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SwallowFeather
05-30-2017, 07:31 AM
I keep seeing it around. A female name on the cover makes enough readers hesitate that your sales will feel it. Neutral initials (like J.K. Rowling), or a full-on masculine pen name, are apparently really sound business decisions. I believe it.

Would you do this? Do you do this? If so, how has your experience been?

I co-authored my first two novels with my mother, with both our feminine names on the cover. They sold modestly. I'm writing a third in the same series, on my own. They're basically standalones plot-wise, related by topic, characters and time-period. This third one is very male-oriented, a father-son, becoming-a-man story. I also think it could have broader appeal than the first two--more action, more romance. So there I have reasons both for and against changing my name--one choice favors the old readers, the other potential new ones.

I've always felt troubled by the idea of concealing a part of my identity to sell books, but now I'm tempted. I really, really want this one to sell. Of course, I have no idea what my publisher would say if I suggested it. I'd be going the "neutral initials" route, for sure.

Thoughts? Stories on making the decision--or the transition? Opinions on whether it's worth it? Rants on how much it sucks that it might be worth it?

Jan74
05-30-2017, 07:37 AM
I was just reading a blog about a writer who submitted the same work to agents but one with a male name and one under a female name and sadly the male had more bites and offers. How disheartening as a woman to see this. I will be stalking this thread. Great topic!!!!

SwallowFeather
05-30-2017, 07:43 AM
I was just reading a blog about a writer who submitted the same work to agents but one with a male name and one under a female name and sadly the male had more bites and offers. How disheartening as a woman to see this. I will be stalking this thread. Great topic!!!!

I think you mentioned that story in one of the cultural appropriation threads. Reading that made me decide to start the thread as it's something I've been mulling over for awhile.

MaeZe
05-30-2017, 08:33 AM
The Bronte sisters had to pretend to be male (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bront%C3%AB_family) to get anyone to take them seriously as writers. Their first published work was under the names, Currer (Charlotte), Ellis (Emily), and Acton (Anne) Bell.

I found this blog, not sure if it's the one Jan74 was referring to: Homme de Plume: What I Learned Sending My Novel Out Under a Male Name (http://jezebel.com/homme-de-plume-what-i-learned-sending-my-novel-out-und-1720637627)

But I use caution analyzing an anecdotal study such as Nichol's. Does it apply to all genres, was it specific to the book itself, and is it repeatable?

She links to this, a different Jezebel blogger: ​VIDA Count of Women in Literary Journals Shows Remarkable Improvement (http://jezebel.com/vida-count-of-women-in-literary-journals-shows-markabl-1529618336)
The organization VIDA makes it their job to annually count the number of female bylines and books written by women in U.S. literary magazines. While last year's count was pretty depressing, they feel that this year, there's room for hope.

For 2013, major publications like The Paris Review actually included slightly more women than men between their pages. "The Paris Review's numbers, previously among the worst in our VIDA Count, have metamorphosed from deep, male-dominated lopsidedness into a picture more closely resembling gender parity," notes VIDA. "While such progress is remarkable in one year, we are likewise pleased to note that we haven't heard anyone bemoan a drop in quality in The Paris Review's pages. Turnarounds like the Paris Review's make it clear that with the right editorial effort, putting more sustainable gender practices into action isn't too difficult for these magazines at the top of the major market heap."

I don't think this is something resolvable with anecdotes. I'd like to see a study looking at a lot of variables such as genre, the denominator of submissions (but that's tricky because we'd need to know which of those authors actually had decent work so maybe that's a variable we'll have to leave out). Further analysis adds to the picture:
In order to properly feature those who are doing it right, this year, VIDA counted smaller publications, seven of which actually featured more women than men. As a contrast however, there are many mainstream journals that are still lagging behind. The New Republic, for instance, had its worst year since VIDA began their count in 2009. Other publications didn't get worse, but they certainly stayed the same. The New York Review of Books has remained at roughly 80% male bylines and authors featured. That's not surprising; last year, the publication's editor Robert Silvers essentially dismissed the VIDA count via a form email he sent to anyone who contacted him with complaints.

Watch this space....

Roxxsmom
05-30-2017, 08:58 AM
I've run across people on SF and F forums who openly admit they're biased against female authors. Many others claim no conscious bias but admit most of the books they've read and most of their favorite SFF writers are male, and they assume there are few female writers in this genre (though there are).

There are some (I'm one) who have more female writers on their favorites list than male, however. I suspect the numbers don't balance out. A disproportionate number of books that end up being mentioned in surveys of the best of the genre, and on recommended "must read" lists by fans and authors seem to be by men, as do more of the top bestsellers and best known classics in the genre. Female writers seem to be better known in urban fantasy and in YA fantasy and SF than in epic fantasy or hard SF, but even so, male writers get a lot of attention.

Even without conscious biases, I think an imbalance can be driven by a lack of exposure and a tendency of readers to seek out what they're familiar with and associate with a particular genre. Things like cover art (http://www.slj.com/2013/07/industry-news/breaking-bias-maureen-johnsons-coverflip-challenge/), and (I'm guessing) emphasis of which plot elements on back cover, and the way books are promoted by publishers could also have an effect on whether or not they appeal to some readers, regardless of names. This can happen with literary fiction (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/this-shocking-book-cover-sums-up-the-sneaky-sexism-of-literary-publishing_us_55ad4b36e4b0d2ded39faad6) too. More book reviewers are also male (https://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/24/business/media/book-review-byline-tally-shows-gender-disparity.html?_r=0).

Romance and women's fiction is very dominated by female authors, of course, and male authors may have to hide their names, but those genres have the reputation of being primarily "for" women.

It's really hard to find data on all titles published within different genres, the gender of their authors, and on their relative popularity with readers. It's hard to get exact gender breakdowns of readers within most genres and subgenres also, though the RWA (https://www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=582) does a pretty good job with surveys and statistics. I wish the SFWA did something similar.

Night_Writer
05-30-2017, 09:21 AM
Romance and women's fiction is very dominated by female authors, of course, and male authors may have to hide their names, but those genres have the reputation of being primarily "for" women.

I've heard of men who write romance under female pseudonyms. The author Madeline Brent, who wrote Gothic Romance in the 1970s, turned out to be Peter O'Donnel, author of the Modesty Blaise novels.

But the Modesty Blaise books are action-packed detective stories. So he used his real name on those.

MaeZe
05-30-2017, 09:29 AM
I've run across people on SF and F forums who openly admit they're biased against female authors. Many others claim no conscious bias but admit most of the books they've read and most of their favorite SFF writers are male, and they assume there are few female writers in this genre (though there are).

There are some (I'm one) who have more female writers on their favorites list than male, however. I suspect the numbers don't balance out. A disproportionate number of books that end up being mentioned in surveys of the best of the genre, and on recommended "must read" lists by fans and authors seem to be by men, as do more of the top bestsellers and best known classics in the genre. Female writers seem to be better known in urban fantasy and in YA fantasy and SF than in epic fantasy or hard SF, but even so, male writers get a lot of attention.

Even without conscious biases, I think an imbalance can be driven by a lack of exposure and a tendency of readers to seek out what they're familiar with and associate with a particular genre. Things like cover art (http://www.slj.com/2013/07/industry-news/breaking-bias-maureen-johnsons-coverflip-challenge/), and (I'm guessing) emphasis of which plot elements on back cover, and the way books are promoted by publishers could also have an effect on whether or not they appeal to some readers, regardless of names. This can happen with literary fiction (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/this-shocking-book-cover-sums-up-the-sneaky-sexism-of-literary-publishing_us_55ad4b36e4b0d2ded39faad6) too. More book reviewers are also male (https://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/24/business/media/book-review-byline-tally-shows-gender-disparity.html?_r=0).

Romance and women's fiction is very dominated by female authors, of course, and male authors may have to hide their names, but those genres have the reputation of being primarily "for" women.

It's really hard to find data on all titles published within different genres, the gender of their authors, and on their relative popularity with readers. It's hard to get exact gender breakdowns of readers within most genres and subgenres also, though the RWA (https://www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=582) does a pretty good job with surveys and statistics. I wish the SFWA did something similar.The weird thing about all this for me is, I never look at the author when picking out a book to read unless I liked a book so much I want to read more by that author.

At most I can see sending out queries with a gender neutral name, but it would bother me not to stand up for my gender. Aaaannnnd then on the other hand, I am proud of the Brontes for using their heads to break down an ignorant barrier.

I have two short stories published as Virginia May, not that that will help when I get that query ready. But I have an author page on Amazon! :tongue

I think I'm OK because my novel is more YA than sci-fi. If it were the other way around I'd have to do some serious soul searching.

Jan74
05-30-2017, 09:31 AM
I think you mentioned that story in one of the cultural appropriation threads. Reading that made me decide to start the thread as it's something I've been mulling over for awhile.That's great :)


The Bronte sisters had to pretend to be male (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bront%C3%AB_family) to get anyone to take them seriously as writers. Their first published work was under the names, Currer (Charlotte), Ellis (Emily), and Acton (Anne) Bell.

I found this blog, not sure if it's the one Jan74: Homme de Plume: What I Learned Sending My Novel Out Under a Male Name (http://jezebel.com/homme-de-plume-what-i-learned-sending-my-novel-out-und-1720637627)

But I use caution analyzing an anecdotal study such as Nichol's. Does it apply to all genres, was it specific to the book itself, and is it repeatable.

She links to this, a different Jezebel blogger: ​VIDA Count of Women in Literary Journals Shows Remarkable Improvement (http://jezebel.com/vida-count-of-women-in-literary-journals-shows-markabl-1529618336)

I don't think this is something amenable to anecdotes. I'd like to see a study looking at a lot of variables such as genre, the denominator of submissions (but that's tricky because we'd need to know which of those authors actually had decent work so maybe that's a variable we'll have to leave out). Further analysis adds to the picture:

Watch this space....
Yes that is the blog I read. When I first read it I thought to myself "I'm definitely going to self publish, what's the point of even seeking an agent." But then when I look at the majority of the books I read, many of them are women authors. When I go on amazon and search a genre like suspense etc, I see many women authors. So I'm thinking, no hoping....its not as bad as it seems.

Phantasmagoria
05-30-2017, 11:55 AM
Articles like the one linked from Jezebel are so upsetting and frustrating; how do you ever know if rejection of a work is really a rejection of the work itself and not a case of bias because of one's gender (or in other cases, one's ethnicity)? Unless you perform an experiment like that author did, of course. I'm torn about it all. I'd hate to hide myself behind a male name to succeed but at the same time I've been tempted to use the initials trick just to sneak past some of those unconscious, automatic biases!

(Though the initials of my first and middle name are "S.M." which always prompts an S&M joke when I mention the initial possibility-- and I write fantasy, so there's S. M. Stirling to consider, a famous author of speculative fiction...)

mccardey
05-30-2017, 12:06 PM
Thoughts? How will that make it better? Seriously - if women writers erase their gender, how will it get better?

Totally not adopting this idea.

stephenf
05-30-2017, 02:08 PM
I like to keep my gender ambiguous, because it is.

SwallowFeather
05-30-2017, 04:51 PM
How will that make it better? Seriously - if women writers erase their gender, how will it get better?

Totally not adopting this idea.

So for you, it would seem like a capitulation?

SwallowFeather
05-30-2017, 05:19 PM
It's interesting... I went in with the assumption that others already believed this too. Maybe I'm overly cynical. I've also heard enough stories from venues other than writing, like the one where male & female coworkers switched names (https://www.inc.com/bill-murphy-jr/heres-what-happened-when-a-man-pretended-to-be-a-woman-at-work-hint-his-job-got-.html) and the difference in treatment by clients was massive, or just about internet commenters choosing a masculine handle b/c they're tired of the disrespect, and it works. And then publishers work so hard on the little details of the cover for positioning... They don't do it for no reason.

So, it's unscientific, I know, but I believe it. What's holding me back so far is that I've felt similarly to some of you: it's wrong, why should I have to, I should stand up for my gender. One of the reasons I'm wondering now is that I've got such a male-oriented book; my name on it might look a little like a male name on a romance novel. Does that change the issue from sexism to "well, it's a common belief that it's impossible to write the other gender well"? I'm not sure.

edutton
05-30-2017, 05:36 PM
I've heard of men who write romance under female pseudonyms. The author Madeline Brent, who wrote Gothic Romance in the 1970s, turned out to be Peter O'Donnel, author of the Modesty Blaise novels.
Fascinating... my wife LOVES Madeleine Brent's books, and I don't think she has any idea of this. I haven't read them, but as a man who wrote a "girl book" (my current MS is a f/f YA love story), maybe I should. I have pondered the pseudonym question myself, but figured the publisher would determine that if it ever gets to that point.

I read mostly SFF growing up in the 70s, and even then I'd say well over half of my favorite writers were women... maybe that makes me an anomaly?

Polenth
05-30-2017, 06:38 PM
This isn't just about picking a name, but that you have two books in the series under another name. Changing part way through a series is going to be difficult. Readers will think a different author was hired to write the last book for some reason. If you do decide to use a different name, it might be better to use the new name for whatever you write next, and let the series stand under the original name.

As for what name to use, could you live with a new name if it took off? If not, and if you'd really have preferred your original name to be the one people know, stick with that original name. Success isn't something you can guarantee with a name, but you can control whether you're happy with the name.

MDSchafer
05-30-2017, 08:20 PM
Out of curiosity I looked up the New York Times best selling combined e-fiction and Print. As of today the list is as follows:
1. "Into the Water" Paula Hawkins
2. "Surrender" Helen Hart
3. "No Middle Name" Lee Child
4. "Gwendy's Button Box" Stephen King and Richard Chizmar
5. "16th Seduction," James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
6. "The Hand Maiden's Tale," Margaret Atwood
7. "Same Beach, Next Year," Dorothea Benton Frank
8. "The Fix" David Baldacci
9. "Night School," Lee Child
10. "Testimony," Scott Turow
11. "Full Wolf Moon," Lincoln Child
12. "Buttons and Pain" Penelope Sky
13. "Golden Prey" John Stanford
14. "The Woman in Cabin 10" Ruth Ware
15 "Lilac Girls," Martha Hall Kelly

So, out of the top fifteen, seven are women, one man appears twice and two are novels plotted out by household names and written by some unknown. One, Penelope Sky is a pen name with no public identity that I can find, but claims to be a woman. The only person who seems to purposefully pick a gender ambiguous name is Lee Childs, who is a man. To me that doesn't suggest that male writers sell better than women, but it's also a small sample.

Anecdotally I've heard it depends on the genre. Like being a male romance writer writing romance books from a male point of view is not the sort of thing that's going to sell particularly well. I've also heard it's more difficult to be a male writer writing a male character in young adult.

Then there's also the conversation about about how much romance you can have in genre fiction before it becomes a Sy-Fy influenced romance, for example. Like there's a world of difference between writers like legit SFF authors like Nancy Kress, D.C. Fontana and Ann Leckie and say writers like Ruby Dixon and Anna Hacket who are writing straight up romance novels (Not that there's anything wrong with that.). It's about what sort of book you're writing and who you're writing for.

Women read more books, or so the common logic goes, so I think it's more a question of how you're marketing the book rather than the name on the cover.

SwallowFeather
05-30-2017, 08:40 PM
This isn't just about picking a name, but that you have two books in the series under another name. Changing part way through a series is going to be difficult. Readers will think a different author was hired to write the last book for some reason. If you do decide to use a different name, it might be better to use the new name for whatever you write next, and let the series stand under the original name.

As for what name to use, could you live with a new name if it took off? If not, and if you'd really have preferred your original name to be the one people know, stick with that original name. Success isn't something you can guarantee with a name, but you can control whether you're happy with the name.

These are good questions. If I did it, I would only be changing my name from Heather Munn to H.E. Munn, not actually choosing a male name--because, as you said, it would sound like a different person finishing the series, and because it just feels like a bridge too far for me, as well. It's possible that's still too much of a switch for the series.

