I am working on a technical book. Planning to publish with Amazon's Createspace.

Decided on a pen-name because:

  1. Real name is too long, hard to spell and pronounce for most people
  2. Given current political environment, real-last name sounds like I'm in unfavorable cultural group and people have reacted negatively in past (let's leave it at that)
  3. Hear lot of stories about people gleaning your personal info from open sources and using it against you (I deleted all my social media accounts in past year)

Question: How to keep my book fairly anonymous to the public at large, but prove to friends, family, coworkers, prospective employers, etc. that I in fact wrote the book?

  • This seems to be only tangentially related to academia. There could be some ways to accomplish it with cryptography, but that's more a question for Crypto.SE.
    – Nate Eldredge
    Jun 7, 2017 at 23:06
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    @NateEldridge: I suppose the academia-relevant part could be emphasized (and also made more generic) by transforming the question into something like "How do I build a reputation/interlinked publication history in academia that I can claim as my own while in direct touch with academics, without giving away my identity toward random readers of my publications?" (With that said, note that I consider the question on-topic already as it is now, despite being somewhat localized.) Jun 7, 2017 at 23:28
  • @O.R.Mapper I updated last part of question.
    – Rhonda
    Jun 7, 2017 at 23:58
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    I wonder if this wouldn't be a better fit at the Writing Stack Exchange.
    – J.R.
    Jun 8, 2017 at 0:24
  • @J.R. I was searching an appropriate forum, didn't know about Writers forum. Moderator, please move post if appropriate.
    – Rhonda
    Jun 8, 2017 at 0:46

4 Answers 4


In most cases, the straight-forward solution is to be consistent in the name you are using in a professional context. So pick a name you are comfortable people calling you by, use that name for your publications, when you go to a conference, in correspondence with academics, etc.

The situations where the name written in your passport and the name you are known by to the academic community are both relevant at the same time are rare: I can only think of employment contracts and invitation letters for visa purposes, and in both cases one can simply explain the discrepancy.

It might have some benefits if there is a recognizable connection between academic name and passport name, but I do not think that this is crucial.

  • 1
    The connection may be crucial though in a potential job interview situation, as future employers will want to cross-check your academic achievements with official certificates that probably use the "passport identity". Better have a plan for that ready as well...
    – silvado
    Jun 8, 2017 at 13:06
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    @silvado You are right, some employers might already ask for certificates at the interview stage. But in that case, one would simply sent the same explanation together with the certificates than one would if this comes along with the job offer.
    – Arno
    Jun 8, 2017 at 13:38

When you create a pen name, USUALLY you need to also provide your real personal information. They need to know your real information so they can forward matters to the right person such as any income and book matters. It is just hidden behind the pen name. If you are worried about people doubting you wrote it, then to those who matter, show them the paperwork that goes with creating your pen name.

Another way to prove it is you is to show them the book through the means which you wrote it (word for example). No one will spend the time to write hundreds of pages worth of text just to fabricate they wrote the book... it's just way too much effort without getting anything back besides "wow you really did write it". So if they see your rough drafts and manuscripts for it, that is another way you can prove to those who matter you are indeed the author.

  • 2
    I'm using Amazon Createspace that requires real name, taxpayer info, etc
    – Rhonda
    Jun 9, 2017 at 23:07
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    @Rhonda there you go. Since you will have that documented, use that to demonstrate your proof with blocking out any sensitive data such as your SSN. But the people you are showing it to can see the pen name with your real name.
    – ggiaquin16
    Jun 9, 2017 at 23:09
  1. Minimally anonymous: On the copyright page, list yourself (using your real name) as the copyright owner.
  2. Moderately anonymous: List a company that you own as the copyright owner, then show your friends that the company is you.

Option 2 will cost a little bit of money to create the company, but you can use a relatively inexpensive form, such as Doing Business As (known in some places as Fictitious Business Name).

If you choose to go that route, consider making the company a publishing company. Then you can list that company as the publisher on your book.


Tell the readers, just not on the cover

The author Seanan McGuire writes some of her books under the pen name 'Mira Grant', and actually includes the line

Mira Grant is a pseudonym for Seanan McGuire

In the 'About the Author' section of her books.

This works for her because she is not using the pen name to conceal her identity, but instead for branding purposes to distinguish between the two genres she writes in.

The first two reasons you give are essentially branding issues as well, and could be solved the same way. I don't know what kind of author information is typically provided for the type of book you are trying to write, but even if no information is provided than you can go with Dale's suggestion of including it in the copyright information, which has a slight bonus of being even less likely to be read.

This is not a solution that works so well for your third concern. I suspect that you are not in as much danger as you fear - there's not much a person can do with just your name and area of technical expertise, and people trying to take advantage that way are more likely to chose targets that they can find significant amounts of information on instead of those like yourself who keep a small footprint. But if it is a concern, than you will have to find another solution.

Embed a personal reference in the text

A reference that is significant to you and your family, but meaningless to everyone else, can be a perfect way to 'prove ownership' of a book to the people you want to convince.

This may be easier or harder to do, depending on the exact nature of the book you are writing. If you're writing a story it's easy - just have the characters stay at the "Spanish Emu Inn", or whatever your family's favorite in-joke is. Technical writing is harder, but if you have any examples that involve arbitrarily named people than instead of using Alice, Bob, and Chris then fill the names with the names of people or pets that your family will recognize.

Some creativity will be required to fit in a hidden reference that is both recognizable to those in the know and unobtrusive to those who aren't. But done properly, it could be just as strong evidence as your name on the cover would be.

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