Years ago, I wrote many westerns under half a dozen names for a publisher. They bought the copyright and published them. Now I'm hoping to write for a different publisher.

Can I still use one of the pen names I used for my former publisher, or does the copyright to the novels include my pen name?

2 Answers 2


You will have to look at the contract you signed with that publisher.

  • If they own the name, you cannot use it without their permission.
  • If the name is not part of the contract and it was you who came up with it, you may use it as you like.
  • If the name is not part of the contract but the publisher suggested it to you (and there may be witnesses to the name suggesting or documents to prove it, such as letters or emails), I would ask a laywer.

I agree with Cloudchaser's answer. Because one book has the potential to increase the sales of another, you might want to let the first publisher know that you have any title coming out under the same pseudonym.

If you're having a publisher publish pseudonymous works, your agreement should specify under what conditions the publisher can reveal your identity. Sometimes, sales of books under a pseudonym can help sales under the author's real name and vice versa. Usually the author and publisher are on the same page about sales and promotions, but in some cases, there may be commercial reasons why a publisher might want to reveal the identity behind the pseudonym.

I'm assuming that the works are not part of a series, or if they are, that the publisher does not retain the option to publish additional volumes in the series. The initial contract should cover that stuff.

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