What’s in a Pen Name? Pen Names and Gender

Last week I read an article about pen names. The idea was that authors often choose their names to hide their genders. And I have heard of this happening in a friend of a friend situation.


A friend of mine is a romance author. She is also a member of Romance Writers of America. She told me about male authors in the organization who use female pen names. They have discovered that women authors aren’t interested in reading romance novels written by men.

I had never considered that someone might look at my pen name and assume that I am trying to hide my gender. For a project I recently completed, we were told to pick a pen name. At first I thought it would be something I would use only for this particular project. But, no. “You can use it whenever you want.”

Okay. I have to admit that I don’t entirely see the point. But the client is the client, and the client has the checkbook.

But I realized that I might want to come up with a second pen name. I’m not entirely certain that I would want to publish my mystery under the same name that I use for my children’s books. Yes, it is a cozy. That means no swearing, no sex and no on-screen violence. But it will still be a book for adult readers.

Not Elsie.

That would make two pen names. On bad days, I get my kid’s name wrong on there’s only one of him. I had to make these easy.

For the first project, I used L. C. Edwards. Those are my grandfather’s initials.

For my mysteries, I will use Elsie Edwards. It is actually a joke. When my grandparents moved, people heard my grandfather’s name. He went by his initials. They thought they were hearing Elsie and called my grandmother by that name. It took some time for her to get back to her own name.

What does this have to do with gender? I didn’t pick initials to hide my gender. I’m not trying to make readers, or buyers, think that I might be a man. Unless an author admits that they were trying to hide their gender, I wouldn’t read a whole lot into it. Sometimes L.C. is just L.C. and a substitute for a not fantastic pair of given names.


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