I know that authors use aliases from time to time for various reasons, but they usually stick to gender. What if a writer, who is female, and writes detective novels from a male point of view (1st person), wants to submit to agents and/or publishers as a male? Would it be possible, and has it been done? What are the pros and cons? I've never heard of anyone doing this, but I thought it was something to consider. Men's books DO get more attention than women's.
Dear Ms. Williamson,
Correction: Exciting, entertaining, unique and well written books get more attention than boring, unoriginal, poorly written books. :-)
Having said that, please allow me to address your question regarding pen names.
Many authors choose to publish their work under a pen name. Let’s look at some of the reasons they might do so.
- An author writes under two different genres. Nora Roberts, for instance, publishes romance novels under Nora Roberts and publishes her In Death series under the pen name J.D. Robb.
- An author writes stories of which his or her friends/family/employer/co-workers would not approve (erotic romance, for instance).
- An author is re-establishing herself/himself - starting over.
- An author’s real name is unattractive, difficult to pronounce, etc.
These are all good, sound reasons to choose a pen name under which to publish your work.
From ancient times up through the present, many female authors have chosen to use a male pen name. During the Victorian era, the Brontë sisters used the pen name Currer Bell for some of their works, and George Eliot was actually Mary Ann Evans. Louisa May Alcott used the pen name Andrew J. when she published some of her thrillers. Many women writers like the Brontës and Ms. Evans chose to publish under a man's name because publishers, reviewers, and readers were more likely to accept a story written by a man, and because many people believed women should not write at all.
While readers may still hold a certain prejudice against female-authored books within certain genres – action/adventure, murder/mystery, science fiction – agents and publishers should not. As an acquiring editor, I can promise you, if a good story crosses my path, I’m going to make an offer – whether it’s written by a man or a woman. I can only hope and imagine agents and other editors feel the same. Agents and editors are professionals, in business to make a profit. If your story is entertaining, original and well written, they aren’t going to reject the story simply because you’re a woman.
In closing, there are three very sound reasons for not submitting your work to an agent or a publisher under a false name.First, I assume you would like to be paid? :-) Agents and publishers must know your full, legal name in order to issue advance checks and royalty payments, and in order to report your income to the Internal Revenue Service. The only way I know for an author to get around this is to legally incorporate under their chosen pen name, and have all monies paid out in the name of the corporation.
Second, any agent or editor who reviews a submission is thinking along two different lines. First, is it a good book? Will it sell? Second, how can we promote this book? If you are a woman writing under a male pseudonym, will you be able to do book tours? Book signings? Radio interviews? Television interviews?And finally, I personally believe lying to an agent or an editor is a poor way to begin a business relationship. Sooner or later, the truth will come out.
Jill N. Noble
Jill N. Noble is the Senior Editor with Noble Romance
Publishing, LLC. She worked for Loose Id, LLC as a senior editor for about a year, and has been writing erotic romance novels for over ten years. Ms. Noble is published with Ellora's Cave and Highland Press, under the pen name Jill Noelle.