Saturday, March 18, 2017

Publishing with an eye for maintaining a private identity

Pseudonyms! In the era of online white pages and easy doxxing I'd prefer to protect my real identity as much as possible. I've scoured the blog for hints at what the business side of pseudonyms looks like. You've mentioned that you can register copyright, open bank accounts, and receive 1099s to a business name. Are there any other business-side considerations, or is it just a matter of how to set up payment?

Alternatively, if you keep all of your finances/paychecks under your real name and just use the pseudonym on book jackets and social media, would this undermine the attempt at privacy? Meaning, are there any public record aspects to publishing that would connect the identities?

You're really talking apples and oranges here. Protecting your identity to preserve your privacy is easy if you never tell anyone anything other than your "nom de guerre" and the concomitant EIN.


Doxxing, which is malevolent, and often done by people with evil on their mind is a whole different ball game. Those people do things like trace your IP address, monitor where and when you post things (including comments) and use the information to harass you.

That's something no pseudonym or EIN will protect you from.

As for public records, there are a million ways someone can find you from a publishing deal. A publisher has your home address, if only to ship you books. And your local paper runs "local author does well; secures book contract" yadda yadda, and those stories are searchable. And if your agent and editor are calling you Felix, and your nom de guerre is Colin Smith, I guarantee you, someone will slip up at some point.

I don't want to make light of your security concerns. It's entirely possible you're dodging a stalker or ex-spouse who has made threats that should be taken seriously.

But, absent that kind of thing, most people simply won't care enough to stalk you or harass you.

I've had authors (particularly back in my pr days) who had to worry about stalkers, or travelled with security.  Basic precautions were the norm. Only once did we need the state police accompanying us to a signing. And of course, Mrs. Rosyln Carter was accompanied by a Secret Service detail, but that was again, just business as usual.

One of the leading writers in the crime field writes under a pen name. Everyone knew and no one cared for years. I can still remember getting a query from a writer who told me, quite proudly, that he knew Nom de Plume by his "real name."  I instantly rejected the querier as an asshat I didn't want to work with. The querier revealed himself to be someone who knew "secret" (it was hardly a secret) information and passed it along to a total stranger (me) in order to make himself look important.

Being a writer involves opening yourself to the public.If you want people to read your books, you must assume some of them will be curious about you. It comes with the territory.  Whether you want to venture into that territory is up to you.


Theresa said...

Right now I'm listening to a public radio story on cyber stalking. Weird coincidence. It must be difficult to deal with these kinds of privacy and security concerns.

Kitty said...

Rodger Jacobs used to write pornographic movies under the name of Martin Brimmer. I can understand using a pseudonym in that case. However, it's no secret that Michael Redhill wrote his excellent Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef 4-book series using the name of Inger Ash Wolfe, and Stephen King wrote books under the name of Richard Bachman. Why write under another name if you're not dodging someone or something?

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hiding behind a fence-name, or nowadays a wall, is nothing new.
One of my most read op-eds years ago was about gun control (no debates please)and the only time I really thought about using a pen name. We had to un-list our phone number so only locals could find us. No computers then, no social media to take over and f*** up your life.

The newspaper saved and sent tons of letters letting me know the parameters regarding the other side.
The experience was enlightening and in a way freeing. I decided if I was going to put myself out there I would take the heat as me, not as someone I pretended to be. My family, thank God was supportive.

I've written two more pieces regarding the same subject but will not do so again. Not because I am afraid to, not because I've changed my mind, I have not, but because opinion at someone else's expense tastes bad, really, really bad and turns my stomach.

OP, hide if you must, but looking over your shoulder as someone else is harder than glancing back and protecting who you really are.

CynthiaMc said...

I can't imagine putting in all that work and not wanting credit for it or hearing a total stranger in line at the grocery store say to another total stranger "You should buy that book - I loved it." And me saying "I wrote that!" and them both looking at me and saying "No, you didn't."

I just finished The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (who was 70 in the interview at the back of the book). If you haven't read it, do. This goes on my list of "books I wish I Had written."

Happy Saturday, everyone!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I've been stalked before and I am nobody. It's unnerving, horrifying in fact, and I doubt an assumed name will do anything to detour a determined stalker. Even being arrested it, fired, and slapped with a restraining order won't stop the sickest of these people. For discretion, I won't mention what it takes to stop someone unhinged enough to stalk and menace another person obsessively.

