By Kelli Collins
Letter from aspiring author:
I’m preparing my first erotic romance submission for EC. I’ve noticed almost all the authors on your site are female. Would you recommend a female pen name, then?
My kneejerk answer: Yes. After thinking about it for a few days: Maybe…?
In genre fiction, I’d like to think male and female writers are on a pretty even playing field. Subtle arguments can be made for certain genres; men may have a larger showing in Suspense and Horror, women tip the scales a bit in Mystery and Young Adult, etc. But in Romance and Erotica, it’s clear women have men in a nigh-unbreakable headlock. With a few punches to their manly bits for good measure.
We can argue the specific reasons forever (please do). I subscribe to the “all things being equal” theory, so my opinion hinges on the simplest answer—audience. Romance and erotica enjoy a near-exclusive female readership. It makes buckets of sense that the obvious choice to give women what they want and need in the genre are other women. But that doesn’t answer the aspiring author’s underlying question:
Will women read romance and erotica written by men?
Obviously some do. EC has several male authors, some of whom don’t hide their gender. True, they don’t openly advertise it on their covers, opting to use initials with their surnames. But a simple click to their sites and you learn the score. From what I can tell, it hasn’t hurt their popularity. But popularity doesn’t always translate to sales…
We have others who write under female pen names, give no indication of gender on their sites and whose popularity range from “Love her!” to “Um, who’s that?” Their reasons for choosing a female pseudonym are varied. They think it’s necessary for the audience. They don’t want family or friends to know about their “other side” (common for male and female erotic authors). They’re worried about the type of fan mail erotica can attract. Professional life. Religious affiliations. Stigma. Embarrassment. And a hundred and six other reasons. But they’re always personal and, if for that reason alone, always valid. I’m not in the business of questioning them.
But how about you? Do you think men can write the romances women want? Are they too much “head” (must…resist…joke!) and not enough “heart”? Do they have to be the sensitive sort to write moving romance? Or the romantic sort to write blistering erotica? Could perhaps gay male writers have an edge? Or maybe I’m making too much of it and you guys are thinking, “I don’t give a crap. Bring on the sex! WOO-HOO!”
Well? Enlighten me.