In Your Corner: Nom de Plume (Part III)

Two weeks ago, I began a quick series on the merits of using a nom de plume–otherwise known as a pen name, otherwise known as a pseudonym–under which to self-publish your next book. The series continued last week, with an examination of the drawbacks of using such a cover, and concluded with the question:

So: You’re ready. What next?

And … here we go.

masked unmasked nom de plume pseudonym pen name

If you’ve decided to adopt a pseudonym, there are a few steps you should take to ensure you do it right. (And by right, I mean correctly!)

  1. Choose wisely. Once you’ve selected a pen name, yup, you’re stuck with it. Or rather, you will want to be stuck with it for a whole host of reasons to do with convenience and consistency, so make sure it’s not a name that ages poorly or that you will grow out of in a year or two. Don’t go overboard in making up a name so memorable that it comes off as goofy to others. Use friends and family that you trust as a sounding board for pseudonym ideas–they’ll let you know if they catch a whiff of something goofy immediately, since your reputation is important to them.
  2. Choose something unique. Don’t settle for your first idea; your pen name should be unique, so it’s well worth your time to do a little searching through Google and so forth in order to check that your pseudonym of choice is not already used by another writer (past or present) since you want to avoid confusion. Also: steer clear of imitating famous names. Stephen King will not be happy when he hears you’ve stolen his name, and you’re favorite dead author wants you to know her estate will be calling to sue, even though she’s long gone. Hunt through the U.S. Trademark Office website to make doubly sure you won’t get into any hot water for duplication, conscious or unconscious.
  3. Put a ring on it. Or, you know, your personal domain. Search for available domain names before committing to a pseudonym, and then buy it. Also make sure to file a Fictitious Business Name Statement if you’re likely to receive payments made out to your nom de plume instead of your real name. This is a real thing, and you should do it.
  4. Put your mouth where your money is. I know, I know, this is a total reversal of the usual statement. But once you put money down on a domain name, you want to make good on that expenditure. Put your pseudonym on your book’s cover and on your copyright notice. It is worth putting the notice in both your real and pen names.
  5. Keep your publisher in the loop. I know this sounds obvious, but it’s crucial that you be in touch with your self-publishing company at every step of this process. They’re the ones who will catch a lot of the flack if something goes wrong, but they also can do a lot to make sure your pseudonym is a success. Talk with them! And if total anonymity is your desire, then you’ll want to make that clear to them, possibly even going so far as to set up a corporation, LLC, or other entity in order to sign your contract under a name other than your real one. But that’s expensive, and complicated. If you are content with being anonymous only to the general public and fully frank with your publisher, there’s little need for that step.
  6. Register that copyright. Look, this might sound like an extra detail, but it’s 100% worth the fiddly work. You really ought to register the copyright of your work under your real name, your pseudonym, or both. There are different ways of going about this, but my personal recommendation is to lean towards “both.” That way, all of your bases are covered and you’ll never be caught out in a tricky legal situation where you can’t prove that your works are, well, products you made yourself.

No matter what, the decision about choosing a pen name rests with you, the self-publishing author, and while there are several potential missteps you might make, good intentions go a long way in the world of words. The one crucial thing you’ll need to do in choosing a pseudonym is to choose it sooner rather than later, especially if secrecy is something you want to weave into your relationship with your publisher. But the sooner you settle on a name, the sooner you can get your cover designs settled, and your copyright paperwork filed, and so on and so forth. “The early bird publishes in a timely fashion” would seem to be the moral of our story this week!

Do you have any questions about pseudonyms that we can answer here on SPA? I’d love to tackle them, or to hear you weigh in on your past experiences with pseudonyms, good or bad. We’re here for you, as a listening ear and a resource.

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner: Nom de Plume (Part II)

Last week, I launched a short new series on the pen name, AKA the nom de plume. I examined some of the reasons, historically, why some authors have been drawn to the partial anonymity it provides—as well as some of the “pros” to doing so today. (Hint: some of the old reasons don’t apply any more, so it’s worth knowing that time has not been kind to nom de plume-rs.)

