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5 Female Authors Who Used Pseudonyms

In 2015, writer Catherine Nichols wanted to do a little experiment. She wanted to see what kinds of responses she'd get from agents as a man and a woman. So Nichols sent out her completed manuscript to various publishers under her own name and also a male pseudonym called George.

Within 24 hours, Nichols’ male alter-ego received five responses: three manuscript requests and two friendly rejections which "praised the exciting project." Later under her own name with the same query letter and pages, Nichols received only two manuscript requests.

“George sent out 50 queries, and had his manuscript requested 17 times. He is eight and a half times better than me at writing the same book,” wrote Nichols. “My novel wasn’t the problem, it was me—Catherine.”

History has shown us that many female writers have written under a male pseudonym for the sake of making progress in a male-dominated industry. In honor of Catherine Nichols’ honest investigation and Women’s History Month, here are 5 female authors who used male pseudonyms to hide their identities.

They were famous as Currer, Ellis, and Anton Bell, but their real names were Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë

The Brontë sisters were quite aware of the reactions they’d receive if they attempted to publish their books with their names attached. So, they created pseudonyms that closely matched their real names and went on to publish famous works like Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Professor, and Agnes Grey.

“We were as resolved as ever to preserve our incognito—We had only confessed ourselves to our publisher—in order to do away with the inconveniences that had arisen from our too well preserved mystery—to all the rest of the world we must be ‘gentlemen’ as heretofore,” wrote Charlotte to a friend, Mary Taylor, in 1848.

After the sisters’ brother Branwell passed away from drug and alcohol addiction in 1848, Charlotte expressed deep sorrow, wishing her brother knew the success of his sisters.

Two years after Branwell’s death, the Brontë sisters stepped forward and confessed to being the Bell brothers, chalking the anonymity to shyness and being “averse to personal publicity.”

She was known as Robert Galbraith and J.K. Rowling, but her real name is Joanne Rowling

When Harry Potter became popular, everybody assumed that the author was a man who just preferred his privacy. After all, there was no face to put to the name.

So when J. K. Rowling was outed as a woman named Joanne, everybody was shocked. People didn’t understand why this successful storyteller wanted to hide behind a name that wasn’t totally her own.

“[The publisher] said to me, we think this is a book that will appeal to boys and girls. And I said, oh, great. And they said, so could we use your initials?” said Rowling, describing that her publisher believed half the demographic may be put off picking up a book about a young boy if they knew it was written by a woman.

After Rowling wrote The Casual Vacancy, a man with a similar writing style named Robert Galbraith surfaced with a book called The Cuckoo’s Calling. Alas, it was Rowling again, trying a new male pen name.

Rowling recalls her editor’s reaction when he read The Cuckoo’s Calling -- not knowing it belonged to Rowling -- by saying he “never would have thought a woman wrote that.” So, Rowling went onto publish the book under a male’s name.