Pseudonyms: The how to do…

Several people asked how do you go about using a pseudonym. Well, I’m no lawyer, so take anything official-sounding here with a grain of salt.

Legal Stuff:
I can say this: I have never written a book under my official, real, passport name. If you look at my books, on the first page where all the printing details are you will see the copyright is assigned to the name on the cover of the book – my pseudonym. The publisher does that as a matter of course. In other words, the copyright is asserted by me using my pseudonym! Legally, it is apparently enough for the copyrighted individual to be pseudonymous.*

I imagine it would be awkward if you wrote under a pseudonym and didn’t tell your publisher it was a pseudonym. They do have to send out cheques and taxation notices and so on, all normally done under your real name. You sign your contracts using your real name. So unless you are an escaped train robber or Osama bin Laden, it’s not a route I would recommend.

Next Action:
One of the first things you should do, if you decide on a pseudonym, is to give that name a public presence, and decide how much you will link it to your real name, if at all. You need a website, and possibly a blog, a facebook, a twitter name all quite distinct from your real name, or at the very least something that people can easily find. I actually use Glenda Larke Noramly as my facebook name and no one seems to have any trouble finding me there.

My advice:
would be this: if you are keeping your pseudonym and your real name closely linked, you have to be careful just how much personal info goes up on your real name sites. If you hit the big time, an awful lot of complete strangers will know an awful lot of personal stuff about you, your spouse/partner and your kids, simply by linking back to your real-life site. Be careful.

Once you have chosen a name, but before you actually do anything with it, the most important thing to do is Google it and see what comes up. If it is the real name of someone on America’s Most Wanted, or the name of an up-and-coming vocalist on Australian Idol, or the brand name of the very latest line in African jewellery, or the scientific name of a Namibian kingfisher, you might like to think again. You want something that is going to pop up easily, not get lost in all the other hits.

More advice:
Personally, I think fairly common names such as Ann Miller or Robert Anderson is a lot harder to remember than Ursula le Guin. Choose something that you won’t mind when it is used to address you. I once asked Robin Hobb what name she would prefer to be called by (she has two pseudonyms and a real name that is different again, and she said she answered happily to all three!)

Practical stuff:
Let’s say Sally Sullimunder submits her MS titled “Midnight Star” to a publisher under the pseudonym Xerxes Zatopek. She should write”Midnight Star”, and underneath “by Xerxes Zatopek”. Then, where she writes her address in the bottom corner, she puts something like this:
Ms Sally Sullimunder
(aka Xerxes Zatopek)
6 Mishmash Crescent
Ulan Bator…etc etc

She should use the name Zatopek/Midnight Star on the header (or footer) of each page.

Many thanks:
To everyone who commented on this series of posts!

*When you are published, you do not hand over your copyright to the publisher. You hand over the rights to be published in certain formats for a certain length of time under certain conditions. If your book goes out of print, you claim back those rights (in the form of a letter. One of the things your agent will do for you). I not only have the copyright of Havenstar, but I now also have the rights. Rights to my other works are now with a variety of different publishers because they are all still in print.

BTW, no one, except my print publishers, has the right to publish my works as ebooks or pdfs or whatever, so if you download them from some iffy download site, you are receiving stolen goods and I would really rather you didn’t.


Pseudonyms: The how to do… — 9 Comments

  1. The point about privacy is sobering. Google recently found me on a site called Austlit ( which is a respectable, semi-official site purporting to list anyone and everyone involved in Aussie literature. I was astonished to find my alias, my maiden name, my current "real" name and my year and place of birth all laid out neatly for the world to see. I have never put all these on the web it one place but it obviously didn't take much work for the Austlit volunteer to find them. I felt a tad stalked, but being reasonable, I can see that I should never have mentioned any part of my "real" name in the same place as the name I'm known by. Easy to be wise after the event, eh?

  2. "Jennifer Fallon" and "Sara Douglass" both have registered their names as a business name to get around some of the legal problems. I think JF is Jennifer Fallon PTY LTD, where as SD is Sara Douglass enterprises.

    I think the reason is that in Oz you can use your name as a business name without registering it if it is your legal name, but if it's a pseudonym, and not a registered business name, then you have no legal rights to the name if someone else registers it as a business name or as a trademark and then sues you for using it.

    Advice: if using a psuedonym, think about resistering it!


  3. If you now have the publishing rights to Havenstar is there any possibility of it being re-released?

    I had some other cheeky stuff here, but figured you might hit me with your bag on Saturday so decided to be respectful.


  4. That is scary, Satima.

    Skaldi: that's really, really interesting. When I move to Oz, I will consider going down that route.

    Joanna – I have been having some trouble with wrenching the rights to Havenstar away from a publisher who had no rights whatever to it. Anyway, all sorted now. I have just sent a whole slew of secondhand copies to my agent and she is sending them out as we speak, looking for new avenues – ebooks, perhaps.

    Of course, I could also say that the more books I sell of the Watergiver trilogy, the more chance I have of persuading a publisher to put Havenstar into print again….

  5. I plan on doing my bit, one book (or e-book) at a time!

    With all the discussion on names, etc, would it be published under Larke or Noramly? You'd almost have to have both names on the front wouldn't you?

  6. Skaldi:

    yes. My husband has two years to run on his present job contract. I hope to start the move bit by bit sometime before the end of that.

    I would think so. The more digital the world is, the more things become the same…

    I think I would have to put both names on any re-issue of Havenstar. I would hate to lose the following I have for the Larke name, yet I would hate someone to buy the book not knowing that they already had it, but written by someone called Noramly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.