But what are some of the “cons”? What are some of the reasons not to use a pen name for you, the self-publishing author?

pseudonym pen name nom de plume

PEN NAME CONS:

Some reasons which lead authors to publish under a pseudonym can lead to problems, whether legal, ethical, or moral—or might simply be bad for business. If your motivation for using one involves any of the following reasons, you might want to reconsider:

  • Skipping libel lawsuits. Lambasting your rivals under a pen name will not keep you from facing a libel or slander lawsuit in the slightest. The libelees may not be able to personally identify you, but your publisher can be subpoenaed and forced to turn over your name, and you should never underestimate the regular old information highways of the Grapevine and social media to reveal you to fans and foes alike.
  • Riding on someone else’s coattails. Adopting the name of some other, more famous writer can land you in serious trouble for identity theft, or for copyright infringement. So don’t give yourself a nom de plume like “Edgar Poe” or “Stephen King” unless you’re prepared by the original (or the original’s estate, in the case of deceased persons). Besides, that’s just confusing. Some authors whose real and actual names are shared with other, more famous authors will even choose a pseudonym simply to differentiate their works from their more famous namesake’s.
  • Tax evasion. Nope. Don’t do this. It’s dangerous! Tax fraud is something which the IRS takes very seriously, and authors are not exempt from the law. As with other legal issues, your publisher or publishing company can be subpoenaed for your information if the government has fair reason to suspect you (or your pseudonym) of doing something shady.

There are, of course, other “cons” which have nothing to do with misdemeanors. They include:

  • Making the processing of your advances and royalties more complicated, thus complicating your relationship to both your agent (or company) and bank, as well as complicating the sale of your reprints and subsidiary rights, the administration of your personal estate, and the transfer of title to heirs upon your decease.
  • Making marketing an acrobatic act. If you’re trying to maintain anonymity, it is hard to take advantage of your personal and social networks for promotional purposes without immediately giving up your actual identity. Your real name carries a weight with family, friends, coworkers, and even more tenuous connections that a pseudonym won’t. How will you maintain anonymity at readings or signings, if anyone you know might see your face in pictures or other coverage? (And remember: Facebook can ruin things for you too, with its face-matching algorithms which “suggest” name matches to faces in uploaded pictures.)
  • Shortening your copyright protection. This will only apply if you fail to register your pseudonym with the Copyright Office, but it’s a very real concern since so many people do.
  • Not seeing your name in print. I mean, come on! It’s half of the fun.

All of this is not to say that not choosing to publish under a pen name is the only good way to go … but it is to say that you ought to be cautious, and make sure you’re willing to take on all of the challenges associated with doing so.

So: You’re ready. What next?

Don’t worry, that’s what next week is for! We’ll go over how to choose a nom de plume, and best practices for doing so. It’s going to be fun!

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

 

Spending Money to Save Money!

Ever find yourself lured into buying something simply because it’s cheaper, only to find that it doesn’t work and then you have to spend more than twice as much money trying to replace it with what you actually need? We’ve all been there. We’ve chosen the cheap mechanic or car salesmen only to have our car break down just a few miles up the road.

As self-publishing authors, the temptation to choose the cheapest route is a dangerous one. A cheaper illustrator for your cover may save you a few bucks in production, but it could cost you exponentially more in sales. Spending money to make money always hurts initially. It’s a risk-based investment that you can’t guarantee will pay off. However, you can almost always guarantee that going a cheap route to save money will  never pay off.

Here are some things that cost money and are worth every penny:

  • Proofreading!!!!!
  • Developmental Editing and Copyediting
  • Interior Designer
  • Cover Designer/Illustrator
  • An up-to-date, visually appealing website
  • A book trailer or other social media marketing tools
  • Education — attend conferences, classes, writing retreats, etc. These things make you a better writer and will improve your sales, your networking and reputation as a writer.

