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View Full Version : Does using a pen name really give you anonymity?



ELB
02-13-2012, 10:20 AM
I know this has been covered a bit in other threads, but I haven't been able to find any definitive post on this. If I'm writing erotica under one pen name, and YA under another and I'm only going the Epub route, will these two names ever cross pollinate? Also, I don't care if anyone finds out my real name when I'm writing YA, but erotica, not so much. Need to be hush hush for family and work reasons. Thoughts? Please!!!

merrihiatt
02-13-2012, 11:06 AM
No one has found out my pen name. I write erotica as well as romance and fantasy. I use a pseudonym for erotica.

DeleyanLee
02-13-2012, 12:40 PM
Depends on how badly someone wants to know. If someone really wants to know, it's always possible. In general, though, most readers won't care and won't look.

Just cover your online trail (ie: website registration, etc.) on your erotica penname and make it a bit harder for the casually curious.

ELB
02-13-2012, 10:50 PM
Thanks so much for the advice!

veinglory
02-13-2012, 11:45 PM
I think it's a paper wall. If some one really wants to they will probably be able to work out who you are unless you take extraordinary measures.

KathleenD
02-14-2012, 06:02 PM
Most of the big e-publishers seem to register the copyright in your real name. Much of the smut I bought during my market research phase had names like Desiree on the cover and Mildred on the copyright page.

(Just now I used the name Mildred because it was my grandmother's name - I don't mean that name in particular, but I do mean names of that generation.)

Point being, it's pretty easy to have your cover blown, but practically no one cares. But because it's easy, I do disclose to all clients and employers that I write smut and have no intention of stopping. They don't care either (not even the conservative Mormon outfit), but they would care if they were surprised with the information when someone decides to "out" me for the lulz.

thekingsguard
02-14-2012, 07:01 PM
This is something I wonder about. I've considered publishing some stuff online under a pen name, but I REALLY don't want it tracked back to me. What ways are the best to make a pen name bulletproof?

James D. Macdonald
02-15-2012, 01:05 AM
"Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead."

If I were going to create a bullet-resistant pseudonym, I'd create an email account for the new name, use it to sign up with Kindle, and use it only for that correspondence. Pick a name that has nothing whatever to do with you. Not your Grandfather's first name, not your first pet's name. Utterly random.

Then I'd make sure that name was on the copyright page. I wouldn't actually register copyright.

Then I wouldn't tell anyone, ever, what that name was, or even that I was e-publishing. Not my BFF, not my significant other, not some guy I meet in a bar ten years from now when I'm drunk out of my mind and we're telling funny stories.

That won't protect you from someone with a subpoena, but it should slow down the casual cranks.

veinglory
02-15-2012, 01:09 AM
You'd probably need to do all this on a dedicated computer used only by that persona. One IP match and it's all over.

scarletpeaches
02-15-2012, 01:10 AM
Most of the big e-publishers seem to register the copyright in your real name. Much of the smut I bought during my market research phase had names like Desiree on the cover and Mildred on the copyright page.My pen name's on the cover and on the copyright pages of my books.

As for registering? That's not something I've ever thought about as a Brit. If my publishers have done that on my behalf, I don't know anything about it.

But to answer the OP, if someone really wanted to find out who you were, I guess they could. The reason I use a pen name is because my real name just doesn't sound that sexy! Plus, I want to keep certain people (okay, one; my mother) away from something she doesn't deserve to know about. If she knew I was Scarlett Parrish, she'd soon come sniffing round for money.

So far, it's worked.

ALM
02-15-2012, 02:17 AM
I currently use three pen names and am contemplating a fourth. So far I've had no problem in maintaining separation on Kindle and Smashwords, and by keeping separate blogs.
Obviously it would be detrimental to write, say, children's stories and erotica under the same name. So a degree of compartmentalization is sensible, as it is in life in general. One doesn't necessarily act the same way in the bedroom as in the kitchen, at least not in most families.
But I'm pleased with most of what I've written for public consumption, and I'll stand by it all.
It may be convenient for major publishers to have writers pegged as specialists. But, with self publishing and the Internet readily available, there's an unprecedented chance to diversify.
Admittedly a career might be damaged by premature revelations. Hopefully the connections only come to light after one's reputation has already been attained.

