Ask the Book Doctor: Are There Special Rules When Using a Pen Name?

Question: I am simply a hobby writer. I do get the occasional “how-to article” published in magazines; however, I want to write some western fiction novels. One problem, as I see it, is my surname. It is of eastern European origin and sounds strange to most Americans. If I write under an alias, are there any special rules that might apply to using a nom de plume, like getting paid under the assumed name, copyrights under that name, et cetera?

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Answer: I’m not an attorney, but as I understand it, pseudonyms are not a problem in the publishing business. Your publisher will know your real name and send your checks to your legal name. Once you produce a written piece of work, the copyright automatically belongs to you (under your real name) until and unless you sell those rights, and the rights will belong to you no matter what pseudonym you choose to use when publishing your book.

What would you like to ask a book doctor? Send your questions to Bobbie Christmas at This article republished from the Self Publishing Advisor archives.

Self-Publishing News: 4.30.2018 – April Round-Up

the word "april" from the wooden letters

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing, wrapping up what’s new for you and yours in April 2018.

Everybody we know opts to hear the bad news first, so here goes: In 2017, ebook sales dropped for perhaps the first time ever. Writes Adam Rowe of Forbes, this may (MAY) have something to do with that nifty little move publishers made back in 2015 to raise ebook prices: “In 2015, the Big Five publishing houses raised ebook prices to around $8 a book, far higher than the $3-a-book price point independent publishers settled on,” writes Rowe. There’s a lot to unpack in this not-complete-bad-news story, and some of it is even downright good news for self-publishing authors and lovers of the indie press. Says Rowe: “Traditional publishers priced themselves out of the market, and their 10% drop in 2017 is just the latest evidence that the value a traditional publisher adds — whether editing, gatekeeping, or marketing — isn’t as highly valued by ebook buyers as a low pricetag.” Word to the wise: provide unique content, keep your book affordable, and readers will come. Amazon may have an eye on monopoly, but other indie presses and publishers aren’t out of the fight.

And now for the unremittingly good news! It’s that time of year again–time for the CIPA EVVY nominations. If you haven’t already heard of these, here’s what you need to know: each year, the Colorado Independent Publishers Association opens its digital doors for nominations of the best independently published books from the previous year. This year, submissions are accepted up until May 19. Then, on July 31, CIPA will announce the winners in each open category at their annual banquet and celebration. Those interested in entering will pay a fee, however, and the fee climbs the closer you get to the final submission deadline. Those authors who have published with Outskirts Press receive plenty of bonus exposure and benefits, and a nomination to the CIPA EVVY Awards is a requirement for eligibility for the Outskirts Press Best Book of the Year, which is its own special award to be announced later in the year. For more information about the Outskirts Press service, visit them online at


As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Monday to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.


Conversations: 7/15/2016


The truism that “Two—and sometimes more—are better than one,” is definitely accurate when coming to marketing anything—especially our books! I, for one, have been quite overwhelmed with the promotion and publicizing of my book which was published last year. SUDDENLY the reality hit me that I was now in the business of selling my book—my product. I’ve been “back-doored” into operating a business that is taking way too much of my time. So, what to do?  Hire and assistant! If I don’t, I’ll burn out and all my creative ideas for the next book will burn UP!

Talking with a few of my author friends, I discovered several things about the Business of Books.

  1. The business WORLD of book publishing and marketing is evolving so rapidly that even the giant traditional publishers and very famous authors cannot keep up with it all.
  2. Most established authors not only have a Marketing Assistant, they have a “marketing team” through their publishing house—multiple minds searching for better ways to sell books.
  3. Self-publishing authors who have published with a self-publishing business often have access to marketing assistance which can include:
    1. Very basic marketing included in a publishing package which sets up a website and sends out a basic press release.
    2. Offers an introduction to Marketing Assistants who are definitely qualified and usually have had experience working with several authors.
  4. Personally self-published authors are “independent” authors with no automatic assistance. The writers I’ve known who have gone down this route usually publish their work for a small niche of people (family or co-workers) and seldom wish to market their work beyond that.