Look at these investments as what they are: things that will pay off in the future. You invested so much time into creating a manuscript that you felt proud of, so don’t sell it short. Invest the money in it that you would like to get back and you will be amazed at the returns. If you just want a book to give to friends and families, feel free to skimp, but if you’re trying to market yourself, spend your money on quality investments.

money dollar bill


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com

From the Archives: “Book Marketing: Magazine Reviews”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: April 2nd, 2010 ]

The following list comes compliments of ForeWord magazine in the interest of helping you secure reviews with not only their magazine, but all magazines you pursue.

1. Become familiar with the magazine
2. Read the submission guidelines for each magazine before submitting your book for review
3. Create a good cover letter
4. Include a sales sheet (ask your self-publisher or publishing rep).
5. Follow-up

The best way to familiarize yourself with a magazine you want to review your book is to read the magazine first.

You can usually find submission guidelines for magazines on the magazine’s website.

When sending your book out for review, always include your contact information so the reviewer can get in touch with you if necessary. This should be a part of your cover letter. You can also politely request that a reviewer notify you when/if they review your book (but realize that many may choose not to do this).

 

Is the day of the magazine editorial dead?

What about magazine reviews?

magazine magazines rack

No. No they’re not.

At least, so say the print magazines themselves–and yes, they have  a vested interest in trying to impress their shareholders as much as possible, but when everyone from CNN Money to the New York Post to Wired Magazine lines up to say it’s not so, ti’s time to listen to what they have to say. (It’s worth noting that these periodicals are often at odds over ethics disputes and general worldview, so for them to agree is something magical. And also, it’s far more in their interest to say they’re doing well despite industry trends than to state that everyone’s doing well. They want people to defect to be their subscribers, after all. That’s just marketing.)

And we’re here about marketing, too.

So how does knowing print’s not dead help you market your book?

First of all, it opens up untold numbers of possibilities that the average author might not think of for ad placement and reviews. Facebook, sure. A local radio station, sure. But a print magazine or journal? “I thought those were dead,” you might as well have said. But they’re not. They’re not dead. In fact, they’re thriving–so long as they reach a dedicated niche audience.

Secondly, print magazines and journals have a vested interest, too, in upholding the work of talented authors in a way that a local newspaper may not. Newspapers are looking for news, while magazines and journals are looking for talent. If you have it, and you reach out to the right ones, you might very well find yourself being scouted for additional pieces, or find yourself pushing against an open door as far as promoting your book goes.

So don’t give up on magazines. Well, maybe give up on some. Do your research, and dig around a little bit to see what your ideal reader is picking up at Barnes & Noble or their local indie bookstore or subscribing to digitally. Instead of firing scattershot into a great void and hoping to land some hits, you should spend your time and energy firing precise, surgical volleys at market niches which will both welcome you and connect you with more of those ideal readers.

Long live paper!

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

Planning for 2017: Success?

After taking time to consider occasions that will lead to the need for damage control, this week we’re going to redefine what “success” means in respect to our goals, and as a concept in general. While the assumption is often that “success” means completing a new book or successfully marketing an already finished one, this one-size fits all definition does not look good on, or flatter the strengths and weaknesses of each unique author.

The author of “Eat, Pray, Love”, Elizabeth Gilbert, interestingly experienced the “success” of her book to provoked the same sense of anxiety and discomfort that is often associated with failure. She explained that the success carried a large looming cloud of expectations from her readers that she feared she wouldn’t be able to live up to in her next book. “Failure catapults you abruptly [into] the blinding darkness of disappointment,” Gilbert said. “Success catapults you just as abruptly, just as far, into the equally blinding glare of fame, recognition, and praise.”