The other question is a good one too. Initials don't feel like a big deal right now, but... come to think of it, there's someone I know on Twitter who's done this (not that she's hugely successful, but she's becoming more known) and I should ask her how her experience has been.

MaeZe
05-30-2017, 09:05 PM
... I have pondered the pseudonym question myself, but figured the publisher would determine that if it ever gets to that point.
...
Good point. Isn't it required to use your real name in signing contracts? I think I need to know more about using pseudonyms vs real name sending out queries.

Marlys
05-30-2017, 09:06 PM
My publisher asked me to use my initials instead of first name. The book was a gay romance, and he was aiming it at gay male readers and thought it might sell better if we kept my gender ambiguous. His original idea was to keep it quiet that I was a woman, but either shortly before or after it was published he set me up with an interview he thought was worth outing my gender for.

Since it came out anyway, he apologized for having me use initials in the first place, but it really didn't bother me. My first name is surprisingly (to me!) hard for people to pronounce, and at least people don't stumble over M.J.

Aggy B.
05-30-2017, 09:26 PM
I would not change names mid-series. Even just shifting from Name to Initials.

I write under my initials, but pretty much all my bio info makes it clear I'm female. And when I introduce myself on panels it's always "I'm Anna Grace Carpenter, I write as A.G. Carpenter."

The bias is real, if sometimes not recognized. One man suggested I use a pen name because my real name was "too sweet" for the type of speculative fiction I tend to write. He meant to be helpful - it still makes me stabby thinking about it. I've talked to other authors who have had men refuse to look at their book because it had a female on the cover (although she pointed out to them the protagonist was male). I've had men refuse to introduce themselves to me or acknowledge me at particular conventions. (This, obviously, being the more extreme end of the bias spectrum.)

The thing you kind of have to work with is, which readership do you want? Selling books is nice. But if folks aren't buying your books because you're a woman are those really folks you want to cater to? Or jump through hoops for?

edutton
05-30-2017, 09:33 PM
These are good questions. If I did it, I would only be changing my name from Heather Munn to H.E. Munn, not actually choosing a male name--because, as you said, it would sound like a different person finishing the series, and because it just feels like a bridge too far for me, as well. It's possible that's still too much of a switch for the series.Yeah, I'd be really hesitant to confuse readers of the series by switching the name at the end.

Additional food for thought, maybe: Most of the time I actually assume an initialed author is female, and am always vaguely surprised when one turns out to be a man. I'm probably over-assuming based on a single data point (and possibly revealing my own middle-aged unconscious bias), but I also wonder if I'm the only one.

Just for funsies, this is a list of initialed authors (limited to SFF) that I can think of off the top of my head - and it splits right down the middle. Balancing that, though, is the fact that with the single exception of SM Stirling, all of the men are from earlier generations and most of the women (excepting only CL Moore and to some extent CJ Cherryh) are more recent. :Shrug:

RA MacAcoy (F)
AA Attanasio (M)
CS Friedman (F)
JK Rowling (F)
CL Moore (F)
CJ Cherryh (F)
DC Fontana (F)
SM Stirling (M)
CS Lewis (M)
JRR Tolkien (M)
HG Wells (M)
HP Lovecraft (M)
AA Milne (j/k :tongue)

Manuel Royal
05-31-2017, 06:33 PM
I don't think I have any prejudice against female writers, but it's hard to be sure. Just being my age, I've got mental habits formed from when the sf and fantasy fields were heavily dominated by male writers (even more so than now). So when I think of the writers I loved in my youth, I'll probably think of Asimov or de Camp or Sturgeon before I think of Joanna Russ or James Tiptree, Jr. (actually Alice "Raccoona" Sheldon) or Anne McCaffrey, although I read them as well.

I've used one male pen name (Manuel Royal) and one neutral (M. Roncevaux); this makes me want to start a female name (let's say, Melanie Heath) to make it even. Not that I produce enough output to justify multiple names; I'm no Edith Pargeter (aka Ellis Peters, aka John Redfern, aka Jolyon Carr, aka Peter Benedict).

Aggy B.
05-31-2017, 08:30 PM
I don't think I have any prejudice against female writers, but it's hard to be sure. Just being my age, I've got mental habits formed from when the sf and fantasy fields were heavily dominated by male writers (even more so than now). So when I think of the writers I loved in my youth, I'll probably think of Asimov or de Camp or Sturgeon before I think of Joanna Russ or James Tiptree, Jr. (actually Alice "Raccoona" Sheldon) or Anne McCaffrey, although I read them as well.

I've used one male pen name (Manuel Royal) and one neutral (M. Roncevaux); this makes me want to start a female name (let's say, Melanie Heath) to make it even. Not that I produce enough output to justify multiple names; I'm no Edith Pargeter (aka Ellis Peters, aka John Redfern, aka Jolyon Carr, aka Peter Benedict).

Pargeter wrote under multiple names to help distinguish her brands (before that was such a big thing). She didn't want folks used to reading her historical fiction getting confused about her murder mysteries. (And, of course, genre has always had a bit of a stigma, so further reason to separate the identities.)

And, I'll reiterate, that not everyone leans toward male authors as a deliberate or malicious thing. The problem with biases is that they can be hard to ID so we frequently have them without realizing it. My concern is the folks who are made aware of a bias and double down on it. (The folks who don't like women in SF because it takes a man to really understand science. Or who think that women can only write about romance and social issues but not serious things.) And those folks are ones I have no desire to cater to. If they happen to like my work, that's fine. But I won't be hiding anything (well-intentioned or not) to try and attract them to buy my books. They are simply not my primary readership and even if I could somehow make them think I was a male to start off with, chances are they still wouldn't like what I write.

Siri Kirpal
05-31-2017, 09:12 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

On the other hand, Terry Gerritsen was asked to change her name to something more feminine, because at the time, she was writing romantic suspense. She kept Tess Gerritsen when she switched to writing thrillers...and it hasn't hurt her sales one bit.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

fistnik
05-31-2017, 09:39 PM
Please, please, PLEASE, don't!

Yes, you're absolutely right: getting yourself a male pen name will probably help your sales. Anyone with half a brain can see there's a strong anti-female bias, sometimes deliberate and sometimes not, in both men and women.

More the reason not to do it. It's on us to take the brunt and try to change things. As someone said here, it's capitulation. And to be blunt, you're being unwillingly recruited by the enemy once you give up.

Sorry for the ranty tone. I just feel very very strongly about this... :Soapbox:

Chasing the Horizon
05-31-2017, 10:37 PM
There's no doubt in my mind certain sub genres of SF&F, including the action-adventure fantasy I write myself, have a prejudice against female writers. It's believed women can't write action and violence as well as men and will tend to include too much romance.

When I got married I legally changed my full name to be gender-neutral (took my maiden surname as my first name). It was mostly because I hated my birth name, but I can't say I didn't consider the fact I knew I'd be much better off querying and publishing with a non-feminine name. I did query under a female name in the past, but never did the experiment to know if that was part of what got me rejections (maybe I should--sounds like something I would do).

I really don't feel like concealing being female at the querying/publishing stage is some kind of betrayal of my feminist ideals. After all, if I DON'T get published, I don't make any point at all. But if I do, and then make my gender clear in my bio later, I'll be an example against the idea that women can't write visual action and violence (my greatest strengths) every bit as well as men.

CJSimone
06-01-2017, 07:26 PM
I like gender neutral as an author because I think biases are all over the place, sometimes even in ways we don't realize. I think whether it's an advantage to be male or female depends on genre, main characters/POV characters, topics/storylines and more. I write both male and female MCs and POV characters, have some interest in writing in different genres and have some storylines where I think gender could influence how it's taken (and don't yet know what future directions I'll take).

But I'm comfortable going by CJ because I actually go by CJ sometimes (My last name isn't Simone, but I'm going with it both to maintain my privacy and because, being only third gen Italian, my name's a long Italian name nobody can pronounce).

CJ

Jason
06-01-2017, 08:33 PM
Interesting thread, and nothing really to contribute here, other than mentioning one of my favorite authors as a youth as S.E. Hinton, who from what I understand, originally published with her initials to avoid the discrimination of what was then considered a male dominated industry. So much advancement, but how little things change...

*sigh*

ETA: Ironically, this article on the 50th anniversary of The Outsiders just came out a few weeks ago:

http://www.avclub.com/article/outsiders-author-se-hinton-still-gold-after-50-yea-255236

Will Collins
06-02-2017, 03:37 AM
Interesting, I wouldn't have thought this would still be a problem in this day and age. If anything I've seen certain bloggers say they don't review books by male authors.

I don't see how an author's gender would make a difference either way.

Aggy B.
06-02-2017, 03:54 AM
Interesting, I wouldn't have thought this would still be a problem in this day and age. If anything I've seen certain bloggers say they don't review books by male authors.

I don't see how an author's gender would make a difference either way.

Quite frankly, I wouldn't think it would be an issue either. But then I went to my local (uber-conservative) SF convention and had male authors refuse to talk to me. Even when directly introduced by someone else.

The bias is real. It still exists. Folks who don't have girl-parts speaking up about it and acknowledging it as a real and ongoing thing can help make a difference.

Beanie5
06-02-2017, 04:02 AM
Don't know if this is relavent top 10 authors of all time ( sales jk comes in about 8 ) females outsell men.
If you take shakespere out it is a landslide to female authors.

mccardey
06-02-2017, 04:10 AM
Don't know if this is relavent top 10 authors of all time ( sales jk comes in about 8 ) females outsell men.
If you take shakespere out it is a landslide to female authors.

According to whom? Can you share your source?

Helix
06-02-2017, 04:14 AM
Don't know if this is relavent top 10 authors of all time ( sales jk comes in about 8 ) females outsell men.
If you take shakespere out it is a landslide to female authors.

Here's the list from Wikipedia (yes, I know, and it is truly dodgy), so we can judge for ourselves: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_fiction_authors

Beanie5
06-02-2017, 04:44 AM
A unsubstantiated guess would be , romance is female dominated, action adventure sci-fi male, detective female or nuteral, fantasy nuetral, but a definite bias within various genres.

Ari Meermans
06-02-2017, 04:52 AM
A unsubstantiated guess would be , romance is female dominated, action adventure sci-fi male, detective female or nuteral, fantasy nuetral, but a definite bias within various genres.

Beanie5, you were asked to cite your source material. Another member provided a possible source which may or may not have been your source—but you didn't respond. Now, here you are again with "A [sic] unsubstantiated guess".

Don't do that. Cite your sources

Beanie5
06-02-2017, 04:59 AM
Apologies it was a strech if it was relevent information as it was pointed out, these areas are very touchy feely wiki was the source but there is no definitive credibility to it.

Ari Meermans
06-02-2017, 05:00 AM
I get that, and that lack of definitive credibility is the very reason we request source citations.

Thanks.

CJSimone
06-02-2017, 05:03 AM
The biases are stupid, but they do exist and it's both women and men affected negatively (it really depends on the specifics). I think most people don't care who writes the book, but some will connect more if it's a guy and others if it's a woman, and to me it's just a needless potential barrier. I don't see why people need to know your gender as an author (except I guess for author presence). I don't think it affects the actual writing much. I took an online test to see if you can figure out the gender of an author based on a sample of the writing and got 3/4 wrong.

lizmonster
06-02-2017, 05:24 AM
Interesting, I wouldn't have thought this would still be a problem in this day and age. If anything I've seen certain bloggers say they don't review books by male authors.

I don't see how an author's gender would make a difference either way.

Based on what I've been told, bloggers don't sell books, not in any notable volume (at least in trade pub).

If nobody knows you're there, they can't buy your books. (And basic visibility is only one problem.)

AW Admin
06-02-2017, 05:26 AM
The biases are stupid, but they do exist and it's both women and men affected negatively (it really depends on the specifics). I think most people don't care who writes the book, but some will connect more if it's a guy and others if it's a woman, and to me it's just a needless potential barrier. I don't see why people need to know your gender as an author (except I guess for author presence). I don't think it affects the actual writing much. I took an online test to see if you can figure out the gender of an author based on a sample of the writing and got 3/4 wrong.

There are some differences associated with gender and langauge; BUT there are huge caveats:


They are era and language and social class related; that is, they change.
Writers with control of style can be someone else entirely.


It is much much easier to say this writer and this writer are the same person than it is to determine sex.

MaeZe
06-02-2017, 06:16 AM
Here's the list from Wikipedia (yes, I know, and it is truly dodgy), so we can judge for ourselves: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_fiction_authorsNot everything in crowdsourced knowledge is dodgy. :)

That's a fascinating list. Like inflation though, distribution, length of time author's books have been for sale, numbers of books that are passed on or resold are going to be variables not controlled for. For example, you can find multiple copies of many of those best selling novels at garage sales and used book stores. And how many of Patterson's books are actually his?

It also looks like some non-English language authors may have been left off the list, (probably an artifact of the English Language Wiki). Gabriel Garcia Marquez comes to mind. According to the BBC, One Hundred Years of Solitude alone, sold more than 30 million copies (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-27076562)

Times of India cites 50 million copies of 100 Years sold. Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Only the Bible sold more copies than his book (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/Gabriel-Garcia-Marquez-Only-the-Bible-sold-more-copies-than-his-book/articleshow/33923691.cms)
His flamboyant and melancholy fictional works — among them "Chronicle of a Death Foretold", "Love in the Time of Cholera" and "Autumn of the Patriarch" — outsold everything published in Spanish except the Bible. The epic 1967 novel "One Hundred Years of Solitude" sold more than 50 million copies in more than 25 languages.Maybe someone (not me) might edit him in if they could find some reliable data on the number of his books that sold.


But, I digress.

Regardless, there are some interesting things of note in the list. For example, EL James, with one trilogy, is up there with some authors that have a new book every year or so. And some books are best sellers because the author's last book was a best seller even when some of the books would not have stood on their own.

Might be nice to get the word out to more publishers and agents how well books by female authors sell. Some of them might not have heard. ;)

Maybe it's time to talk about just how well female authors sell instead of repeating the narrative that male authors do better. I'm not talking about ignoring the problem where it exists. If men have to hide their gender when writing female romance novels and women have to hide theirs when writing sci fi, it needs to be talked about and changed where it can be.

But rather than pointing out the half empty glass, how about talking about the half full side of the glass? I often rave about Octavia Butler, one of my favorite sci fi writers. And who notices Mary Shelly was writing sci fi?

The 23 Best Science Fiction Books by Female Authors (http://best-sci-fi-books.com/23-best-science-fiction-books-female-authors/)

Sorry, I'm ranting about framing and narratives again. :evil

CJSimone
06-02-2017, 06:20 AM
There are some differences associated with gender and langauge; BUT there are huge caveats:


They are era and language and social class related; that is, they change.
Writers with control of style can be someone else entirely.


It is much much easier to say this writer and this writer are the same person than it is to determine sex.

Makes sense. :)

Will Collins
06-02-2017, 06:45 AM
Wow, Aggy. I can't believe that, shame on those authors.

No Liz, I don't think bloggers do sell books, but many review them. I was just saying, I've seen a handful of bloggers mention in their review policies that they don't review books from male authors. I believe/hope those bloggers are in the minority.

In my personal experience I've never been put off of a book because of the author's gender, it's a shame that some readers might be.

lizmonster
06-02-2017, 06:53 AM
No Liz, I don't think bloggers do sell books, but many review them. I was just saying, I've seen a handful of bloggers mention in their review policies that they don't review books from male authors. I believe/hope those bloggers are in the minority.

My point is it doesn't matter if every single blogger out there chooses not to read male authors. (And really, it's a handful of bloggers you're talking about, so don't panic.) My point is those bloggers don't affect anyone's career in any substantive way.

When I was a kid, I mostly stayed away from SFF written by men. Not because I didn't want to read male authors, but because most of the male authors on whom I took a chance were awful, and after a while I stopped spending my allowance on them. Pretty sure I didn't kill anybody's career.