One of my new author friends has been talking to me about hiring a Virtual Marketing Assistant—an Internet Specialist who understands the world of digital marketing. My first response to her was, “This sounds like the same thing as working with a Personal Marketing Assistant. I’m talking with a very intelligent and Internet-savvy gentleman now who has a lot of good references.” She was not impressed by the details I gave her. Her continued arguments have not persuaded me. I much prefer meeting with and/or talking with a real person, rather than a “virtual” one—even though I know there IS a real person behind the typed messages being received.

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Bottom line, each author needs to do a bit of research into this concept of finding and hiring a Marketing Assistant, then make your own decision which way to go.  But “go” you must, before you suffer the physical and mental burn out that comes from trying to do what we cannot do well. I’m making my list of pros and cons. Here’s what it looks like:

Pros: I don’t like to research genre outlets. I don’t like doing “cold calls” to bookstores. I don’t like creating group email lists and sending out messages each month. I don’t have time to “refresh” the website every week. And, there are probably more marketing things that could be done, but I don’t know what they are. I know I’m losing income by not doing everything I can to promote my book.

Cons: Adding this assistant to my budget.

Conclusion: If this book is to be successful (financially and being read), it is time to invest in a Marketing Assistant. ⚓︎

RoyaleneABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene has been writing something since before kindergarten days and continues to love the process. Through her small business—DOYLE WRITING SERVICES—she brings more than 40 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their projects. This is a nice fit as she develops these blogs for Outskirts Press (OP) a leading self-publisher, and occasionally accepts a ghostwriting project from one of their clients. Her recent book release (with OP) titled FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words, is already receiving excellent reviews including several professional writer’s endorsements given on the book’s back cover.  

Royalene’s writing experience grew through a wide variety of positions from Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to Teacher of Literature and Advanced Writing courses and editor/writer for an International Christian ministry. Her willingness to listen to struggling authors, learn their goals and expectations and discern their writing voice has brought many manuscripts into the published books arena.

Self-Publishing Pricing Considerations

Book pricing is important to consider when exploring self-publishing options. Many authors get pulled in by little or no upfront costs. It’s important to investigate how that publisher benefits from such a model.

The fact is, most publishers charge you the wholesale price (or higher) for your own book unless you buy it in bulk?

The wholesale price! How are you supposed to make any money reselling your book to retailers? The wholesale price is what retailers will expect to pay.

Make sure your publisher offers author copy base prices below wholesale. Through a bit of investigation you’ll likely find that with a strong publisher your base prices are usually dollars below other publishers.

Most publishers attempt to conceal this by offering “bulk discounts” on large book orders of 100, 200, 500, or more.

Do you really want to buy 500 copies all the time, just to get a reasonable “per unit” price? Yes, when your book is first published, this might be okay because you’ll need marketing copies.

But what about 1-3 years down the road, when you just want 10 quick copies? Then what will each book cost you?

Just something to be aware of as you finish up your manuscript.

Have fun and keep writing.

– Karl Schroeder

Self-Publishing Stats: Retail and Royalty

The self-publishing journey isn’t always an easy one, even though we often claim it to be. There are many decisions to be made, and sometimes choices can get confusing.

While many of my posts may refer to authors who have yet to publish, the information is really universal. One thing I generally see successful self-published authors do is constantly learn and research. 
If you have published your book already, you may be starting to recognize some of the “fine print” issues involved with your publisher. For example, you may be discovering with your current publisher that their “20% royalty” is not what you expected.  Or you may be learning that your author’s copy price keeps increasing year after year, or that you have to buy 100 copies at a time just to get a fair price. You may be discovering that the royalty you earn for Amazon sales is much, much lower than the royalty they told you when you signed up. High royalties are usually reserved for publisher’s bookstores, but most books are purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Or you may be discovering that once your book was published, your publisher stopped communicating with you entirely and left you to figure out how to promote your book yourself.

These are all “tricks of the trade” and things that a good self-publisher will not do. Many authors have discovered that switching publishers is actually more profitable in the long run, even with additional upfront fees.

I recently reviewed one case study in which a best-selling author from “Publisher A” to another leading full-service self-publisher and that was the best decision he ever made. His royalties increased from 15% of his retail price to 55% of his retail price as a result. Instead of $3.74 per book, he started making nearly $14 for every book he sold on Amazon.

The good news is switching publishers is easier than you might think. Almost all publishers offer non-exclusive contracts, and you’ve already gone through the process once, after-all.

Have fun. Keep writing and keep learning!


– Karl Schroeder