Pens Without Men

It seems that James Chartrand of Men with Pens is not, in fact, a man. He is actually a woman with a pen name. Because… wait for it… being a woman writer was making her no money!

Well, I would just like to say I’m SHOCKED!

In that I would like to think these things never happen but I know they do. Every day. So I’m actually totally not shocked.

I learned of this through MediaBistro, where they actually were shocked that a woman writer would not make as much as a man:

But this is 2009, and men still make more than women—double or triple in James’ case?

There are no words.

Which is weird, because the sentence right before it references George Eliot and “even JK Rowling,” who was encouraged to publish with gender-neutral initials rather than her real name Joanne because apparently boys don’t read books (even fantasy) written by women. But, you know, Harry Potter only came out a decade ago, so that seems a bad example.

At any rate, I’m thinking I’ll change my current pen name into something totally awesome. Suggestions?

Author: has written 89 posts for this blog.

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46 Responses

  1. Another Laurie
    Another Laurie December 14, 2009 at 6:36 pm |

    Wow. That was an amazing post.

    I have a close friend who publishes novels — the kind of thrillers you read at the airport. She publishes under a male pseudonym because her publisher told her she could double her readership by taking a male name. Men are the default human beings so both sexes will read a book by a man; however, many people assume that a book by a woman is just “chick lit.”

  2. Renee
    Renee December 14, 2009 at 7:06 pm |

    It comes as no surprise. Of course women are only supposed to write drippy romances filled with terrible prose, who would want to read that. So much for that nice and equal post feminist world. It just makes me sick.

  3. Sara
    Sara December 14, 2009 at 7:13 pm |

    Manfred Jesus Dong


    Sir Frank Johnson


    Richard Cock

    alternately just

    I. M. A. Dude

  4. Dianne
    Dianne December 14, 2009 at 7:14 pm |

    I’m thinking I’ll change my current pen name into something totally awesome. Suggestions?

    Herr Sigurd Benz?

    And I’m simply shocked by this finding. It’s so unexpected (/sarcasm)

  5. Marlene
    Marlene December 14, 2009 at 7:18 pm |

    Herr Ben Z. Salle?

  6. Lauren
    Lauren December 14, 2009 at 7:22 pm | *

    F.N. Benz

  7. Phyrbyrd
    Phyrbyrd December 14, 2009 at 7:41 pm |

    It would be a real shame for me to change my name – which would look amazing on the cover of a fantasy novel – to a male name. If I did, I might start calling myself Alexander Simone, but I doubt I would.
    Called myself Amanda Sterling for a while until I realised how cool my real name actually was.

  8. Cactus Wren
    Cactus Wren December 14, 2009 at 7:53 pm |

    Macho Dickerson.

    1. Cara
      Cara December 14, 2009 at 8:16 pm |

      Okay if Sally isn’t going to take Macho Dickerson, then I totally am.

  9. preying mantis
    preying mantis December 14, 2009 at 8:56 pm |

    Macho Dickerson is fucking awesome.

  10. Irene M.
    Irene M. December 14, 2009 at 9:18 pm |

    Daddy Smash ;-)

  11. Cyan
    Cyan December 14, 2009 at 9:57 pm |

    Herr Ira Lee Hoffendingle

  12. thetroubleis
    thetroubleis December 14, 2009 at 10:10 pm |

    @Renee and don’t forget, romance isn’t real writing and can’t be engaging with well developed characters and complex plot lines.

  13. timothynakayama
    timothynakayama December 14, 2009 at 10:15 pm |

    I’m Asian, so anytime I submit anything, I tend to “whitefy” my name. I refuse to write on anything Asian just because I’m Asian.

  14. Jill
    Jill December 14, 2009 at 10:27 pm | *

    I put this story on Facebook and got some good suggestions. My favorite was Otto Filipovic. You can totally be Otto S. Benz.

  15. Jha
    Jha December 14, 2009 at 10:28 pm |

    Herr Saul Benz.

    I was not surprised. I use an English name to get around in North America, but then, I think my last name ruins it.

  16. Felicity
    Felicity December 14, 2009 at 11:12 pm |

    I can’t recall where I read the statistic, but I believe male fantasy readers are _especially_ unlikely to read books by female authors, even if the cover shows a male protagonist.

  17. ChrisJ
    ChrisJ December 14, 2009 at 11:25 pm |

    Benz Pens – gender neutral (I think!), but because “B-e-n” are the first three letters, the assumption will be that you’re male!

    It rhymes sort of with Men with Pens, so might gain some “male-ification” by association (until now anyway).

    BTW, I have only recently discovered your blog and love it.

    From an old(er), but not old-school, feminist.

  18. DireSloth
    DireSloth December 14, 2009 at 11:38 pm |

    Hank Beefsmash.

  19. Tlönista
    Tlönista December 15, 2009 at 12:25 am |

    Found out about this via meloukhia’s Twitter and was immediately reminded of James Tiptree, Jr. (see the feminist SF thread). And yeah, it makes sense. I’m not surprised.

    I’ve been thinking of doing some writing elsewhere but will need a different name—and there was no question, even if it’s not for money, I want a male pseudonym. But all the ones I came up with were super white and I don’t know how I feel about that. Maybe timothynakayama upthread is right, that otherwise people would just expect you to write about Your Ethnicity stuff.

    Anyway: B. B. Q. Gillette?

  20. Alan
    Alan December 15, 2009 at 1:49 am |

    Well, you can’t have “Dirk Manrocket.” That’s mine. I’m saving it for a special occasion.

  21. Lurkin Merkin
    Lurkin Merkin December 15, 2009 at 1:55 am |

    Richard J Cockwright

  22. Snowdog
    Snowdog December 15, 2009 at 6:00 am |

    Dirk Diggler

  23. preying mantis
    preying mantis December 15, 2009 at 6:54 am |

    “I can’t recall where I read the statistic, but I believe male fantasy readers are _especially_ unlikely to read books by female authors, even if the cover shows a male protagonist.”

    Huh. I’d have figured male SF readers would have had that dubious distinction.

  24. Seize
    Seize December 15, 2009 at 6:55 am |

    ALL OF THE SUGGESTIONS YOU NEED! (Second comic strip).

  25. Seize
    Seize December 15, 2009 at 6:57 am |

    But so long as we’re being creative, I’d like to add my nom de plume, BRUNO FALCON!

  26. herong
    herong December 15, 2009 at 7:36 am |

    OMG Hank Beefsmash.

    Torrence Thunderbang?

  27. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin December 15, 2009 at 7:44 am |

    Silence Dogood. It worked well for Benjamin Franklin.

    Actually, Franklin wrote posing as a woman in that regard, which is why my blog’s avatar is that of a female. It’s my homage and my hopefully not over-the-top feminist statement.

  28. MaryC
    MaryC December 15, 2009 at 8:27 am |
  29. MaryC
    MaryC December 15, 2009 at 8:28 am |

    Oh damn, did it not work? Try the List of all the names you’ll ever need

    Sorry for my code fail!

  30. Miss Man
    Miss Man December 15, 2009 at 8:42 am |

    I think you really should go the whole hog here:

    Monseigneur Dick von Prickenstern, High Lord of Dickonia

    Or simply: John Smith

    Man Ray?

  31. Kj
    Kj December 15, 2009 at 9:07 am |

    I like Jill’s idea that you both start using the first name Otto. It can become a secret code name for all female feminists writing under male pen names.

  32. catfood
    catfood December 15, 2009 at 11:44 am |

    Jill, I don’t know if this is where your Facebook friend got the name “Otto,” but some people in the mystery field consider noted critic Otto Penzler to be a misogynist. So this is a good one.

  33. Natalia
    Natalia December 15, 2009 at 12:34 pm |

    Manfred Jesus Dong

    Oooh, can I take that one, please?

  34. wiggles
    wiggles December 15, 2009 at 12:59 pm |


    Of course women are only supposed to write drippy romances filled with terrible prose…

    Actually men write most of that dreck. Same with all those sucky rom-com movies women are so frequently blamed for.

  35. Anna
    Anna December 15, 2009 at 1:01 pm |

    I fret about this a lot – am I going to be taken more seriously academically if I publish with my initials or my full name? *sigh*

  36. Sady
    Sady December 15, 2009 at 1:13 pm |

    Is Baron von Penishaver taken? Because I. AM. BARON VON PENISHAVER.

  37. Thessa Mercury
    Thessa Mercury December 15, 2009 at 2:05 pm |

    S. C. Rotum.

  38. Shinobi
    Shinobi December 15, 2009 at 2:11 pm |

    I think Amanda Hess made an interesting point about this whole thing. James Chartrand did more than change her pen name. She, for all intensive purposes, created an alter ego who was male and blogged as that individual. (

    That’s not like J.K.Rowling, or even Digby, who did as they wanted regardless of their gender. James Chartrand constructed a male alter ego, who was fairly chavinist, and blogged as that alter ego.

  39. human
    human December 15, 2009 at 7:45 pm |

    I’ll have Micah Kizsobig.

  40. Bruce
    Bruce December 16, 2009 at 9:36 pm |

    I think it has to be on the order of Wolfgang Arthur Dangler.

  41. Joe
    Joe December 19, 2009 at 5:21 am |

    I think this is also a problem for people with “ethnic” names. There is a reason I am “Joe.”

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