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Pennames and Promotions

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EelKat Wendy C Allen

Okay, I have multiple questions here, that ask completely different things, but end up requiring near identical answers, so, I'm going to list all the questions here and than I'm going to write one solitary answer to cover them all, okay? Great! Let's get started...

QUESTION #1 asks:

"How do you deal with pennames and promotions? I recently self-published a couple of books under a penname. I chose to use a penname because the books published under my real name are primarily Christian books, and these are secular romance. I had other motivations as well. It's mainly to keep the genres separate, rather than trying to be super secret. Unfortunately, it’s now occurring to me that it’s much more difficult to promote books under a penname. I already have a Facebook Author page, a website that does pretty well in search engines, a Christian literary magazine and various avenues to promote the books in my name. There are probably some readers who enjoyed my Christian books who will also like these secular romances. 

I might just tell them on my website something like "I write romance as Smith Nancy and Christian fiction as Nancy Smith." But I may wait to make that announcement/reveal as I have another Christian book coming out with a small press publisher in the near future and want to put more emphasis on promoting that than my self-pubbed works, and don't want to dilute the promotion efforts. I did put some info on my own website without saying I was the writer, almost as a promotional piece.

So... I know you said you write under different pennames... how do you use a penname promote your books? Do people you know personally know your penname? How do you publish books under more than one name? What would you recommend I do here? How do you deal with pennames and promotions? "

QUESTION #2 asks:

"What to do if you don't have an author photo? So my issue is, I am writing under a pen name to keep my personal and professional lives separate. I work in a conservative school district and though my upcoming debut doesn't have anything more controversial than a few curse words, I want to leave myself open to write and publish what I want in the future without having to worry about losing my job because of it.

Therefore, I don't want a picture of myself attached to any of my author stuff. This is fine for my website, but on Facebook and Twitter, I'm faced with the very boring empty profile icon. Do you have suggestions for what to put there, or should I just use my book cover as my profile pic?

Thanks in advance."

QUESTION #3 asks:

"I'm wondering how possible anonymity is when using a pen name. I have no idea how that works with modern publishers. Your real name must be public information somewhere in that transaction. So is there any reasonable expectations of privacy if you want to remain anonymous? What do the Mark Twains and George Eliots of today do?"

QUESTION #4 asks:

"Why do authors sometimes use assumed names? Are there advantages to adopting one? Disadvantages? And how do you get one? And what do I do come tax time? Do I have to file separate taxes on each pen name? How do you pay the taxes with different names? Must they be separate? How do you keep your identity private and separate when you are sending things via e-mail? Do you have different e-mail accounts in different pseudonyms? How do you keep it all straight with different pseudonym e-mail addresses? Does using a pen name jeopardize your legal claim to your book and it's copyright? Does using a pen name constitute a breach of trust? What if people are upset that I’m using a pen name? Does using a pen name mean I have multiple-personality disorder? Do you recommend using a pen name?"

QUESTION #5 asks:

I changed my mind - QUESTION #5 warrants it's own separate answer and has been moved to it's own page HERE.

And my combined answer to all 5(+?) questions is:

Why do authors use pen names? Well lots of reason really. Many of Harlequin's top selling romance authors are men, but Harlequin doesn't carry a single title with a male name on it, because of the theory: How many women are going to read a romance novel if it was written by a man?

The same is true of many thriller and horror writers (thus why so few female names exists in these genres, because few readers will buy a thriller or horror if it has a female author.)

It is very rare for erotica to carry the author's real name, and this is because of the high rate of stalkers, death threats, and psycho mail (varying from "I know where you live and I'm going to rape you because I know you want it other wise you would not have written ____" to "you home wrecking slut, my husband is chasing hussies because he read your book") which erotica authors get.

School teacher BY LAW never write under their real name because they WILL lose their job if the school district finds out. School teachers who are authors, comes under "conflict of interests in the work place" laws that public (aka government owned and operated) school have in place. School teachers ALWAYS use pen names and than pray they are not discovered. I was originally in college to become a teacher, until I reached the point of doing the school visits and interviews and was stunned to be told the same thing at each school I went to: "Nope, if you are an author we can't hire you; conflict of interests."

The most common reason for a pen name is, if you write several genre, you use a different name for each one: one name for Westerns, another name for Sci-Fi, etc. (This is what I do.)

Well, let's first address the question of author photos, and should you use real photos of yourself or not, when using a pen name.

On Twitter, I follow and am followed by aprox 4,000 self-published authors, and I have seen a wide variety of what they use as a profile image. Only very few of them actually use a personal photo of them-self, many have a photo of a pet (cat, dog, bird), a few have a photo of their publishing house's logo (if they set up a publishing house business  for their books), but most (many 3/4 of them) show a picture of their latest book cover. It's pretty standard practice to show your book cover, so that's probably your best bet anyways, even if you were planning to use your own photo. I see way more authors using book covers on Twitter.

I'm not as active on FaceBook as I am Twitter, but I've noticed the same trend there as well. I think on FB it looks like far fewer cover images are used, but I still see it very frequently.