DancingMaenid
06-02-2017, 07:49 AM
No Liz, I don't think bloggers do sell books, but many review them. I was just saying, I've seen a handful of bloggers mention in their review policies that they don't review books from male authors. I believe/hope those bloggers are in the minority.


I don't know what bloggers you're referring to specifically, but I think it's likely that they prefer to focus on female authors precisely because they want to support underrepresented authors and viewpoints. White, heterosexual, cisgender men don't face a lot of hardship in the publishing industry unless perhaps they're writing in one or two highly female-dominated genres such as romance. So some people like to focus their attention on voices that have traditionally been undervalued a lot, such as women, LGBT people, people of color, etc. Giving some attention to female authors is not going to hurt male authors.

blacbird
06-02-2017, 07:56 AM
A female name on the cover makes enough readers hesitate that your sales will feel it.

Tell this to Nora Roberts, Janet Evanovich, Danielle Steele . . .

caw

Will Collins
06-02-2017, 08:07 AM
Hey Lizmonster, your own scifi books sound awesome by the way. I wasn't saying those bloggers would be detrimental to anyone's careers, more that I was surprised they'd exclude a whole gender. But your point, DancingMaenid, about some people wishing to shine a spotlight on certain voices does make sense.

Beanie5
06-02-2017, 08:13 AM
Hey Lizmonster, your own scifi books sound awesome by the way. I wasn't saying those bloggers would be detrimental to anyone's careers, more that I was surprised they'd exclude a whole gender. But your point, DancingMaenid, about some people wishing to shine a spotlight on certain voices does make sense.

Hear hear supporting those who are unfairly overlooked is great!

tiddlywinks
06-02-2017, 08:19 AM
Tell this to Nora Roberts, Janet Evanovich, Danielle Steele . . .

caw

Well, that's for her romance. Which is traditionally a more female heavy author field. Not sure if this has anything to do with her wanting to boost sales, appealing to a different audience, or really just differ her brand from her straight up romances, but she also writes the long-standing and very well selling "In Death" series as J.D. Robb.

ETA: okay, so blac made me curious and through some googling, I answered my own "not sure": it appears Nora Roberts used a pseudonym for the other series as a brand differentiation and 'challenge'. See this article (http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/07/15/famous-authors-with-secret-pseudonyms/slide/nora-roberts-j-d-robb/)and the JD Robb website (http://www.jdrobb.com/noras-bio/).

JJ Litke
06-02-2017, 08:38 AM
Tell this to Nora Roberts, Janet Evanovich, Danielle Steele . . .

caw

Wow, so the existence of a few successful women authors must be irrefutable proof that there is no bias! No citations are needed to back up your claims because you're men, so you must know what you're talking about. And even though you wouldn't actually be on the receiving end of any kind of gender bias, you surely know all about whether or not it happens at all!

Thanks, men, for stepping in to set all us silly girls straight on this.

Anna Iguana
06-02-2017, 08:41 AM
Guys, I appreciate the range of evidence, and I'm excited about changing times, but talk to me again when female writers aren't funneled into "women's fiction" while male writers, writing about similar themes, have their books sold to everybody as "fiction."

BenPanced
06-02-2017, 08:53 AM
A female name on the cover makes enough readers hesitate that your sales will feel it.


Tell this to Nora Roberts, Janet Evanovich, Danielle Steele . . .

caw


Wow, so the existence of a few successful women authors must be irrefutable proof that there is no bias! No citations are needed to back up your claims because you're men, so you must know what you're talking about. And even though you wouldn't actually be on the receiving end of any kind of gender bias, you surely know all about whether or not it happens at all!

Thanks, men, for stepping in to set all us silly girls straight on this.

Then what is the correct way to answer SwallowFeather's question without being accused of mansplaining? blacbird replied with two authors who are incredibly popular and continually sell a lot of books and I doubled down by deleting my reply to his post. Yes, bias exists but SwallowFeather's comment about a woman's name on the front cover being a general kiss of death was met with a rebuttal. That's what I saw: just a reply to one person's post, not a sweeping generalization that Everything's Awesome in publishing because there are two women who continually place bestsellers on lists.


Guys, I appreciate the range of evidence, and I'm excited about changing times, but talk to me again when female writers aren't funneled into "women's fiction" while male writers, writing about similar themes, have their books sold to everybody as "fiction."

Amy Tan is shelved in general fiction. Agatha Christie is shelved in mystery.

cornflake
06-02-2017, 08:56 AM
Tell this to Nora Roberts, Janet Evanovich, Danielle Steele . . .

caw

Wait -- because they sell a lot of books means their sales didn't/haven't suffered or been different than if their names were male? How could you know that? Or is it that they sold a lot of books, so who cares if they lost sales due to their names?

Also, aren't two of those romance authors, which is female-dominated?

cornflake
06-02-2017, 08:57 AM
Then what is the correct way to answer SwallowFeather's question without being accused of mansplaining? blacbird replied with two authors who are incredibly popular and continually sell a lot of books and I doubled down by deleting my reply to his post. Yes, bias exists but SwallowFeather's comment about a woman's name on the front cover being a general kiss of death was met with a rebuttal. That's what I saw: just a reply to one person's post, not a sweeping generalization that Everything's Awesome in publishing because there are two women who continually place bestsellers on lists.



Amy Tan is shelved in general fiction. Agatha Christie is shelved in mystery.

Oy vey. The point, I believe, was that there IS a 'women's fiction' section. Is there a men's fiction section? The point was not that EVERY female writer is shelved there. Christ on a cracker.

Also, the comment wasn't that a woman's name was a kiss of death, but that it would affect sales. "Some female writers sell a lot of books," is not in any way a rebuttal of that.

Cyia
06-02-2017, 09:00 AM
Tell this to Nora Roberts, Janet Evanovich, Danielle Steele . . .

caw
Or you could ask J.K. Rowling why her publisher didn't want Joanne Kathleen Rowling on her book instead.

There are exceptions on both sides.

mccardey
06-02-2017, 09:06 AM
There are also questions that arise beyond simple sales-counting: is there a gender-gap between who gets reviewed, and who gets to talk about writing on panels, and who gets taught in the classroom?


Neutral initials (like J.K. Rowling), or a full-on masculine pen name, are apparently really sound business decisions. I believe it.

Would you do this? Do you do this? If so, how has your experience been?The problem, I think, is that the discussion as presented the OP is essentially feels-based - which is OP's right, of course, but it's unlikely to move far beyond feels-talk, without some rigorous sources and reports being cited. But since the OP appears to be asking female-identifying people whether they'd change their female-identified names, perhaps the female-identifying writers should be allowed to answer without being told they're wrong by the not-female-identifying?

Cyia
06-02-2017, 09:11 AM
Also consider that, while more best-sellers have female authors, more awards go to men, even in female dominated categories like children's and YA.

MaeZe
06-02-2017, 09:16 AM
I think there's some talking past each other here, but don't mind me if I'm reading something wrong.

I don't think anyone pointing out successful female authors is negating any bias exists and I don't think pointing out bias exists means there aren't some very successful female writers.

I think we need a little more surgical precision here to root out the areas where progress is lacking, and at the same time recognize we are not still in the Bronte era.

MaeZe
06-02-2017, 09:18 AM
Also consider that, while more best-sellers have female authors, more awards go to men, even in female dominated categories like children's and YA.

Perhaps if you named some awards we could look into the details. That would help with the precision.

BenPanced
06-02-2017, 09:19 AM
Oy vey. The point, I believe, was that there IS a 'women's fiction' section. Is there a men's fiction section? The point was not that EVERY female writer is shelved there. Christ on a cracker.

Also, the comment wasn't that a woman's name was a kiss of death, but that it would affect sales. "Some female writers sell a lot of books," is not in any way a rebuttal of that.

Wow. I mean...wow. Sorry for the consternation when I'm trying to understand the point and apparently my penis is getting in the way. One poster asserted "a woman's name on the cover could affect sales", somebody else countered with "no, it doesn't always", things are falling apart, people are getting accused of mansplaining when I don't see it, AND I'M JUST TRYING TO UNDERSTAND WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON.

Forget it. I'll just banninate myself from this thread. I've apparently opened a can of worms that nobody's willing to work through.

mccardey
06-02-2017, 09:19 AM
I think we need a little more surgical precision here to root out the areas where progress is lacking, and at the same time recognize we are not still in the Bronte era.

My point exactly. Without some sensible sources and cites, we can only discuss the feels. But as I read it, feels was pretty much what the OP was requesting.

MaeZe
06-02-2017, 09:19 AM
Or you could ask J.K. Rowling why her publisher didn't want Joanne Kathleen Rowling on her book instead.

There are exceptions on both sides.

Was it the publisher's choice? I didn't know that.

Anna Iguana
06-02-2017, 09:23 AM
Ben, I was looking up a few citations, and I'm sorry to have missed you. Speaking only for myself, I'm reacting to the quality of the evidence offered here, mostly by people with male screen names, purporting to refute the idea that people writing under female names face barriers.

The sample size of all-time best-selling authors is too small to infer much, even if all those authors wrote in the same genre. They don't write in the same genre, and we have decent evidence (above) that genres vary in their welcomes to male and female authors. Plus, there's no counterfactual point of comparison (see Cornflake's post).

As a comparison, near the beginning of this thread, MaeZe cited a random-controlled trial: in the trial (which also has limitations) an author queried the exact same ms to random samples of agents, half under a male name, half under a female name. She got 850% more positive responses querying as a male author. https://jezebel.com/homme-de-plume-what-i-learned-sending-my-novel-out-und-1720637627

There was also a recent industry-wide study of Australian publishing, 1985-2013, that found pervasive gender bias (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jun/10/if-you-doubted-there-was-gender-bias-in-literature-this-study-proves-you-wrong).

Not to mention the artificial women's fiction/fiction divide.

Not to mention the hundreds of studies documenting gender bias, in our culture, often specifically in reaction to names (in employment, education, health care....) That bias might not extend to publishing, but it sure would be weird if publishing were a magical, egalitarian island. That's not how culture works.

P.S. All of the female authors blacbird named are marketed as romance authors. (Evanovitch is, too.)

MaeZe
06-02-2017, 09:23 AM
Wow. I mean...wow. Sorry for the consternation when I'm trying to understand the point and apparently my penis is getting in the way. One poster asserted "a woman's name on the cover could affect sales", somebody else countered with "no, it doesn't always", things are falling apart, people are getting accused of mansplaining when I don't see it, AND I'M JUST TRYING TO UNDERSTAND WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON.

Forget it. I'll just banninate myself from this thread. I've apparently opened a can of worms that nobody's willing to work through.

[Waves hand] That's a bit of a broad brush there fella. I, for one, would rather we had men in the discussion. Does that count?

Anna Iguana
06-02-2017, 09:30 AM
I would rather we had everybody in the discussion, too, Maeze.

SwallowFeather: I'm with Fistnik. Please, please write for people who want to read your writing, under your name (or a representative pen name). Otherwise nothing will change. However, writing is food on the table for many writers; only you can decide what you need to do.

Beanie5
06-02-2017, 09:36 AM
Women Read More Books, but Men Get to Write More Book Reviews
395
108
By Amanda Marcotte
xx factor
This is only meant as informational in the interest of eruditeness ( i love misusing some words)
its a vida study sorry don't know how to post a link.

bottom line for the pecuniary among us, it would be unwise not to accomodate/target a female auidience with your books
(fiction)

cornflake
06-02-2017, 09:40 AM
Wow. I mean...wow. Sorry for the consternation when I'm trying to understand the point and apparently my penis is getting in the way. One poster asserted "a woman's name on the cover could affect sales", somebody else countered with "no, it doesn't always", things are falling apart, people are getting accused of mansplaining when I don't see it, AND I'M JUST TRYING TO UNDERSTAND WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON.

Forget it. I'll just banninate myself from this thread. I've apparently opened a can of worms that nobody's willing to work through.

"No, it doesn't always,' is not what the bird said, no.

Then someone pointed out that what's being discussed is not individual cases, but an overarching issue, demonstrated by the existence of a women's fiction section, that many female writers end up shelved in, despite writing the same types of things that men write and end up shelved in fiction.

You responded that Amy Tan is shelved in fiction and Agatha Christie is in mystery.

Do you see the problem? That has nothing to do with the comment; it's just a dismissal, that makes no real sense, based on two people, and not addressing the actual issue: the existence of a women's fiction section in which....

This is kind of akin to someone saying 'omg, the serial killer struck again and murdered six people downtown. Something has to be done -- he just keeps going on and no one is stopping him and people keep getting murdered,' and you responding: 'Bob didn't get murdered."

mccardey
06-02-2017, 09:40 AM
[Waves hand] That's a bit of a broad brush there fella. I, for one, would rather we had men in the discussion.


I would rather we had everybody in the discussion, too, Maeze.


As would I. But asking and listening perhaps, as well as giving their feelings. Perhaps even before giving their feelings - until the conversation moves to actual numbers and cites and sources, in which case, I would guess, it's everyone for themselves ;)

MaeZe
06-02-2017, 09:48 AM
I would rather we had everybody in the discussion, too, Maeze.

SwallowFeather: I'm with Fistnik. Please, please write for people who want to read your writing, under your name (or a representative pen name). Otherwise nothing will change. However, writing is food on the table for many writers; only you can decide what you need to do.

I wouldn't judge a woman writer disguising her gender when establishing herself. And I would hope once established she'd come forward. That's what the Bronte sisters did and they moved the ball down the field.

Back to modern times. Generalizing isn't nearly as helpful as gathering more precision data. I'll just leave it at that.

MaeZe
06-02-2017, 09:50 AM
As would I. But asking and listening perhaps, as well as giving their feelings. Perhaps even before giving their feelings - until the conversation moves to actual numbers and cites and sources, in which case, I would guess, it's everyone for themselves ;)

:popcorn:

Helix
06-02-2017, 09:53 AM
Women Read More Books, but Men Get to Write More Book Reviews
395
108
By Amanda Marcotte
xx factor
This is only meant as informational in the interest of eruditeness ( i love misusing some words)
its a vida study sorry don't know how to post a link.

bottom line for the pecuniary among us, it would be unwise not to accomodate/target a female auidience with your books
(fiction)

*pinches bridge of nose*

Here, I'll help: http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2015/04/07/vida_study_women_read_more_books_but_men_get_to_wr ite_more_book_reviews.html

mccardey
06-02-2017, 09:53 AM
:popcorn: AnnaIguana has posted some nice cites in #63.
.

MaeZe
06-02-2017, 10:14 AM
AnnaIguana has posted some nice cites in #63.
.

Indeed. I posted the Jezebel link upthread in post #4.

From the Guardian article, I think the issue of who gets reviewed, who does the reviewing, who is being awarded literature prizes, all of those look to me like some of the precision we should be paying attention to.

Better to be addressing that, and any genre author gender bias, that's where we have a chance to move the ball down the field.

Old Hack
06-02-2017, 10:23 AM
Don't know if this is relavent top 10 authors of all time ( sales jk comes in about 8 ) females outsell men.
If you take shakespere out it is a landslide to female authors.

Assuming you're using the linked-to Wikipedia as the source, then if you take Agatha Christie out it's a landslide to the male authors. You can make that list prove almost anything you like, with regard to the gender split in writing.

The top ten in the list include five men and five women. But only eight out of the top thirty are women (I think).

Most importantly, very few of the writers named are actually writing now. So they can't be used as any sort of indication of how things are for writers right now. And they are not typical writers: they are exceptions. They are huge best-sellers. Again, they aren't an indication of how things work now.

And it's all based on estimated sales, mostly gathered from speculative news stories if the citations at the bottom of the page are anything to go on. I know what a few of the sales figures actually are, and they are a lot different. Don't trust Wikipedia for anything.

mccardey
06-02-2017, 10:23 AM
Indeed. I posted the Jezebel link upthread in post #4.

From the Guardian article, I think the issue of who gets reviewed, who does the reviewing, who is being awarded literature prizes, all of those look to me like some of the precision we should be paying attention to.

