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Three years ago I published a novel on Kindle. 10K free copies went out before I realized the text was vertical! It is still quite painful to recall.

I unpublished it, got a new cover, waited 6 months, and republished. Sales were slow. The point is I am trying to build a career on Kindle. I now have three books there.

I'm about to publish a new novel and wonder if it would be wise to distance myself from the blunder by using a pen name. Are there any reasons I want to retain the same name? Is this a serious enough problem that I should start fresh with a new name?

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This is my opinion and not based on research.

What you made is a mistake. We all make mistakes and I can forgive them, especially if I did not lose any money over it. (If the book had not been free and you had refunded your customers it would not have been a big deal either.)

I don't see any reason why I should not give your next book a chance to entertain me. The only thing that would keep me from buying your next book is bad writing.

I don't see a need for you to choose a different pen name. Act as if it had never happened. I have seen many books from major publishers printed or bound the wrong way, and all I did was just not buy them. No problem, no bad feelings.

Only if someone comments on it to you directly should you reply to it (with wry, self-deprecating humor), but do not (ever) reply to reviews; they are not addressed to you. (Reviews are not an invitation to the author for discussion and you must graciously accept them.)


I would recommend that you register at kboards and ask there, too. Members of that Kindle publishing forum have lots of experience with ebook publishing and will have a better idea of the effects of your blunder and a good strategy to deal with it. I'd not be surprised if someone there has had a similar experience.

If you do ask there, please link to that thread in your question, or summarize the advice you get in your own answer here.

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    I suspect the majority of readers would have blamed their Kindle, or Amazon, or an imaginary publisher, or their own technical shortcomings before blaming the author. That would be my instinct too, despite having a pretty good idea how the process works.
    – mwo
    May 26, 2015 at 12:05
  • OTOH if the book was bad, and received poor reviews basing on the content, a fresh start might help. (I mean, how hard is it to turn your Kindle 90 degrees and keep reading? I don't want to imply anything but I'd hardly blame your initial mistake for poor sales later.)
    – SF.
    May 29, 2015 at 12:30
  • @SF The free wrong book got handed out 10,000 times. Obviously there were no bad reviews that kept people from picking it up. And sales are now slow, because they are sales and the book is no longer free, not because of any bad reviews either. Or at least OP does not make any mention of bad reviews, it seems to me (s)he is worried without any clear evidence.
    – user5645
    May 29, 2015 at 12:42
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Good luck with your writing career. I wouldn't worry about the blunder. Often, that sort of thing can make you sound more human and you can even use it as a marketing trick later in your career. Everyone loves a back story and to learn how authors "made it". It's something you could use on an author's website when the time is right.

Secondly, most people have incredibly short memories. We live in an era of information overload. You mention 10k downloads of the wrongly formatted book: 10,000 people is less than a small town's population - which means most of the people even in your own country have not even heard of you as yet. They simply don't know you cocked up. Use your own name, make a success of your writing and use this story at an appropriate juncture in your life to inspire the next generation of aspiring writers.

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Now write the global phenomenon “special edition” copy and all your misprints will become as valuable as a double-stamped golden eagle. Finding a mistake made by a great artist is often more valuable than their famous works.

I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. The reasons to use a pen name are all related to content, not “professionalism.” Think about it: “Hi! I’m Jack Ghostman when I write well, but when I screw up it’s ‘the other guy’”

Sounds silly, right?

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  • It may be silly, but iirc in one of his lectures on writing, Brandon Sanderson recounts the story of a writer friend of his who, after bombing on his first book, was told by his publisher (or agent) to retry under another name. It's just better for sales if your "first" book is good.
    – user54131
    Apr 22, 2022 at 5:47

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