Initials – what’s with the trend in author names as initials?


I have noticed for a long time now, the trend of authors to use two initials in place of a first name. It is not a new phenomenon, but as I have met more people around the blogosphere who are aspiring or debut authors, it seems the trend continues. I wonder why this is.

Here are some example, both past and present.

J.K. Rowling
A.S. Byatt
E.M. Forster
A.G. Howard
E.B. White
C.S. Lewis

Even I, as you can tell by my blog handle, have considered the two initial first name. But, in recent times I have thought I might not use A.M., but just plain Ariel. And what about the first name initial and then use of the middle name. As in F. Scott Fitzgerald. No one called him F or Francis, which was his first name after is ancestor Francis Scott Key. So, I guess it made sense. He went by the name Scott. But perhaps some authors might take that as a cue. A. Marie Swan. Hmmm. No, it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

I think using the two initials might create a buffer between the reader and the author. It is a bit of anonymity. Although in the Internet age it is near impossible to keep anything secret. Or perhaps people use it because of the air of mystery or the sound of professionalism, since so many great writers have also assumed the initialed name. What do you think?

8 thoughts on “Initials – what’s with the trend in author names as initials?

  1. Interesting debate. My first and foremost reason for using initials is because my Chinese name is too difficult to pronounce and spell. Then I just tack on my married surname at the end. A secondary reason is the fact that the majority of thriller writers are male, and having a gender-neutral name may prove beneficial in certain genres. That, of course, remains to be seen!J.C. MartinA to Z Blogger

  2. It was years before I knew E.B. White (Evelyn–spelling?) was a man. The gender of the writer didn't seem to stand out one way or another in any of his books. I have to wonder, though, if some genres need to have the gender more pronounced?

  3. I didn't think of the gender issue before – but that makes so much sense. Thanks Anne. I actually think it is pretty cool, the initialed author name. That is why I too started with it. But I wonder if so many do it, it makes the name less noticable? But then again, Tamara is right. The book is the most important thing, not the author name.

  4. This is such a big question for me! I want to use TL Conway because I think "Tricia Conway" sounds like a mouthful of marbles. But then I have to have my blog, twitter, FB, email, etc… all lined up with that name. But my FB is different from my personal email, so I had to make a new email addy…I don't know. Somewhere along the line, I want people to know me as a person by the name Tricia, but know me as a writer by TL Conway. But then I realize I'm asking a bit much…

  5. I'm with Anne on the women using it to gain a male audience, too. In the end, the book itself is more important than the author's name, but I'm sure people with a background in marketing would have plenty to say on the "best" choice for an author's name. Having an "A" makes it tricky because we read it like the word 'a'. So Arthur Beau Ringbuk may not want to be known as A. Beau Ringbuk. 🙂

  6. Agreed with Anne's comment that it takes away the "femininity" factor. I think that's the crux of it. Also, JK Rowling made a success of it, and we all like to copy success.

  7. I've heard these days, many women writers use their initials if they're writing in a more "manly" genre. Spy capers, thrillers, horror. Because "they" say other men won't buy books like that from a woman. Yeah, right.But truth be told, I'm thinking of doing this very same thing. Not because I'm writing horror, but I've built my "brand" for my Regencies with Anne Gallagher, and that's how people know me. Now I'me getting ready to publish a women's fiction, I'm thinking I want a different yet similar name to do that. A.S. Gallagher? Hmmm.

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