For Gilbert, your subconscious cannot tell the difference between these two opposing poles, because they are both so far from the spectrum of our everyday, normal existence. Taking that into account, I think it is important to transform the idea of success into something more normal, more everyday, rather than something that just comes from world-wide recognition for our work.

eat pray love elizabeth gilbert

Re-conceptualizing Success

While finishing a book or having it fly off the shelves should be appreciated as a success, this is a very long-term and difficult goal to achieve. To put this into perspective, let’s say you were training for a marathon and never considered any of your training days leading up to it as successful because they weren’t the big day–logging those miles is going to start to feel hollow and unrewarding. Sure, that first training run over ten miles isn’t a marathon, but that is a huge success compared to sitting on your couch at home, and should be celebrated as such!

Having your vision of success span from the time you begin your project, to the time you complete it will definitely keep you in a better head space and keep you more motivated and excited with each leap and bound you make! Hence why we like to stress the importance of dividing up that overarching goal into smaller, more bite-sized pieces that you can achieve along the way and count as successful mile markers to your grand finale, which may be a finished book.

What are some short-term mile-markers that should be perceived as successes for a writer?

  • An outline completion
  • A chapter completion
  • A first draft completion
  • A marketing plan
  • Winning a writing competition
  • Writing an awesome Tweet, blog post, or other social media post that gets a lot of traffic
  • Your first piece of fan mail
  • Your first royalty check
  • Getting a gleaming endorsement for your back cover
  • And countless other examples.

Let’s make success part of our everyday. Let’s make small goals for ourselves that we can objectively look at and say, “You know what, I succeeded today” when we’ve accomplished them. Success doesn’t have to be this epic thing that becomes almost intimidating, as Gilbert describes it in her TED talk, and nor does failure. If we become at home in our everyday successes and failures, the monumental ones won’t seem so shocking to us.

“Success means doing the best we can with what we have. Success is the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph. Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be.”

– Zig Ziglar


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com

Planning for 2017: Damage Control

I think a recurring theme in 2016 seemed to be that a lot of things can go unexpectedly wrong at highly inopportune moments. If your New Year happens to still be clinging on to that pattern from the year just passed, let’s talk damage control.

damage control

First damage control worthy scenario: maybe your holiday marketing plan was a flop, or you were too busy to enact one at all, and you’re still stuck with a pile of books. This is no time to tuck your tail between your legs and wallow in self-pity or defeat. Get online and create a compelling promotional copy for your Amazon book and ebook page, and get some endorsements! Test out your drafts for your promo copies on some members of your target audience and gauge what types of descriptions they find most intriguing. If you’ve written one that generates enough interest to trigger a purchase, then pat yourself on the back and put those marketing pants back on, because those books aren’t going to sell themselves!

Or, let’s say your resolution to spend at least 30 minutes a day on writing or marketing has already fallen through because you’ve become unexpectedly busy at work or home. Maybe recovering from the holidays and trying to get back into your old routine has taken longer than anticipated. I have a few quotes that I try and turn into mantras when I’ve fallen off the writing or marketing bandwagon that I’d like to share with you all, because motivation ultimately has to come from you, and I find that I can really inspire myself to get back into gear by just reading some motivational tid bits by other authors–or just reading in general!

“Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e. do not cave in to endless requests to have ‘essential’ and ‘long overdue’ meetings on those days.”

–J.K. Rowling

“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very successful careers.”

Ray Bradbury

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little bit faster.”

–Isaac Asimov

Maybe you have been writing, but your book is taking a different direction than you anticipated and you are trying to reconcile your original plan with the reality of what you’ve got down on the page. My advice to you here–readers love surprises. A book that goes exactly according to plan can sometimes be dull to read, especially if the plan was generic and not authentic to you and your voice. Since we’re talking damage control today, let’s use the comparison of a story taking an unexpected direction to your car hitting a patch of black ice. If you over correct the wheel to try and veer yourself back on course, you’ll end up off the road, or worse, cause an accident. If you slam on the breaks and try and bring the car to a halt, you’ll probably have a similar outcome. But, if you try to calmly go with the flow and let the car get itself back on track, you’ll hopefully ride it out safe and sound. Once your heart rate returns from the shock of the unknown, see where this unexpected turn in the story takes you, and you’ll surprise yourself as much as you’ll surprise (and excite!) the reader I’m sure.

