Friday, September 14, 2007

Should Female Children's Authors Use Gender-Neutral Pseudonyms?

It's an open secret in children's publishing that many female authors disguise their gender by using pseudonyms or initials in place of their first names. The theory goes that boys won't read books written by women. As far as I know, there are no hard-and-fast statistics to back this up but in a publishing world where profitable books are few and far between, few publishers are taking their chances in the interest of equality.

J.K. Rowling is probably the best known children's author who disguised the gender of her name, which is Joanne. The "K" is not hers, but her grandmother Kathleen's initial. Her original publisher, Bloomsbury, recommended the marketing strategy. Another children's author you may know who also disguised her gender is S.E. Hinton, author most famously of The Outsiders.

So as a female children's book author searching desperately for a publisher, should you pander to your audience for the chance of greater financial success or rather reveal to it that you are a woman and risk being lost on the floor of the Barnes & Noble children's section?

There are many very successful female authors today who chose to use their names. Stephanie Meyer is one. She's the author of the young adult Twilight saga, a New York Times bestseller with each title ranking in the top 100 on Amazon.com at the time of this writing. Does this disprove that theory of sexist boy readers? Possibly. Meyer is indeed successful. But maybe it's only because J.K. Rowling already slipped into the hands of young males and proved to them that literary talent is as gender-neutral as her pseudonym.

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