As far a pen names, one of my favorite authors writes under two different pen names. This is to distinguish between her two very different styles of writing.

I could see doing that myself. While at the moment, I am being devoured by a fantasy series, I also have some historical fiction and thriller type stories on the back burner that I might want to introduce under another identity. But hopefully, I will have an agent who can advise me on those matters when the time comes. If the time comes.

As for privacy, your only hope is to throw out all your devices and get out of cyberspace. Perhaps find a little den somewhere in the unblemished wilderness with the wolves.

I've thought about doing this many times, but then I started reading this blog and "Be Reachable" is echoed repeatedly, and I actually do want readers for my writing.

There is no real privacy anymore. Everything has its price, and end of privacy is what our technology costs. The good news is most won't bother snooping in on you in the course of things that are done to market and publicize a book. And if you become really well known, security measures will be taken according to Janet.

Mora Green said...

I think pseudonym definitely becomes useful when you're trying to separate writing from your day job. It doesn't have to be about stalkers. Yes, it'll probably still be searchable, but come on, most of us here won't be Stephen King, where our pseudonyms can become common knowledge.

I'm a doctor, people will search my name. Most medical professionals I know (MD, PA, NP, RN, etc.) have their social media locked down, because patients can and will google you, and then they'll paw through your family photos, trying to form opinions about the quality of your care, based on how many photos of you there are holding beer. In the field I hope to eventually land in, people won't get to choose me as their provider, but still, writing is personal. If ever I become a published writer, I don't want to walk into a room during rounds and see my nuttiest borderline drug seeker chilling there with my book. Same as I don't want patients trying to evaluate my medical credentials by what kind of photos I keep on FB, I don't want them trying to draw conclusions from the fact that I write about witches.

Amy Schaefer said...

We shouldn't jump to the conclusion that Opie needs to hide. It could be as simple as wanting to separate a day job from a writing career. I can see how one wouldn't want the patients at one's orthopaedic surgery practice to be asking constant questions about the next instalment in one's successful sci-fi dinosaur porn series.

nightsmusic said...

Speaking as someone who actually is avoiding a stalker of many, many years, I use a pseudonym simply because, though I know I'm searchable and findable, I'm certainly not going to make it any easier than I absolutely must for him to find me. My first name alone is unique enough, I've never met another. I'm willing to forego the 'basking' for a little peace of mind.

So, that said, there are many reasons I can see using a pseudonym as mentioned above. Maybe your strict religious community will frown on the sex scenes in your books. Maybe you want to separate your romance from your thrillers. Make sure you understand the repercussions though because it's hard to change once you start.

Author, she does as she pleases said...

Finally, this topic.

In a previous life, I was a fairly successful lawyer whose clientele included a few landowners who had to remove illegal occupants from their property or whose business decisions unfortunately made a negative impact on other people's investments. For these people, I was the devil's doorman. Though I was not stalked or attacked, I am pretty sure it would give them immense satisfaction to inflict damage to my writing aspirations. I can already imagine the comments on my as yet created author website if I were to use my real name.

The reality is that I want to write but I also must hide.

Using a pseudonym,of course,seems the obvious answer and I was gratified to learn from the QOTKU that the payment issues can be handled. But (please indulge me in my fantasies here), what about book tours, speaking engagements, writer's conferences? Would it do to still use my pseudonym in these instances without revealing my real name.

I have thought of cosmetic surgery to go with the pseudonym but my husband thinks its a bit much.

Elissa M said...

For the most part, I feel being an author has parallels with being an actor (or any public figure). Some bit of privacy will always be lost when you "put yourself out there". At the same time, much can be preserved if you're savvy about it (pseudonyms, PO boxes, not posting TMI on social media, etc.).

But I agree completely with The Queen: "Being a writer involves opening yourself to the public.If you want people to read your books, you must assume some of them will be curious about you. It comes with the territory. Whether you want to venture into that territory is up to you."

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I must agree with what others have said and echoing what Janet said- being a writer, if you want to sell what you write, does mean opening yourself to the public like any other artist. It is and was the thing that scared me the most.

Amy Johnson said...

