Sunday, February 17, 2013

How to Set Up a Pen Name.

by Melanie Driscoll

The process of setting up a pen name is simple and easy to follow.

The first thing you need is a name. Let’s say Fred Baxter. Set up a free e-mail account from any service provider.

In your handy backup elementary school notebook, start a fresh page with Fred Baxter at the top. Write down the e-mail address accurately, and write down your password (a strong one, with a mix of capitals, lowercase and numerals.) Check it and make sure it works. Use this page to keep track of all of Fred’s accounts and passwords.

Make sure there are no typos when you sign up for things. You will need this to receive the notification/confirmation from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble’s Pubit, or any other site.

I’ve already abandoned one e-mail account because I can’t get into it—either I’m misspelling the address or the password. The Smashwords new account confirmation, which I just signed up for, is inaccessible. That’s fine, a variation on the name, a new e-mail account, and I’m in again.

When setting up payment, use PayPal with the proper e-mail account as one of the official accounts associated with that account; or set up a new PayPal account. And one PayPal account can send money to another PayPal account.

Get yourself a young and attractive profile pic. It doesn’t matter who it is. The reason people have pen names is to avoid harassment from divorce attorneys and ex-spouses, to avoid problems in their daily workplace, to distance themselves from a bad rap or their past life, and most importantly, to brand their works. What this means is that one pen-name might be used for hetero romance novels, one for BDSM/GBLT novels, and one for rip-snorting western adventures.

A professional writer can write anything. We are in it for the money and have ditched our squeamishness just as surely as if we were making twenty bucks an hour in a slaughterhouse or pumping out portable latrines. Our work doesn’t define us—we define ourselves. We like ourselves just fine without having illusions of nobility.

If you are Canadian, you can sign up for a separate Collections Canada ISBN service account. In my own case, I write in many different genres so a number of pen-names has been suggested many times to avoid a reader picking the wrong book. Smashwords will assign a free ISBN. All you have to do is update the file you just uploaded! If one or two people buy the book while you’re doing that, so be it. It’s one minor flaw in the Smashwords experience.

Basically, separate accounts are used on Amazon, Createspace, Lulu, or wherever. Now you put the new name on the cover. You use the ISBN unique to that author or publisher. And you upload your book to Smashwords or any other platform. You use the new profile pic, you write a bio for that person, in the case of Fred Baxter, a 28 year-old professional in forestry management, and father of two, Megan, four years old, and Libby, two and a half. He spends a lot on daycare. His wife just got killed by a drunk driver and he misses her terribly…

Fred’s going to be writing fantasy, and that way no one picks up one of his BDSM books and gets a terrible surprise. Fred (not his real name) can open a Twitter account and get on Facebook, Linkedin, Orkut, wherever he wants. Incidentally, Fred’s learned a lot from you, and yet he is not bound by your mistakes, nor your literary style, or even your political sensibilities—Fred can be a reactionary, a young conservative, a Marxist-Leninist, anything he wants to be. The key thing for the writer to understand is that it’s not personal. If someone trolls Fred, they’re libeling and slandering a fictional character that you created. They’ve bought into it hook, line and sinker, and revealing quite a lot about themselves in the process.

You’re the only one that will ever know. The joke is on them. The very fact that they keep clicking on you and coming back for more, carries a certain weight with the search engines. It represents activity on that account. Some of them will take free books on giveaway! You’ve all seen the Amazon displays: “The last person who looked at this book also looked at…”

So we’re off to the races, creating independent revenue streams, all of which support total sales, the only figure that really matters to anyone with more than one book. You’ve got a new face, and a new identity, a whole new outlook and the world is your oyster. It’s a new beginning.

It’s all up to you now, Fred.* And Baby needs a new pair of shoes. There are a lot of readers in the world. Just remember that, and I promise that you—I mean we, will be fine.

I couldn’t be more proud. It’s like you’re my own son.


(*Not his real name, we just used it for illustrative purposes. Seriously, I wouldn’t lie to you. – ed.)

Photo: Evan Bench.

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