June 15, 2023
Becoming a published author is an exciting accomplishment and for many writers, seeing their name on the cover of a book is the icing on the cake. But what if you want to use a pen name instead of your real name?
Writers can choose to use a pseudonym, often called a pen name, in their published works and a surprising number of well-known authors have even admitted to using one from time to time. For authors who self-publish, using an alias is a relatively simple process but for traditionally published books, choosing to stay anonymous can be more complicated.
Authors may decide not to use their given name for many different reasons, and some authors decide to write under a pen name their entire career or just for one book. But some of the most common reasons writers might choose to use a pen name instead of their own name are:
Authors who want to be anonymous when self-publishing their work can easily create a pen name prior to submitting their manuscript to the printer. All communication with the printer can include the pseudonym you plan to print under along with your name, but the most critical place the pen name must be included is in the manuscript itself.
As a self-published author, you are responsible for editing and finalizing the manuscript before sending it off to the printer. So be sure to go over the file with a fine-tooth comb before hitting send to make sure that any reference to your real name has been replaced with your pen name. Be sure to look over all the front matter for hints about your real identity, including any acknowledgments or thank-yous that may reveal clues to the author behind the alias.
Authors who work with a traditional publishing company will have a few more hurdles to cross during the process of bringing a manuscript to publication. Since a traditional publisher ultimately is the one who decides which books to publish, what they look like, and what changes an author must make to the manuscript before it will be published for almost every writer, authors who want to remain anonymous will need to work closely with their publishing company to ensure that their wishes are granted.
The first step is to make sure that you are on the same page as your publishing partner. Discuss your desire to publish under a pseudonym and then make sure that the appropriate steps are put into motion so that your identity can be kept secretive from the start. Your publisher may have documentation for an author to complete to begin the process, including how you will receive any payments for your work since the pen name and your name will be different.
Next, you will need to research pseudonyms before you pick one. This step is especially important for those working with a traditional publisher since a name you might want to choose may be similar to one that another author the company works with has used or has indicated that they may use in the future. Since similar names can cause confusion for readers, you will want to generate more than one acceptable pseudonym to discuss with your publisher and make your final decision on the one you will use after hearing their input.
The next step is for an author to mentally prepare to not get public credit for their upcoming book. Traditionally published books are usually launched with a strong marketing campaign that includes providing information about the author. For those who are publishing under an alias, the marketing push will necessarily have to look a little different.
Your author’s bio and other information sent out by the publishing house to retail and literary outlets to help sell your new publication won’t lead back to you. Instead of being in the public eye as a new, up-and-coming author that is marketed by a publisher, an author who uses a pen name to write will remain anonymous and not take part in this aspect of launching or publicly celebrating when a book does well.
The final step a traditionally published author must take when using a nom de guerre is to remember to continue to remind their publisher during the publication and marketing process. Authors must make sure that their publicity plans don’t include their real names and should also double-check with the publisher to ensure that any payments they will receive won’t be delayed by confusion caused by the second name.
Coming up with a pseudonym can be fun but it can also be challenging to make sure that you select one that works well now and in the future.
Choosing to sub in a nom de guerre instead of using your own name might be the right decision for you as an author. But many writers choose to forgo the alias for four basic reasons.
1 Authors who use pseudonyms don’t get author credit for their work. Even though it may seem like you won’t mind, missing out on the accolades that come with being the author of a hot new book can be upsetting for some writers.
2 If you write anonymously, your credibility as an author may be lacking even if you have penned a successful book or two. Since no one will know that you are the writer behind the pseudonym, writing a book using your given name is like starting over as an author in the eyes of your audience. They will have no idea that you are a well-respected writer and may not choose to read your book with your given name because they view you as an inexperienced or unproven writer.
3 Your anonymity can be hard to hold on to. Even some of the most well-known authors in the world that have published under an alias have been outed by fans. When the pressure mounts or they tire of the secrecy, some authors let their readers know about their other names, ending the anonymity of the false name themselves.
4 If you published your book traditionally, using a pen name can make payment contracts tricky. Keeping your identity a secret might cause problems with royalty payments or other income related to publishing under a pseudonym.
Whether you plan to keep your own name or choose a pen name, self-publishing your work can help you reach your goal of becoming a published author. Publishing Xpress works with authors every day who are ready to turn their manuscripts into beautifully bound books, ready to put into the hands of their readers and future fans.
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