DIY Tip: Pen Name? Business Name?

Pen Name Yes or No?

Queries from our DIY Publishing Classes

Q: What made you decide to use a pen name? I am confused about setting up a publisher identity and an author identity (or maybe multiple identities).

Waverly says: What a good question. It depends on your goals as a writer. We are going to go into the business aspects of running a publishing company in the sixth DIY class, and explain all the ramifications of making the decision one way or the other. I wouldn’t make the decision quickly.

You don’t need a business license before you start publishing, and you don’t need a publisher name until you’re ready to set up your first book at the print-on-demand company (then it only takes a few minutes).

I have to say that I have regretted using several different names on my books, which are also written for different audiences. I have to create multiple accounts at Goodreads and Amazon, monitor separate email accounts (although I could have them all point to one inbox), set up and maintain multiple websites and Facebook pages and mailing lists, and, the most difficult of all, provide different content for each audience.

Annie says: I chose to write under a pen name because my long-time writing mentor strongly advised doing that, since I intended to publish in 2 widely different genres.
This has been the common wisdom / method among genre writers for decades.

However, I’m really really really sorry I took that advice, and have several times tried to think of ways to back out of it. It’s easy to clearly brand books as being in different genres, and to give enough information to readers that one kind of audience won’t be confused when they see a different kind of book with the same author’s name. As Waverly notes, it’s a *total nightmare* to maintain multiple author identities everywhere.

The only reason that remains now to use different author names is if you write in a genre that conflicts negatively with another author identity — for example, if you write erotica. Or if you have a professional identity (like a teacher or attorney) where you do not want your fiction-writing identity known to the public.

Also, I agree with what Waverly said about choosing a business identity. Search all your business-name and author-name ideas widely on the web (and specifically on Amazon), and make sure those search results don’t turn up something that you wouldn’t want to appear on the same search screen with your chosen name, book, or press.

Here’s the best discussion I’ve seen on the pen name issue that addresses modern concerns:


Pen, Business, or Personal Name for KDP Account?

Query from my email:
Q: If you set up an account on Amazon, is it in your pen name or your business name or your own name?

Annie: There are several parts to this decision.
First, your Amazon email login is just a unique token that means it’s the unique you who has logged in.  It’s just the secret ID where your computer does a handshake with their servers to confirm you’re authorized to make entries under that account.

Using the same login account for your Amazon KDP publishing account doesn’t tell any human being who it is that’s loading files or doing publishing related task.
It’ll get confusing if you use a different Amazon login for KDP versus your customer account.
However, if you have a separate email you use for all your writing business correspondence, then perhaps you’ll want your Amazon correspondence to go to that account. In that case, create a separate Amazon log-in account.

Name on KDP Account:
When you create the KDP publishing account, you have to indicate a business *contact name* and physical mailing address and an IRS ID — social security number or EID — because Amazon will send you and the federal government a 1099 form listing how much you were paid each year.
Nothing about that business name is shared in the Amazon catalog when you publish a book.
If you change any elements about your business name, address, and so on, you can keep the same Amazon KDP account and only change information in the back-end. It doesn’t affect anything related to author or publisher name for a book.

When you set up your Amazon KDP account, you designate the bank account where you want royalties deposited. This is not related at all to the credit card info you use as a customer when you buy things.

Name on a Book:
For each title that you upload to publish on Amazon, you will indicate who the “publisher” and “author” are on the entry form for that individual book.
None of the business-related information that you provide on the back-end gets published with the book. That’s just your private business relationship with Amazon.