Perhaps you’re a science fiction writer who also enjoys penning lighthearted chick lit, or a serious academic striving for university tenure who happens to spend summers plotting thrilling potboilers. To keep your worlds from colliding, you’d probably use a pen name. But aside from donning a pair of Clark Kent eyeglasses, how can you ensure your true identity will remain a secret?
Web Design Relief Explains Seven Ways To Keep Your Secret Identity Safe
Get A New Email
It seems so simple, but many people slip up and use their personal email when signing up for websites, copyright registration, etc., inadvertently revealing their true identity. Make sure the email you use for all your writing business represents your pen name.
Set Up Separate Social Media Profiles
You may already have an Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter account in your own name, but if you post anything about your literary accomplishments, then the jig is up. Instead, set up separate social media accounts in your pen name that are completely independent of your personal ones. As a further safeguard, make sure not to “friend” yourself or otherwise link your pen name accounts with your personal ones.
Purge Personal Photos
On your author website, bio, and social media accounts, avoid using any photo that shows your face. A simple Google image search or a face recognition app could connect your author persona to your real identity. Many writers who use pseudonyms opt for a distant or obscured photo or their book cover as an option.
Soft-Focus Your Bio
It goes without saying that you can’t list the date you graduated from your alma mater or your current workplace in your pen name bio. You’ll have to be vague about the details and tell your life story in soft-focus. But don’t get carried away and start making things up or claiming credentials you don’t have. If and when that information comes out, you’ll be discredited.
Consider Copyright Issues
If you copyright your books using your legal name, then your true identity will be revealed within the first few pages of your book, right in the copyright clause. So much for anonymity!
However, if you copyright using your nom de plume (leaving your legal name off the copyright form), the length of copyright protection may be shorter. Also, without legal backup, it can become more difficult to prove you’re the owner should a claim arise in the future.
Check Out DBAs And FBNs
If you’re serious about separating your legal identity from your nom de plume, you may want to talk to a lawyer in your state or municipality about setting up a corporation or a limited liability company. You can then do business through that corporation, though you’ll still have to use your legal name for signing publishing contracts.
If you intend to receive payments, do any kind of banking, or get a credit card under your pen name, some states require that you fill out a “Doing Business As” or “Fictitious Business Name” form. With this in hand, you can register your domain name for your website, thus keeping the information about your identity masked from the publicly searchable domain name registry.
Limit Public Appearances
Keep in mind that even if you’re attending a conference far, far away from your hometown or office, it’s always possible you’ll bump into a colleague or old friend. You’ll also have to avoid being photographed, because there’s a risk those pictures will be posted on your fans’ social media pages. For every public appearance, weigh the risks and rewards carefully.
Though it’s not easy to hide your author persona in a world of rampant online interconnectivity, writers who are scrupulously careful about keeping their personal life separate from their writing life can continue publishing in happy anonymity.
QUESTION: Do you think pseudonyms are a good or bad idea for authors?