How AC Adams aka Adam Gaffen deceived readers and fellow writers
For a while now, I had intended to write a blog post about how important it is for authors to respect their readers and community, with the first and most important point being to not lie and pretend they’re someone they aren’t.
It turns out I now need to write an entire blog post just about that topic, because an author within our community has lied and deceived readers, fellow authors, and the rest of the community in a way that is inexcusable.
Let me start at the beginning to give you a better idea of what happened and why I’m posting about it.
If you know anything about me, you know I have a reputation for helping to uplift and promote my fellow authors, especially authors who are just starting out.
Last year, I was approached by AC Adams—a young, out lesbian woman from Boston… Or so I thought because that’s what her author’s bio and all her social media profiles said. This is what her author page on Amazon looked like:
As you can see, her author photo showed a young woman. I thought she was probably using a pen name (or just her initials) because she was an associate professor (or so her bio said) who doesn’t have tenure yet and who can’t be out at work.
She asked me to read her debut novel and recommend it to my readers, and while I didn’t have time to do that, I invited her to participate in several cross-promotions I organized, including my Advent calendar. I included her in my Sapphic Book Bingo, and I featured her as a newbie author in my Facebook group.
I introduced thousands of readers to AC’s writing, and I also gave her advice whenever she emailed me with questions.
At some point, she told me—unprompted—her first name is Amelia. Here’s a screenshot of that email:
I would not say we were friends—it was definitely a one-sided relationship of me helping out a new author—but she liked to name-drop and mention “her friend Jae” on social media.
This year, I noticed that she started promoting sapphic books by an author named Adam Gaffen in my Facebook reader group and on her social media, not just once or twice but a lot.
That’s when I started getting suspicious because those posts didn’t read like an enthusiastic reader giving shout-outs to a favorite writer. They read like self-promotion posts.
So I emailed AC and asked her if Adam Gaffen is a pen name of hers. She answered that Adam is just a friend who helped her promote her books, so she’s helping him in return. Here’s a screenshot of AC’s answer:
But something seemed off, because she was promoting Adam Gaffen’s books more than her own.
So a few days ago, I started playing detective. I did a reverse search on AC’s author photo and found it on a stock photo site, which means it’s the picture of some unsuspecting model, not a photo of AC. I also found out the LLC set up to publish AC’s audiobook was registered to Adam Gaffen.
At this point, it seemed pretty clear to me: AC Adams wasn’t a young lesbian woman; he is actually Adam Gaffen, a straight man in his fifties. Not even the job or city mentioned in AC’s author bio are true.
At the same time, I started talking to a couple of author friends of mine for advice on how to proceed, and it turns out one of them had exchanged emails (screenshotted on her blog) with Adam Gaffen, who writes books with sapphic main characters too, and he had casually mentioned his pen name, AC Adams, as if it were no big deal.
Please don’t get me wrong. Having a pen name is no big deal. It’s actually pretty common, especially among romance authors and authors of LGBTQ+ fiction. Authors have many reasons for using pen names—protecting themselves from stalkers or having to separate their author life from their personal life because it’s not safe for them to be out. Or just because they want to protect their privacy. That’s all valid. Authors using a pen name can still build real connections with readers and fellow authors if they’re honest about everything they do reveal about themselves. I use a pen name, yet any time I interact with readers, I’m still authentically me.
There are also authors who prefer not to reveal their sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or other personal details. That’s just fine too. Authors don’t owe readers their identity, and there’s a huge difference between not revealing personal information and deceiving people.
This also isn’t about men or straight folks writing sapphic fiction. I personally have no problem with that. To me, sapphic fiction is about the respectful representation of queer women and sapphic people, regardless of who writes the books. Readers get to make their own choices about what authors they want to support.
I know someone will probably bring up that women used to publish under male aliases in past centuries. That’s not the same thing Adam did. Back then, women were excluded from publishing and had no other way to make themselves heard because publishing was (and still is to some extent) a white, cishet man’s world. Adam is one of those white cishet men. He had no reason to assume the persona of a queer woman other than to deceive a marginalized community for his own gain.
No one would have stopped him from publishing sapphic books under his own name or a male pen name. If Adam thought revealing himself to be a straight man would be a disadvantage, he could have just used a gender-neutral pen name, used a photo of his cat as his profile picture, and avoided revealing any information about himself. He could have let his books do the talking instead of talking about the person behind the books.
