Choosing a male pen-name

Hello! I see this group hasn't had a discussion in a long while, so I hope to spark one. I've been turning something around in my brain for at least a couple of years: I think I should write fiction under a pen name. The reason for this is because I have been writing under my real name (D.R. Bartlette) as a freelance journalist for years. I'm not exactly famous, but it is my "brand" at this point. I've read that most publishers prefer writers to use a different name if they are going to write in a radically different genre.

Now here is my dilemma: if I'm going to choose a pen-name, I think I want to choose a male one. I don't have to tell you all how deeply intrenched the patriarchy is in the publishing world (just Google "male authors vs. female authors" if you need convincing). It's a time-honored tradition, women choosing male pen-names so as to be taken seriously by the literary/publishing world.

But that presents some big problems: under this arrangement, I could never do in-person interviews, let alone readings and signings.

Do you think the benefits of being male would outweigh the benefits of being able to fully promote my work? Has anyone done this?

Thanks for your feedback!

  • Hi Delani,

    Great topic. I used to think that a male name for certain genres would be a good idea, but now I think there are enough female writers across all genres that it might not be worthwhile to use a male name; it would prevent you from exploiting the benefits of social media, appearing on podcasts, etc. I mean, unless you revealed that you were writing under a male name but promoting in social media as yourself. But that would kind of defeat the purpose of the pseudonym.  I would think it is far more important to have access to the full publicity tools for your book (interviews and appearances).

    Dont' get me wrong, I agree the patriarchy is really oppressive.

    But here may be times when I could see a male pen name as a true advantage. For example, if you were writing a novel about life in a men's organization (fraternity, Navy Seals, polo club, etc.).  Conversely, a man would probably want to use a female pseudonym when writing in genres like chick lit, mommy advice, or women's struggles.

    I'd say the best bet is to stick with a gender-neutral name like D.R. Barlette, or Ryan, Pat, Dakota, Cameron, Hunter, etc.