudonym

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by mad_hatter, Dec 16, 2015.

    There are a few threads around here about pseudonyms/pen names, but I can’t seem to find one that addresses my exact question, so I thought I’d start my own...

    Does anybody here use a pen name of the opposite sex? You know; you’re a male, but you use a female pen name? Or vice versa. If so, why?

    I’m reading things that say people will only buy certain genres if they’re written by authors of a certain sex. How true is this, really? The sex of an author has never really concerned me. I’ve never considered the fact that a female couldn’t write good sci-fi...

    I’m a horror fan, a genre that is predominantly dominated by male authors. If I see a book written by a female, it actually tends to have the opposite effect; it piques my interest. Sure, the book needs to have a good cover and a decent synopsis, but a female name would add to the interest. For this reason, I, as a male, am considering the idea of using a female pen name.

    However, I don’t like the idea. If I bought that horror novel, with the great cover and the interesting synopsis and the female author, and later found out the author was actually a man, I don’t think I’d be too pleased. Also, what about the critics? They’d be constantly referring to you as ‘she’.

    So that all brings me to my real question: What about gender neutral names?

    I think most people who saw the name Mel, for example, would assume it was short for Melanie or Melissa. But it could just as easily be Melvin, although that is probably a much rarer name. This is what I’m leaning towards doing myself. I will choose a gender neutral name, one that on first thought appears to be female, but is actually the shortened version of a male name. This could then be explained in a short “About The Author” type of thing. Does anybody see any problem with this? Are there any famous examples of such out there?
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    A lot of authors use initials rather than first names in order to address this issue without actually misleading anyone. I understand this was the reason behind the JK in Rowling, for example, and suspect the same for JD Robb. (I don't suspect she's female - she is. I just suspect that the initials were meant to mask the fact.)

    There are lots of famous female writers who used male pseudonyms, but most of these are historic - the Brontes, George Eliot, etc. A little later there's James Tiptree, and probably others.

    Contemporarily? Romance, for sure, is a genre where lots of people mix it up. Some women writing m/m use initials or male names (and some have gone way too far, establishing entire personas dedicated to their myth, and there's been some backlash against these authors when they're exposed). And there are certainly stories of men using female names to write traditional romance, but I'm not aware of any who've been confirmed/unmasked.

    I have no idea if it's a good idea or not. I can see the benefit of initials, for sure - just take gender out of the equation altogether.
     
  3. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Ooh, crafty. :supercheeky:

    Anyway, I remember reading from somewhere that it'd be beneficial for men to have a female pseudonym if they write romance, but for the life of me I can't remember where that was. Perhaps with horror or actioney thriller, having a female pseudonym would help you stand out. Then again, it might also make readers doubtful, especially if it's, say, a thriller about a hardened male SAS soldier trying to catch terrorists, like readers might think there's no way a woman could write believably about that. But I'm just guessing here.

    I also have a vague memory of some white male author actually using a Chinese pseudonym to get published after he was repeatedly turned down before changing his name. Not sure if this is true, it sounds pretty insane to me, but who knows, maybe gender -- and even race -- can turn out to be beneficial in some genres, disadvantegous in some others? Hell, if I wrote a historical novel about Firenze in 1600s, I could use an Italian pseudonym to make it appear more like I know what I'm talking about. Whether or not this kind of credibility or lack thereof truly extends to gender is difficult to say.
     
  4. mad_hatter
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    mad_hatter Active Member

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    Crafty... Or stupid? I don't know. I don't want to pretend to be of the opposite sex, just to attract readers. I'd expect some sort of backlash if an author was caught doing so, as BayView suggests above. It just feels like it'd be a bit of a con. My idea of using a gender neutral name would mean that I wasn't conning anybody; it'd be the reader who had misunderstood. but perhaps that's a bit of a con too?

    @BayView - Not sure why, but I'm not a fan of initialising a name at all.
     
  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Andre Norton (Alice Mary Norton), who, in my opinion, pretty much singlehandedly invented the boy's adventure/fantasy genre during the Golden Age. :agreed: Characters like Jonny Quest (and crew) owe their existence to her. And this during a time when female writers were ignored in the very genre she created.

    [​IMG]
     
  6. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    In modern fiction I wouldn't use a purposeful-fakeout pen name just for effect (like your horror examples) - however if you wanted to be really crafty with that, there are a number of androgynous names in circulation today which are primarily but not exclusively female.

    Ashley, Leslie, Taylor, MacKenzie, Kendall, Bailey, Hadley, etc.

    If you use one of those in as a pseudonym but use male pronouns in your biography and admit to being male, you get the same effect without actually pulling a fakeout
     
  7. mad_hatter
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    mad_hatter Active Member

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    @Commandante Lemming - That's what I suggested doing myself, only using a shortend name that is most commonly associated with a female, but can also be male.

    Is there some reason you prefer the idea of using complete name instead of a shortened name?
     
  8. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not really - Mel or something like that is fine. I don't think there's a right or wrong way to approach it.
     

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