ELB
02-15-2012, 06:29 AM
Thanks to all for the input. I actually emailed one of Amazon's best selling erotica authors. To my surprise and delight, she emailed back the very next day! Basically she concurred with everything that's been said. It's good enough for casual security, but if someone is determined to find out who you really are, they will. That being said, I will definitely use a different name for each genre, but will probably not stress as much as I have been about the whole thing. Again, thanks for the input, I really appreciate the time you all took to help out a newbie. Makes me think I've found the right place for support and acceptance as a new writer.

Silver-Midnight
02-15-2012, 07:17 AM
How would you make sure that the copyright is placed in the pen-name and not in the real name?

ELB
02-15-2012, 07:36 AM
Here's what I found on that: http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl101.html

Mac H.
02-15-2012, 01:24 PM
If I were going to create a bullet-resistant pseudonym, I'd create an email account for the new name, use it to sign up with Kindle, and use it only for that correspondence.With the rise of social networks you also need to make sure that it doesn't accidentally appear via 'Friends' suggestions too.

I have an account under a slight variation of my name (call him 'Fred') - and I've noticed that certain social network friends have sometimes been suggested that they might know 'Fred' ... since they know me and the social network knows that I know 'Fred'.

I'm sure it was probably one of the upteen things I said 'yes' to when I signed up, so I'm not complaining - nor is it even a secret.

But it is odd having friends I've known for years suddenly message me and say "there's an account called 'Fred' with your photo in my Friends suggestions ... is that you?"

Mac

areteus
02-15-2012, 02:10 PM
Another thing to consider (tied with James's point above... now I understand why he has a trail of bodies following him :) ) is that quite often the people who pay you (i.e. your publisher or agent, if you work through one) might need a real name to pay you (i.e. one that has a bank account attached to it which a sock puppet e-mail account can't because banks get a little sniffy when you turn up to open an account and your ID is a 'passport' written in crayon) . Ok, for smaller payments you can get away with a paypal account which a lot of small press seem to use these days (especially for international payments and we'll not talk about the tax implications there...) but to be useful a paypal account needs to be connected to a real bank account (unless you only ever intend to spend your book writing earnings on buying stuff on ebay...). That means there is a trail that a half competent investigator can follow...

Not sure how realistic this is, but in one novel I read a character who had a dodgy pseudnym (he was an actor in porn films) was 'outed' because his agent was forced to tell the police as part of an investigation. The agent was the only one who knew other than the character.

PulpDogg
02-15-2012, 02:44 PM
If I were going to create a bullet-resistant pseudonym, I'd create an email account for the new name, use it to sign up with Kindle, and use it only for that correspondence.

Wait ... is that even possible? How would you handle money issues? Don't you have to give them an adress and/or bank account/credit card?

merrihiatt
02-15-2012, 03:59 PM
Mac brought up a good point. If you are friends with your alter-ego on Facebook, or other social networks, your pseudonym is attached to you, even if it is just by being a "friend."

Likewise, if you purchase your book on Amazon as yourself, and also purchase your alter-ego's book, it might show up in the "also bought" listing, especially if the timing is such that you bought both books within a short period of each other and you haven't purchased many other books or either of the books have only sold a few copies (so there aren't 30 pages of "also bought" books). ETA: This may also happen if you don't purchase your own books. I've purchased several erotica e-books and I've noticed that my name is linked with one, in particular, that keeps popping up. The funny thing is that I purchased two books by this same author, but only one book pops up.

I don't advertise at all for my pseudonym. The only thing I did do was create an e-mail address and an author page on Amazon. No photo of the author, just the book covers. No Facebook presence. No Twitter. I sell anywhere between 5-20 e-books a month. Sometimes more.