Better to be addressing that, and any genre author gender bias, that's where we have a chance to move the ball down the field.
We seem to be getting to that, in the way that these things develop - which is great. But the OP had asked initially for feelings.
I keep seeing it around. A female name on the cover makes enough readers hesitate that your sales will feel it. Neutral initials (like J.K. Rowling), or a full-on masculine pen name, are apparently really sound business decisions. I believe it.

Would you do this? Do you do this? If so, how has your experience been?

<<snip>>


Thoughts? Stories on making the decision--or the transition? Opinions on whether it's worth it? Rants on how much it sucks that it might be worth i

Beanie5
06-02-2017, 10:43 AM
Assuming you're using the linked-to Wikipedia as the source, then if you take Agatha Christie out it's a landslide to the male authors. You can make that list prove almost anything you like, with regard to the gender split in writing.

The top ten in the list include five men and five women. But only eight out of the top thirty are women (I think).

Most importantly, very few of the writers named are actually writing now. So they can't be used as any sort of indication of how things are for writers right now. And they are not typical writers: they are exceptions. They are huge best-sellers. Again, they aren't an indication of how things work now.

And it's all based on estimated sales, mostly gathered from speculative news stories if the citations at the bottom of the page are anything to go on. I know what a few of the sales figures actually are, and they are a lot different. Don't trust Wikipedia for anything.
The list is defrinately unreliable, The only reason I suggested shakespere might be excluded is he didn't write books and was by far the oldest mentioned and from an era where women unfortunatlely didn't write that many books, ( leo tolstoy is an interesting entry though ) there is a depth of female authuors there though jackie collins and Corin Tellado coming in at numbers 13 and 14 and many others further down the list, if you remove both agatha christie and shakespere again you are looking as women probably outselling men in the remaining 8, This is a positive thing ( I hope)

MaeZe
06-02-2017, 11:56 AM
We seem to be getting to that, in the way that these things develop - which is great. But the OP had asked initially for feelings.

I'm not dismissing that. But what's the point of lamenting if one doesn't drill down to the evidence? Believe me, I've lived my life in a profession that was gender biased. But I also saw it change and I know what it took.

[warning, 3-glass-Merlot rant follows]

When I started my nursing profession the field was one of the most underpaid professions on the planet. We had a faux union via the state nursing association and few people understood that the real problem was 1) recognition of what nurses actually did, and 2) that hospitals were illegally colluding to keep wages low.

I am proud as punch to say I was at the forefront of change. In my time nursing diagnoses were developed and along with it came recognition that you needed words if you wanted your worth to be recognized. No one knew what nurses did, and until we articulated what we did, it was like it didn't exist. If you haven't seen it, it's hard to understand how describing what you do makes it real, how if it isn't verbalized, it literally doesn't exist.

Then there was the other matter. In other fields, in particular male dominated fields, supply and demand dictated wages. In the nursing field, the hospital collusion meant wages were controlled. The result, an incessant shortage of nurses that were poorly paid. It's not our fault said the hospital, there are just not enough nurses, but you'll work overtime won't you, so your patients don't suffer? It's unethical to go on strike you know, because your patients will suffer.

What happened that I fell into (not taking credit for initiating anything) was the technological explosion in nursing care. Now, not only did we have nursing diagnoses that defined what we did which was not merely assisting doctors, technical advances in nursing care made it impossible for hospitals to keep up the nursing shortage ruse. Here's where I played a part. At this time I was a highly skilled ICU nurse. You cannot run an ICU short handed like you can a medical floor. Nursing agencies which had previously typically provided home health care nurses began supplying ICU nurses.

Suddenly there was competition with the hospital nursing monopoly. My friends and I quickly signed on. Our wages went from seriously underpaid to being paid what we should have been paid all along if the hospitals weren't colluding with each other to determine nurses' wages. Then in this state we joined together to leave the agencies behind. They did not invest in my education. My first dissent was refusing to sign the agency contract that said I could not take a job with any hospital they sent me to work at. Fuck that. If they wanted to make money from my skills, they could just cross that clause off the contract. And they did.

Next a group of my nursing friends set up their own agency. We would work as independent contractors and they would do the booking and billing. I became an independent contractor. Here's where I was on the actual frontline. The nursing agencies sued us, saying we couldn't be independent contractors and the agencies were our employers. We went to court. My friends' agency paid the court costs and I testified in court that no one was exploiting me, I had every right to be an independent contractor.

We won. And nursing in WA State moved the ball down the court. Wages stabilized where they should have been all along. Now nurses are well paid and the shortage is disappearing as more people are choosing to be nurses including, surprise, more men.

The story went sour there temporarily with an infamous murder and chaos (no lie), but I'll leave that tantalizing page turner there and move back to the thread topic. :tongue

OK, so where are we here? Women have a long way to go. Women have come a long way.

It should be no surprise gender bias exists in most professions and writing is no exception. In nursing the one place we've yet to make proper inroads is in administration. Hospital administrators still make absurdly more than nursing administrators.

But how do you change it? You have to be precise. You can't just say, women writers are underpaid, or under recognized or rejected by agents and publishers. You have to identify the underlying factors. Is it false perceptions by the agents? Is it a monopoly of male reviewers? Is it genre specific?

You have to understand the underlying mechanisms if you ever hope to address them. Nurses didn't recognize the underlying mechanisms. They believed a union would fix things. Unionizing was not the problem. Women writers need to start by precisely identifying the problems.

Aggy B.
06-02-2017, 03:56 PM
But writers don't have a salary like nurses (or engineers or teachers or architects or or or). And it's much harder to try and compare the work done by various authors in a substantive way. There is no way to precisely define the tasks being done and compare one author to another. ("She did 431 hours of research for her detective novel compared to the 247 hours he did for his, but somehow she still made less.")

Sure, you can do averages and make generalizations based on career-length and genre and volume/body of work, but there are a lot of factors that are easy to keep "invisible" because they are not things that are easily measured or compared. (Previous sales has an impact, but is a breakout novel popular because it fills a unique spot on the shelf? Or because the author is especially likeable? Or because it coincided with some real life occurrence that couldn't be predicted?) Advances are different sizes for a variety of reasons - some of which are likely related to ideas about male authors selling better than female ones, but there's also larger economy, size and saturation of genre/subgenre, individual publishing house goals and budget.

And folks have already been identifying documented issues in this thread. (Men get more reviews than women. I seem to recall a couple of years someone looked at the major press reviews and determined that dead people get more reviews as a group than women - at least in that year.) But why is it an issue? Are the reviewers all/mostly biased? (Probably. They are overwhelmingly male.) Are the publishing houses not spending as much on marketing for their female authors? Possibly. Are women not making themselves as accessible for interviews to help raise the profile of their book? Possibly. (Or trying to make themselves accessible, but being turned down similar reasons that their books just aren't being reviewed.)

Right now folks are in the stage of having been able to identify a problem, but not nail down specifics on the source of the problem in a way that makes addressing it a concrete thing. We are talking in more general terms not because we don't know that we need to ID the underlying mechanism, but because the underlying mechanism is a patriarchal society that touches every aspect of our creative endeavor and we are not in a field where we can just say "I did X work so I should get D amount of money for it." (Because art is always subjective, which makes it harder to prove worth outside of selling a bajillion copies.) And acting like it's just that simple is... well, a little irritating. (And none of this touches on internalized ideas about patriarchy in women themselves. I sat on a panel a year-ish ago that was specifically about female authors and the publishing industry. Of the four of us, the other three opened the panel by talking about how there was no bias, that publishing was just hard. And then proceeded to tell anecdote after anecdote that demonstrated they were being treated differently for being "lady authors" < the term that was in the panel description.)

So, yeah. I don't think the issue here is that we aren't being precise enough.

Barbara R.
06-02-2017, 04:14 PM
That's great :)


Yes that is the blog I read. When I first read it I thought to myself "I'm definitely going to self publish, what's the point of even seeking an agent." But then when I look at the majority of the books I read, many of them are women authors. When I go on amazon and search a genre like suspense etc, I see many women authors. So I'm thinking, no hoping....its not as bad as it seems.

Self-publishing is a great fallback, but for people who hope to make a career as a writer, it's generally best to start off with a commercial publisher, to get reviews, bookstore space (if you're fortunate enough --not all commercially published writers get into stores), award consideration...not to mention advances, my favorite part of publishing. If you can't find a buyer, it's always possible to self-publish. I just hate to see anyone go straight to self-publishing just because they're intimidated by the publishing process, including finding an agent. But there are only two things that matter to an agent: how much they like the work, and how likely they are to find a buyer for it. (Stuff like the writer's social profile and ability to help with p.r. matter too, but fall under the second category.) If they love the book and think they can sell it, they couldn't care less about your gender.

That said, I think there's a case to be made for disguising our gender for certain genres. Agents may not be sexist themselves, but may take into consideration the presumed sexism of acquiring editors, which sadly does exist, among both male and female editors. As someone else said, male romance writers usually take female pen names. If I were starting out as a hardcore thriller writer, I would probably choose to use initials or a gender-neutral first name; because Gillian Flynn not withstanding, I feel that publishers favor males in that genre. Note that J.K Rowling used a male name for her adult thrillers: not for nothing.

DamienLoveshaft
06-02-2017, 04:57 PM
I say it depends heavily on you genre. Women's romance genres and Boy's love and Shoujo in Japan have Males who use female names to sell more books. Generally it just helps to appeal to your target audience on a personal level.

Zaffiro
06-02-2017, 05:26 PM
I remember seeing an interview where a female writer was asked whether she'd considered masking her gender to sell more books. She said, essentially, 'Hell no. I know there are people who don't read books by female authors, presumably in case they go into labour in mid-chapter, but I'm sure there are also readers who don't read books by black authors. Would you suggest that a black author use a picture of a white person as an author photo?'

cornflake
06-02-2017, 05:28 PM
I say it depends heavily on you genre. Women's romance genres and Boy's love and Shoujo in Japan have Males who use female names to sell more books. Generally it just helps to appeal to your target audience on a personal level.

You appeal to your audience on a personal level by having a female or male name? Because... we're presuming the audience for certain genres is male or female and wants to read books by people of their same gender? Eh?

Also, why is there a women's romance genre?

DamienLoveshaft
06-02-2017, 05:44 PM
You appeal to your audience on a personal level by having a female or male name? Because... we're presuming the audience for certain genres is male or female and wants to read books by people of their same gender? Eh?

Also, why is there a women's romance genre?
Well I wouldn't say genre in the strictest sense, demographic was probably a better word. From a marketing standpoint every novel should have a target audience in mind. I write gay/bi male romance, but I do target men and women I'll admit, but that's an oddity and I'm probably shooting myself in the foot by trying to cash in on yaoi fangirls to boost sales when I'm a bi man and have a much bleaker and more tragic style of romance. Many companies don't allow tragedies in women's romance and only take HEA or HFN ending. Idk is there's men's romance in America, but in Japan adult men's romances tend to be the bleakest or slowest romances of the genre. If I wanted men to know that's how I write then I would stick to a male name. If I'm writing a more Female target romance with a female protagonist and HEA I'd consider a female pen name. By no means do you have to use a pen name, it's just a consideration to take because you can be rejected by publishers for your gender because they have an image to upkeep and an expectation from their audience. I've met women who only read women writers just like I'm met men who only read male writer. I personally read a mix of both, but I understand my taste aren't everyone's cup of tea and I respect that. I don't want to force people to read what they don't want to, but changing your name can help people find your book if it's what they're looking for without their prejudices in the way.

cornflake
06-02-2017, 05:48 PM
Well I wouldn't say genre in the strictest sense, demographic was probably a better word. From a marketing standpoint every novel should have a target audience in mind. I write gay/bi male romance, but I do target men and women I'll admit, but that's an oddity and I'm probably shooting myself in the foot by trying to cash in on yaoi fangirls to boost sales when I'm a bi man and have a much bleaker and more tragic style of romance. Many companies don't allow tragedies in women's romance and only take HEA or HFN ending. Idk is there's men's romance in America, but in Japan adult men's romances tend to be the bleakest or slowest romances of the genre. If I wanted men to know that's how I write then I would stick to a male name. If I'm writing a more Female target romance with a female protagonist and HEA I'd consider a female pen name. By no means do you have to use a pen name, it's just a consideration to take because you can be rejected by publishers for your gender because they have an image to upkeep and an expectation from their audience. I've met women who only read women writers just like I'm met men who only read male writer. I personally read a mix of both, but I understand my taste aren't everyone's cup of tea and I respect that. I don't want to force people to read what they don't want to, but changing your name can help people find your book if it's what they're looking for without their prejudices in the way.

The point of much of the thread, see, is that these are prejudices that are problematic, as they hamper sales of women's books, and rooted in sexism....

SwallowFeather
06-02-2017, 06:02 PM
On the run just now but just wanted to say a quick thank you to everybody. Tons of food for thought here. Will be back later to interact more, & thanks again.

lizmonster
06-02-2017, 06:31 PM
I remember seeing an interview where a female writer was asked whether she'd considered masking her gender to sell more books. She said, essentially, 'Hell no. I know there are people who don't read books by female authors, presumably in case they go into labour in mid-chapter, but I'm sure there are also readers who don't read books by black authors. Would you suggest that a black author use a picture of a white person as an author photo?'

So, non-white authors get totally shafted, pretty much regardlesss of genre, far more than white women authors do. And the issues start waaaaaaay before the author photo stage.

But a) a name with initials isn't a "male name" and is only considered deceptive because we assume male is the default; b) a name is front-and-center on a book, and an author photo isn't; c) if your sales are hurt bad enough you can be as militant as you like and you still won't sell another book.

I used my real name because I've wanted to see it on a book since I was a kid. I have no issue whatsoever with people who use initials. I know one author whose name is a bit unusual, and has discovered some of her fans have assumed she's male, even though her author photograph is all over the web.

Anna Iguana
06-02-2017, 06:36 PM
Two other considerations in choosing the gender of a pen name, which I don't think have been mentioned:

Writing is solitary. I wanted to connect with other writers and start building an online presence, however tiny, under my pen name. The writing you do here tells me (something) about your fiction, and you're probably judging me, too. :-) The people for whom my gender and nonfiction writing is a positive, I want to connect with. The people for whom these are negatives, I'm happy to have filter themselves out. (I'm not generalizing, guys; there are still men who say "Women can't write X": three of them have mentored me.)

A bestselling author advised, "Pick a pen name with your own first name, or some version thereof." (For example, if your name is "Kate," you might pick "Kay.") She explained: people will use your pen name when they see you in public, like at a book-signing. When you're starting out, you may not recognize you're being addressed, and readers will think you're rude.

The odds of this problem arising are, of course, astronomically low. But I say, dream.

Ari Meermans
06-02-2017, 06:38 PM
So, non-white authors get totally shafted, pretty much regardlesss of genre, far more than white women authors do. And the issues start waaaaaaay before the author photo stage.

But a) a name with initials isn't a "male name" and is only considered deceptive because we assume male is the default; b) a name is front-and-center on a book, and an author photo isn't; c) if your sales are hurt bad enough you can be as militant as you like and you still won't sell another book.

I used my real name because I've wanted to see it on a book since I was a kid. I have no issue whatsoever with people who use initials. I know one author whose name is a bit unusual, and has discovered some of her fans have assumed she's male, even though her author photograph is all over the web.[emphasis mine]

I have assumed this situation would be very like my own were I ever to publish. My screen name (which would also be my pen name) is a version of my "real name": Ari is a nickname and my last name is hyphenated. Many people assume Ari is a male name, but it's actually the nickname for a good, old-fashioned Southern girl's name: Ariella.

DamienLoveshaft
06-02-2017, 06:46 PM
The point of much of the thread, see, is that these are prejudices that are problematic, as they hamper sales of women's books, and rooted in sexism....