I've been thinking about using a pseudonym, but not for security reasons. Seems to me, a pseudonym can be useful if someone has a very unusual name (which, I suppose, could also make the name a very good one to use). Or if someone has a common name, and, say, maybe over the years she's met people and had them say, "Hey, I know another Amy Johnson." But I can also see the pros of a writer having a common name.

Also, for me, having a pseudonym would add an element of fun to self-promotion, I think, and would make it far more palatable.

Unknown said...

Interesting perspective! I've never tried to hide my identity online, but I have thought about it, especially when writing about controversial issues. Luckily for me, I've never had a stranger get angry enough to concern me. *knocks wood*

In light of this morning's news about Kurt Eichenwald, this is even more relevant.

Donnaeve said...

The rodent wheel of worry is at warp speed today.

I didn't get the sense OP's questions regarding pseudonyms meant anything more than what LifeLock offers. They are looking at the possibilities from a pros/cons viewpoint as to how it might protect their identity, and what might come with publication.

I think I might be on the other end of the spectrum with regard to publication. I want the credit for all that work (as CynthiaMac points out) and I WANT people to find me. Yoohoo! Hello? Here, here I am!

The only time I've ever wished for a pseudonym is when I want to say something I shouldn't.

For people like nightsmusic and Elise with a legitimate reason to be under the radar, it makes perfect sense. Anyone who's dealing with a active stalker, or one that could resurrect themselves at any given chance - I too would err on the side of remaining incognito.

Dena I was reading comments from yesterday and saw your mention of HILLBILLY ELEGY and guess what?!?! I'm reading it right now - I'm almost done. I love it - especially Mamaw's foul mouth. I love J.D. Vance's writing, he's done a great job portraying his hillbilly relatives - and in the course of it, described some of my own family.

Unknown said...

I agree with Janet and with most of the commenters here. I was just thinking about this advice in light of this morning's news about Kurt Eichenwald. If you haven't heard, he is a Newsweek reporter who has been critical of Trump. He is also an epileptic, which is public knowledge as he's written about his condition in Newsweek. Apparently, a man in MD was just arrested because he tweeted Eichenwald with a strobing image designed to bring on a seizure, and it worked. This is the first known case of a cyber attack actually causing physical injury. These are scary times.

I have never tried to hide my identity as a writer. I use my real name on everything. I do agree that if you are going to put your work out there, you really do have to put yourself out there as well, at least if you want to be successful. And chances are, you will not be any less safe using your real identity. (Unless one of the scenarios Janet mentioned applies.) But I do understand the inclination.

Unknown said...

Donnaeve and Dena--I SO want to read The Hillbilly Elegy! It's on my to read list!

John Davis Frain said...

I've listened to a couple authors at our local writer's guild who are teachers by day and writers by night. If their students knew what they published (romance), they'd be horrified. If their students' parents knew, well... let's just use a pseudonym and plausible deniability.

There are lots of legit reasons to use a pseudonym. Is marketing a legit reason?

That's a real question. If people judge a book by its cover (shame on you, people), would a more marketable name be a wise choice? How many more books would you have to sell to change your name?

Oh, wait, it's the writing. Forget my entire comment while I get back to my WIP. Speaking of which, I have no idea how Hemingway knew he changed the ending to Old Man 39 times. I quit counting how many times I've changed the opening to my WIP after I had to take off my shoes and socks.

The Sleepy One said...

The story of JK Rowling's attempt to use Robert Galbraith as a pen name--until the wife of one of the few people in the know outed her--is a good example that it's hard to stay hidden forever.

I have writer friends with more than one pen name. It adds a whole new wrinkle into marketing (especially social marketing).

nightsmusic said...

Oh, Lisa, my sincerest sympathies to you and yours. Even when the inevitable is foretold, it's never easy. *big hug*

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Adele and Janet: nom de guerre? Or nom de plume?

Speaking of privacy. Changing it a bit.
Thank you, Nicole and any other commenters who wrote after my first posting.

Lennon and Rosanna: thank you for your thoughts/comments last weekend. And thank you facebook friends too. Dad died Sunday, peacefully in the midst of the snowstorm.

InkStainedWench said...

Here's a question, not about pseudonyms, but about how to choose the format of one's author name. I haven't decided whether to use my regular First-Last name on my forthcoming novel, or whether to go with Initial-Initial-Last, or perhaps Initial-Middle- Last.

I kind of like Initial-Initial-Last, à la J.K. Rowling. Is that still a trend?