I think the more avenues you pursue (social media, website, blog, author page, etc.), the more likely it is that you might make a mistake somewhere along the line and expose your identity.

I don't particularly care if anyone finds out, I just don't want people seeing my name and associating it with a romance novel only to find they've just purchased an erotic novel that they did not want.

VoireyLinger
02-15-2012, 04:49 PM
Most of the big e-publishers seem to register the copyright in your real name. Much of the smut I bought during my market research phase had names like Desiree on the cover and Mildred on the copyright page.

My publisher asked me the level of anonymity I wanted and copyrighted under my pen name. This is something you can request from any publisher.

I've registered as many things as possible under my pen name, including this computer, to keep the ties to the real me to a minimum. While I know someone determined can find my real name, I'm trusting most people won't give a flip.

Filigree
02-15-2012, 05:19 PM
Most people won't care. The trick is to be prepared to own the notoriety in case it becomes an issue. I'm apparently an emerging artist with a fair amount of respect in my niche market (after 14 years of fighting my way up the food chain.) I'm also an unknown writer with three anthology sales. I plan on keeping the two separate, but not that separate. Anyone with the chops to investigate sufficiently can find my personal writing on any number of sites, right now.

So if the eventual storm hits, I plan to grin and confirm that, yes, I do write the occasional smut.

KathleenD
02-16-2012, 01:12 AM
My pen name's on the cover and on the copyright pages of my books.


If you didn't ask, could be your publisher just assumed that's the way you wanted it? I mean, Voirey said:


My publisher asked me the level of anonymity I wanted and copyrighted under my pen name. This is something you can request from any publisher.


Mine didn't offer and I was too green to request.

scarletpeaches
02-16-2012, 04:08 AM
If you didn't ask, could be your publisher just assumed that's the way you wanted it?None of my publishers ever asked. If they had published my real name, I would have gone apeshit.

One editor I've worked with very 'kindly' mentioned my works on her blog and credited them to my real name, thereby destroying my entire reason for having a pseudonym in the first place. She edited when I emailed her about it, but...sheesh...

Wojciehowicz
02-16-2012, 05:17 AM
IIRC, you can have a lawyer represent you and handle the money. That way there's a buffer between you and the outside world, but your income is documented and reported correctly to the 'authorities'.

veinglory
02-16-2012, 05:28 AM
You never know when you will get outed. That's why I let my boss know what I write just in case--so she wouldn't be surprised if it somehow came up. My neighbors found out when one publisher sent me a statement addressed to my pen name (first mistake) and mailed to their address rather than mine (second mistake). Oh well.

MysteryRiter
02-16-2012, 05:54 AM
If you're talking about a reader finding your pen name:
First, if you don't mention that it's just a pen name, few will think to look for your real name. I don't pretend that my online writing name is my real name but I also don't talk about it being my pen name, either.
Secondly, if you cover your electronic trail well enough, it would take someone who REALLY wants to find out to discover your real name. And, unless you're an absolute writing star, I can't imagine who would want to spend time trying to find someone's real name. They need the drive.
I am sure that some people would be able to find out my real name but I also don't think it'd be easy.

veinglory
02-16-2012, 07:47 AM
Someone who really wants to know or someone with good webskills (and there are a lot of them).

kaitie
02-16-2012, 08:10 AM
I do always think about situations where a person does something ridiculously stupid on a website under a pseudonym (Rejection Queen, anyone?) and usually it only takes a few hours for someone with the web savvy to come along and give a real name.

Keyan
02-16-2012, 11:42 AM
You'd probably need to do all this on a dedicated computer used only by that persona. One IP match and it's all over.

Right. And the Persona can't sign any contracts or get paid. I suppose if you *really* wanted it to be separate, you could set up a separate legal entity and have all the sensitive stuff come from it.

Old Hack
02-16-2012, 12:47 PM
I don't think that this discussion really belongs in e-publishing, so I'm going to move it to the Round Table. Here we go....

