1. mVd
    Offline

    mVd Member

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2012
    Messages:
    27
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Estonia

    Using a Pen name

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by mVd, May 31, 2012.

    Hello,

    I am sorry if this has been asked already, search option didn't turn up any decent results.

    Anyway, i got wondering with publishing using a pen name. It doesn't matter if self-published or using a tradition publisher.
    When i use a pen name for my novels and lets say it has major success. Now there is a person who wants to write a sequel to my book under my pen name.
    How do i prove my ownership without revealing my true name to everyone?

    Also, this is not the only example i was thinking about. Also defence against people using very similar writing towards mine in their own books etc.

    I suppose it will be difficult to prevent that in the case of self-publishing.
    Does having your own website (setup right after you publish) that is focused on my books and writing help against that?
     
  2. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Keep all your early drafts. They are the best proof of copyright ownership in the courts, pen name or not.
     
  3. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    not only your early drafts, but your idea notes, jottings, etc. that led to writing the piece... and 2-3 edited versions containing your handwritten notes/comments/corrections... no one else will have all that to show the evolution of your work from germ of an idea to polished final draft...

    don't know what you're referring to here... but if it's story ideas, there is no defense, since ideas can't be copyrighted and people often come up with similar plots completely on their own... if you mean similarity in the actual writing style, that also cannot be copyrighted and isn't really a problem...

    prove what?... self-publishing makes no difference, in any case...

    against what?... if you mean plagiarism, it helps nothing, since it's no proof that you wrote the content, but only of when you put it up on the internet...

    learn the basics of the copyright laws here: www.copyright.gov
     
  4. PeterC
    Offline

    PeterC Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2011
    Messages:
    191
    Likes Received:
    24
    Location:
    Vermont, USA
    What does "keep all your early drafts" mean to people who work entirely electronically? Does keeping backup copies made, say, every week going back to the start of the writing effort count? Electronic files are easy to forge, including the dates, but of course all the partial versions of the story would be a lot of work for a dishonest person to replicate (perhaps with the help of specialized software it could be done). It is possible to digitally sign documents in an "unforgeable" way. Is it necessary to go that far?

    I put all my work, including my notes, into a version control system. This allows me to retrieve every version ever committed to the system, along with dates, comments, etc. Typically I do a commit after each day's worth of writing. Examining the versions would allow one to see the work unfolding... but in theory without digital signatures the whole thing could still be forged.
     
  5. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    It means the same thing "show your work" means to your teachers in school. It shows the process leading from the first ideas to finished product. If anyone could fake that, they don't NEED to risk permanently ruining their writing career by stealing your stuff.

    Yes, dates and timestamps can be faked, and essentially that is why the "poor man's copyright" of mailing yourself a sealed copy of your manuscript is not recognized as evidence.

    There's a not-so-fine line between self-protection and paranoia.
     
  6. PaulMcElligott
    Offline

    PaulMcElligott New Member

    Joined:
    May 31, 2012
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    Generally speaking, your publisher will always know your real name, because they need to know whom to pay royalties. If you self publish, register your manuscript with your copyright office listing your real name in the contact information, but your pen name as the copyright holder. Writing under a pen name is not that anonymous from a legal and business perspective. Of course, I'm speaking from a U.S. perspective.
     
  7. indy5live
    Offline

    indy5live Active Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2012
    Messages:
    171
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Houston
    I always thought you register a business with the state and whatever you named the business can be your Pen Name. Publishers can pay you in that Pen Name just like you can pay any business and you can copyright everything within the business name. Also, the business hires ghostwriters to publish novels in the business name as well. Because you are a business you will have legal rights to that name as well. I think anyways, not really sure.
     
  8. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    But your publisher will know your real name, and the truth is, very likely your readers will too. Just think of the number of authors you know are using a pen name! If someone writes the sequel, that's probably called fanfiction and would be recognised as such - if as you say, your book was a major success, do you really think traditional publishers won't know it's fanfic? Like, I don't know the processes, but I imagine the publisher, even assuming they didn't know your real name and thus can't tell when a fanfic writer is presenting fanfic as their own, they're gonna question: well, why didn't your first publisher sign with you, since it was a major success? It makes no sense.

    Also, highly likely that fanfic wouldn't sound the same as your first book and the pros should be able to spot the bad quality of writing. And if this fake guy is soo excellent that he could actually copy your style and develop your characters to such a level as to not be spotted, I think he'd probably go ahead and write his OWN fiction! Copying someone else's work is actually harder than making an original often.

    And if the fake guy self-publishes fanfic and presents it as his own, likely it'll sink to the bottom of the ocean. And if it's a success - again then the guy's probably good enough to do his own fiction and wouldn't have bothered with copying in the first place. And your publishers would pursue this for you surely, because it affects their profits too you know ;) and your publishers would surely know if you've written it or not etc etc etc and help you in the lawsuit. Like I say, it affects them too.

    In other words, I wouldn't worry about it.
     
  9. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    All legal documents, including your copyright registration, and your publishing contract, are signed with your legal name, not your pen name. Your pen name goes on the manuscript only in the by line, and your query letter and submission cover letter can mention the pen name. However, your legal name still belongs on the letterhead and closing of these letters.

    If you incorporate yourself with another name, you could assign your corporate name all the legal rights, I suppose. I suspect there would be many complications, though. That's a question to take to a literary attorney.
     
  10. mVd
    Offline

    mVd Member

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2012
    Messages:
    27
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Estonia
    Okay. Thanks for all the insightful information.
    [​IMG]
     
  11. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    first of all, it's best to edit your work on paper now and then, as it's too easy to keep missing the same mistakes on the monitor... and secondly, you then have proof of your editing, since it'll have handwritten notes and corrections/additions that show the evolution of the work...
     

Share This Page