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Old 04-29-2013, 09:59 AM   #1
GlenBarrington
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Authors who use just initials in their name.

It always seems to be women writers trying to hide their gender. At least that's how it FEELS to me, and I feel a bit insulted by it. (OK, CS Lewis is an exception)

Oh I understand the economics of the situation, women writers run the risk of getting pigeon-holed if they use their REAL names, but there is also the risk of putting people like me off. Maybe I'm in the minority so it's worth it from a business perspective, but I still find it "off-putting".

Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler, Jean Auel, Lois McMaster Bujold, Mercedes Lackey, all women who managed to keep their gender identity in what is still a very male oriented genre and still sell and still be important. I'm not sure what I'm trying to say, except that I respect that they have done. (So nobody tell me they were/are all guys, I'm not sure I could handle that)
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Old 04-29-2013, 10:02 AM   #2
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The problem is, with a few exceptions, men don't read books by women writers. If I spend a bit of time googling, I'm sure I can find the research on this. My understanding is that JK Rowling used her initials so that boys wouldn't be turned off by "girls' books".
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Old 04-29-2013, 10:07 AM   #3
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And the K in JK Rowling is actually not part of her name. It stands for kathleen, but the publishers wanted initials and she only had the one, so she chose a family name.

But you are correct, women authors sometimes have a hard time getting read by men.
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Old 04-29-2013, 10:12 AM   #4
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First, I doubt the truth of "men don't read books by women". Too many exceptions to believe that it's true-but I will accept that people who self-generate fear believe that. And second, I suspect that it's more the publishers who fear lack of sales than the authors.

And if you're going to complain about initials why not complain about pseudonyms? They've been used for the same reason. (George Eliot, anyone?) Pseudonyms can (and probably do) conceal more than gender. How about race? Or politics? (The latter might be unlikely. I doubt if well-known politicians write books hoping to convert people who dislike them and if it's for the sales then using their own name would help. But it's possible. I know some authors, probably including politicians, have used aliases to post glowing reviews of their books.)
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Old 04-29-2013, 10:19 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BeccaPrice View Post
The problem is, with a few exceptions, men don't read books by women writers. If I spend a bit of time googling, I'm sure I can find the research on this. My understanding is that JK Rowling used her initials so that boys wouldn't be turned off by "girls' books".
Do we have any research and statistics on this? Maybe it's appropriate when marketing to children still sorting out gender identity issues (I personally don't think so, but I'll concede it without proof). But I don't believe men don't buy books written by women. Could it be an artifact of the publishing industry beliefs and not of the buying public? If so, it wouldn't be the first time an industry's standards and practices were at odds with facts. It would be interesting to find out how "Joanne" became "J".

I think of myself as a regular sort of guy (don't we all though?), and I know that I am much less likely to buy a book by a person named with just initials than I am by a woman.
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Old 04-29-2013, 10:24 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BeccaPrice View Post
The problem is, with a few exceptions, men don't read books by women writers.
I wouldn't go as far as that personally, but I must admit that I'm somewhat guilty of that where urban fantasy is concerned. UF written by women tends to devolve into Paranormal Romance, in my experience, if not outright softporn (Yes, I'm looking at you, Laurell K. Hamilton! Curse you for what you did to Anita Blake!).

A while ago I got ahold of an ebook by a Devon Monk which sounded interesting. Sounded male, at least to me. I wasn't a dozen pages in when I got the feeling 'This is not written by a man, 'Devon' or not' (precisely because the first signals of romance were already visible).

And some googling taught me that Devon Monk is indeed a woman... In other genres I don't mind one way of the other (at least I have never found it significant), but in UF I do tend to stay away from female authors.
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Old 04-29-2013, 10:24 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by calvin-c View Post
And if you're going to complain about initials why not complain about pseudonyms? They've been used for the same reason. (George Eliot, anyone?) Pseudonyms can (and probably do) conceal more than gender. How about race? Or politics? (The latter might be unlikely. I doubt if well-known politicians write books hoping to convert people who dislike them and if it's for the sales then using their own name would help. But it's possible. I know some authors, probably including politicians, have used aliases to post glowing reviews of their books.)
Well, it isn't such a blatant and obvious ploy that makes me wonder if I'm being played for a chump. When you encounter a new author, and you see "Ellis Peters" or even "George Elliot", I would assume most people accept some guy named "Ellis" or "George" wrote the thing. Maybe it's the useless transparency of this "marketing ploy" that I object to the most.
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Old 04-29-2013, 10:31 AM   #8
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I don't know if it's true that men don't read women authors (I certainly read them), but I'm certain the reason for hiding female writers behind initials is driving more by the publishers/editors who *believe* that male readers won't read certian genres written by a female. A prime example is C.J. Cherryh, who not only hides her female name but also had to change her last name (Cherry - Cherryh) because it sounded too much like a romance author.
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Old 04-29-2013, 10:33 AM   #9
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This is an interesting discussion. I'm working on a slim book of fairy tales, bed-time reading for children. I've been debating between publishing it under my own name, and have people assume that they're only for girls, and using either initials or a male first name so that they can be read to both boys and girls. (most of the stories have both male and female protagonists. One has a girl as the primary protagonist, and the longest one has no females in it at all.)
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Old 04-29-2013, 10:34 AM   #10
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JD Salinger? JRR Tolkien?
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Old 04-29-2013, 10:51 AM   #11
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Slate article on Men reading Women
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Old 04-29-2013, 11:02 AM   #12
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The use of initials and masculine names was very prevalent in the 1950's and 1960's. How many boys or men would have first picked up a Science Fiction or Fantasy book by Alice Mary Norton?
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Old 04-29-2013, 11:23 AM   #13
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I can think of just as many men as women who use initials. A quick glance at my bookshelves reveals C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, P.G. Wodehouse, C.S. Forester and E.F. Benson. All of whom were men, if I'm not sadly mistaken.
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Old 04-29-2013, 11:46 AM   #14
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Sometimes I wish authors were assigned serial numbers.

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Old 04-29-2013, 11:54 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
I can think of just as many men as women who use initials. A quick glance at my bookshelves reveals C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, P.G. Wodehouse, C.S. Forester and E.F. Benson. All of whom were men, if I'm not sadly mistaken.
Using initials isn't a sign that an author is a woman, using initials to hide the fact that they were a woman wouldn't have worked if it was. It used to be true that men would avoid books written by women. I don't think that is true any longer, at least it's not as true as it used to be, but publishers continued to believe that it was.
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