Despite the gaudy sales numbers associated with blockbuster books, when it comes to titles lower on the bestseller lists, readers are hard to come by. In fact, readers are declining, year over year, according to The Los Angeles Times.

So authors are always looking for ways to sell their books.

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Historically, male writers have had an easier time selling ideas to publishing houses. Men might still have an easier time getting published (according to this writer, who submitted her novel as a man, that's still the case), but when it comes to fiction, the popularity of male authors may be declining.

Sean Thomas, who has written fiction under his own name, conspiracy-action novels under the pseudonym Thom Knox, and most recently, a novel with a female protagonist under the name S.K. Tremayne, had this to say to the Guardian about his name changes: "... it arguably helps, these days, for fiction writers to be female, or at least not male.”


Maybe it's because these days, most readers are women. Only 20 percent of fiction books are read by men.

Women tend to buy more books by other women. A quick look at my own Goodreads page reveals that out of the last 25 books I've read, only seven were written by men, and two of those were nonfiction books. I just bought three new novels by women, and I'm reading another one now. I'm not alone. When a new woman writer debuts, more than 80 percent of her audience tends to be women.

So, like women before them, some male writers are turning to nongendered names. J.K. (Joanne) Rowling and E.L. (Erika) James are two of the bestselling authors in the world, both with neutral pen names. Further back in time, of course, women writers took men's names, George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) probably being the most famous.

While there doesn't seem to be guys who are taking women's names to sell books (yet), both men and women are trying to minimize preconceptions their readers might have about gender. They don't want anything on the cover to keep someone from buying the book.

That's what Steve Watson, who also wrote a novel with a main female character, says of his decision to go with S.J. Watson instead of his full name. Many people, including reviewers, assumed he was a woman. “I wanted to reassure myself that the first person female voice was believable. If at least some people weren’t sure whether I was a man or a woman then it was working, and I was immensely gratified when certain publishers were convinced the book had been written by a woman," Watson told The Guardian.

Of course, most good writers can write from the perspective of either gender, and it's clear the male authors mentioned above were able to do so convincingly. They can't change the preconceptions of the public about who can write what, so they're staying neutral. If it gets more people of any gender reading, so much the better.

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

Why are male authors hiding their gender?
Some men use gender-neutral pen names to compete with women fiction writers, connect with readers.