I never said prejudice is right, I only explained my reasoning of why one might do so. I also think male authors receive some of that discrimination too; If I published a chick lit as Damien Loveshaft I think I'd be laughed off the face of the planet that's all. Although doing away with the loveshaft part may be a step in the right direction there, I think women might write me off if I wrote a female driven book. I've also been told by many people before that I as a man am not allowed to write Female MCs by people. So I once did struggle with whether I am allowed to write a female lead as a man or if I need to publish under a female name. Though I should also state as FtM I feel like I can write both with sincerity and don't like being pigeon holed by everyone. I in no way condone being sexist or racist when choosing books. I just point out I like other authors might feel forced to do it you know?

cornflake
06-02-2017, 06:48 PM
I never said prejudice is right, I only explained my reasoning of why one might do so. I also think male authors receive some of that discrimination too; If I published a chick lit as Damien Loveshaft I think I'd be laughed off the face of the planet that's all. Although doing away with the loveshaft part may be a step in the right direction there, I think women might write me off if I wrote a female driven book. I've also been told by many people before that I as a man am not allowed to write Female MCs by people. So I once did struggle with whether I am allowed to write a female lead as a man or if I need to publish under a female name. Though I should also state as FtM I feel like I can write both with sincerity and don't like being pigeon holed by everyone. I in no way condone being sexist or racist when choosing books. I just point out I like other authors might feel forced to do it you know?

I...

do you see that the problem we're discussing includes that things like "chick lit" EXIST?

Is there "dude lit?"

Is there a men's fiction section? Is there a women's fiction section? WHY IS THAT?

Aggy B.
06-02-2017, 06:50 PM
I'll also add that I started using my initials in college because folks couldn't seem to remember my actual name (I've been called Mary Grace, Sarah Grace, Grace Anne, etc more times than I can count), but when I introduced myself as "A.G." folks remembered that.

Interestingly enough, I've only had one author who actually calls me A.G. when we are talking face-to-fact. Partly because I usually introduce myself as Anna Grace, but even when I introduce myself as A.G. most folks don't seem to think of it as a spoken name.

Anyway, for me the initials were not just to keep my gender less visible, but also because that's what I'd already done for years for a different reason.

DamienLoveshaft
06-02-2017, 06:51 PM
I...

do you see that the problem we're discussing includes that things like "chick lit" EXIST?

Is there "dude lit?"

Is there a men's fiction section? Is there a women's fiction section? WHY IS THAT?

I do, but I also don't think it's the writers that chose that name it's publishing companies that do. I don't really care for it honestly.

DamienLoveshaft
06-02-2017, 06:54 PM
I'll also add that I started using my initials in college because folks couldn't seem to remember my actual name (I've been called Mary Grace, Sarah Grace, Grace Anne, etc more times than I can count), but when I introduced myself as "A.G." folks remembered that.

Interestingly enough, I've only had one author who actually calls me A.G. when we are talking face-to-fact. Partly because I usually introduce myself as Anna Grace, but even when I introduce myself as A.G. most folks don't seem to think of it as a spoken name.

Anyway, for me the initials were not just to keep my gender less visible, but also because that's what I'd already done for years for a different reason.

Yeah, I used this pen name because no one can pronounce my real first name so Damien is my middle name and I tacked on a sexy last name just cause I write ero-romance. I know that feeling. I wanted a name that people could remember and looking up easily to find my books.

Aggy B.
06-02-2017, 06:54 PM
I do, but I also don't think it's the writers that chose that name it's publishing companies that do. I don't really care for it honestly.

Right. Because there's a bias that says that anything that might be femme focused is a "specialty" genre. Where as books for men are the norm. Cooperating with that bias only further confirms and perpetuates it. Especially when you go around saying things like "I don't know if folks will accept me, as a male, writing a female lead." If they aren't it's not because you are male and the character is female, it's because you've not written a human who happens to have girl-parts, but rather a "female character".

AW Admin
06-02-2017, 06:55 PM
There is an interesting thing in that a gender neutral name is assumed to be male; C. J. Cherryh was (and sometimes still is) assumed to be male, when her legal name is Caroline Janice Cherryh. But she often writes SF, and military SF. So many readers assume she is male.

Anna Iguana
06-02-2017, 06:56 PM
Aggy, that's interesting. I started introducing myself as "Anna, rhymes with iguana" at some point because it helped people remember how to pronounce my name. Didn't think it would fly as a professional name. :-)

edutton
06-02-2017, 07:02 PM
I...

do you see that the problem we're discussing includes that things like "chick lit" EXIST?

Is there "dude lit?"

Is there a men's fiction section? Is there a women's fiction section? WHY IS THAT?"Men's Adventure", yeah. Mostly series with numbered volumes - just like category romance*, actually. :)

*In fact, I had a "darling" I wound up cutting from my MS, where one teen character described her parents thusly: "They've never read a book without a number on the cover."

DamienLoveshaft
06-02-2017, 07:03 PM
Right. Because there's a bias that says that anything that might be femme focused is a "specialty" genre. Where as books for men are the norm. Cooperating with that bias only further confirms and perpetuates it. Especially when you go around saying things like "I don't know if folks will accept me, as a male, writing a female lead." If they aren't it's not because you are male and the character is female, it's because you've not written a human who happens to have girl-parts, but rather a "female character".

Yeah, I've always hated that, I only wanted to defend writers who need to put bread on the table and are under the company's thumb. I read romance written for women even though I'm a guy. I LOVE Sherrilyn Kenyon for example and hate that it's considered a women's book. Sometimes I just get caught up in my own anxiety over gender expectations in writing. I probably wouldn't ever publish under a female name honestly, because it feels like lying. I wish genres were less gendered and I wish men could more openly enjoy female leads and vice versa for women enjoying male leads.

Helix
06-02-2017, 07:08 PM
Yeah, I've always hated that, I only wanted to defend writers who need to put bread on the table and are under the company's thumb. I read romance written for women even though I'm a guy. I LOVE Sherrilyn Kenyon for example and hate that it's considered a women's book. Sometimes I just get caught up in my own anxiety over gender expectations in writing. I probably wouldn't ever publish under a female name honestly, because it feels like lying. I wish genres were less gendered and I wish men could more openly enjoy female leads and vice versa for women enjoying male leads.

Well, you know, women do enjoy books with male MCs. There's a hell of a lot of books with male MCs. Crime fiction, for example, is jam-packed with them.

AW Admin
06-02-2017, 07:08 PM
Yeah, I've always hated that, I only wanted to defend writers who need to put bread on the table and are under the company's thumb. .

If it's a legit trade publisher, you're not "under the company's thumb." The publisher may request you change your name (less these days for reasons of gender, more often for reasons of branding and reader retention), but you get to choose the name, and you get to say no. It's all worked out at the contract stage; either participant can walk away.

Cyia
06-02-2017, 07:11 PM
Perhaps if you named some awards we could look into the details. That would help with the precision.

https://qz.com/838175/the-national-book-award-and-other-top-literary-prizes-seriously-under-represent-women/

(I’d quote, but this one’s got several charts.)

https://thinkprogress.org/the-deep-rooted-sexism-in-literary-awards-9b4f49c7f9e3

Griffith took a long look at the distribution of literary prizes. Not only did she count women authors, but Griffith also focused on whether the stories were about women or girls, or whether they were about men or boys. When you start to look at books that are by women and about women, the numbers look pretty dim. If only men’s stories are told, then women are relatively unrepresented.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/02/women-literary-prizes_n_7487556.html
(actually references the same writer’s study as the previous link, but in more detail; also with charts)

http://lithub.com/on-sexism-in-literary-prize-culture/
(some numbers from Australia, too)

Since its inception in 1969, the Man Booker Prize has been awarded to 16 women and 31 men. The Pulitzer, established in 1917, has been bestowed on 67 men and only 30 women, and, in Australia, only 14 women, compared to 28 men, have won the Miles Franklin. (None of these figures include joint winners.) This ratio is particularly shocking when you consider that, as Macquarie University found, 65 per cent of literary fiction authors, 76 per cent of genre fiction writers and 87 per cent of children’s authors in Australia are women.


There are countless examples. Writer Catherine Nichols set up a fake email address (http://jezebel.com/homme-de-plume-what-i-learned-sending-my-novel-out-und-1720637627) and pitched her manuscript under a male name, only to find that the same manuscript was requested 17 times under the male pseudonym, as opposed to twice under her real name. Alice Sheldon and Gwen Harwood have demonstrated that their work is received differently when they publish under male names, even when, in Harwood’s case, that work is purposely sub-par

DamienLoveshaft
06-02-2017, 07:13 PM
Well, you know, women do enjoy books with male MCs. There's a hell of a lot of books with male MCs. Crime fiction, for example, is jam-packed with them.

I know, I didn't say people don't. I merely stated no one should be shamed for liking protagonists not align with their gender. It's a very silly concept to me, but at least where I live it's normal for gender norms like that to still be forced onto people. I had a cousin who was female and constantly people tried to dissuade her from liking boy stuff. I hated it.

edutton
06-02-2017, 07:18 PM
I read romance written for women even though I'm a guy. I LOVE Sherrilyn Kenyon for exampleShe's a guest at a con I'm going to this weekend!

DamienLoveshaft
06-02-2017, 07:20 PM
She's a guest at a con I'm going to this weekend!

Lucky! I actually live near New Orleans, a couple hours from it anyway and I hear she like to go to NOLA cons a lot, but I actually never know what these cons are. Is it like a book convention?

cornflake
06-02-2017, 07:21 PM
I do, but I also don't think it's the writers that chose that name it's publishing companies that do. I don't really care for it honestly.

Yes, why do you think that is?

edutton
06-02-2017, 07:23 PM
Lucky! I actually live near New Orleans, a couple hours from it anyway and I hear she like to go to NOLA cons a lot, but I actually never know what these cons are. Is it like a book convention?
Yeah, this one (ConCarolinas) is mostly SFF focused - it has a writers track of panels and discussions, which is going to be most of my weekend, and a lot of cosplay and fan activities.

Aggy B.
06-02-2017, 07:23 PM
I know, I didn't say people don't. I merely stated no one should be shamed for liking protagonists not align with their gender. It's a very silly concept to me, but at least where I live it's normal for gender norms like that to still be forced onto people. I had a cousin who was female and constantly people tried to dissuade her from liking boy stuff. I hated it.

Okay. I think folks are bristling because you are saying things like that bolded bit. What we're saying is "Stuff is just stuff. It doesn't need to be for boys or girls specifically and pushing it into that type of classification is damaging to everyone."

DamienLoveshaft
06-02-2017, 07:25 PM
Yes, why do you think that is?

I can only speculate. I mean I assume at least with children's fiction I know parents and older people who often buy for youths and being targeted and many parents often love to emphasize their child's gender. As a female I child I drowned under piles of toys and books I'd never touch because I Was interested in "boy" shows like pokemon and Yu-gi-oh by anyone who wasn't my parents. For older people, I'm not really sure though. I think as the older generation dies off marketing will probably change a lot though.

AW Admin
06-02-2017, 07:26 PM
I wish genres were less gendered and I wish men could more openly enjoy female leads and vice versa for women enjoying male leads.

I think this is possibly more about you and your comfort level than readers in general, particularly in an era of ebooks. There's a lot of data, though some is c. 5 years old, about who reads what and how (http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/01/16/a-snapshot-of-reading-in-america-in-2013/).

Many men are still squeamish about "girl books" but women read hard SF, military fiction, horror — women tend to read widely, and to read more, than men (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fiction-readers-an-endangered-species-2013-10-11), at least in the U.S. But while romance is still dominated by women readers, that's changing (http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2015/literary-liaisons-whos-reading-romance-books.html).

SF has traditionally skewed male (http://www.sfwa.org/2014/01/reads-science-fiction/).

Mystery and Thriller readership (https://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2013/05/who-reads-what-thrillers-mysteries-gender-lines-linda-rodriguez) is also changing.

But what has remained true since the 19th century and the rise of the novel and the public library; women read more, even if men write more (http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2015/04/07/vida_study_women_read_more_books_but_men_get_to_wr ite_more_book_reviews.html).

AW Admin
06-02-2017, 07:27 PM
Okay. I think folks are bristling because you are saying things like that bolded bit. What we're saying is "Stuff is just stuff. It doesn't need to be for boys or girls specifically and pushing it into that type of classification is damaging to everyone."

Yes. It's creating gender dichotomy based on perceived sex.

JJ Litke
06-02-2017, 07:27 PM
There is an interesting thing in that a gender neutral name is assumed to be male; C. J. Cherryh was (and sometimes still is) assumed to be male, when her legal name is Caroline Janice Cherryh. But she often writes SF, and military SF. So many readers assume she is male.

Hmm, I've been operating on the assumption that using my initials wouldn't really mask my gender because I'm not trying to hide it otherwise. But obviously it doesn't always work that way.

Some of my friends call me JJ--there are so damn many Jennifers out there, that's why we so often end up going with initials or various shortened forms, so people can differentiate all of us. I actually hoped that it'd stand out better (I later realized it does not, but I do like going by JJ).

amergina
06-02-2017, 07:28 PM
There is an interesting thing in that a gender neutral name is assumed to be male; C. J. Cherryh was (and sometimes still is) assumed to be male, when her legal name is Caroline Janice Cherryh. But she often writes SF, and military SF. So many readers assume she is male.

I assumed C. S. Friedman was a man for years and years and years and years.

DamienLoveshaft
06-02-2017, 07:30 PM
Okay. I think folks are bristling because you are saying things like that bolded bit. What we're saying is "Stuff is just stuff. It doesn't need to be for boys or girls specifically and pushing it into that type of classification is damaging to everyone."

I think it's all misunderstanding though. I don't consider it to be boy stuff, maybe I should've put that in quotes. I point out that it is the term that the adult were using. Example:
"Don't pick up frogs, that's boy stuff."
"Pokemon? That's boy stuff. Wouldn't you prefer a barbie?"
"Captain Underpant's is for boys. You don't want that"
Things I've heard said to little girls.
I was referencing very specific statements by people that I and many others have lived though. I'm really not sure how to make that more clear. Context is more important than bolding a couple of words out of context isn't it?

Helix
06-02-2017, 07:36 PM
That Lit Hub link (http://lithub.com/on-sexism-in-literary-prize-culture/) posted by Cyia upthread is interesting.


For me the interesting question is not whether men or women write differently, but rather how men’s and women’s work are read differently. That is, a man’s work will be uplifted by virtue of what Siri Hustvedt has termed the “masculine enhancement” effect.


Pankaj Mishra has written that suburban novels are elevated to the status of “microcosmic explorations of the human condition if they are by male writers”—or as Margaret Atwood put it in 1971: “when a man writes about things like doing the dishes, it’s realism; when a woman does it it’s an unfortunate genetic limitation.”


Hustvedt reminds us that women writers attract mostly women readers (about 80 per cent, according to a 2015 Goodreads survey), while male writers tend to attract an audience that is 50-50, or as Hustvedt puts it, “men who write fiction have an audience representative of the world as a whole while women don’t.”

DamienLoveshaft
06-02-2017, 07:40 PM
I think this is possibly more about you and your comfort level than readers in general, particularly in an era of ebooks. There's a lot of data, though some is c. 5 years old, about who reads what and how (http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/01/16/a-snapshot-of-reading-in-america-in-2013/).

Many men are still squeamish about "girl books" but women read hard SF, military fiction, horror — women tend to read widely, and to read more, than men (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fiction-readers-an-endangered-species-2013-10-11), at least in the U.S. But while romance is still dominated by women readers, that's changing (http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2015/literary-liaisons-whos-reading-romance-books.html).

SF has traditionally skewed male (http://www.sfwa.org/2014/01/reads-science-fiction/).

Mystery and Thriller readership (https://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2013/05/who-reads-what-thrillers-mysteries-gender-lines-linda-rodriguez) is also changing.

But what has remained true since the 19th century and the rise of the novel and the public library; women read more, even if men write more (http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2015/04/07/vida_study_women_read_more_books_but_men_get_to_wr ite_more_book_reviews.html).