Jill Warner said...

Timing of OP's question is really interesting since Maggie Stiefvater just got doxxed by teenagers as a prank within the last week or so. Maggie's biggest concern seemed to be privacy for her kids/actual house.

CynthiaMc said...

Lisa - so sorry about your dad. I still miss mine every day.

Jill Warner said...

I personally want to use first-initial-last, but I think it all depends on what your actual name is vs someone's similar name, especially if they write in a similar genre.

RosannaM said...

Oh, my heart goes out to you and your family, Lisa.

Donnaeve said...

Phew. Lapse of sanity averted. I kept looking for Lisa's comment, and couldn't understand why I couldn't find it.

Lisa, I'm sorry about your Dad! CynthiaMc and I are channeling thoughts today - b/c yes, miss my own - every day! Peace and love to you.

Colin Smith said...

This comment thread is turning into, I think, the definitive answer to the pseudonym question. Great answers everyone!

There are, as many have said, good and legitimate reasons for writing under a pseudonymn, from simply differentiating different genres, to protecting the day job (e.g., you teach kindergarten and write horror, and would prefer your kids--and maybe their parents--don't make the connection too easily). Like Amy, I have a fairly common name (there are three Colin Smiths at work, and I recently had the surreal experience of engaging in an email exchange with both of my namesakes), but I like the idea of being the owner of my thoughts and ideas. That's why my blog and my internet domain bear my name. I don't want my family, my church, or my workplace to be implicated in anything I might write.

Author, she does as she pleases: I know Janet has spoken one time of a writer whose physical appearance made them uncomfortable appearing in public. Their publisher was sensitive to this, and worked around that with regard to book tours, and so forth. YA writer Lauren DeStefano has been quite forthright talking about her anxiety issues, as a result of which she doesn't make many public appearances. All this to say, if you have genuine privacy concerns, publishers can be quite creative coming up with ways to promote your book without risking your mental health or physical safety. Just be sure to have that conversation with your agent.

Great stuff, guys!

Colin Smith said...

Lisa: My heart goes out to you. :( Last Wednesday was the 11th anniversary of my dad's passing. My maternal grandmother died the following year (i.e., 10 years ago) on the same day. I wish you blessings and comfort as you and your family grieve.

RosannaM said...

I can see wanting to stay anonymous from a security standpoint, or wanting to create a distance between your writing life and your professional life. Unfortunately there are crazy and judgmental people out there.

But what a headache that must be. I think I'll stick with being who I am and let the chips fall where they may.

Dena Pawling said...

Lisa – I'm very sorry about your loss.

Donna and Nicole - I read Hillbilly Elegy on audio book last month. As I wrote in my comment yesterday, I don't usually read memoirs, but JD Vance is an attorney, so I thought I'd go for it. I really enjoyed it. Definitely helps folks understand a different perspective.

Regarding pen names, I'm using Dena Pawling online. It's not my “real name” and I've mentioned that before. Thankfully, I don't have any stalking issues [at the present] to worry about, but as mentioned by others, I'd prefer to keep my day job separate. If you google my real name, you'll get to read lots of nasty messages from foreclosed homeowners about how evil I am for evicting them.

I know that if someone really wants to, it's not hard to find most information. But I'd like to keep it separate for the casual observer. No sense in making things too easy for those of a certain persuasion.

I'm writing mostly MG [with one WF], and it's entirely possible I'll need a NEW pen name when I'm published, because right now I uses Dena Pawling for legal and military writings, and that's not quite the topics you'd expect for an MG audience.

Plus it would be odd [altho nice!], to have judges recuse themselves from my cases because they read my stories to their children or grandchildren =)

Unknown said...

inkstained I've run my consulting business under first initial, middle name, last name for years, and it's still sometimes a PITA. I go by a nickname of my middle name, so I get called everything but. (And it doesn't help that my last name is a first name, or that it's different than my husband and children's last name). As a writer, I'm just using the name my family and friends call me. It's who I am, and that's what I want to be as a writer, who I am. It is worth thinking through what you want people to actually call you.

Unknown said...

Lisa, Thoughts and prayers with you and your family. I think of my dad every day. Memories will season the sorrow. Just give yourself time.

JD Horn said...

