Author gender and genre

George Elliot was a woman, writing in a largely male-dominated industry. Some women who write science fiction are currently experiencing resistance in a male-dominated industry. Which leads me to my question: are prospective readers affected by the gender of the author in particular categories? For example, one publisher, for whom I wrote a collection of historical romance stories asked me to make my name neutral, so I used the initials JT (and made my middle name, Macleod the surname). They believed that readers might be put off by the idea of a guy writing the stuff.

Similarly, I have a new novel out, broadly in the women’s fiction category, under my own name. But now I am wondering if I need to change my author name to a female one. Quite apart from the fact that I use my real name for my crime and horror fiction, which might be an issue in itself.

Can anyone throw a light or opinion on this question. I realise it’s probably all subjective. But I did hear about a woman who was continually being rejected, with patronising remarks, with a novel under her own name (SF category), but when she changed her name to a man’s name she got great feedback and got offers from agents.

I read an article recently which suggested that it was easier to get interest from publishers/agents with a male pseudonym ( … -pseudonym), although I’m not sure if that is exactly the question you are asking.

Back in my distant youth, I remember meeting a woman who wrote cowboy pot-boilers under a male pseudonym, but used a female pseudonym for romances. Horses for courses, I suppose, to match the expectations of the readership.

As a reader, and a female one at that, I don’t much care whether a book is (or appears to be) written by a man or a woman, as long as it isn’t frilly & girly or macho & butch (irrespective of the author’s sex). It’s the innards of the story that matter to me, not the name on the cover, so if a book is well written, I don’t think the authorial gender is particularly relevant.

“The Woman who Walked into Doors”, for example, is written in the first person (female), and you’d never guess without Roddy Doyle’s name on the spine that it wasn’t written by a woman. At least, I wouldn’t have guessed. But would I have picked up the book from the shelf if it hadn’t had a male name on the cover? I really don’t know.

I prefer works written by women. Fiction in particular. At least when I think about it in those terms. I do not go out of my way to find works that meet that criteria though.

What I enjoy is the “subtlety” that seems to be much more abundant when a woman is writing. Plots are just as good/bad, story telling is the same, etc. Just seems that there is a better artistry in the fine details.

For the record much of my reading of late has been “old school” (Dickens, Bronte, Twain, Austin). I’m sure my lack of experience is blinding*.

[size=60]* those words are quoted from elsewhere.[/size]

Never been a great reader of science-fiction, but it is true that most of the classics I’ve read in the genre - Arthur C. Clark, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov etc. - are men.
A genre I’m more familiar with, is the mystery-crime-police procedural genre, where as far as I can see there is no gender bias. OK, sir Conan Doyle was a man, but Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers definitely weren’t.
As a Scandinavian - Nordic crime fiction is big internationally - I can note that that the trail-blazers in the police procedural genre Sjöwall-Wahlöö were a man-woman duo. Mankell is a man, but many of those that are now translated and sold all over the world are women, as are a lot of British writers in the genre, and also best selling American crime writers like Sarah Paretsky and Sue Grafton.
I admit that this is an anecdotal observation, but still. What makes one genre a fenced in gender area, while others are free for all?