True, part of what I see is likely from where I live. Everything is extremely gendered in many parts of the south. Gay and trans people here risk getting outed still and if a man buys a romance novel he'd probably be labeled gay. I'm very used to living in the high risk high fear mindset. My fiance doesn't tell people he's with a man so he doesn't get fired. I pretend to be manlier than I actually am so no one suspects me of being different. I hate these dividers people use and how they scale if you're a man or woman. I only tried to reference what I see where I live because I know how cruel it can be around here and sadly I think a lot of publishers try to please people like them because they're hard to please and they think it's profitable. I don't agree with any of the practice. I just see where it comes from living where I do and seeing and hearing the constant struggles people here have still. My father is actually dating and English professor who teaches gender and minorities in literature and her class was so clueless about these things when I spoke to them one day. They didn't know what bisexual meant. So yes, I'm probably not refering to the same audience you all might be used to, but I think that's who publishing companies target and the best way to make change is to protest or petition somehow.

edutton
06-02-2017, 07:45 PM
There is an interesting thing in that a gender neutral name is assumed to be male; C. J. Cherryh was (and sometimes still is) assumed to be male, when her legal name is Caroline Janice Cherryh. But she often writes SF, and military SF. So many readers assume she is male.Yep. C. S. Friedman is the same way - she writes damn good hard military SF (her first book, IN CONQUEST BORN, is still one of the best I've ever read in that genre, almost 20 years later).

AW Admin
06-02-2017, 07:48 PM
So yes, I'm probably not refering to the same audience you all might be used to, but I think that's who publishing companies target and the best way to make change is to protest or petition somehow.

Much of publishing is trying to encourage diversification, particularly in genre fiction, but publishing itself is not exactly straight, nor has it ever been. Lots of out and proud queers work in publishing.

Be the change you want to see.

- - - Updated - - -


That Lit Hub link (http://lithub.com/on-sexism-in-literary-prize-culture/) posted by Cyia upthread is interesting.

Yep. The same patterns affect publish-or-perish and tenure and prizes in academe.

edutton
06-02-2017, 07:54 PM
But while romance is still dominated by women readers, that's changing (http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2015/literary-liaisons-whos-reading-romance-books.html).I almost never read straight romance anymore (although I used to, thirty years ago), but I've kind of gotten sucked into the queer romance world - what started as research has become an interest. The frequent lack of enforced gender roles is very refreshing! (Except in the m/m-written-by-and-mostly-for-women world, where it seems like all the men have to be alphas all the time...)

Aggy B.
06-02-2017, 07:57 PM
I think it's all misunderstanding though. I don't consider it to be boy stuff, maybe I should've put that in quotes. I point out that it is the term that the adult were using. Example:
"Don't pick up frogs, that's boy stuff."
"Pokemon? That's boy stuff. Wouldn't you prefer a barbie?"
"Captain Underpant's is for boys. You don't want that"
Things I've heard said to little girls.
I was referencing very specific statements by people that I and many others have lived though. I'm really not sure how to make that more clear. Context is more important than bolding a couple of words out of context isn't it?

Yes but your context is muddy there because you aren't directly attributing "boy stuff" to others. Or saying "Folks kept telling her not to play with stuff that is typically considered to be male-oriented." We are writers, we can use words with precision. (And I know, forums and internet stuff is not known for precision.) But there is power in the words we use. Not defaulting to certain patterns of speech because you assume we will understand context does make a difference.

It should be clear here, that we are having trouble sussing out where you are coming from because you started out being vague in your language and making assertions about readers personally identifying with authors in a way that made it sound like genres *are* meant to be for a specific gender. And, having read through your posts, I think we are on the same page here, but there's a... lack of specificity in what you're saying which makes it sound like you're saying something else than what, it would seem, you are intending to say.

And I point this out mostly because when I started to become aware of how damaging gender norms are, I had to learn a new way of speaking about things because just using my old words and concepts perpetuated that damage. Or made it seem like I still supported those ideas even when I was trying to break them down.

DamienLoveshaft
06-02-2017, 08:01 PM
Yes but your context is muddy there because you aren't directly attributing "boy stuff" to others. Or saying "Folks kept telling her not to play with stuff that is typically considered to be male-oriented." We are writers, we can use words with precision. (And I know, forums and internet stuff is not known for precision.) But there is power in the words we use. Not defaulting to certain patterns of speech because you assume we will understand context does make a difference.

It should be clear here, that we are having trouble sussing out where you are coming from because you started out being vague in your language and making assertions about readers personally identifying with authors in a way that made it sound like genres *are* meant to be for a specific gender. And, having read through your posts, I think we are on the same page here, but there's a... lack of specificity in what you're saying which makes it sound like you're saying something else than what, it would seem, you are intending to say.

And I point this out mostly because when I started to become aware of how damaging gender norms are, I had to learn a new way of speaking about things because just using my old words and concepts perpetuated that damage. Or made it seem like I still supported those ideas even when I was trying to break them down.

I'm sorry if I didn't make it clear enough I was simply trying to draw from the perspective of other people. It's also very hard for me to edit my own writing very well and I'll admit to my flaw. It's something I need to work on.

Ari Meermans
06-02-2017, 08:37 PM
I'm sorry if I didn't make it clear enough I was simply trying to draw from the perspective of other people. It's also very hard for me to edit my own writing very well and I'll admit to my flaw. It's something I need to work on.

I hope you take this post as the attempt to be helpful that it is.

I prefer to view self-editing problems as a difficulty, rather than a flaw. Most writers share this difficulty as we know what we mean to write and expect to see it—and, therefore, do see it. Your particular difficulty in expressing yourself—if, indeed, that is the issue—appears to be in the area of gender related discussions; i.e., your posts on aspects of writing not related to gender issues are clearer. You might want to think about that as your peers here are inclined to give you a great deal of benefit of the doubt. And your room mod will go along with them . . . for a while.

We have a couple of sayings around here: "Words have meaning and they carry their histories with them"~Our very own AW Admin, medievalist, and philologist. And, "We are writers, we own our words." If a difficulty with self-editing is the problem, I recommend you work on it most diligently before it becomes a greater problem.

Zaffiro
06-02-2017, 08:45 PM
So, non-white authors get totally shafted, pretty much regardlesss of genre, far more than white women authors do.

True, but I'm not clear on what that has to do with the issue at hand, or with what I said.


And the issues start waaaaaaay before the author photo stage.

Just like they do for female authors.


But a) a name with initials isn't a "male name" and is only considered deceptive because we assume male is the default; b) a name is front-and-center on a book, and an author photo isn't; c) if your sales are hurt bad enough you can be as militant as you like and you still won't sell another book.

OK, in the US there are names that come with implications of ethnicity, just like there are names that come with implications of gender. Say you've got an author whose first name strongly implies that he or she is African-American - I'm not American, so give me some leeway if I get these wrong, but LaKesha or DeShaun. His or her surname is something nonspecific. Would you suggest that the writer should use L. M. Johnson or D. K. Smith?

All the points you made above hold true: a) a name with initials isn't a 'white' name and is only considered deceptive because we assume white is the default; b) a name is front and centre on a book; and c) if your sales are hurt badly enough you can be as militant as you like and you still won't sell another book. Should the author mask his or her race?

ETA: The problem in both cases is exactly the same: the white straight male viewpoint is assumed to be the universal human one - anything other than that is assumed to be a specific niche. A book by a straight white male is presumed to be a book about the human experience; a book by a black person is presumed to be about the black experience, a book by a woman is presumed to be about women's issues or experiences. If we all keep feeding that assumption, it's going nowhere.

Ari Meermans
06-02-2017, 09:27 PM
So, non-white authors get totally shafted, pretty much regardlesss of genre, far more than white women authors do. And the issues start waaaaaaay before the author photo stage.True, but I'm not clear on what that has to do with the issue at hand, or with what I said.
You're not? lizmonster's post was in direct response to this:


I remember seeing an interview where a female writer was asked whether she'd considered masking her gender to sell more books. She said, essentially, 'Hell no. I know there are people who don't read books by female authors, presumably in case they go into labour in mid-chapter, but I'm sure there are also readers who don't read books by black authors. Would you suggest that a black author use a picture of a white person as an author photo?'





But a) a name with initials isn't a "male name" and is only considered deceptive because we assume male is the default; b) a name is front-and-center on a book, and an author photo isn't; c) if your sales are hurt bad enough you can be as militant as you like and you still won't sell another book.
OK, in the US there are names that come with implications of ethnicity, just like there are names that come with implications of gender. Say you've got an author whose first name strongly implies that he or she is African-American - I'm not American, so give me some leeway if I get these wrong, but LaKesha or DeShaun. His or her surname is something nonspecific. Would you suggest that the writer should use L. M. Johnson or D. K. Smith?

All the points you made above hold true: a) a name with initials isn't a 'white' name and is only considered deceptive because we assume white is the default; b) a name is front and centre on a book; and c) if your sales are hurt badly enough you can be as militant as you like and you still won't sell another book. Should the author mask his or her race?

ETA: The problem in both cases is exactly the same: the white straight male viewpoint is assumed to be the universal human one - anything other than that is assumed to be a specific niche. A book by a straight white male is presumed to be a book about the human experience; a book by a black person is presumed to be about the black experience, a book by a woman is presumed to be about women's issues or experiences. If we all keep feeding that assumption, it's going nowhere.

Also, why did you go straight to ethnicity and race even to the point of implying that lizmonster wrote "'white' name" when she very clearly wrote "male name"?

Kalyke
06-02-2017, 09:43 PM
I would either use a male nom de plume or go initials, last name. I consider "safety" also a factor. Another factor would be trying to sell in areas where people do not believe women are on equal intellectual standing as men.

Zaffiro
06-02-2017, 10:31 PM
You're not? lizmonster's post was in direct response to this:

She made the point that non-white writers get shafted way more than female writers. I totally agree with her on that. But I don't see why that makes any difference to the argument that expecting a writer of colour to mask his or her race, and expecting a female writer to mask her gender, are both forms of playing into the idea that the default is 'straight white male' and any deviation from that turns you from a writer about human experience into a writer about one specific niche of experience.


Also, why did you go straight to ethnicity and race even to the point of implying that lizmonster wrote "'white' name" when she very clearly wrote "male name"?

I absolutely didn't mean to imply that lizmonster wrote '"white" name'. I was saying that the precise points she made with regard to a female writer using initials to mask gender also hold true for a writer of colour using initials to mask race. That's why I quoted her original points using 'male' and then parallelled them, directly below and outside the quote box, using 'white'.

MaeZe
06-02-2017, 10:53 PM
Okay. I think folks are bristling because you are saying things like that bolded bit. What we're saying is "Stuff is just stuff. It doesn't need to be for boys or girls specifically and pushing it into that type of classification is damaging to everyone."

Just to play devil's advocate here, we do have biological and cultural gender differences. Cinderella Ate my Daughter by Peggy Orenstein (http://peggyorenstein.com/book/cinderella-ate-my-daughter/) is a wonderful discussion of just how much that culture pervades our families even when we try to be progressive parents. My son liked Batman and my girlfriend's daughter (same age) liked Barbie and we both lamented these were not the gender enlightened children we imagined we'd be raising. Yes, stuff is stuff and perhaps calling it girl stuff and boy stuff is not a useful way to enable change.

Don't bristle when you hear "boy stuff". Educate. (Not saying you didn't, mind you.)

SwallowFeather
06-03-2017, 01:22 AM
I need to cure myself of assuming certain caveats are obvious. I did mean "unless you're in one of the designated Women's Genres" when I said a female name on the cover hurts sales. And I did go in assuming others already believed the bias exists. But I am grateful for the push toward more precision, and the information people have dug up. It's definitely a systemic problem.

Partly my initial post was born of a wistful fantasy of taking the easy way out; partly I really thought this was worth discussing, for everyone. I'm glad people are finding it worth discussing (though not glad of the underlying cause) and I'm fine with people bringing out the statistics--it's not that I didn't want them, I was just not assuming the need.

I think dismissing the idea that there's bias is ridiculous. Of course there's more than one kind, and some kinds affect men too--"women can't write action, men can't write romance"--but fundamentally there has always been a bias that women can't do Important Things. Back in the days of epic poetry, poetry was considered a male endeavor. Sorry--can't give a link or a quote, this was from a college class--but I at least know I was taught that people literally believed women could not write poetry. In the time--not coincidentally--when poetry was actually respected. Now? Again, no stats, but lots of people consider poetry fairly feminine. And who respects poetry now? Poets, that's who. (I say this as a poet...)

Well, I doubt I'll be taking the easy way out, although the idea of gender-neutral initials as being truly & gently neutral does make still make me wistful. But it would be disingenuous on my part. Because I'm not in the least gender-fluid; because it would be a change from my previous author name; because I have never (nor has anyone, I expect!) gone by "H.E." :tongue

Thank you all for your thoughts, your experience, your research, and the encouragement to fight the good fight.

fistnik
06-03-2017, 03:35 PM
'Hell no. I know there are people who don't read books by female authors, presumably in case they go into labour in mid-chapter, but I'm sure there are also readers who don't read books by black authors. Would you suggest that a black author use a picture of a white person as an author photo?'

This is where the whole conversation should have stopped, at least the should I/should I not hide my gender part of it. How can anyone advocate hiding your gender with this in mind? I mean, without outing yourself as a bigot. I don't see how this point can be refuted without resorting to hate rhetorics.


Of course there's more than one kind, and some kinds affect men too--"women can't write action, men can't write romance"--but fundamentally there has always been a bias that women can't do Important Things.

I think you hit the nail on the head with the last part. Because, the way the bias goes, it's not true that men can't write romance; what men can't write is bad romance.

A man can't be Barbara Cartland or Danielle Steele. But no doubt he can be William Shakespeare or Tolstoi or Flaubert or DH Lawrence. Or Henry Miller if it comes to that. He can't write fantasies for bored, middle-class housewives, but surely he can write thoughtful, nuanced explorations of love and what it means, fiction full of heart-rending introspection and capitalized Truth. Fiction that exposes women for the worthless mess of neuroses they are, and enhances men as the long-suffering, tragic heroes in this grand dance between men and women. Because it's always between men and women, let's not discuss degenerate prose here.

Oh, did I forget to stick out my sarcasm banner?

Sorry again for the dripping snark... I know this is a civilized discussion, but sometimes I can't bring myself to be civilized.

Sometimes I think maybe we shouldn't.

Anna Iguana
06-03-2017, 05:04 PM
Would you suggest that a black author use a picture of a white person as an author photo?

This is where the whole conversation should have stopped, at least the should I/should I not hide my gender part of it. How can anyone advocate hiding your gender with this in mind?

Whoah, there's a big difference between concealing a marginalized identity and presenting oneself as having a privileged identity. The difference is between Joanne Rowling going by "JK" or an author publishing her book without an author photograph, versus Joanne going by "John" or an author publishing an "author photo" that isn't actually the author.

Even an author going by "John" rather than "Joanne," I hesitate to condemn. The issue is safety, physical and emotional. Experiences of marginalization are not small potatoes, and if a person with a marginalized identity has been fortunate enough never to be denied employment, harassed, or worse because of her identity, I am pleased for her, and for social progress, but that's still not everyone's experience.

(On the other hand, side-eye at people with significant privileges who mis-represent themselves as marginalized to gain fleeting advantages. Yes, this probably includes men posing as women to publish romance novels.)

People who trailblaze pay steep, personal prices. A person who is systematically disadvantaged only gets her one, small lifetime, and I won't demand she sacrifice herself on the altar of social change.

Cyia
06-03-2017, 05:16 PM
It's not the same thing at all.

If I put A.N. Author on a book as a name, it's up to the reader's own biases to decide if that name reads male or female. If I use a more commonly male name on a book, like Pete, but pair it with my own (female) photo, then it's still on the reader to notice.