Back in 2015 I was sitting outside writing when a reader tweeted to me that she was only 15 minutes from my house. I responded that I hoped she was out enjoying the great weather we were having. She was, in fact, a lovely woman who has corresponded with me a few times since, but for a few minutes, on the day, I was a bit unnerved.

The truth is you can try to go all Elena Ferrante, but eventually, if there are enough people reading your work, you will find yourself sacrificing some of your privacy.

If people know your work, they are going to feel as if they know you.

And if someone really wants to find you, they will, no matter what you're calling yourself. (Just ask Anita Raja.)

Some readers don't care about the author behind the work, but many readers who are attracted to your work will be curious about you. I try to be my genuine self--warts and all--on social media. Not that I have people knocking down my door, but I try to maintain some control by having my official ("I don't really know you") email address, and then my "I actually have laid eyes on you and like you" address. I also have an author page on Facebook and a personal page there. The two rarely cross paths.

The main reason I can see for a pseudonym is branding. Readers come to expect a certain type of book from an author. In my case, I pitched an idea for a series that wasn't occult horror/fantasy, and was told the idea would confuse my readers, as it didn't fit in with my brand. That concept, that my name could be seen as a brand, was revelatory, and I've struggled with that much more than with the idea that someone might want to Google me and read about my dog.

I suspect that most of us don't have nemeses out to destroy us, or psychos out to cook our pet rabbits. (Maybe some of y'all do, just saying, I bet most of us don't.) By choosing to be published, you are choosing to become a public figure. You can write under a nom de plume if you have reason to, but if you end up being successful enough for a publisher to spend money on tours, someone is going to find out your real name.

E.Maree said...

Lisa, I'm so sorry for your loss.

Regarding psuedonyms: being stalked is honestly one of the scariest things in the world. Wanting credit under your name, wanting to be proud of your work, wanting to be reachable to readers, wanting to be recognised in the grocery stores... these things are lovely, but compared to feeling safe from harm they're meaningless fluff. And none of these things are necessary to be a writer.

Do whatever it takes to maintain your safety, Opie. At most it will only cause a minor inconvenience in your writing life, and that's worth it to feel safe.

BJ Muntain said...

For information on doxing, and help for people trying to avoid or deal with doxing, Crash Override Network (on Tumblr, now, it seems) has good information and support.

I'm a big fan of James Scott Bell. He used a pen name - K. Bennett - for his series about a zombie lawyer, and announced it before the books even came out. He explains it here on The Kill Zone blog, but the gist is:

"My own reason for taking on a pseudonym is quite simple: I don’t want the heads of my established readership to explode.
You see, my new book is different from my brand. Boy Howdy, is it different. Imagine Hemingway deciding to write for Madmagazine––that sort of different.
But this is a book, and series, I wanted to write. Plus, I now have this added authorial benefit: I get to write as two people, which I find very cool. I will be issuing books under two names, not one."

He also has a rather delightful interview with K. Bennett on TKZ called 'Writing for Money is a Good Thing'.

He also addressed the question of How Many Brands Can an Author Have?" Remember, though: He was a well-published, well-known writer before moving on to other brands. This may or may not make it easier.

Sorry for all the links to another blog - TKZ is another blog I follow, though I don't comment there nearly as much as I comment here. (And I'm sure they're grateful for that!) I just came across the latter two links when I was searching for the first link, and found them interesting, too.

I've heard of Kurt Eichenwald's cyberattacker, and I thought that was heinous and totally uncalled for. I'm glad they caught this guy. It will show more people that their cyberattacks - physical or otherwise - are serious and charge-worthy.

John: Many people judge a book by its cover. Just like many people will judge a bottle of ketchup by its colouring or a cereal box by the character on the front. Covers are just packaging, containers for the books that are meant to catch the eye and maybe give a bit of idea as to what the book is about. Bad covers look unprofessional or - worse - uninteresting. Me, I tend to judge a book by its author. I like reading series.

Lisa: (((hugs))) I miss my dad all the time, too. It does get better, though. I hope you're able to remember more good times than bad times with him.

InkStained Wench: I use my initials (obviously). I like them. If you like yours, use them. If you're planning on getting traditionally published, your agent/publisher may have a say, but I believe it's still your choice. If you plan on self-publishing, it's all up to you. Use what you like.

Amy Johnson said...

Lisa, I'm very sorry for your loss.

Barbara Etlin said...

