Anon, anon, ah no

Hey there Miss Snark, I have a question for you today.

I have just finished writing my first ever novel, and have been doing research on this getting-published business before I go out and try to get this novel out there, and end up getting scammed. However, now I feel like I've reached a dead end. You see, my book is a very controversial one and it also a very personal one. For these reasons, I want to publish my under a pseudonym, and be able to keep my real identity completely secret. I know that this (writing under a pseudonym) can obviously be done, but my problem is that I'm unsure of how secret my real name can actually remain. Lately, I've been researching this matter, and it seems like if an author has a pseudonym, it'll take no time for the world to find out the truth. Basically, I want to know if writing under a secret name is something that can actually be kept a good secret. I want to know how much agents and publishers respect an author's wishes to remain anonymous.

Also, I wish to know if agents get more "turned off" by writers who choose to write under false names. I know that since I want to keep my identity a secret, I would never do things like book signings or personal interviews or none of that stuff, making it a lot harder to publicize my book. So basically; would my using a pseudonym make it even harder for me to get an agent?

First, if you s tell me you aren't available for any kind of promotion, we're done. "I did my part, you do the rest" isn't a practical business strategy in any field except sperm banks.

Second, if you won't tell me who you are, I can't vet any of this "controversial book" and if you think I'm going to fall into the trap of "didn't ask, not my fault" you are nuts.

Third, I'm disinclined to believe anything is both personal and controversial. Generally that's a sign of delusion. I prefer to buy my delusions in the swimming costume department of Bloomingadales.


Eros Paradise said...

Here's your typical newbie question: Has any book published with an anonymous author ever sold?

murm said...

the last bestselling one i can think of was primary colors, a semi-fictionalized account of bill clinton's first white house run.

the author was unmasked before long, but not before it was a bestseller.
i'm pretty sure his agent & publisher knew who he was (a prominent journalist), & took the chance on the book knowing both that & how much interest there would be in the story.

in this case, the anonymity was part of what helped the book sell, cause people wondered how close this source could be. but of course, the author couldn't stay anonymous for long. & the book was controversial, but not personal.

murm said...

& go ask alice is an anonymously-written book i remember from my youth. it is allegedly the diary of a nice teenage girl who gets into sex & drugs & bad crowds, & commits suicide in the end.

alice is (if it's true) probably personal, but not controversial. i don't think. but i don't know the story of how it was published.

Anonymous said...

Primary Colors? But eventually anonymous was outed.....

Jesse said...

Here's a blogger who published a book anonymously, which apparently did OK in the UK, but is tanking in the US: http://belledejour-uk.blogspot.com/

Yasamin said...

nyuk! sorry the bathing suit comment had me giggling. not the validity of the question or the answer. just the bathing suit comment.

Anonymous said...

eros--Primary Colors and any number of early porn-er-erotic literatute.

Also the original commenter can always hire his/her own "J.T. Leroy."

M. Takhallus. said...

As the proud owner of 11 published pseudonyms -- some of which we'd rather forget -- I can say that it is certainly possible to write under a pseudonym.

But you're going to want that signing payment check to be cashable. (That's kind of the point of publishing. Well, for me, anyway.) So you're going to want your actual name on said check, what with banks not crazy about checks made out to "anonymous."

Anonymous said...

Belle de Jour is a horrible read. I could not even get half way through it before shelving it away and then giving the damned thing away.

But yes, it is anonymous, but the writer did have a big following with her blog before getting her book published. As a matter of fact, I think the book is straitght from her blog.


Anonymous said...

'Go Ask Alice' was a fake, written (not by a teenage girl) as an Awful Warning Against Drugs. I'm pretty sure I read the full story on Snopes, but it could've been somewhere else.

And the swimsuit-delusion comment cracked me up to the point where I wish I had a car just so I could put this on a bumper sticker.

Gerb said...

>>I prefer to buy my delusions in the swimming constume department of Bloomingdales.<<<

LOL But, alas, that's exactly where my delusions are shattered.

PixelFish said...

Murm: Actually, I'd think Go Ask Alice is the other way round. Controversial, but not personal. It was banned in many schools, but was later determined to be primarily the work of its purported editor. Controversy, it had in multitudes. Personal, perhaps not so much. I read it as a teen and I rather agree with the folks who say it reads like anti-drug propaganda rather than a real teen's diary.

Dave said...

You can publish under a pseudonym but as explained by others, you have to be a person and own up to someone. Your agent and your editor have to trust what you write, so they better know your real name.

The author of Primary Colors (Joe Klein) pissed lots of people off and made enemies because he openly lied to them about who wrote the book.

But Lots of Authors wrote under pseudonyms - Stephen King wrote as Richard Bachman - - Sam Clemens - Nick Carter - - Leslie Charteris
to name a few.

Anonymous said...

Go Ask Alice by Anonymous is a bit of a scam. The real author was a middle-aged woman (who is credited as editing the diary). It's 100% fiction, but still pawned off on unsuspecting pre-teens as real.

Anonymous said...

This guy is anonymous and says he has a book deal. (I'm betting his agent knows who he is, though.)
I wonder if he'll be anonymous when the book comes out?

Virginia Miss said...

buying delusions in swimsuit department is priceless! (so is the sperm bank line).

word verification "iuymdik"

Allison Wharley said...

There are a number of people writing erotica who do not wish to be identified, for reasons which include personal safety.
They use pseudonyms. I know of at least one who does publicity photos (for newspaper articles etc) in a wig. I know they do it, but I don't know who they are. Their agent DOES know who they are.