If I put Tu Anh Vo or Ayomi Soto on the book, then I am actively laying claim to an identity that isn't mine to claim. If I do this while adding a photo that more closely aligns with that identity, then I'm actively deceiving the reader.

If I see a contest asking for submissions from "own voice" writers, or specifically LatinX authors, or whatever, so I tag the book with "Marisella de la Garza" for my name. I'm misrepresenting, deceiving and cheating.

It's not the same thing.

Evening the playing field by allowing someone else to assume I might belong to a more privileged group is completely different from me intentionally repackaging my identity to take advantage of a marginalized group.

lizmonster
06-03-2017, 05:29 PM
People who trailblaze pay steep, personal prices. A person who is systematically disadvantaged only gets her one, small lifetime, and I won't demand she sacrifice herself on the altar of social change.

This.

What I think can get lost is that choosing to use a female (or tangibly non-European) name opens you up not just to the biases of book buyers, but the biases of marketers and sales people and cover designers and everyone who's part of the publishing machinery. I've seen cases where a publisher, excited about finding something "new" and "inclusive," has instead effectively screamed "THIS IS A NICHE BOOK!!!" with all of the best intentions. And with a niche book you get niche sales, and that's hardly going to help anyone fight the good fight.

Everybody knows Rowling is a woman. But it wouldn't surprise me a bit if her publisher marketed the book differently than they would have if she'd gone by Joanne.

Cyia
06-03-2017, 05:34 PM
Everybody knows Rowling is a woman. But it wouldn't surprise me a bit if her publisher marketed the book differently than they would have if she'd gone by Joanne.

https://www.bustle.com/articles/15839-what-jk-rowling-using-a-male-pseudonym-says-about-sexism-in-publishing




But using a male-sounding name wasn't always Rowling's choice. She used the initials J.K. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._K._Rowling)on Harry Potter books because publishers initially demanded it. They were worried that young boys — who they thought would make up her entire readership — wouldn't read the series if they knew it was written by a woman...
In other words, one of the bestselling, most respected, wealthiest female authors in living memory has concealed her gender on every book she's ever written.

Anna Iguana
06-03-2017, 05:54 PM
Also worth noting (and in the article Cyia linked) is that, when breaking into a second genre, J.K. Rowling--even publishing superstar J.K. Rowling--used the pen name Robert Galbraith.

lizmonster
06-03-2017, 06:07 PM
https://www.bustle.com/articles/15839-what-jk-rowling-using-a-male-pseudonym-says-about-sexism-in-publishing

I understand it was the publisher's choice. My point is that part of the publisher's choice allowed them to market the book without saying "WOMAN WRITES ABOUT BOY WIZARD."

I know it sounds confusing, but I've seen it. Anything non-white-guy is "different," and often someone on the food chain is going to want to make a big deal out of it.* Give Rowling a gender-neutral name, and you avoid a whole set of discussions in marketing meetings.

Obviously I've no idea what Rowling's publisher was thinking at the time. But based on my own experience, the fact that they were the ones suggesting the name change doesn't mean they weren't well aware of how differently they would have treated the book themselves if they hadn't. It is weirdly possible to be consciously part of the problem without recognizing that you're actually perpetuating the problem.

*This isn't always bad, of course, and is often a selling point, which is why, I think, author demographic is often used as a way to try to make a book stand out. With YA, Rowling might have been fine, even as a woman writing a boy protagonist.

cornflake
06-03-2017, 06:10 PM
She also made up a fun bio for him that included military service and stuff, iirc.

I don't think it's terrible to use a picture of a person of a different race (as long as it's a picture you've got permission to use). Who cares, really? If someone thinks putting a pic of themselves on a book is going to harm their sales and wants to put a pic of someone else and the publisher doesn't care and they don't think this will ever cause an issue... why do I care?

I know people use pseudonyms. I'm one of them. The authors I know personally use pseudonyms (several of them, in fact, and some purposefully to go along with genre expectations). I don't presume any name/identity on a book is "real." Who cares?

Cyia
06-03-2017, 06:10 PM
I understand it was the publisher's choice. My point is that part of the publisher's choice allowed them to market the book without saying "WOMAN WRITES ABOUT BOY WIZARD."


:Huh:

Not disagreeing with you. Just providing a link for backup.

Anna Iguana
06-03-2017, 06:30 PM
Like Cyia, I don't disagree with you, lizmonster.


I don't think it's terrible to use a picture of a person of a different race (as long as it's a picture you've got permission to use). Who cares, really? If someone thinks putting a pic of themselves on a book is going to harm their sales and wants to put a pic of someone else and the publisher doesn't care and they don't think this will ever cause an issue... why do I care?

I know people use pseudonyms. I'm one of them. The authors I know personally use pseudonyms (several of them, in fact, and some purposefully to go along with genre expectations). I don't presume any name/identity on a book is "real." Who cares?

Hmm, I am still thinking about this, cornflake. Do you think it is equally unobjectionable for a white person, with permission, to publish using a person of color's photo? (I don't mean to put you on the spot.)

I wonder if ghost-writing is relevant to pen names and presentations of identity. If it hasn't been considered relevant, maybe it should be. Many people with means/privilege hire someone else to write for them, and most readers understand that such books (and social media, and late-night comedy) are written by authors, staff writers, interns, and social media managers who may not-at-all resemble the people on the book-covers.

When I think of ghostwriting, I have a harder time saying to a person who isn't lucky enough to warrant ghost-writers that s/he should play by any "rules" of representation, since people at the top don't.

cornflake
06-03-2017, 06:46 PM
I said it, hardly putting me on the spot to ask a question about it. Yeah, I'd say that's six of one...I don't care which way it goes.

It's marketing, to me, and, as I said, I don't think of an 'about the author' as some kind of fact-checked document. Which is not to say that some doesn't annoy me -- I don't like James Patterson, because I think that's sorta shady (suggesting you, who have previously written the things, write something by having it under one name but having lots of other random people write them). I think the V.C. Andrews thing is weird, and always have, because I think she's been dead since I was a kid or before, yet still is quite prolific! I think that's a cabal too, which to me is somehow odder than if it's just a single person. I don't mind a single person with some other identity.

On the other side, Robert B. Parker's family was very careful in choosing someone to carry on the Spenser novels, and notes on the books, though they have his name, that there is the other person, whom they do or have named, writing them.

lizmonster
06-03-2017, 06:56 PM
:Huh:

Not disagreeing with you. Just providing a link for backup.

Not meaning to be defensive. Figured I could explain my point better, though, so I tried to do that. :)

CJSimone
06-03-2017, 07:11 PM
I don't presume any name/identity on a book is "real." Who cares?

^^^ Exactly.

Maybe I'm in the minority, but I don't even want to know about an author. It almost ruins the fictional dream for me. Just give me a good story. I don't come for the author, I come for the story. In the same way, I don't write to exalt myself, I write to share a story.

The biases are often operating at a subconscious level, and they're too nuanced and all over the place to make blanketed statements (they're really not one directional). And for anyone to say a conversation in which people are being respectful should end because everyone should be of one's own mindset is oppressive and violates the spirit of true equality that's presumably strived for.

Aggy B.
06-03-2017, 07:14 PM
Supposedly, there is only one author writing under the V.C. Andrews name. A man (Andrew Neiderman) who has also written a shit-ton of his own books including The Devil's Advocate. Looking at the bibliography it looks like he was (probably) originally hired to finish several novels Andrews had in-progress and then the estate continued to employ him because money.

So, author info. My publisher had suggested (while formatting the second Southern Gothic novel) that he might keep a line out of the faux bio he'd put in the original file construction which referred to me as making bootleg whiskey and raising an army of ferrets in the backwoods of Tennessee. That sort of thing is obviously a joke.

Although I don't expect that author personas present only reality, I get a little uncomfortable over presenting things that are not obviously for fun as a part of a persona. (FREX: I don't talk in detail about my family much because privacy. But I also don't pretend to be unmarried or childless, something that would be too realistic for folks to distinguish as not real.) And I'm flat out opposed to the idea of folks in a position of privilege pretending to be part of a minority group. That's just... not cool. And exploitative. And damaging to authors who are actually in those groups because invariably what happens is the person taking on the less-privileged persona is outed and - because we have these ingrained ideas about who can write what - there will be an assumption that White Person Writing as Asian has somehow done it better or more accurately than folks who are actually Asian. (Mostly because for non-Asian folks, it will likely synch up with our preconceptions about Asian culture. Or African-American culture. Or Middle Eastern culture. Or whatever.)

Writing under a pen-name or larger borrowed persona for reasons of safety concerns is different. Writing under a pen-name because "I'm afraid these Asian/female/queer characters won't be taken seriously if folks know I'm actually a straight, white male" is a reflection on ones ability to write humans and do research, not some auto-prejudice against ones background, and that attitude (and decision-making) tends to boil down to being too lazy to do the real work.

I've done a *lot* of work in my (still short) lifetime to identify with men. It's made easier because so much of our society is centered on maleness. I don't have to look very hard to start seeing what is culturally expected of men and how they are perceived. There is more work involved for men trying to identify with women (if they haven't already been making the effort through the women they know in RL) because the creative work about women tends to be skewed or incomplete. (It's not because women are so hard to understand, mind you. But it's harder to find accurate source material because we tend to not be the focus of our society.) But it takes work and a willingness to look if you want to start writing outside your own skin and bones.

And, if a community (of which you are not a part) is judging your work about them to be lacking, changing your name to blend in won't fix the problem.

PastyAlien
06-03-2017, 07:31 PM
Yes, this probably includes men posing as women to publish romance novels.)Eh. If a man has a gender-neutral name, then writing in a female-dominated genre isn't as much of an issue for him as a man with a male-sounding name. So if a man wants to use his initials, or even pose as a woman, I'm down with that.


People who trailblaze pay steep, personal prices. A person who is systematically disadvantaged only gets her one, small lifetime, and I won't demand she sacrifice herself on the altar of social change.^So much this (and I'm swooning over the bolded phrase (bolding mine)). I subbed a few SF stories back in the early 2000s, and I knew there was gender bias, so I used my initials rather than try to trailblaze. I just wasn't ready for trailblazing back then. Maybe I am now, I dunno. I am grateful to those who have done the trailblazing, and now most of the magazines actively encourage diversity and women writers, (and I now sub under my female-sounding name).

CJSimone
06-03-2017, 08:06 PM
Writing under a pen-name or larger borrowed persona for reasons of safety concerns is different. Writing under a pen-name because "I'm afraid these Asian/female/queer characters won't be taken seriously if folks know I'm actually a straight, white male" is a reflection on ones ability to write humans and do research, not some auto-prejudice against ones background, and that attitude (and decision-making) tends to boil down to being too lazy to do the real work.

But it takes work and a willingness to look if you want to start writing outside your own skin and bones.

Even if you do this, there can still be biases. Biases within biases. Biases people haven't even recognized yet. And it all gets in the way of the story. Personally I'd rather we know nothing about the author and the works themselves are what stand or fall. But I'm also not inclined to read a work because of the name of the author; I look for something that interests me (and often find I'm most interested in debut novels, not big names). I'm all about encouraging people and lifting them up, but not about exalting anyone. And not about being exalted. I don't think my readers need to know much about me, including my gender/sex.

Does it matter if I'm a woman or a guy? If I say I'm the woman in my pic or the guy in my pic does it matter? If I have a "husband" or a "wife" or I have both, what's the difference when it comes to my writing? Does it change the way you perceive my words?

I think people get too uptight about gender. In person, for most of us it's going to be obvious. But if it's not, do you need to know (outside of wanting to hook up with someone)? I know this isn't typical, but my son (who just turned 8) has long hair and is really pretty and people tend to gush at how pretty/beautiful my daughter is (despite boy clothes). If I'm with other people, they'll usually correct the observer. I occasionally say "thank you, he is pretty", but usually just say "thank you." Why should I say otherwise? If I don't care about these things in person, I'm not gong to as a writer.

I'm going neutral as an author. I'm CJ. And I'm not going to judge people who go with either gender as writers. If I ever decide to go with a different gender for any work, I think I'm ok with that too. Though I'm thinking neutral should be good.

CJ

Aggy B.
06-03-2017, 09:29 PM
I read this article a couple of months ago (although it was originally published in 2015) and it seems to have a direct bearing on some of the immediate tangents this conversation has taken. They Pretend To Be Us While Pretending We Don't Exist (https://www.buzzfeed.com/jennybagel/they-pretend-to-be-us-while-pretending-we-dont-exist?utm_term=.akGAgvn47#.yhPMKo17v)

I am not sharing it as a definitive argument, just one that resonated with me.

And, yes, biases exist on many levels about all sorts of things that we don't always recognize. But white folks (especially white male folks) deciding they are unfairly disadvantaged in publishing and must adopt a PoC persona in order to compete shows a deeply flawed ignorance of the state of publishing and their dominance in the field. It does attempt to exploit perceived exoticism without any of the baggage that comes with it.

Old Hack
06-03-2017, 11:39 PM
I wonder if ghost-writing is relevant to pen names and presentations of identity. If it hasn't been considered relevant, maybe it should be. Many people with means/privilege hire someone else to write for them, and most readers understand that such books (and social media, and late-night comedy) are written by authors, staff writers, interns, and social media managers who may not-at-all resemble the people on the book-covers.

When I think of ghostwriting, I have a harder time saying to a person who isn't lucky enough to warrant ghost-writers that s/he should play by any "rules" of representation, since people at the top don't.

I've ghosted a ton of books.

While I have ghosted a few celebrity "autobiographies", I've ghosted quite a few more books for people who had brilliant stories to tell but who couldn't, for various reasons, write the books of those stories for themselves, and that they were usually quite the opposite of lucky. Very few of those people were people of privilege, and without me (I have considerable privilege: I'm white, middle class, relatively affluent, relatively well-educated) their stories wouldn't have been heard. I'm not saying this to imply that privilege isn't a thing, or that ghostwriting isn't an issue as you've suggested it is--but it's worth remembering that it can work the other way too.

shizu
06-04-2017, 01:05 AM
I don't think it's terrible to use a picture of a person of a different race (as long as it's a picture you've got permission to use). Who cares, really? If someone thinks putting a pic of themselves on a book is going to harm their sales and wants to put a pic of someone else and the publisher doesn't care and they don't think this will ever cause an issue... why do I care?

I know people use pseudonyms. I'm one of them. The authors I know personally use pseudonyms (several of them, in fact, and some purposefully to go along with genre expectations). I don't presume any name/identity on a book is "real." Who cares?

I think then it becomes an issue of projecting an authenticity you don't have. In your example, if a writer using a POC identity then included a POC character in their work, the implication would be that they were writing from experience when they weren't. And then we're back in the mire of cultural appropriation and authentic voices. (For the record, I think a writer should be free to write whatever and whomever they choose, provided it's done respectfully. Presenting yourself as something/someone you're not for book sales -- especially marginalized voices -- is about as far from respectful as it gets).

There's a vast difference between presenting yourself as neutral and letting your audience's biases fall where they will. That example crosses the line into active deceit for me.

I'm reminded of the whole Josh Lanyon/Diana Killian incident in M/M romance, whereby for years a straight woman was presenting herself as a gay man to the M/M community. If it was just a case of the pen-name, that'd be one thing -- male/neutral pen names happen an awful lot in that genre. But as Josh Lanyon she was actively presenting herself as an authority on writing authentic gay male characters, offering writing advice both in book form (i.e. she was getting paid because people thought she was a gay man speaking authentically on gay men's experiences) and regularly on forums etc. Other female writers flocked to her advice under the impression she knew what she was talking about in ways they never could, when it turns out she was in the exact same position as they were. That's where, to me, it crosses from marketing to something much more appropriating. Who cares? Well, here's a gay male writer's take on it (https://bradvanceauthor.com/2015/09/20/a-response-to-josh-lanyon/). The people affected care.

