Most people would bask in the fame that comes with publishing a bestselling novel, but there are others who’d prefer to fly under the radar. Whether you intend to write a book of a sensitive nature or simply don’t want the attention of being an author, publishing a book while concealing your identity is a sensible solution with many benefits.
You can publish a book and stay anonymous through a self-publishing platform or traditional publishing house. Many authors prefer to publish some or all of their books under a pseudonym. However, remember that 100% anonymity is never guaranteed.
This article discusses the pros and cons of anonymous publishing and how to publish a book namelessly. Additionally, it covers the differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing, choosing a pen name, and whether people can find out your true identity. Read on to learn more.
Pros and Cons of Anonymous Publishing
Namelessly publishing a book is one way to share your story or your love of writing without gaining the attention that comes along with being an author. This is only one of the many positive benefits of anonymous publishing.
Let’s talk more about the pros as well as several cons associated with publishing a book and staying anonymous.
- Publishing a book anonymously or under a pen name allows you to distinguish yourself from another popular writer or public figure with a similar name.
- Anonymous publishing allows you to avoid issues with your reputation among family, friends, or colleagues when writing about a sensitive or profoundly personal subject matter.
- It’s incredibly easy to anonymously self-publish under a pen name.
- Established writers can test out the marketability of a new niche without sacrificing their current reputation as an author.
- It’s much easier to promote a book with a name attached to it, so publishing houses may refuse to work with authors who desire anonymity. These companies want authors to participate in book signings, sales, and marketing campaigns to increase profitability. Remaining anonymous means that you cannot attend such events.
- If the book becomes a bestseller, you’re unable to enjoy the credit and reputation that comes with it, unless you “out” yourself. Even then, there’s no guarantee that people will believe you.
- Publishing a book anonymously makes it challenging to connect books to one author. This can be detrimental if you’re publishing a series, which is why it’s recommended to use a pseudonym instead of “Anonymous.”
How To Publish a Book Anonymously
Now that you understand the advantages and disadvantages of anonymous publishing, it’s time to learn how to publish without revealing your legal name.
1. Decide Between Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing
Self Publishing vs. Traditional Publisher
The primary difference between self-publishing and a publishing house is that you, as the author, keep most of the money earned from the sale of your book. Of course, some self-publishing platforms take their cut of the earnings.
Traditional publishers keep the majority of the sale price of a book, and pay the author royalties which are often in the range of 5-15% of a book’s price.
It might be more difficult to land a deal with a publishing house if you’re publishing anonymously due to potentially reduced profitability.
2. Select a Pen Name
There are two options to avoid naming yourself as the author when publishing a novel. You may opt to publish the book under “Anonymous” or use a pen name. It’s highly recommended that you opt for the latter, as a “real” name, even if not your own, can help with branding and connecting books in a series.
Of course, you can certainly publish under “Anonymous,” but the best way to publish a book under a cloak of secrecy is by using a pen name, or “nom de plume.”
Many famed authors, including horror-novelist Stephen King and fantasy wordsmith JK Rowling, have published novels under a pseudonym. During his early writing career, King penned several books under “Richard Bachman.” JK Rowling produced crime novels under “Robert Galbraith,” likely to test the marketability of a new niche.
A pen name provides the freedom of anonymity with the satisfaction of finally publishing your novel, and it’s best to choose one that’s memorable.
How to Choose a Pen Name
- Remain sincere when choosing a name. Goofy, bizarre names aren’t recommended unless you’re committed to composing comedic works or humorous children’s books. Instead, opt for a realistic name. Authoring a book under “Kris P. Bacon” may make people want to figure out just who you really are. Authoring under a name like “Henry Gary Desmond” or simply “H.G. Desmond” is realistic and less likely to be questioned.
- Be creative. While it’s important to choose a serious, believable pen name, that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative. Consider choosing a pseudonym that has personal significance to you, such as a great-grandmother’s maiden name or a play on your initials. Bear in mind that this could potentially lead to having your identity leaked if someone makes the connection, so play it smart.