Me personally, here is what I do:
I write under several pen-names:

  • real "birth/maiden" name Wendy C Allen or Wendy Christine Allen or EelKat Wendy C Allen for horror and sci-fi - this accounts for about 80% of my fiction works
  • my real "Native American" name EelKat for non-fiction (due to the "spiritual/inspirational" nature of a lot of my non-fiction); which is also the name I use online
  • my real "married" name Wendy Wildes for children's books - the name folks at church, school, and other real children know me by
  • a "ye-olde English" Medieval misspelling of my married name Gwendolyne Wyldes for historical romance, and anything NOT horror or sci-fi that is set in any pre-1900 time period
  • and than there are various "porn star names" that I use when writing erotica depending on the type of erotica (different name for BDMS than for historical porn, another name for gay fiction, etc) these being completely unrelated to my real name

With the exception of my erotica/gay/porn/BDSM works I have my "author's photo" on the back covers of all of my books (non available as ebooks yet) and at the back of each book is an "About the Author" page, which also shows a photo of me. Each pen-name has a different photo, and I do look VERY different in each of them, so much so that from 1978 until 2006 no one made the connection between my various names.

In 2006 one of my readers, very proud of having "figured it out" broadcasted the fact all over FaceBook, including the fact that he also located where I lived, so posted my home address all over the place online, which at first he got wrong, resulting in him buying a house 2 towns away from me and than yelling on my FB wall wanting to know why I told him I lived there...I was like whhaaat? I never told anybody I lived anywhere. Next thing I knew there was a new guy at my church asking everyone where I lived, until he found someone stupid enough to tell him, and than he bought a house 5 away from mine- and a year later he showed up at my house and burned it down because I had refused to leave my husband and marry him instead! He's now in prison and his wife blames me for breaking up their marriage, and I still have no clue who these people even are other than this guy whom I'd never heard of prior to his showing up in my church made hell of my life for a while.)

Well, by the time I found out he'd been broadcasting my home address all over FaceBook it was too late to do anything about it and now I'm stuck with random fans showing up in my yard throughout the year and especially during the summer (seeing how I live on a family tourist vacation spot beach, they have the excuse, "Hey, we just happened to bring out family here for vacation and figured we stop by and see if you were in, while we were here for the summer, you don't mind do you?"

- Oh no, of course not, I don't mind random strangers, walking past the more than a dozen 'no trespassing' signs that line my yard,  trapsing all over my yard taking pictures of my home and family to post on their FB walls without my permission, especially not after a psycho fan burned my house down and almost killed me and my family 6 years ago....*sarcasm*

Even if they don't know my exact address they know they are in the right town and that I drive a car with 2.5million marbles glued to it, so it's a simple matter of driving around or 3mile long by 1 mile wide micro tiny town for a few hours until they spot my car, to find me - you have no idea the amount of mess this guy made for my family when he posted my home address all over FB!).

I mean, good gawd! I'm not famous enough to have a psycho fan, how the hell did I get a psycho fan? And you know what's even freakier? That he was the SECOND psycho fan I've had show up at my house! You always hear about crazy fans going bonkers on famous people, but you never think you are famous enough to attract anyone like that, right?

Thus since 2007, all of the above mentioned pen-names are cross listed in my back-matter pages (the "more by" page), and the "About the author" page now says I live in Old Orchard Beach, because well, every body already knows it now anyways.

Now I never linked the names together before this stalked creep entered my life, but I also never hid the fact they were there, either. I've written under EelKat and Wendy C Allen and EelKat Wendy C Allen and Wendy Christine Allen and EelKat Wendy Christine Allen since 1978. Wendy Wildes was added in 1991 and Gwendolyne Wildes was added in 2012, same time as Juicy Peaches, Sugar Cookie, and Honey Dumplings. People who know me in real life, know my pen names, though my readers often are unaware of the connection.

My porn, erotica, gay fiction, tranny fiction, and BDMS names however, are still unconnected, either to each other or to my pen names listed above. And the reason for that, is because I never used an author photo on any of my "sex industry" works of fiction, and the names are all made up (REALLY made up, like along the lines of "Juicy Peaches", "Sugar Cookie" and "Honey Dumplings" type porn star names - and yes, those are the names I write under) rather than being reworkings of my real name, as I did with the other pen names. You will never see me cross referencing my sex industry books to my other books.

In other words, my books contain a back page saying:

Wendy C Allen also writes under the names EelKat and Gwendolyne Wyldes


Juicy Peaches, also writes under than names Sugar Cookie and Honey Dumplings

but you will not see:

Wendy C Allen, also writing as Juicy Peaches

Why? The answer is simple. I write children's books. Children will look up your name to see what else the author wrote, and the last thing a parent wants is for their 5 year old to go looking for more books by their fave author and come in with an issue of PlayBoy magazine saying "Hey, did you know she wrote this too?" (and yes, 5 year old can and do use the internet, they are smarter than you give them credit for, believe me.)

Additionally none of my "porn star pen names" have Twitter or FaceBook account. I only have 1 FB account, seeing how I did not create a FB account until after that guy did his thing. I do however have multiple MySpace and Twitter accounts, because I had one for each pen name and I had them prior to the guy connecting my names - since than however I consolidated the accounts and only use 1 Twitter and 1 MySpace page.

