FOR AUTHORS | Is Your Copyright Notice Undermining Your Use Of A Pen Name?

I’m going to admit, the following post may seem trivial to some. For me, however, it’s about a (small?) issue that can have an important impact depending upon an author’s mindset. So, I’m about to let show my penchant for tightening up the details.

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First, let’s start with a question: Do you write under a pen name?

Yes? (Then read on). No? (This won’t apply to you, but you may know someone for whom it does).

Next question: If so, why did you choose to write under a pen name?

Did you want to shield your identity for privacy? Was it strictly a marketing decision? Did you want to remain incognito due to writing in a genre not common for your gender or to separate your personal life from the public perception attached to your genre of choice?

Whatever the reason you chose to write under a pen name, did you do so and then use your legal name on the copyright notice included with the front matter of your book?

I’ve seen it time and time again. The cover of a book lists the author as Monica Dare (fictional author), for example, and then the copyright notice reads: © 2015 Monique Reynolds. Huh?

“Oh, okay. That’s her real name,” I think to myself. Then, I scratch my head and wonder why she bothered. In fact, I just picked up a book in which this occurred written by an author new to me. Thus this post.

Okay, I’ll admit I’m one of those weirdoes who read the author notes, acknowledgments, et cetera at the front (or back) of a book. But, I suspect more of your readers than you think are doing the same. Sometimes, readers may look at the copyright page to determine which book to read first. If you write series or have a substantial back list of titles, readers often want to read them in order. If the order of the books is not easily ascertainable from the covers of the books, then readers may glance at the copyright page to see if the publication date of one is earlier than the other. I’ve done it hundreds of times.

Many writers take the time to coordinate their author brand across multiple social media platforms, cover art, and book marketing. Yet, many of those same writers give no thought to having a copyright holder name inside their book that doesn’t match the author name on the cover.

I have to wonder why so many authors would make it obvious that they’re writing under a pen name. For many, I suspect they don’t realize that a person can file a copyright application for a work using a pen name without affecting the scope or duration of the copyright. (You can.) For others, maybe they don’t think any readers bother to look at the copyright page. (But, they do.)

If you’ve selected a pen name for privacy or other reasons for shielding your real name, putting your legal name inside the book defeats the purpose. If you’ve selected a pen name so that your neighbors or the parents of your kindergarten class don’t know you write titillating erotic romance, why give that away by putting your legal name in the front of the book. Little Sally’s parent may be an avid erotica fan, and she (or he) just might be one who actually reads the front matter of a book.

When you think about building your author name awareness and branding your works, your copyright notice is another platform across which consistency should be considered. If you are going to write under a pen name, why not go the extra step and use that pen name consistently—even on something so (seemingly) small as a copyright notice?

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