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brkingsolver said:
When a friend beta read my first book, which is pretty sexy, she said, "I'll never be able to look at you the same way again."

If people are going to equate the author with the content of the book, I think it's perfectly understandable that they don't want their co-workers, students, minister, or the people doing security checks to equate the author with the guy in accounting.
This exactly.
 

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sandysocks said:
I'm actually pretty surprised at the amount of people I've seen say it's unethical to have a persona for a pen name. That pen name isn't a real person. That's not my real name. Why does it have to be me? It's not, after all!

I've found it helps me in my writing. Being able to get into this name's persona actually helps me. sandysocks is heckin' boring, people. But Sandra Sockenburg isn't. I just find I do all around better when I know it doesn't have to be little old me presenting my work to the world.

And honestly yeah, if I'm writing something dark, I'll use my sultry bond girl name. If I'm writing something interracial, I'll use my pen that's more fitting with that audience. If I'm writing something sweeter I'll use my nice, gentle, flowery name. It's what the reader expects! I'm going to write what I want, but I also have to tailor it so people will actually want to buy it! Like, art for arts sake is great but I have bills to pay and I have to market these books in a way that's going to make the target audience interested.

I'm not e-begging for money on patreon or go-fund-me or whatever under these personas. I'm not taking anyone's experiences away and pretending they're my own in the real world or being anyone's champion or speaking from any authority. I just have stories to tell and at the end of the day they're going to have to be marketed correctly because every single piece of this is a fantasy that the reader wants to be a specific way. It's got to meet that criteria for them to buy your book.

I'm not going to spend countless hours crafting something and then stick a mismatched, ugly bow on top. That would be insanity.
I am Kelli Wolfe/Olivia Blake, and we approve of this message. ;D
 

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When my best friend read my first book he called me up crying. He knew it was threaded with my personal stories, that the darkest parts of the story were blood dripped from the pages was birthed from my life. While I use a pen name it's just a slight change from my real name, using my middle name instead of my first.

I get why people use pen names. Marketing, anonymity, protection, they're all good reasons and I respect that. But for me it comes down to a simple thing, I don't write that way. What I write is what I've lived, its who I am, the things I bled for and the ideals I fight for. In life we are butchered by the world into mockeries of who we were meant to be, we spend our lives with misshapen hearts trying to get back to the purity that is our birth right. So caught up in fitting in or making a buck we miss out on being fully, truly, who we are. I just ... can't do that. I won't.

I had a friend say to me once 'business is business'. It's such a common saying that it sickens me. Business is people, it's lives lost, children going hungry, broken souls and homeless mothers. There is nothing that we do that isn't part of the world. What's the difference between a pen name and your real name, only the truth. I'm not calling anyone out, or even saying you're wrong, but for me ... its too high a price to pay. Telling my story as me is the point of it.

Writing has made me happy for the first time in my life. It healed what no one had ever been able to, reaching places that I'd walled off with scar tissue and hate. If I can't be honest about that ... then what am I going to be honest about?
 

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JRTomlin said:
Mark Twain is a pen name. George Eliot is a pen name. Louisa May Alcott used the pen name A.M. Barnard. Stephen King used the pen name Richard Bachman. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte used the pen names Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Alice 'Alli' Sheldon used the pen name James Tiptree Jr. Some people consider the practice of many women using initials, including myself and the rather better known Joanne Rowling, to be a form of pen name.

There have been accusations that using a pen name is always unethical but obviously I disagree. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using a pen name. Fraud on the other hand is wrong whether you use a pen name or not.
Something that many people fail to realise is that the author's name on a book is as important as the cover, the title and the blurb. A difficult to recall or spell name will cost sales. A female name on a book aimed at male readers or a male name on one aimed at female readers likewise. It is all a part of making a sale. In a world where Islam is a part of regular negative headlines an Arab name will not sell as well as an Irish name. This shouldn't happen, and in an ideal world, wouldn't. We don't live in an ideal world and have to allow for biases if we want to maximise sales.
 

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JRTomlin said:
I have mentioned before that I had a hard time forgiving a female author who writes M/M romances who for more than a decade presented herself a gay man. It waltzes right on the edge of unethical, but I don't think quite crossed over it. It wasn't the male part but the gay part that I hated.
I don't see how it's any more unethical than for a male to use a female pen to gain access to the vast majority of the M/F romance market. Either way you're presenting yourself as someone you're not in order to gain access to a market where readership bias might otherwise prevent your books from being read.
 

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JRTomlin said:
I have mentioned before that I had a hard time forgiving a female author who writes M/M romances who for more than a decade presented herself a gay man. It waltzes right on the edge of unethical, but I don't think quite crossed over it. It wasn't the male part but the gay part that I hated.
If you are talking about who I believe you are talking, then they never stated that they were gay. No, failure of contradicting people who assume this, isn't a lie. Not even close to one.
 

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KelliWolfe said:
I don't see how it's any more unethical than for a male to use a female pen to gain access to the vast majority of the M/F romance market. Either way you're presenting yourself as someone you're not in order to gain access to a market where readership bias might otherwise prevent your books from being read.
Agreed. The whole hassle about pen names of the opposite gender or another sexuality is very hard to understand. That's like saying Robin Williams' movies have ceased to be watchable now that we know that he wasn't as funny inside as he pushed outside. Williams' smiling facade is what sold his movies to the majority of people.
 

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KelliWolfe said:
I don't see how it's any more unethical than for a male to use a female pen to gain access to the vast majority of the M/F romance market. Either way you're presenting yourself as someone you're not in order to gain access to a market where readership bias might otherwise prevent your books from being read.
If readership bias is the problem, why should authors be blamed for working with/around it?
 

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I simply liked to separate my private life from my public life. You don't always want to be asked questions about your creative work in a private life situation, or the reverse. I like using pen names, but make no secret, where it matters, that they are all me.
 

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JRTomlin said:
I have mentioned before that I had a hard time forgiving a female author who writes M/M romances who for more than a decade presented herself a gay man. It waltzes right on the edge of unethical, but I don't think quite crossed over it. It wasn't the male part but the gay part that I hated.
I can see a woman who is attracted to men being emotionally/sexually similar to a man who is attracted to men. Physical mechanics aside, is there really a problem with the romantic/sexual aspects?
 

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I think what it all comes down to is, what is the intent? The line from okay to icky is probably a fine one in most cases, might depend on the situation, and in the end comes down to personal opinion.

If you're not bothered by lying and using a persona to get intimate details of  stranger's personal life, and are prepared to take the heat when you're discovered, then continue on. If not, might be time to rethink the whole thing. That's pretty much the same with almost any situation. If it works for you, great, but if not, regroup.
 

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she-la-ti-da said:
I think what it all comes down to is, what is the intent? The line from okay to icky is probably a fine one in most cases, might depend on the situation, and in the end comes down to personal opinion.
How does one determine intent when looking at a pen name?

Usually, this conversation crops up after someone has been outed.

Yet I have seen how this whole debacle (not on kboards but out there in socialmedialandia) has managed to point accusatory fingers at people who simply use pen names for business or personal protection, accused of being dishonest and disingenuous and gross for having a pen name at all.

They try to choose names that point to obvious choices of pen names, and they're smeared.

They try to choose normal sounding names, and they're smeared.

Their business practices are called into question and they're accused of acting with ill-intent. They are immediately conflated with people who did use pen names for bad intent as if they all are doing it.

Do pen names need to carry a disclaimer?

"This is a pen name and is not intended to present as a real life person. This pen name was chosen specifically to appeal to the current segment of genre readers the writer wishes to write in. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental."

she-la-ti-da said:
If you're not bothered by lying and using a persona to get intimate details of stranger's personal life, and are prepared to take the heat when you're discovered, then continue on. If not, might be time to rethink the whole thing. That's pretty much the same with almost any situation. If it works for you, great, but if not, regroup.
Sadly, this sort of behavior is not solely in the purview of writers. It's also the risk we all take when interacting online. As people who engage in online social activity, seems to me we hold some self-accountability to be careful who we give our personal information to begin with.

What gets me is that when I first started on the internet, this was par for the course. Don't give people your real name or identifying information. On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog.
 

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I'll always use a pen name, simply because several writers, a porn star, and a seafood restaurant chain share my real name. (Yikes. My poor name.) I gotta differentiate myself somehow.

Meanwhile, the experiences that shaped my writing are still mine, my style is still mine, the soul of the stories I'm telling are all mine, mine, mine, whether I use a pen name or not. It's called being practical. Anyone that says I'm 'hiding' or accuses me of dishonest wrongdoing is a ding dong.
 

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Jessie G. Talbot said:
Meanwhile, the experiences that shaped my writing are still mine, my style is still mine, the soul of the stories I'm telling are all mine, mine, mine, whether I use a pen name or not. It's called being practical. Anyone that says I'm 'hiding' or accuses me of dishonest wrongdoing is a ding dong.
I use a pen name, and I feel the same way as you expressed here. I also draw from my own experiences at times. A lot of what I write about comes from real life, mixed with total fiction and made up fantasy elements.