Absolute worse case scenario: you have been writing and you’ve lost your manuscript. Maybe you spilt coffee on your laptop, or the file you were working on was corrupted. Don’t lose all hope. There are a lot of computer nerds in the world who can help with file recovery.

I remember just recently an article I had written for a magazine had been saved in a place I thought to be very safe–Google Docs–but the editor I shared it with accidentally deleted the entire thing! I felt nauseous when she calmly relayed this little factoid to me via email, because I had poured HOURS into the piece. However, after I calmed down, I spent a half hour on Google researching how to recover the older version of the document, and lo and behold, it worked! Now, that was an ideal situation, but I do highly recommend keeping online versions of all of your documents, in case there ever is an issue with your computer. If your manuscript really is unrecoverable, feel free to mourn, you’ve lost something you’ve worked hard on. However, do not let it stop you from starting over with a tabula rasa–something good always rises from the ashes.


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com

Planning for 2017: Where do plans come from? And where do they go?

Here we are: the last Wednesday before the New Year. As the New Year is often associated with planning out resolutions, we figure the best way to ring in 2017 would be a discussion about what happens when our plans go either right and wrong.

plans calendar

First of all, how many of you actually planned to be writers? When you were five years old and an adult asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, I doubt writer was the first thing out of many author’s mouths. Author Ian Rankin told the Guardian that when he was growing up, he was inspired by his aunt’s husband who drove a fancy car and was an accountant. To Rankin, that high standard of living that included owning a home and flashy possessions seemed appealing, so he thought, ‘I should become an accountant as well!” However, when we travel down a path with only the end in sight (in this case, material possessions), the journey tends to feel hollow and meaningless and becomes easy to abandon. Rankin found this to be exactly the case, which is why he decided to follow his actual desire for reading and writing and change courses from his plan to become an accountant to his plan to become an author.

With this scenario–or the particular scenario that drove you yourself to become a writer–in mind, why should we think that our plans with regards to our work as writers would be any less subject to change?

First of all, there is no cookie cutter plan that will work for every writer. Some people who are less spontaneously creative need excessive planning that includes timelines, outlines, character sketches and diagrams for success; while others will tell you they never plan, they just let the story unwind as they write it. The most important place to begin then, is to decide what kind of planner you are, and that will allow you to have a measure for your success or failure relative to those plans (or lack thereof).

Whether or not you’re a deadline-driver planner or a “pantser,” the most important thing to ensure is that you are writing–no matter what. If you call yourself a writer, then you should be spending time (even if it’s only a half hour) every single day honing your craft, because writing is a lot of work. Gratifying work, but work nonetheless. Sandra Felton told Writer’s Digest that “prioritization and dedication” are essential tools for writers to have. For Felton, focus is essential, and if writing is your focus then there may be times when you have to choose it over other extracurricular activities in your life.

Much like exercise, the more you write, the better you’ll feel, and the stronger writer you’ll become. So when you make plans to work on that chapter today, don’t let it fall to the wayside because you had a long day. Everyone has the same amount of hours to spend every day, it is up to us how we plan to use them. Sure, you might be tired when you sit down to write, but much like the runner who doesn’t feel inspired to run, but goes anyway, you’ll find yourself feeling rejuvenated and happier for having done it afterward.

Sticking to your plan won’t just make you a better writer, it will make you feel more fulfilled as a person. We only have ourselves to let down and we all know how we hang our heads in shame when we fall short of expectations we have for ourselves. Remember that your plans are worthwhile, that writing is a therapeutic release that will only aid in winding down from a long day, and that working hard on something you love can be its own reward. And if you do have one of those days where you just can’t get it in, don’t beat yourself up or tell yourself you’ve failed. Get back on the horse as soon as you can, because you’re a writer…so get writing!


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com