- Find inspiration. Look at books in your collection or at the library and read the names of several authors. Make note of any names that stand out to you. By compiling a list of appealing names, you may be able to come up with something original.
- Choose an easy-to-remember name. You want the name to be memorable and easy to spell. However, “John Smith” or “Jane Doe” probably aren’t the best options due to their commonness. Do research to ensure you’re not competing with an author of the same name or a public figure.
3. Produce a Good Quality Manuscript
It doesn’t matter whether you’re self-publishing or going with a publishing company. You must produce a high-quality manuscript if you want agents and readers to take it seriously. Even if your real name doesn’t appear on the cover, the book remains a reflection of you.
A quality manuscript is critically important if you want people to read the book and enjoy it.
Those who enjoy a book are the ones who write positive reviews, thus encouraging others to read your book, too.
4. Choose a Platform or Publisher If Self-Publishing
Anonymous Publishing with Traditional Publishing
- Edit: Once you’ve finished your book, thoroughly edit and proofread. Whenever possible, have trusted friends “beta read” your manuscript to help find any typographical errors, grammatical issues, or problems with timelines, characters, or events. A typo here and there won’t ruin your book, but several of them could mean the difference between agents reading your book or tossing it to the side.
- Know your audience: Before a publishing house even considers entering a business agreement, they need to know the target audience to determine the market. Certain genres are more lucrative than others, including children’s literature, young adult novels, and science fiction.
- Find an agent: Locating an agent that agrees to take on your book doesn’t guarantee a publishing house will accept it. However, it certainly helps your chances. Research different agencies and use their websites to find their query requirements.
- Be upfront: You need to let the agent and publishing house know that you intend to publish the book anonymously. This may cause them to back out of the deal, but it’s important to know before signing any contractual agreements.
- Submit a proposal or the manuscript: Most publishers don’t want authors to send the entire manuscript. They’d rather have a proposal including a query letter, synopsis, and several sample chapters. Check the website to be sure, as some may allow manuscript submissions.
Today, you can self-publish books anonymously through online platforms. Most of the websites are intuitive and easy to use.
The top three self-publishing platforms are:
Self-publishing while concealing your true identity may be easier in some ways than using a traditional publishing house. After choosing a self-publishing platform, you’re given the option to create an author page and list the name under which you intend to publish your book.
It’s as easy as entering all of the required information into a form, uploading the manuscript, designing or uploading your cover design, and then submitting it.
Can People Find Out My Identity if I Publish Anonymously?
Unfortunately, anonymity is never 100% guaranteed.
People can find out your identity if you publish a book anonymously or under a pseudonym. With the internet, there’s always a way to connect the dots and find out the truth. However, there are ways to reduce the likelihood of being “outed.”
When writing, think about the writing style and content.
Avoid making mistakes or including information that could potentially give away the truth about who you are. Writing an autobiography or incorporating actual events or real names of people in your life could potentially blow your cover.
Additionally, consider the repercussions if the book turns into a bestseller. Would you be able to remain silent? Even if you can keep quiet, the book’s fame may encourage readers to delve into the mystery of the true author.
The Rules of Libel Still Apply
Of course, you can still tell your story in great detail, but it’s best to keep all characters anonymous as well, but changing their name may not be enough. In fact, information that might even imply identity could land you in court.
Again, play it smart, and avoid making any mistakes that could jeopardize the success of your book or wrap you up in legal battles.
Namelessly publishing a book is one way to share your story or your love of writing without gaining the attention that comes along with it.
Whether you want to avoid letting your Great Aunt Theresa know that you write steamy romance novels or prevent unwanted attention from writing on a sensitive subject, publishing a book anonymously helps keep your identity a secret.
You can take multiple measures to prevent being found out, but remember that anonymity is never guaranteed. As such, every author should consider the consequences should their true identity be revealed.