What’s a Pen Name got to do with it? by Kris

I read with great interest the post that Alexi Silversmith did the other day on the topic of pen names used by authors of m/m romance and erotica as well as the comments it generated.

Yet, one thing kept on going around and around in my head – so much so that I begged Wave to let me do this follow up post – and this was the question ‘do readers actually give a toss about pen names?’

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not deliberately being dismissive about why authors choose or choose not to use pen names because there are many very valid reasons as to why they would or wouldn’t.  However, whilst reading the comments on Alexi’s post, I kept asking myself ‘do I really care about who the person is behind the pen name?’

Erm.  No offense meant. 😀  Hey, I’m not a hypocrite!  I only use part of my RL name myself because of the existing online presence I have associated with the EDJ.

Still, this was me pondering:

Do I care if it’s a girl or boy author writing the m/m romance and erotica? Nope.

Do I care if it’s a pen name? Umm, why??? I pretty much assume most of them are anyways.

Do I care if it’s a girl/boy with a boy/girl author name? I’d probably be O_o, but, as long as their writing doesn’t suck and they’re not a total prat about it, it’s none of my business.

In fact, there was only one real instance I could think of where I’d be pretty pissed off about the use of a pen name.  This would be when an author has deliberately started to use a pseud so as to avoid the shit storm associated with their last/other author name.  To me, especially if that situation was the author’s own damned fault, this borders on the unethical.

But maybe I’m the only reader who is this laid back about the whole issue? shrugs  Could be.

So what about you?  Have you actually stopped mid-purchase to say ‘oh, I’m not buying that m/m book because that’s obviously a pseud’?  As a reader, do you actually give a toss about an author using a pen name?

Oh, and keep it civil please. No mentioning names or being rude.  I am WAY nastier than Alexi and Wave and will hold no punches in return.  Just warning you.

80 comments

  • hmm.. I don’t expect any authors, in m/m f/f or whatever, to use his or her real name because people are CRAZY.

    I do think gender was an issue at one time for some readers. Hansen once told an interviewer that he didn’t believe a straight man could write a homosexual character. He was all huffy because the interviewer was a-wonderin’ why Hansen was married. As were we all. Unless, of course we knew his wife who was also gay. But whatever… Since Hansen was sure a straight man couldn’t write a homosexual man, I wonder what he would have said about variously oriented women doing so?

    Short answer. No, I don’t care who what or where as long as its well written.

    Reply
    • “hmm.. I don’t expect any authors, in m/m f/f or whatever, to use his or her real name because people are CRAZY.”

      Oh, yeah. To me, it would also be like painting a target on your head too to all the anti-gay people out there in the world. Scary stuff.

      “I wonder what he would have said about variously oriented women doing so?”

      Now THAT would have been a very interesting discussion. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall. 🙂

      Reply
  • He he, I love this article, I learned a lot from reading the comments too.

    No, I don’t care if authors have pen names.

    One thing I do care about is the author’s gender and I thought I didn’t care as long as I enjoyed their writing. I surprised myself there.
    It must be that you want to connect a little with the author and at least you want to know who you are admiring so I always read authors bio.

    After all, this the internet age and we want to get to know a little bit about the people we like. Sure, you can live as a hermit in the outskirts of civilisation but we want to know about it. 😀
    That doesn’t mean I want to know everything about them. Gods, no. XD

    Female authors that still pretend to be male in their bio is just weird. It doesn’t make me want to read their books.
    The same goes with lying about their lives. Ew.
    If publishers asks authors to do that they don’t know much about the internet and that things have changed forever.
    If I found out one of my favourite author did it, it would kill my enjoyment. Sad but true.

    Reply
    • “One thing I do care about is the author’s gender and I thought I didn’t care as long as I enjoyed their writing. I surprised myself there.”

      Vivia, I’ve had a couple of people say offline that they were surprised how much this topic made them think about whether or not they cared.

      I may be off base here but I think because of the very nature of m/m romance that the issue of an author’s gender comes into play. I think a reader may perceive a work differently if they are aware of the author’s gender and/or sexuality; not always and maybe not consciously, which is why when an author misrepresents themselves it can feel like a betrayal.

      Reply
  • Personally, as a reader, I could give a rat’s arse. Seriously.

    An author uses a pen name? I’m not surprised. I don’t blame them/us. Especially as I’ve seen so many wank-fest exchanges between readers and publishers (an no, not naming names, even privately) where the readers have tried to bully people with publishers into giving them authors’ “real” names, addresses, phone numbers…

    One can only imagine why they want that info. I mean, think about it. Not everyone is benign, right?

    But strictly as a reader… the only times I care about pen names are in instances where one author has several and doesn’t cop to it. Because (as someone said above) if I really like the way they write, I want to read everything of theirs. Alternatively, if I DON’T like their writing style, I want to know who to avoid.

    Gender… I could care less. I think it’s a wee bit shady for someone to lie about theirs, but that’s up to them and will likely bite them on the bum if it gets found out, but that’s not my business.

    I buy a book because I want to read a story. Not because of the gender associated with the author.

    That said, I’d be more interested in knowing the names of the people who write really great blurbs for ho-hum books. Because they either need to start writing books that live up to the blurbs they write OR stop writing blurbs that get me to buy books that don’t live up. But that’s a whole other post, isn’t it? 😛

    In conclusion… don’t care if people use nommes de plume. Just would be happier if they only used one within the m/m genre. I’m cool with them using another for other genres. *shrugs* Doesn’t bother me at all.

    Just my two cents.