ELB
02-20-2012, 06:17 AM
Not to be argumentative but...The aim of my original question was to explore the anonymity of pen names specifically when e-publishing. The question was probably poorly communicated, but the myriad of replies talking about ip addresses, and web searching skills etc. to me, at least puts this discussion squarely in the e-publishing category. Just sayin...

James D. Macdonald
02-20-2012, 05:42 PM
Specifically when self-publishing it is. Workshop instructions:

1) Let's assume your name is Mary Jane Glatzbier. Go down to your bank. Tell them that you are now DBA Sandi Smith.

2) Get a gmail (or hotmail, or yahoo) account in the name of Reginald Browne. Go to Amazon and set up an account at Kindle Direct Publishing using the name Reginald Brown. Tell them to deposit the money in the account of Sandi Smith (bank routing numbers go here).

3) Create your ebook. On the cover, put the byline Heliotrope Jones. On the copyright page put, "Copyright (c) 2012 by Heliotrope Jones."

4) Do not ever, anywhere, breathe the names "Sandi Smith," "Reginald Brown" and/or especially not "Heliotrope Jones." No Facebook account, no Twitter, no nothing. Don't attach any photos to any of the accounts.

It would take someone with subpoena power to connect Ms. Glatzbier to Ms. Jones' books. Legitimate law enforcement could do it with a court order. Anyone else would have a very hard time indeed.

Torgo
02-20-2012, 05:48 PM
Specifically when self-publishing it is. Workshop instructions:

1) Let's assume your name is Mary Jane Glatzbier. Go down to your bank. Tell them that you are now DBA Sandi Smith.

2) Get a gmail (or hotmail, or yahoo) account in the name of Reginald Browne. Go to Amazon and set up an account at Kindle Direct Publishing using the name Reginald Brown. Tell them to deposit the money in the account of Sandi Smith (bank routing numbers go here).

3) Create your ebook. On the cover, put the byline Heliotrope Jones. On the copyright page put, "Copyright (c) 2012 by Heliotrope Jones."

4) Do not ever, anywhere, breathe the names "Sandi Smith," "Reginald Brown" and/or especially not "Heliotrope Jones." No Facebook account, no Twitter, no nothing. Don't attach any photos to any of the accounts.

It would take someone with subpoena power to connect Ms. Glatzbier to Ms. Jones' books. Legitimate law enforcement could do it with a court order. Anyone else would have a very hard time indeed.

I would add: check the metadata of any word processing docs you might be sending. MS Word likes to embed your name or at least initials in everything.

Terie
02-20-2012, 06:04 PM
Not to be argumentative but...The aim of my original question was to explore the anonymity of pen names specifically when e-publishing. The question was probably poorly communicated, but the myriad of replies talking about ip addresses, and web searching skills etc. to me, at least puts this discussion squarely in the e-publishing category. Just sayin...

The reason it was moved is because the e-publishing subforum is for questions about publishing books in electronic form. E-book is a publishing format, just like hardback, paperback, and audiobook are formats.

Your question isn't about the e-publishing format. Your question is about something that applies to all formats. Someone publishing in paper and/or audio (either self-publishing or commercial publishing) who wants to try to hide their real identity will have the same issues to deal with as someone publishing in electronic bits who wants to try to hide their real identity.

Hence, the thread was moved to a forum that's applicable to a wider variety of writers.

James D. Macdonald
02-20-2012, 06:37 PM
I would add: check the metadata of any word processing docs you might be sending. MS Word likes to embed your name or at least initials in everything.

By the time you save the document as HTML Filtered, run it though an HTML editor to check the code, then convert it to a .prc with MobiPocket Creator... the person reading it on their Kindle isn't going to see a lot of metadata from the MS Word original (assuming you use MS Word which I, personally, don't).

Further, don't review the Heliotrope Jones book, don't tag it, don't buy a copy. The only thing you're allowed to do is publish another book as Heliotrope Jones.

But even if the metadata did make it all the way through, so that someone who examined the raw .mobi file could find it, it would take a very busy little beaver to check every book in the Kindle store on the off chance that the metadata would reveal it was written by Mary Jane Glatzbier.