Author, she does as she pleases, I know a writer who uses a pen name. She became quite popular and spoke at conferences. When she tried to register at hotels with her real name, it caused so much confusion that she eventually changed her name legally to the pen name.

Especially these days, when you need to produce your passport and other ID when you fly, being a popular, conference-attending author might mean having to change your name legally.

My husband was stalked by an unbalanced woman and it was quite scary. He changed and unlisted his phone number and changed his email address.

Joseph S. said...

My dad died May 19, 1995. I woke this morning thinking of him. Parents (and children) must stay with you forever.

Joseph S. said...

Doxxing - a new word to add to my vocabulary. It has an unpleasant sound.

Lennon Faris said...

As a follow up to Author, she does as she pleases and the marketing post from the other day, how much do agents sigh when they see a writer querying with a pseudonym? It seems like an author concerned about privacy (esp. to the point of not wanting to show their faces) would mean more challenging marketing.

JD Horn said...

I had to Google that one, too. :)

Lennon Faris said...

Lisa, thinking of & praying for you and your family. So glad to hear he was peaceful. Dads are so special.

Unknown said...

"Nom de guerre is Colin Smith"

But Janet usually refers to a generic author as...Could this mean that Colin Smith is really Felix Buttonwheezer?

Why is he hiding his real identity? Could he be a (*gasp*) plant from British Intelligence to spy on our blog? Colin, for shame! What do you have to say for yourself?

Tweet and RT this news so that the Sunday morning talk shows will cover it ad nauseum tomorrow!

BJ Muntain said...

Lennon: I don't think agents really care if a new writer writes under a pseudonym (unless they're writing non-fiction, in which case the author's real name is probably the brand they need to market). A pseudonym will become the writer's brand. Have you ever heard of Mary Ann Evans? How about George Eliot? How about Charles Dodgson? Or Lewis Carroll?

Your brand is whatever you make it to be.

Colin Smith said...

kathy: Could he be a (*gasp*) plant from British Intelligence to spy on our blog?

Well, I am vegetarian... ;)

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

Lisa, hugs to you. I was a papa's girl so my father's death five years ago was devastating especially as it happened while I was in another country.

Author, she does as she pleases,

I would think that sometimes a little notoriety in one's past can serve a writer well in the present. It can provide an interesting dimension to one's persona.

When I love a writer's or an artist's work, I can forgive almost anything. Chet Baker's heroin addiction does not bother me when I swoon to his rendition of My Funny Valentine. There is no rule that says writers must have pristine personal and professional lives. The rule is that writers must write well.

So if I go to your website and read comments by people who attack you for past actions, it might even intrigue me enough to google further. If your prose has the ability to transport me, you can do no wrong in my eyes.

Also, methinks if you were able to evict people and deal with the fall out of a principal's bad business decisions, I'm pretty sure you can handle hecklers :)

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...


That was funny!

John Davis Frain said...

I have never seen Colin and Felix at the same time.

Or, maybe I have!

Amy Johnson said...

I'm doing it. I'm going with a pseudonym. I've been thinking about it for years, and I've been thinking about it especially frequently since the post on marketing earlier this week. Recently I ran the name past my little panel of people--those I count on to let me know if my ideas are too far out, etc., and to not bend the truth in an attempt to be kind. They mock when warranted (in a nice way--we laugh)and they're dear to me. While previous ideas for pseudonyms did not meet their approval, this one did.

And I'm not going to say now what my new pseudonym is. :) It will be far more fun to wait to reveal it. Donna, thanks for that lesson--it's been exciting waiting for the reveals you've mentioned. Oh, this is fun!

Mark Ellis said...

As one who has relished authorial recognition since elementary school (where my horror stories caused potential tormentors to think twice about harrassing me), I'm with Rosanna in letting the chips fall where they may.

Side topic: I attended a book signing by former First Lady Roslyn Carter in Portland some years back, and have a signed copy of her book on mental illness. I was a bit cheeky in retrospect, and when my turn to step up came I said to her, channeling Ricardo Montalban, "You look marvelous."

She smiled and signed the book, but the two secret service officers on either side of her wore expressions that pegged me as a troublemaker.

I find myself wondering if, for such a high-profile client, Ms. Reid was present at the signing.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

All off topic:

Donna, Did you hear me scream with delight? Congratulations on the beautiful cover. I love the way Kensington is "branding" you.