    ~Tis

    Reply
    • Tis, thanks for giving us your perspective – rats arse and all. 😉

      “One can only imagine why they want that info. I mean, think about it. Not everyone is benign, right?”

      You know, this made me feel slightly guilty for badgering Sean Kennedy’s snail addy out of him just so I could send him a Valentine’s Day card. Only slightly mind you. 😀

      In all seriousness, though, the mind certainly boggles with the scenarios associated with that situation. What the hell could a reader possibly be thinking trying to interfere in the private life of an author and then engage in total craziness. Bloody hell.

      “I buy a book because I want to read a story.”

      Again, the bottom line, because ultimately that’s what it boils down to.

      “That said, I’d be more interested in knowing the names of the people who write really great blurbs for ho-hum books… But that’s a whole other post, isn’t it? :P”

      Cheeky. Me, I just want some authors to write blurbs that don’t give away the friggin’ story. /rant

      Reply
      • Kris~

        Oh, Lord. Don’t even get me started.

        I love me a good blurb, but if it summarises the entire story and gives away the ending, why the feck do I need to buy the book? LOL

        Poor Sean… I’m sure he’s feeling stalked. And spending the minor ducats we writers make on more security around his home. Like a brand new string-and-tin-can assembly across his doorways. Cuz you’re clearly dangerous, yeah? *heehee*

        ~Tis

        Reply
  • I agree with the readers here that authors can have as many names as they like.

    I do prefer it when authors let me know what other names they are writing under. I gloam in an OCD kind of way, and they get more of my dollars if I am aware of all their works. When I read a book that I enjoy I will start searching for more books by that author. If they become an auto-buy for me (Alexi I give your list an A++) I will purchase their books, usually on the day they come out, from the smaller publisher and I am assuming the author gets a bigger chunk of the purchase price then when they show up on the bigger sights.

    Can I ask why we are not mentioning names? I am kinda new to the Genre and really curious. I get it if it keeps it more civil and less flamerey, but really kind of crazy curious making.

    BTW – That Cat picture – double snort worthy

    Reply
    • “I gloam in an OCD kind of way, and they get more of my dollars if I am aware of all their works.”

      I glom too, especially with new-to-me authors, so I like to know all of the multiple author personalities they have as well. If there are no ramifications associated with the naming of all pen names (such as erotica vs young adult, etc, etc) I think it certainly makes marketing sense to let readers know as much about their work as possible.

      “Can I ask why we are not mentioning names? I am kinda new to the Genre and really curious. I get it if it keeps it more civil and less flamerey, but really kind of crazy curious making.”

      That was my decision, Heidi. I didn’t want the discussion to be derailed into scary-arse wanfestry, which it can sometimes do when the issues of pen names and certain authors names come up. It can be hideous so I said poo to that. If it’s absolutely driving you bat-shit crazy either email myself or Wave and we can chat offline.

      “BTW – That Cat picture – double snort worthy”

      It’s a fave of mine. 😀

      Reply
  • Mmmmm, ice cream. 🙂

    I’d happily buy ice cream for each of my favorite authors, the living ones anyway. Kris is so right: good writing looks like hard work and we readers are demanding.

    Reply
  • I can understand why many authors use pen names to write erotic fiction. That’s something a boss at a day job or people you know at church don’t need to know about. I found that several of the authors I assumed were male — or male-bodied — were genderqueer. I thought about that for a bit, and realized that what I appreciate is the author being able to write a good male viewpoint, regardless. As a reader, you don’t have the right to know all about the author’s personal life. It’s nice if they choose to share a little, but it’s not required of them.

    Reply
    • “I thought about that for a bit, and realized that what I appreciate is the author being able to write a good male viewpoint, regardless.”

      Emilie, I think that’s a really good and important point. That is, that there are may readers like us who don’t want or expect authors to feel as though they have to legitimise the fact they write m/m romance and erotica by taking on a male persona. Those days have come and gone, imo.

      Reply
  • We don’t want to forget why we like authors, right? It’s for the feeling of truthiness their fiction gives us as readers and the immersion into the world of the author’s imagination. Seems unfair to blame them if there’s a penumbra effect around their writing, where fiction and tedious real world facts kind of merge and swirl around.

    Reply
    • >>where fiction and tedious real world facts kind of merge and swirl around.< < Is that like one of those swirly ice creams? Today was so hot I could eat 10 ice creams. 🙂

      Reply
    • I’ve been pondering this exact topic for a few months now, Cary, and have basically come to the conclusion that I would hate to be a writer for the very reason that readers – myself included – are so demanding, especially with regard to the romance genre. They want a story to be real enough so that they can relate to it, yet they want to be entertained or lose themselves in the romance fantasy of it. Sounds like bloody hard work to me.

      Reply
    • Wren, this was the first comment I saw this morning. Needless to say that I thought you were talking about me. I think I may have a complex or something.

      Reply
  • You guys are having way too much fun with this post. Shame on you. 🙂 I’m sure Lady Kris meant this as a serious topic for readers to ruminate about, and here’s Cary talking about “authors going all Wizard of Oz and pulling the curtain, telling readers to look up at the stage show”. LOL

    Reply
  • Maybe it’s not so OT — if an author of fiction is going out with a truly elaborate and dynamic pen identity and labeling it as non-fic and intereacting and advising others on real life matters as this imaginary persona, at some point that passes what is okay to me. Not easy to say where that line is drawn.

    Reply
    • I used a similar hypothetical example to Leslie’s question about how far is misrepresentation when it comes to an author’s bio. That is, it’s too far for me when the author using their so-called RL as the basis of their fiction or non-fiction. That to me is lying and that’s just way too far.

      Reply

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