There are many writers who earn a nice living every year publishing works they’ve created anonymously. Authors especially may wish to publish a book anonymously if they have already established an industry identity, but have created a book that doesn’t fit with that persona. Controversial works are also considered for anonymous publication, even from first-time authors. Then there are the writers who ghostwrite, publishing their work under the name of another.
If you want to know how to get into this part of the publishing industry, then here’s how you can to work establishing your nom de plume.
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#1. Create a manuscript of high quality. Seems like common sense, right? Many authors actually look to publish a book anonymously because they don’t think that book will succeed. They don’t want to take a risk with their real name or their established identity. Here’s a simple fact to consider: if you don’t think a book is good, then most readers will hold the same opinion. Focus on creating a high quality manuscript to get published first.
#2. Choose your pen name. The goal of creating a pen name is to create something that is believable. If the name you choose sounds simple and unique, then you’ve got the chance to publish under your nom de plume on a regular basis so you can maintain your personal privacy. Any pen name will technically work, especially if you’re just trying to publish anonymously once, but ones that are easier to say or understand will typically see a better level of success.
— Casey Claunch (@CaseyClaunch) May 6, 2016
#3. Make sure your contracts are in order. Most publishers will issue royalty checks to an author’s real name, but not always. You’ll need to make sure that all payments are sent to your real name so you can get paid without legally changing your name. You’ll also need to make sure that any personal appearances, book signings, and other marketing efforts occur under your pen name instead of your real name – if you do any marketing at all.
#4. There’s the issue of recognition. Writing without recognition can be more stressful than many might imagine. Although there are some famous folks who publish anonymously and revel in it, if your pen name is generating a ton of sales as a writer and no one knows or understands that it is you, it can be difficult. This is true even if your true identity is eventually reveal. The conversation usually goes something like this.
Them: “What do you do for living?”
You: “I’ve written a few books. Ever heard of [insert title]?”
Them: “But that was written by [insert pen name]. You’re saying that’s you?”
You: “Yes. I’m saying it’s me.”
Them: “No. No. I don’t believe it.”
And then they walk away, often without buying your book. If you have any suspicions that you might long for some recognition from your work, then consider it before publishing anonymously so you don’t get yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place.
#5. Then you must deal with the issue of credibility. The first question most people ask when they realize that an author is publishing anonymously is this: why? If an author has the chops to write something good, wouldn’t they publish it under their own name? Although this scrutiny seems normal, it’s dangerous to the author because it makes every aspect of their manuscript become suspicious. Every detail will be question. Every description will be analyzed multiple times to see if it contains an error. Even if it is a perfect manuscript, a perceived error will be enough to drive some readers away from your work.
#6. It’s difficult to remain anonymous in today’s world. Publishing a book anonymously might work for a short-term arrangement, but eventually something is going to come out. A friend might say something to another friend, who then publishes your identity on the internet on Facebook. Suddenly your anonymous book isn’t so anonymous. This process can distract your targeted audience from the work that you’ve created, which ultimately hurts your chances at getting a sale.
Knowing how to publish a book anonymously has changed a lot over the past couple of decades thanks to the influence of the internet. It can still be done, but it takes a lot of work and even some writer isolation to make it happen. Still.. if you don’t want people to know who you are and still earn some money from your work, it is a publishing option that is available to you today.