As long as you aren't doing a book signing in your home town, and you don't tell all your friends you're getting a book released under a secret name, I daresay you could get away with it.

Anonymous said...

Trust me when I tell you: personal and controversial are not mutually exclusive. They are also the things of which libel suits and, thank Dog, great insurance exists.

That stinky tar you smell and those bawking chickens are not there for Miss Snark.

If my magnum opus ever gets published, the royal shiznit will hit in giant, corporate globs. This is not my ego talking; this is reality.

Hmmm, pseudonym? Gotta think on that.

PS Does Miss Snark (or Killer Yap) have a guest room?

Anonymous said...

John Twelve Hawks published "The Traveler" all secret-like. They did interesting promotion for it since he was competely secret. Here's an article about it.

librisfb said...

Beatrice Sparks was the author of Go Ask Alice (as "Anonymous").

theraspberrycordial said...

Interesting question. I would have thought, in some cases, that the anonymity would have a lot of publicity pull as people hate a secret and wanna get to the bottom of it

I'm guessing the reason this person wants to remain anon is cos of libel? Now that Burroughs (of Running With Scissors fame)guy changed all the names in his book but some people still tried to sue him...dunno if Burroughs is a pseudonym too?

Hmmmm, tricky one. The only solution might be to use one of your hunky friend's names as a pseudonym and when you get signed up, your friend does all the publicity tours, and eventually you both fall madly in love... oh sorry that's already been turned into a movie


Anonymous said...

When authors take a pen name it's usually not in order to remain anonymous, but for commercial reasons. Their real name might be unpronounceable, unspellable, unmemorable, or generally uncommercial (like beginning with an unfavourable letter such XYZ), or they might already have a readership base in another genre and want to keep things separate, or they've changed their official name and want to keep their writing name consistant, and so on. True anonymity is extremly rare.

Anonymous said...

There is also 'The Little Prisoner' by Jane Elliot. She writes under a pseudonym because she's on the run from her family. That was a bestseller in the UK and her identity seems fiercely protected.

M. Takhallus. said...

You know, one thing to consider if you have some big tell-all story you want to put out is to look at co-authoring with someone in journalism. They'll have connections and may be able to shield your identity. It would also perhaps give you some additional credibility.

Cheryll said...

When James Kerr's novel, The Clinic, came out in 1968, it was one of the first tell all books about the medical profession. Shocking, and advertised as pseudonymously written.

My mother was a nurse in a small town, and she (and several others) were certain they knew not only who had written it, but also who the main characters were in real life.

Apparently, many other folks felt the same way, as all across the US, lawsuits were initiated. None came to fruition, as I recall, but the publicity was priceless.

So far as I know, if this wasn't the author's real name, no other one was ever published.

Mazement said...

All of my delusions are broken or worn-out and I need to get some new ones.

I just went to the swimsuit department at Bloomingdales but they said they were sold out.

Now what? :(

Janet Black said...

That is an idiotic query letter. WHY write a 'personal and controversial' novel to begin with? Call it FICTION and say you made everything up. People can guess as to what might have been true.

Eros Paradise said...Has any book published with an anonymous author ever sold?

Sure. Big name authors sometime write under a pseudonym - that's pretty anonymous.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about other states/countries, but where I am you'd have to have state and federal tax id #s for the publisher and the bank. The bank & taxing agencies would have to know who the id # belongs to or you won't get a business license or a bank account. You can register trade names which would allow you to cash checks written to your aka, and to otherwise do writerly buisness using your aka just as any other business can call itself something like Joe's Cafe instead of using the owner's actual name. Your real name would be a public record that people can get but few would bother to look up. Unless they want to sue you. And you have to have someone some place designated to recieve legal notices, as in you're being sued. That doesn't have to be you, it could be your attorney or your mom. If your reason for wanting to be anon is that you want to reveal top secret national security matters or the sordid details of someone's personal life and are sure you'll get sued or arrested if you do, that's not likely to get a publisher anyway. If your concern is that your x is a homicidal maniac stalker and will find you if you publish anything, go talk to an attorney and find out what they can do. There are address and identity protections available for victims of violence in this state that the rest of us can't get but you have to have a judge involved.

Dave Kuzminski said...

I've used pen names on several occasions for several reasons. One was because my wife was convinced I would become well known and people would want to stop by the house at all hours. The other was because I have a job where I handle confidential medical information and I didn't want anyone I contacted (at that time about 28,000 people per year) to think that I might be using their information in any of my writing.

Both of those reasons have disappeared, but I still find it necessary on occasion to use a pen name since I'm known for operating P&E. It's hard to check on a business and get the truth if they know how you might use it.

By the way, I never had any problem with my bank when I cashed checks written to my pen name.

Kim said...

I know a few authors who selected their pen names based on shelf location - one wanted to be on an eye level shelf, another wanted to be next to a very prominent author. Don't know anyone who chose anonymous, though.

Just my two cents!

Anonymous said...

Go Ask Alice was challenged or banned in the U.S. It was one of the Ten Most Challenged Books in the U.S. in 2003. It isn't on the top ten for 2005. It is #23 on the American Library Association's list of the 100 most frequently challenged books in the U.S. from 1990-2000.

The ALA sells banned books bracelets to raise awareness about censorship. Each bracelet features the cover of a banned book.

Adult bracelets:
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
Howl by Allen Ginsberg
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
I Read Banned Books

Children's bracelets:
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
King & Kingby Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland
Blubber by Judy Blume
Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
I Read Banned Books

If you've never looked at the ALA list of 100 most frequently challenged books, I encourage you to do so. You'll probably be surprised by some of the titles listed.

The list is here: