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I know that an author can use a Pen name/Pseudonym instead of a true name when publishing the traditional way. This is done by signing contracts with the publisher/agent using the real name corresponding to the pen name.

How would this work if the author plans to publish him- or herself? If there are not contracts using the true name behind the author, is there a registration field with the ebook publishers/vanity publishers? Or must you go to a lawyer to sign some statement/contract?

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I skimmed through a few of these comments. What if someone simply wants to use a pen name because they are including a lot of detailed information about their life that they just don't want close family or friends to know about. – user15794 Nov 5 '15 at 1:58
up vote 13 down vote accepted

Unlike the other answers, let me try to give you a practical, nuts and bolt answer.

When you go to self-publish your book, either as an ebook(Amazon, Kobo, etc) or print(Createspace etc), you are asked to give an author name. This field is not automatically filled based on your registered name. So you can fill in any name you want in the author field.

This name will show up when someone searches for your book on Amazon, for example. But when it's time to get paid, the distributor(Amazon, Kobo) will look at your registered name and address (on your account), and send the money to that name.

So yeah, using the pen name when self publishing is extremely easy.

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and is there copy right in the name I register with rather than the author name? If I only put the author name on the cover? Should I make a small company as the registered name? – Vass Apr 15 '13 at 10:56
@Vass, IANAL, but anything you write is automatically copyrighted. New authors spend so much time worrying about people stealing their work, when the real problem is death by obscurity. – Shantnu Tiwari Apr 15 '13 at 12:39
good point. I see two options. Put the real name on the first page of the book with some text, or form a company as the publisher of the book which I own. What do you think? – Vass Apr 15 '13 at 15:50
As long as there is a records path back to you (critical steps of that path being a privileged legal secret), writing or publishing pseudonymously keeps the copyright in your actual name. Forming a company to own your book can actually get you in more trouble; your pseudonym, as a company, must pass the "duck test" (it must look like one, act like one, etc), or the entity will be voided as a sham, and then there is no legal copyright holder. In addition, most jurisdictions require publicly-accessible paperwork either registering the DBA as a legal alias or identifying the LLC principal owner. – KeithS Nov 5 '15 at 19:26
This can pose problems for online authors. If you post an excerpt from a book you're working on, to a site that has you on record as giving up authorial rights, and then you put that same excerpt into your book, that text is specifically excluded from the copyright of the book. If you do not mention that in registering your copyright with the USPTO, it can be used in court to invalidate the copyright registration. – KeithS Nov 12 '15 at 23:14

Is your goal to actually hide your identity? Like you're advocating the violent overthrow of the government and you don't want the police to track you down? Or maybe more realistically, you're afraid your writing might interfere with business relationships, like you don't want co-workers to know that you're writing sex novels? Or is it that you think a pseudonym would help sell your book? Perhaps you think your real name doesn't sound cool enough, or your name sounds inconsistent with the type of book you're writing. Like, you want to publish a Chinese cook book and your real name is Patrick O'Malley?

What do you see as the problem? I can only think of two likely issues: 1. Establishing copyright. 2. Being able to receive and cash the royalty checks.

RE copyright: In the U.S., when you register your copyright there is a place on the form to say you're using a pseudonym. You can also give your real name if you want to, but you are not required to. If you do give your real name, it will be possible for people to find it by looking up the records at the copyright office. The duration of the copyright is different if you don't give your real name, because they then can't base it on when you die. See http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl101.html for more info.

RE royalty checks: Again, speaking for the U.S.: If you use a pseudonym, you can endorse a check with a pseudonym and then endorse it with your real name. I think that would be hard for an outsider to track down. Lots of places today use direct deposit, in which case I don't know exactly what information is sent to the bank. Anybody here know? Does the payer tell the bank, "this deposit is for Fred Smith, account number 12345"? Or do they just say "for account number 12345"? If they do give a name, does the bank compare it to the name on the account? In any case, if this was an issue, you could simply open a business account and have the deposits made in the name of the business. That's what I did for my second book anyway. If there was a crime involved I'm sure the police could track down the true owner of the account, but such information is generally confidential. Someone curious about the real author couldn't call the bank and ask who is authorized to withdraw money from the account. Well, they could ask, but the bank won't tell them.

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I just think a pen name is cooler. Since I want to self publish to amazon and smash words, I am worried about the copy right, living in the UK. I thought of making a company and putting the book as part of the company to say that the book belongs to it rather than myself. Or I thought about putting my name in small print in the first page of the book. – Vass Apr 15 '13 at 11:00
I'd check on copyright laws in the UK then. See if they have a provision like the US does for registering the copyright under your pen name. If so, it could be no big deal. – Jay Apr 15 '13 at 18:51

You can put anything you want as the name on the front cover and the name listed as the author of the work. However, as the publisher of the work, it's recommended that you use your real name, as this will allow you to establish that you are in fact the owner of the rights to publish and use that work.

Another option is to establish yourself as doing business as your pseudonym. There are some pitfalls here, and you'll have to look up the laws in your jurisdiction to see exactly how you establish your pseudonym as the d.b

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So, let's say I upload an ebook, to Amazon, I must put my real name since it is me doing the publishin? – Vass Apr 10 '13 at 15:53
The name an your Amazon account should be your real name. However, you can put anything you want as the "author name". Amazon will show the author name to people on the site, but it'll write the checks to you. – JSBձոգչ Apr 11 '13 at 15:03
do you recommend me to put in small print on the first page my real name? Or just make the company and put that on the book as well? – Vass Apr 15 '13 at 11:00

I only can give you a German perspective, but I could imagine that you face the same issues in other countries (like the US).

You can use a pen name as author, that is no problem at all. But as publisher it as a different matter.

Besides copyright and royalty payments (which shouldn't be a problem), there is the right of the readers to be considered. Because if the reader thinks there is something in the book worth suing you, then that should be possible for him.

E.g. if the reader thinks you have stolen his story, then he needs a real person he can sue, not a pseudonym. That's normally the publisher. So (in Germany) the real name of the responsible person at the publisher and a valid address (of a real building) must be provided in the book. If you are a self-publisher then that would be you and your home address (if you do not have an office for your self-publishing "company" somewhere else).

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good point, so can I make a company for it? and can I then publish it to amazon smashwords etc? – Vass Apr 15 '13 at 10:54
@Vass, sure, you always can make a company (publisher in this case) and then publish via amazon. But I cannot tell you, what you have to consider in your country when you want to open a company. – John Smithers Apr 15 '13 at 12:46

In the U.S. the real name is available from either the copyright office or Amazon in a legal dispute. Using a publishing name doesn't change that.

Also, here only the account number is used for direct deposit.

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