There was also the case of AJ Llewellyn, another woman who presented herself as a gay man for a lengthy period of time in the M/M community. Similarly to your example, she actively used photos of men purporting to be her on her website and promotional material. She also sent a male friend to a convention to pose as "AJ" (http://www.ajllewellyn.com/site/2011/11/06/1360/). Is that still marketing, or does that cross a line? For me it does.

From the perspective of marginalized groups adopting majority/privileged personas, it may be an idealistic and naive mindset on my part but I fail to see how any progress is going to be made in terms of diversity with a "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" mentality. The problem is the biases, not the identity of the person behind the keyboard. If all we ever do is play into that, admit that we have to take on this veil of acceptability in order to be given a modicum of the respect the privileged group does, then I genuinely don't see how those biases will ever change.

I've only ever used a female pen-name (and only use a pen-name at all for privacy issues), because like they saying goes, I'd rather lose for what I am than win for what I'm not.

CJSimone
06-04-2017, 01:12 AM
I read this article a couple of months ago (although it was originally published in 2015) and it seems to have a direct bearing on some of the immediate tangents this conversation has taken. They Pretend To Be Us While Pretending We Don't Exist (https://www.buzzfeed.com/jennybagel/they-pretend-to-be-us-while-pretending-we-dont-exist?utm_term=.akGAgvn47#.yhPMKo17v)

I am not sharing it as a definitive argument, just one that resonated with me.

And, yes, biases exist on many levels about all sorts of things that we don't always recognize. But white folks (especially white male folks) deciding they are unfairly disadvantaged in publishing and must adopt a PoC persona in order to compete shows a deeply flawed ignorance of the state of publishing and their dominance in the field. It does attempt to exploit perceived exoticism without any of the baggage that comes with it.

I can see how adopting some author personas would/might be exploitative. But the gender one doesn't seem it because when it comes to writing, the advantages and disadvantages of being male or female not only go both ways depending on the specific situation, but actually coexist in all situations. For example, regardless of your genre or particular characters or story, some readers will find your work more relatable, believable, and/or praiseworthy because of your particular gender, while others will find it less relatable, believable, and/or praiseworthy because of that same gender.

If you remove your gender, you remove that influence. It makes sense to me to remove that potential barrier, especially if you're writing in certain more affected genres, you're writing POVs of both or opposite genders, and/or you've got topics and storylines that might be perceived differently depending on gender. It's pretty telling of the situation that authors of both/all genders often take on a different gender or go neutral to avoid having their gender influence perceptions and/or marketability. So then in the case of gender it's really not about tying to exploit anything. It's about giving the story a chance without people's known and unknown biases getting in the way. If the OP or any of the rest of us choose to do that, IMO, we're not exploiting anything.

Anna Iguana
06-04-2017, 01:45 AM
I've ghosted a ton of books.

While I have ghosted a few celebrity "autobiographies", I've ghosted quite a few more books for people who had brilliant stories to tell but who couldn't, for various reasons, write the books of those stories for themselves, and that they were usually quite the opposite of lucky. Very few of those people were people of privilege, and without me (I have considerable privilege: I'm white, middle class, relatively affluent, relatively well-educated) their stories wouldn't have been heard. I'm not saying this to imply that privilege isn't a thing, or that ghostwriting isn't an issue as you've suggested it is--but it's worth remembering that it can work the other way too.

I stand corrected/counterpointed and 100% appreciate this addition to the conversation.

Cyia
06-04-2017, 01:56 AM
I've ghosted a ton of books.

While I have ghosted a few celebrity "autobiographies", I've ghosted quite a few more books for people who had brilliant stories to tell but who couldn't, for various reasons, write the books of those stories for themselves, and that they were usually quite the opposite of lucky. Very few of those people were people of privilege, and without me (I have considerable privilege: I'm white, middle class, relatively affluent, relatively well-educated) their stories wouldn't have been heard. I'm not saying this to imply that privilege isn't a thing, or that ghostwriting isn't an issue as you've suggested it is--but it's worth remembering that it can work the other way too.

It's a fairly well known anecdote of McCarthy-era Hollywood that certain writers' careers were built on ghosting works for those who'd been blackballed and thus couldn't use their own names on projects.

MDSchafer
06-04-2017, 02:00 AM
Yeah, this one (ConCarolinas) is mostly SFF focused - it has a writers track of panels and discussions, which is going to be most of my weekend, and a lot of cosplay and fan activities.

I brought my niece and nephew to the con this weekend. They were underwhelmed.

mccardey
06-04-2017, 02:13 AM
Bit of a derail, but last week I met a friend of my husband, who knew that I'm published, and asked if I write for children.

'No, no - for adults.'

'Oh - for women?'

Helix
06-04-2017, 02:33 AM
Bit of a derail, but last week I met a friend of my husband, who knew that I'm published, and asked if I write for children.

'No, no - for adults.'

'Oh - for women?'

'Oh, yes, and men. Would you like copies? I'm sure you could find someone to read them to you.'

Zaffiro
06-04-2017, 02:33 AM
People who trailblaze pay steep, personal prices. A person who is systematically disadvantaged only gets her one, small lifetime, and I won't demand she sacrifice herself on the altar of social change.

There are two different things going on around this issue, though. One is people who decide to use a neutral author name because they don't choose to sacrifice themselves on that altar. That's absolutely fair enough - it's their choice to make, it's a personal and complicated one, and I would never think less of anyone for making it.

But the other thing is publishers or agents pressuring authors to use neutral author names, the way Joanne Rowling's publisher pressured her. Those are the people I have a problem with. Saying to someone 'You need to mask who you are, because who you are isn't a straight white male and those are the only voices that are fully acceptable' is not OK.

Anna Iguana
06-04-2017, 02:38 AM
I can see how adopting some author personas would/might be exploitative. But the gender one doesn't seem it because when it comes to writing, the advantages and disadvantages of being male or female not only go both ways depending on the specific situation, but actually coexist in all situations. For example, regardless of your genre or particular characters or story, some readers will find your work more relatable, believable, and/or praiseworthy because of your particular gender, while others will find it less relatable, believable, and/or praiseworthy because of that same gender. [--bolded by AI]

The passage in bold remains true whether the phrase "male or female" is replaced with "white or a person of color," "abled or disabled," etc. The claim "some readers will like authors more because of identity X, some readers will like authors less because of identity X" doesn't tell us anything about whether privileged authors should pose as marginalized. Each form of discrimination differs, yet shares similarities; I'd urge you to consider whether you take gender discrimination as seriously as other kinds of discrimination. I'm not asking you to draw any particular conclusion.


If you remove your gender, you remove that influence [the biases of readers].

I wonder what would happen if all authors went by their initials. It's an interesting idea. At first, most readers would probably picture authors as male--except, perhaps, in "chick lit," women's fiction, and romance. The same bias leads more people to picture men when they hear words like "doctor" and "police officer."

By the way, the few genres dominated by female authors are constraints, not privileges; they reinforce stereotypes about what women vs. men read/write/care about. Women "win" in the romance genre at the cost of perpetuating harmful ideas like "intimate relationships are not a thing that men do/should care about as much as women." That's what leads me to say: Men, please think hard before using female pen names to publish romances. You're stepping up to "even" with women authors, in this small area, by stepping on all women.

AW Admin
06-04-2017, 02:45 AM
A lot of the better scholarly journals do "blind submissions" where the submission readers don't have the authors' names or institutions; the article is identified by title and sometimes only by a number.

A lot of journals also require all authors to use their initials on their byline at publication, as R. J. Mirza, Ph.D.

Anna Iguana
06-04-2017, 02:52 AM
There are two different things going on around this issue, though. One is people who decide to use a neutral author name because they don't choose to sacrifice themselves on that altar. That's absolutely fair enough - it's their choice to make, it's a personal and complicated one, and I would never think less of anyone for making it.

But the other thing is publishers or agents pressuring authors to use neutral author names, the way Joanne Rowling's publisher pressured her. Those are the people I have a problem with. Saying to someone 'You need to mask who you are, because who you are isn't a straight white male and those are the only voices that are fully acceptable' is not OK.

I'm all for pushing agents, editors, and publishers on this issue, but in fairness to them, I'm not convinced these are distinct issues. Publishers pursue profit. Authors have to convince agents or publishers that readers will buy books with (male, female, or gender-neutral) names on them. Thus, authors earn a living. Agents and acquisitions editors also have to convince publishers that readers will buy books with (male, female, or gender-neutral) names on them. Thus, agents and editors earn a living. This is a market failure, and lots of discrimination persists because of market failures.

Chasing the Horizon
06-04-2017, 02:57 AM
From the perspective of marginalized groups adopting majority/privileged personas, it may be an idealistic and naive mindset on my part but I fail to see how any progress is going to be made in terms of diversity with a "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" mentality. The problem is the biases, not the identity of the person behind the keyboard. If all we ever do is play into that, admit that we have to take on this veil of acceptability in order to be given a modicum of the respect the privileged group does, then I genuinely don't see how those biases will ever change.
I see this completely differently. If I query under a female name and don’t get published, or even publish under a female name and get poor sales, then what, exactly, have I accomplished? I’ve changed nothing, only contributed to the idea women have no business writing action fantasy.

If, on the other hand, I query and publish under a gender neutral or even outright male name, also conceal my gender in my bio, and become a bestseller, I’d then have a platform to reveal my real gender and also have proven women can write best-selling action fantasy. Seems like that scenario would contribute a hell of a lot more to the feminist cause than the first one. Or, to put it very simply, what’s the point of making a statement if no one is listening?

This has been a fantastic thread, though. It really got me thinking about gender perceptions, including my own, and has inspired me to do the queries for my next novel very differently than I would’ve otherwise.

Cyia
06-04-2017, 03:00 AM
If, on the other hand, I query and publish under a gender neutral or even outright male name, also conceal my gender in my bio, and become a bestseller, I’d then have a platform to reveal my real gender and also have proven women can write best-selling action fantasy. Seems like that scenario would contribute a hell of a lot more to the feminist cause than the first one. Or, to put it very simply, what’s the point of making a statement if no one is listening?

I consider this a form of "punching-up," and honestly, I've considered it myself. Using my late-dad's name. His middle name is fairly unisex, and his first name I just like. I'd love to see it on a book.

Zaffiro
06-04-2017, 03:01 AM
I get what you mean, but there's a difference between making the personal choice to mask your identity, and pushing that choice on someone else. The second one seems a lot less morally justifiable to me than the first.

ETA: Damn, this thread moves fast. I was talking to AnnaIguana.

Aggy B.
06-04-2017, 03:27 AM
The problem with using a male pen name and then (one hopes) being successful and revealing "Look I was a woman all along" is that it doesn't convince most readers that women *are* actually talented authors because they automatically see it as a "trick" or "cheating" because they haven't actually addressed the bias that "women can't write thusandsuch well". Or they file into "This person is the exception to the rule." (We had a few former members here who fell into the camp of "women don't write SF or action well" and when I confronted them about that label/idea they were quick to assure me "Well I like *your* stuff, but you don't write like other women.")

So, "punching-up" or not, I'm not sure it's as effective as we'd like to think it is. And simply trying to make things "neutral" doesn't remove the bias or even put it in the middle because it's so strongly coded for "male" at this point. (And I'm not saying "You can't be gender neutral because it's pointless!" Obviously my author name is neutral, although I chose it for a number of reasons. But we can't assume that everyone hiding their gender will just fix the problem. It's larger than just names or covers or first impressions.)

fistnik
06-04-2017, 04:29 AM
Whoah, there's a big difference between concealing a marginalized identity and presenting oneself as having a privileged identity. The difference is between Joanne Rowling going by "JK" or an author publishing her book without an author photograph, versus Joanne going by "John" or an author publishing an "author photo" that isn't actually the author.

I see your point, but I still feel queasy about the notion. Isn't concealing your gender by, say, using initials, a sneaky way of presenting yourself as having a privileged identity while simultaneously conserving a modicum of self-respect? Isn't the whole point of using initials to let biased readers -- who are, after all, the problem -- consume your product under false pretenses and then letting them go with their biases unchallenged?


People who trailblaze pay steep, personal prices. A person who is systematically disadvantaged only gets her one, small lifetime, and I won't demand she sacrifice herself on the altar of social change.

This is undeniably true, but, you know, it's also the kind of defeatist thinking that has had us stuck for millennia, and might continue to do so. We all have one, small lifetime. But maybe if all of us, and not just a sprinkling of martyrs here and there, but all of us, decided that our one, small lifetime is not a worthless, fleeting moment with no meaning against the larger sweep of history, one which is better lived in dull conformity to whatever absurd, arbitrary pressures society is putting on us -- maybe then our one, small lifetimes wouldn't be so difficult to live after all. And the thought that we are just not doing it drives me crazy.

Maybe I should try to be less judgemental. But I think deciding not to hide your gender under a pen name is not "sacrificing yourself on the altar of social change." It's quiet, everyday dignity. I wouldn't ask of anyone to go out of their way to shake the status quo, but I'd appreciate it if they didn't stoop to make the-powers-that-be's job any easier.

Ari Meermans
06-04-2017, 04:43 AM
I recognize that there are all sorts of reasons (many of them personal) a woman would mask her identity by using initials. I've been pondering this since the discussion started: Do you think we've reached the point or will soon reach the point when the use of initials will be viewed as code for "written by a woman"?

JJ Litke
06-04-2017, 05:17 AM
I see your point, but I still feel queasy about the notion. Isn't concealing your gender by, say, using initials, a sneaky way of presenting yourself as having a privileged identity while simultaneously conserving a modicum of self-respect? Isn't the whole point of using initials to let biased readers -- who are, after all, the problem -- consume your product under false pretenses and then letting them go with their biases unchallenged?

Is this what you think I'm doing? Being sneaky, taking advantage of privilege, and misleading readers? Not just me, but everyone here who uses their initials.

So this is what I'm going to have to contend with if I get a novel published, or what people already think about my short stories?

Aggy B.
06-04-2017, 05:41 AM
Is this what you think I'm doing? Being sneaky, taking advantage of privilege, and misleading readers? Not just me, but everyone here who uses their initials.

So this is what I'm going to have to contend with if I get a novel published, or what people already think about my short stories?

Well, the problem is that this *is* the attitude (minus the taking advantage of privilege point) that you will encounter with male readers. Not *all* male readers, but the ones who don't want to read fiction by women. Which is why the gender neutral option won't fix things.

But, again, not everyone choose that specifically to be neutral and - even if you were - it's your choice. But, yanno, every decision has consequences, fair or not and that's why I said (much much earlier in the thread) you have to consider which readership you want. Would you rather try and please the folks who think women can't write with a "bait and switch" on the name? Or appeal to folks who are eager to read something other than the typical white male cis abled author. (And this goes beyond just which name you pick.) And it's not a "wrong" answer either way, just something that should be considered.

(I have to admit, I don't have a lot of respect for the female authors I've met who are quick to assure folks they don't think there's a bias when it's clear there is. That's trying to play to a readership that still won't buy your books. But not talking about it at all, is different.)

JJ Litke
06-04-2017, 05:45 AM
I know about the damn anti-woman bias from readers. I just didn't realize there were people out there who'd see my initials and assume I'm trying to hide my gender and cop such a big attitude about that. For god's sake, I'm one of the only people around here who uses my real name and photo. I'M NOT FUCKING TRYING TO HIDE ANYTHING.

AW Admin
06-04-2017, 05:50 AM
I know about the damn anti-woman bias from readers. I just didn't realize there were people out there who'd see my initials and assume I'm trying to hide my gender and cop such a big attitude about that. For god's sake, I'm one of the only people around here who uses my real name and photo. I'M NOT FUCKING TRYING TO HIDE ANYTHING.

It's not about hiding gender, really. That's a red herring. The real issue is that more often than not, the default assumption for writer is that writer = male.

This is why we have bizarre references, even now, to "lady writer," "lady author" "woman author" "female novelist" etc.

So you go ahead and write using the name or names that work for you.

Ari Meermans
06-04-2017, 06:03 AM
And that's an excellent post upon which to call it quits.