And don't call me Shirley

I am a man with what most people consider a woman's name. In the future I will submit a novel manuscript in the mystery/thriller/suspense category.

On behalf of all the male Kims, Shirleys and Carols out there, what is your advice on how to deal with possible confusion in the query process?
In the query letter, should I:
1) State my gender?

2) Say that I would be open to using a pseudonym?

3) Suggest a particular pseudonym?

4) Do nothing?

You should change your name to Killer Yapp. Or James Patterson. Both have well established tough guy credentials.

In your query letter sign your name: (Mr) GenderNeutral Name, Last name

You don't need to suggest a pseudonym.
No one is going to reject your work cause they don't like your name.
If the marketing department thinks you need to be renamed Howitzer Crude, they'll let you know. You and Vin Diesel can do joint appearances.


bordermoon said...

And remember, there are a number of names that we now consider "girls' names" that began as last names, became used as first names for boys, and then slid over into being girls' names (at first these mutated names were dashing and "mannish"; now the same names are "girlie"). I'm thinking particularly of Beverley, Evelyn, and Shirley. Also Ashley.

And you can always just use initials, as in A.E.W. Mason or P.C. Wren (Percival Christopher, in case anyone cares)....

CDC said...

If it's really bothersome, you could write your bio in third person at the bottom of your query letter.

Stacy said...

This question made me think. Although I'm not a big fan of mystery/thriller/suspense, my husband is. I just realized that he never brings home books in this category written by women. I might read one and pass it to him, but when he stands in a bookstore, he usually brings home books by men with manly names - not a Kim or a Marion to be found among them. Interesting.

Darby said...

I'm surprised to hear that a marketing department would actually suggest an author pseudonym. Was Miss Snark joking about this? How often does this happen? Would it ever be a deal breaker?

Would you say that Luanne Rice's name helped her a little?

bordermoon said...

Originally, "Marion" with an "o" was a boy's name, and "Marian" with an "a" was a girl's name -- sorry, can you-all guess I'm a name junkie? This distinction seems to have pretty much vanished.

Stacy, tell your husband to remember that the most famous Kim of all (Kimball O'Hara) was male -- as was "Kim" Philby (you'd think his taking as a nickname the name of the most famous double-agent in fiction would have been a giveway to MI6 that he was up to no good, wouldn't you?). And tell him to check out Marion Morrison, if he wants manly men...snicker....

Anonymous said...


Re Luanne Rice. There's a name that reminds me of the satisfying sound of a bad book crashing into the wall. I read her _Summer Light_ perhaps three years ago, and some of the research was so poor that I read on primarily to see how many more errors I would encounter. Years later, the mistakes are all I remember about the story. I don't know if her name helps her, but she certainly helped me realize the importance of getting things right in my own work.

Janet McConnaughey said...

Do you have a middle name that isn't epicene?

Kim Stanley Robinson comes to mind.

If Stanley's also your middle name, you could just drop the Kim. :)

Laraqua said...

I wonder how many foreign names that are too difficult for english speakers to pronounce get toned down and given a pseudonym. After all, readers need to pronounce the name to let other readers know, though I guess it's pretty easy to just spell it out for them.