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JK Rowling Pen Name

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Philip Overby, Jul 14, 2013.

  1. phillipsauthor

    phillipsauthor Minstrel

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    To be a bit more precise, what I heard a long while ago was that the publishers were saying that Harry Potter's target market - preteen to teenage boys - wouldn't be as willing to read a fantasy book written by a female author. I think that that's still probably a fair statement.
     
  2. Ddruid

    Ddruid Minstrel

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    Now that I think of it, I have to agree too. (sigh) Well, at least I wouldn't put up with a statement like that. And I'm sure most of the people on this forum wouldn't either.
     
    Zero Angel likes this.
  3. Mara Edgerton

    Mara Edgerton Troubadour

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    I was wondering that too. And for this new book, maybe she just chose a man's name because she likes a bit of gender bending. I mean, as authors, most of us have to gender-bend to one degree or another, anyway, just to write characters of the opposite sex . . .
     
  4. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I don't know that there is hard evidence for reader perceptions based on the gender of the author. I do know quite a few guys who won't read books written by women because they assume they won't like them. So it wouldn't surprise me, based just on my own anecdotal evidence.

    Also, I know of at least one female fantasy writer who had her first book published in the last ten years who was asked by her publisher to change her name to make it more gender ambiguous, with the idea that men would be more likely to buy it. So even if there is no hard evidence to support a bias in the marketplace, at least some publishers seem to have the perception that it will make a difference.

    Also, if you were to look at the list of best-selling fantasy writers, I suspect the top ten or fifteen are predominantly male. You have Rowling and Meyer on the list to be sure, and then you have people like Robert Jordan, Tolkien, George R. R. Martin, Terry Brooks, C.S. Lewis, Brandon Sanderson, Steven Erikson, and so on (taken from a couple of lists I Googled of top-selling fantasy books; once was from Tor, and presumably includes only their authors).

    If you shrink the sample down to 'epic' fantasy of the type written by Tolkien, Jordan, Martin, Erikson, etc. the list seems to be dominated even more by men.

    Of course, there are plenty of wonderful epic fantasy writers that are female: Patricia McKillip, Katharine Kerr, Elizabeth Moon (if you haven't read the Paks trilogy you've missed out on what the genre has to offer), C J Cherryh, and maybe Tanith Lee has some books in that category as well.

    Great books and series of books by women writing epic fantasy, but as far as that subgenre goes they don't seem to break into the top ranks very often. Is that because these sorts of books are read largely by males who don't want to read books written by females? I don't know. It doesn't seem impossible to me, based on the people I know who have that viewpoint. But it wouldn't surprise me if it was part of the picture, or if publishers thought that it was.

    Move over to urban fantasy, where it seems to me there are a lot of female readers, and female authors are on top of the heap.
     
    Zero Angel likes this.
  5. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    Good point there. I apologize if I came off as being overly rude when I responded. I was quite incredulous over your statement, mostly because it was only 16 years ago when she published Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and I was in high school when I first started reading Harry Potter. To me, "today" still includes 16 years ago.
     
  6. rhd

    rhd Troubadour

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    I saw this a while ago
    Romance novelist 'Jessica Blair' is an 89-year-old man
    His name is out but he's going to keep writing under the same pen name, but what's nice is he's going to keep doing what he loves. Plus they asked nicely and he felt he couldn't say no once he had found a publisher. I suppose it's because the 'romance' genre is considered frivolous, even though at some point it also meant adventure and a significant backstory. I read that even Daphne du Maurier didn't like being labeled as a 'romance' author back when. It's usually the publisher's choice and they have to categorize people's buying choices, and perhaps studies show they're right. I'd believe otherwise though, I mean there's Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer that explores motherhood at some level, and it's got a great girl protagonist. I suppose they do this because they want make sure it hits the target audience, young adult males in HP's case, and when it hits mark, it's safe to reveal the gender of the writer. Plenty of men and women writers have proved this wrong, so perhaps it's just conservatism/caution on part of the publisher.
     
    Weaver likes this.
  7. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    Have they "proved" this wrong or have they shown that they can succeed in spite of their real name?
     
  8. Trick

    Trick Auror

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    I agree, when I was a teen I was less likely to pick up a fantasy book about a female main character than I am now. The sex of the authors never really mattered to me but I think FMCs scared me a bit back then because women in general baffled me. I can admit there has been many a time I have failed to understand women, characters or real, but that's half of the enjoyment now. I like following an MC with different experiences than me and I can get a lot of that from a FMC. That does not, however, mean I like romance novels; never have, never will, I don't think, but to each their own.

    I think I've come across one female author that I didn't continue to read when I felt that all her male characters seemed like the same person. But I see that same flaw so often from male authors writing about women that I wasn't surprised by it and I still feel equally attracted to books regardless of author gender.
     
  9. rhd

    rhd Troubadour

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    You're right to point out that subtle distinction. Perhaps it's not just the writers but the audience that have 'proved' this wrong. Do you know of many boys who went "oh, no, a chick wrote this book, I hate it now." I remember reading a bunch of letters from grateful little boys published in the initial HP books and assuming it's only a few of many. I know UKL set out to write for a young adult audience with a male protagonist resulting in a generation of very grateful kids and that was like...more than thirty years ago? I'd still blame this orthodoxy on the publishers. (BTW JKR published under 'Joanne Rowling' for her first book and then they asked her to change it, which goes show how constipated they can get).
    As for the writers and names, they're probably not in a position to argue if they're in dire straits or simply desperate to find any publisher. My personal priority wouldn't be my name but the integrity of my manuscript?
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2013
    Zero Angel likes this.
  10. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

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    Zero Angel and phillipsauthor like this.
  11. phillipsauthor

    phillipsauthor Minstrel

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    That's a great article! Thanks for posting it!
     
  12. LucasHunt

    LucasHunt Acolyte

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    I doubt her regular publisher would feel the need to make any sort of contractual obligations with a client that has made them millions. 1,500 from a "first time" author is very respectable in the first 3-4 months.
     
  13. Scales

    Scales Minstrel

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    I am thinking of writing under a pen name.
     
  14. Amanita

    Amanita Maester

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    I can understand very well why Rowling wants to use another pen name so she can write something without the HP connection and see how people like it without fans buying it because of the HP hype so nothing wrong there.

    I have no idea how common this is and I don't care but I consider it completely unethical to claim a military background you don't have and imply personal experience about things you never had to do with. I don't even understand why this kind of blatant lying is allowed at all. Many readers are more likely to read books dealing with real-life subjects if they believe that the writer has first-hand experience about the subject matter which is the reason why it's done of course.
     
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