If I ever did create a Twitter or FB page for my "sex industry" pen names, I would never use my real photo, and only use a book cover image.

But yeah, anyways, when in doubt, should you use your real photo or another photo on your social network pages, I'd say just go with your book cover image and you'll be fine.

Pen names and promotions? Well, in my own case, each of my pen names cross promotes the others (except for the sex industry pen names which I keep separate as stated already.)

So you'll see me post a link on FB saying "Here's my book!" (keeping in mind I've only 1 FB account) and yet, that book may have any one of my pen names, which may or may not be the name I use on FB!

As for what I say on my website? Well, you're reading it right now and you can see I inform my readers, "Hey this is me, and that's me too, and so's that one too!"

I'm not a big fan of keeping secrets and hiding things. Whenever I hear someone using a pen name because they want to be secret, I always wonder what sort of criminal activity they are trying to hide.

So what about taxes, copyrights, anonymity, all that jazz? 

Well, you COULD go out and write a book under a pen name and never tell anyone your real name, but that will lead to legal troubles and lots of head aches down the road, so the answer to:

"I'm wondering how possible anonymity is when using a pen name. I have no idea how that works with modern publishers. Your real name must be public information somewhere in that transaction. So is there any reasonable expectations of privacy if you want to remain anonymous? What do the Mark Twains and George Eliots of today do?"

...is that, no, no matter how hard you try their is no such thing as anonymity with a pen name.

For one thing you CAN NOT publish a book ANYWHERE, traditional, self-published, vanity press, small press, indie, whatever, WITHOUT your Social Security Number. It's not possible. What this means is, in order to publish a book under any name, you MUST sign a contract with somebody (who ever it is that is paying your royalties to you - in my case that would be LuLu, RPGNow, Amazon, and SmashWords) and that somebody knows your real name, your real phone number, your real home address, and your real SSN.

Why? Because come tax time, they (Amazon, etc) have to send in lots of forms to the IRS, telling the IRS, this SSN here sold this many books, for this much, and we paid them this percentage. Amazon does not tell the IRS: the author wrote under this name and that name and the other name. No. Amazon gives the IR one thing and one thing only: your Social Security Number.

When you publish a book, even if you have 10 separate accounts with Amazon, you only have one Social Security Number, so Amazon (or your publisher) will always link all accounts together from the tax end of things, when it comes time to report to the IRS.

When it comes to legal stuff, copyrights, and taxes, it DOESN'T MATTER what name is printed on the cover of the book, all that matters is your Social Security Number written on the signed contract. You can write any name you want on the cover of your book, but when it comes time to prove copyright or pay taxes, it's your Social Security Number on your publishing contract that is going to determine who wrote that book, who takes credit for that book, who gets paid royalties on that book, and who has to pay taxes on that book.

You pay taxes using the name on your Social Security Card, paying taxes using any other name constitutes fraud and will land you 25 years in prison. NEVER file taxes under a pen name, it's a serious federal crime.

When it comes to email, I have two email address: one for public correspondence (account log-ins, newsletter sign ups, readers, etc) and one for private correspondences (family, friends, school, publishers, etc). Neither have anything to do with my pen names at all. I don't have different pseudonym e-mail addresses, so I wouldn't know how you could go about keeping them straight.

I likewise only have 1 FaceBook account, 1 Twitter account, etc. Every account I have is .com/EelKat, and all of my pen names get promoted that way. I only have variations of my name as a way to tell readers this book is this genre and that book is that genre. There's no me trying to hide or be anonymous or secretive or have aliases, so no need for me to have more than one account.

And besides "shill accounts" (multiple accounts for one person) are against the ToS of EVERY single social network so, if you build separate accounts for each pen name you risk them all being deleted and your ISPN (your computer) being banned.

"Does using a pen name constitute a breach of trust? What if people are upset that I’m using a pen name? Does using a pen name mean I have multiple-personality disorder?"

I do find this question puzzling. Breach of trust? With whom? I do not understand the question.

Will people be upset? Maybe. Couldn't say, don't know. You family may feel you are ashamed of them and did not want your name associated with theirs, perhaps. I suppose it depends on your family.

The correct term is Dissociative Identity Disorder or DID and it's a very serious (and hugely misunderstood) illness that is similar to Alzheimer's in that each person has ZERO recollection of the other. In other words Author Name A is not going to know of the existence of Author Name B who likewise has no memories of Author Name A. The very fact that you can ask this question at all is proof that you do not have DID. Contrary to what you see in movies it is next to impossible to fake having DID and fewer than .01% of the world has DID - it's is one of the rarest illnesses in the world. No, no one with half a brain is going to think you have DID and anyone who does think you have DID just because you have a pen name is likely lacking in both intelligence and education.

Do I recommend you use a pen name? Eh, it depends. Are you writing lots of books in lots different genres? If so, than yes, it may be useful for you.

Are you only ever going to write fewer than 10 books in your lifetime regardless of genre? Than no, there is no real advantage for you.

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