Dena, Memoirs are my absolute favorite thing to read. I wasn't familiar with Hillbilly Elegy (or JD Vance). Thanks for the recommendation...I'll definitely purchase a copy.

And, Help! I had recently mentioned the bird's nests I find here at the sanctuary made out of horse tail hair. Someone said they would love to see one, and I just found one. I would love to send it to that person (but can't remember who it was). I've searched through the last few days of comments so I can reach out to them directly... but no luck. Who are you, lovely person who wants to see one of these nests? (They really are spectacular).

Colin, As I was reading through several days of comments I was, once again, struck by how hilarious you are. Witty, sharp, ironic, and clever. I hope whatever you're working on, it has a comedic flair.

Lisa, Hugs to you. Like many here, I understand the heartbreak.

Colin Smith said...

The best two pseudonyms I've come up with for myself are Art Christie, or Tim Shinloc. I'm kinda partial to the latter, though I don't plan on using it. But you never know... :)

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

And just in case anyone was worried... I'm not stealing nests from trees. I find them on the ground.

Casey Karp said...

Lisa, all my sympathy. It never gets easy, but it does get easier. I'm still waking up expecting to get that next chapter from my father, but at least I'm working on a new project without--mostly--stopping every couple of sentences to think "Ha, Dad's gonna love that line!"

On-topic: I'm using what's gotta be one of the most transparent pseudonyms in history. It's the nickname I've gone by since I was born. I could have gone with my legal name, but that's not who I think of myself as. Why would I want to see someone else's name on the book I sweated over?

Do I have occasional qualms about it? Well, yeah. Especially given how open I am about my life--and how many pictures I post--on my blog. I don't always remember to strip out the GPS information from the photos, but even if I did, it wouldn't be hard to find me. And somebody, somewhere, is going to take offense at something I write. That's inevitable.

But that's where the balance fell for me. If it causes trouble down the road, I'll deal with it. As Dad used to say--and still does in the back of my head--"One day at a time. Onward!"

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

I must say Donna doesn't need a pseudonym especially with a last name that has the magic three syllables.

Most of my favorite authors have three-syllabled last names - Hemingway, Kingsolver, Kerouac, Isherwood, Capote and even Shakespeare (sounds like 3 syllables, yes?)

And now, Everhart!

InkStainedWench said...

Thanks for the insights, Jill Warner, Kathy Joyce and BJ Muntain!

I.S. Wench

JD Horn said...

Yikes. Just saw the post where someone said they are avoiding an active stalker. Didn't mean to sound flippant about that. But I do believe it's true that if you get published, you are leaving yourself open to the public. Even if you use a pseudonym, if you have enough success, someone will make an effort to peer behind the mask.

Craig F said...

I had to incorporate a while ago. That was done to keep nasty people, and my first wife, out of my personal affairs. All of the devices I use are set up through that and my name is hard to find in it all.

I will write under my own name. The only buzz it should generate is from that writing itself because the other half of me is far away from there and short on digital presence.

Even if anyone makes the connection it will only lead to a bank account and P.O.Box. It was the easy way out once and it should still be working.

Donna: Congratulations girl.

nightsmusic said...

Melanie, I have a nest made out of cow thail hairs and about the size of a wren's nest. It has a place of honor in my china cabinet and yes, I found it on the ground :) They're amazing little things!

Beth Carpenter said...

Lisa, my sympathies.

I use a pen name. I'm sure anyone trying very hard could find my real name, but it makes me feel better to know if I happen to post on Facebook that I'm traveling, it would take more than three seconds for someone to check property records and find my home address to rob.

I assume if I were at an event as an author, I'd check into a hotel under my real name but wear a nametag at the event with my author name. I opened a PO box under my real name but listed my pen name as an authorized user, and the mail clerk didn't seem to have a problem with that. So far, it hasn't been a particular inconvience.

lamandarin said...

I can see that if people really want to find you they will, but that begs the question what types of scenarios should make a writer want to consider one? I've always been curious about this.

Colin Smith said...

lamandarin: Read the comments. There have been some very good suggestions for why people may want to adopt a nom de plume. :)

Anonymous said...

Lisa, I'm sorry for your loss. My dad died in 1996 and I do still miss him, but the grief has eased. Sending virtual hugs your way.