But that’s not what he did. As AC Adams, he talked about being an out-and-proud lesbian in interviews like this one:
He sent out a Pride Month newsletter, passionately ranting about the injustice of queer people “like her” needing a special month to be who they are. Here’s an excerpt of that newsletter:
Just a few days ago, he posted a “gay ID card” signed “Amelia Adams” across all his AC Adams social media:
That’s way more than having a pen name. That’s creating an entire fake persona with a fake life. It’s catfishing. It’s appropriating a queer identity as a marketing tool to sell books, when he’s neither a woman nor queer—nor does he understand (or care about) all the ways in which his scheme is harming the LGBTQ+ community.
It’s not only that he swindled his way into debut author spots in my promotions by pretending to be a new author, taking away a spot from someone who actually is. Or that he got around the “no self-promotion” rule in my Facebook group by having his fake persona promote his books for him.
As AC Adams, he also published anthologies and worked with sapphic authors. He built relationships and friendships with fellow authors. Some of them were even friends with both AC and Adam Gaffen, without realizing they are the same person—so now these authors will lose not just one but two friends. Read a guest post by Nat Paga, one of the authors he befriended and deceived for a year, over on the Sapphic Quill.
I later found out that he wrote a book with a fellow author as AC Adams. That author then paid AC’s preferred editor, Adam Gaffen, to edit the manuscript! That’s not just deception; that’s fraud!
I bet he also got emails from readers opening up to him (or rather to AC), revealing personal details.
The sapphic fiction community is small and tight-knit. You can’t be a part of it without forming relationships in some way. He wasn’t lying to anonymous masses. He was deceiving people who trusted him because they thought they knew AC Adams and thought he knew what it’s like to be part of a marginalized minority.
He also harmed members of the sapphic fiction community he never even interacted with—the few men who write sapphic fiction respectfully, under their own name, without appropriating the identity of queer women. Some readers might take what Adam Gaffen did as a reason to boycott all cishet men writing sapphic fiction.
Because of Adam’s scheme, authors of all genders who write under a pen name—especially new, fairly unknown authors—might struggle to get readers and fellow authors to trust them. I have to admit that, at least for a while, I’ll probably wonder with every debut author I’m helping out whether this is Adam using a new pen name…or someone just like him, who thinks nothing of deceiving people and appropriating a queer identity for their own gain.
I’ll try not to let it affect me, and I’ll still help out fellow authors, but if someone who is part of the sapphic fiction community breaks our trust in such a fundamental way, it affects everyone.
Unfortunately, it seems Adam doesn’t understand that. Or maybe he just doesn’t care, despite claiming to be an ally.
When he got caught, he deleted AC Adams’ social media profiles as if that would resolve the problem he had created. But that will leave all the people he formed relationships with forever wondering what happened to AC.
He did send out a newsletter to the people who had subscribed to AC’s mailing list, but not everyone he formed relationships with is a subscriber, and his apology was lukewarm at best—he didn’t even sign it with his real name or admit that he, as Adam Gaffen, also publishes books with sapphic characters and built friendships with people in the sapphic fiction community.
Edited to add: He later sent out a short second newsletter that reveals his name, but only after someone called him out for not doing that before.
His apology newsletter also contains what I believe to be more lies. He says he realized months ago that he had gone too far and was planning an “exit strategy” that would “reduce the character [AC] to a pen name again.”
But if that were true, why did he post an interview where he talks about being an out-and-proud lesbian and post the “gay ID card” with his fake signature just a few days ago?
It also doesn’t take into account the friendships he has built as AC Adams and the people he deceived. There’s no “exit strategy” for that.
After getting caught, he changed his author’s bio on Amazon, but not in a way that avoids any deception. Instead of the fake personal information he shared before, it now says: “This is a pen name. This name is used to write sapphic fantasy romance novels.” The picture next to it is still the same stock photo of a young woman, though. Which means he hasn’t learned a thing or understood what the issue is. This has never been about pen names. He is still pretending to be someone he’s not, manipulating people into thinking he’s a (queer) woman who’s writing under a pen name.
He didn’t unpublish AC Adams’ books or any of the sapphic books he wrote as Adam Gaffen. He merrily continues to profit from his scheme. He’s trying to mitigate the harm for him and his career, not the harm he caused other people.
Which is why I’m posting about it. Not just to tell the people Adam harmed what really happened but also to draw a clear line between using a pen name and not wanting to put details about your private life out there versus creating a fake identity and building friendships as a person who doesn’t exist. That’s not acceptable in any literary community, but it’s especially harmful in a marginalized community that relies on working together to make our voices be heard.
If you are one of the people Adam harmed and you need someone to talk to, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. You can find my email address on the contact page.
Please reach out any time,