I don't think one using a pen name necessarily mean everything about that person is phony. Like anything, any field, it's a mixed bag. There are un-genuine people out in the world with real names.

I chose to use a pen name because of the genre I write in, plus I needed a name that was more memorable than my own. After all, you want people to remember the name of the author in case they have trouble finding your books using the regular search functions. A memorable name will make it easier for them to find your work in that case.
 

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Jessie G. Talbot said:
I'll always use a pen name, simply because several writers, a porn star, and a seafood restaurant chain share my real name. (Yikes. My poor name.) I gotta differentiate myself somehow.
Wow! You are the real Olive Garden?!? ;)
 

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Reverse discrimination is every bit as evil as discrimination. Trying to have it both ways is pure hypocrisy. As long as groups of readers are heavily biased against outsiders writing in "their" genres writers are going to adopt whatever personas they need to successfully write in the genres they love, just as women and PoC did back when science fiction was considered a playground for White Men Only, and men have done in romance since Mills&Boone first started. It simply isn't fair to blame the writers for a situation created by reader bias and prejudice which either shuts them out of the market completely or holds them up to an unfair higher standard in order to be even moderately successful. It's wrong when it's done to female science fiction writers, it's wrong when it's done to male M/F romance writers, it's wrong period. But the reality is that it exists, and writers are going to do what they have to do to get around it, as they have done ever since the invention of the novel.


edited, PM if you have questions -- removed content subsequently deleted-- Ann
 

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Reader bias? Yes, as a lesbian I am much more likely to pick up a lesbian-themed book that is written by a lesbian than a straight person. Why shouldn't I?

Someone profiting off a community when they get sit back and enjoy their heterosexual rights and pretend to be something they are not is not cool with me at all.

If a straight person writes a good book with LGBTQ characters I am all for it. If someone wants to put up an author bio that doesn't claim sexual orientation in any way in lesbian romance go for it.

Obviously I don't get to dictate what others do, but yeah I think it's wrong to try and profit off a minority group that doesn't have the same rights and privileges that you do. You get to make money but not have to take both the bad and good that comes with being a member of that community.

KelliWolfe said:
Reverse discrimination is every bit as evil as discrimination. Trying to have it both ways is pure hypocrisy. As long as groups of readers are heavily biased against outsiders writing in "their" genres writers are going to adopt whatever personas they need to successfully write in the genres they love, just as women and PoC did back when science fiction was considered a playground for White Men Only, and men have done in romance since Mills&Boone first started. It simply isn't fair to blame the writers for a situation created by reader bias and prejudice which either shuts them out of the market completely or holds them up to an unfair higher standard in order to be even moderately successful. It's wrong when it's done to female science fiction writers, it's wrong when it's done to male M/F romance writers, it's wrong period. But the reality is that it exists, and writers are going to do what they have to do to get around it, as they have done ever since the invention of the novel.
 

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I don't know about the specific author ShelleyK mentioned but agree with everything in the post. 

I am white and I would never try to claim I was African American, Latina/Latino, Asian, Native American, or any other ethnicity other than being white or just not saying anything.  I think that would be totally wrong.  I have faced homophobia including being denied service and direct physical threats along with other things and now many of my civil rights are directly on the line, but I do not live my life as a person of color every day and face what they have to face.

I would never claim military service.  Have I ever faced the horrors of war directly or come home with PSTD or face other issues that veterans do?  No I haven't.

I wouldn't claim I was in a wheelchair or any other physical disability.  Do I know what it is like to not have use of my legs or face physical challenges every day of my life?  No I do not.

I don't know where people's life experiences and the things they face every day trumps trying to make money off of them by claiming you are like them when you really aren't to try to increase your sales in a niche that you think might be less crowded.

I don't think pen names are wrong at all but when you try to start profiting off of people who live lives that you do not by claiming to be like them I do think that is unethical.   


 

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I particularly love Josh Lanyon's writing, so I was disappointed when I found out, but I had suspected. Her writing has changed, too. It's darker now and less sexy. It's like she enjoys it less.

But what really got me was I remember being on a forum, I can't remember where, unfortunately, and one of Josh's female writer friends piped in to angrily say that she knew and could confirm JL was a man! I presume she knew she was lying. It was an unhealthy masquerade, in the end.
 

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some purely political commentary has been excised from the thread . . . .
 
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