I use a pseudonym. It's not difficult or awkward. I decided to use one to separate work (where I was the responsible one in charge of all the money) and family (it's not their fault I like to make stuff up) from my writing. My kids are older now and better able to handle any attention that might come their way, but I still feel very protective of their privacy. I'm not online anywhere as my real name.

As for being "open to the public," I am very open and honest on my blog, and anyone who reads it will feel like they know me quite well. Indeed, that's sort of the point. But I'm also very private about some things. I'm not worried about (internet) friends knowing my real name or where I live. Many of them do. But I've heard several stories over the years from more "famous" writers who have had some uncomfortable encounters with fans/strangers and I decided early on that layer of protection, however thin, was a good idea. And honestly, all you men who say it's not a big deal . . . it's different for women. Sadly, we're simply more vulnerable and more often targets.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and Donna, congratulations on another gorgeous cover! Kensington is doing a great job with them.

JD Horn said... - Just read your "Creativity in times of despair" entry on your blog. The issues you discuss there include many of the reasons for why--rather than writing--I've spent the last week bouncing back and forth between Twitter, Google News, Facebook, and for the last couple of days, this blog. You've inspired me to use the word count goal in Scrivener to try and get back on track. :)

Anonymous said...

JD Horn, I am delighted to hear that. Not that you've been feeling that way, that sucks, but that you're feeling inspired by something I wrote. Thanks for telling me. The most effective thing I've done is to put the writing first every day and leave the news for last. It is not easy, but it works. I have absolute faith that you can regain focus and get back to your writing. No doubt in my mind.

AJ Blythe said...

AJ Blythe is my pen name (I am an AJ, but changed my surname). My online presence is in my pen name. I did it for a few reasons... to help protect my (and my family's) privacy, to separate myself from someone else with the same name (we live in the same town and have had previous issues with sharing the same name, and because of their job it could be awkward if people thought I was them) and separation from my day job (this one is more a 'just in case' because my day job changes often).

Another reason was availability of domain/user names. I got great advice early on to check what came up when I googled my name, and to check what was available in terms of .com etc. That certainly helped with my decision to go with a pen name.

I realise it isn't going to stop people from finding me if they want to (I am still going to use an author photo which will make it easier), but I hope it will makes things a little tougher to track me down.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

I've had a web presence sine 1995. I've used several pseudonyms. The last one was a flop when I moved from Italy to France.

I was signing Figé. I chose because it was genderless and sounded international. In France figé means stuck. Stuck is not a good psuedo.

After that I decided it was impossible to hide myself and also detrimental to my career. Detrimental because clients want to buy that personality behind the signature. They don't know that an artist is nothing more than a hermit. In their minds we're wild, absinthe drinkers, and if your a woman, loose. Elves paint your works and write your books.

Stalking is creepy. Especially when your kids are involved. I keep my online presence as impersonal as possible. It's all about my work. Lately some politics have leaked in.

Recently someone criticized me because my online bio didn't give them enough info about my personal life and therefore they had no empathy for me.

But I'm not selling myself, I'm not running for office. I'm selling my creations.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Donna: I forgot earlier to offer you congrats on the book cover reveal. What exciting times for you. And a role model to get writing on that next book after we finish our first one. (Yup, I'm trying to become a debut writer. Someday.)

And thank you to commenters, for the sympathy and the virtual hugs. I so appreciate this Reider Community. Reading the stirring-up of fathers' deaths and the poignant memories/feelings is such a powerful reminder of how all-important parents are in shaping the lives of their children. Such comfort here among you all.

Anonymous said...

Opie here!

Thanks to everyone for the responses and helpful links, you've given me food for thought! To allay concerns: I don't have a stalker. There's one Horrid Ex I could see being a pain, but he could just as easily recognize me from a photo as anything else. The more likely avenue for my name trickling out: extended family blasting, "THIS IS MY XYZ!!" Or, of course, me happily telling everyone I know in real life what I'm writing, and it wending its way online from there.

It's a topic I didn't give much thought to until I started having kids. Now I'm considering ways to give my family a little distance. I already talk too much about which county I live in on social media (and would love to be involved with my local genre bookshop's author events, if it becomes an option). A google search of "county + legal name" comes up with a dozen online address pages, and they update faster than you can opt out.

I think I'm coming to the conclusion that a pen name protects against casual fan googling but not much else, unless I'm extremely committed. Hmmmm.