10 Mistakes People With Pen Names Commonly Make

There are plenty of reasons to create a pen name for yourself as an author. Maybe you just want to keep your personal life personal. Maybe you wrote something that crosses a line or pushes buttons. Maybe you just don’t want your family or your boss finding out that you write erotica or that you wrote a memoir. Whatever your reason, you aren’t the only one. Hundreds of authors write under a pen name. I know a few myself. But…if you truly don’t want the world to know who you are, make sure you distance yourself from your alias. Here are the mistakes I see most often in online social media.

  1. Posting from one account and clicking ‘like’ to every post from the other. Alone, this isn’t a dead giveaway. But combined with other points, it stands out. Especially if the vast majority of your group or page involvement is only when clicking ‘like’ to posts by your alias. This is very important in the beginning, when you’re just starting your alias accounts. It will be noticed if you are the account’s first and only friend. It will be noticed if you are the only person who likes all of your alias’s posts for the first two weeks of their existence. Consider an outsider POV before you act.
  2. Commenting on your alias’s post saying how great it was or that others need to read it. Just like #1, when this is alone, it doesn’t reveal your identity. However, if you never make positive comments on other people’s posts and you shamelessly promote your alias consistently, it will start to stand out.
  3. Commenting on your alias’s post to answer questions that were addressed to your alias. If you’re going to do that, you might as well switch to your alias and answer from there. I’ve seen so many people comment on their alias’s posts saying things like, “I know exactly what he/she meant,” or “He/she wrote this to…” Doing things like that insinuate that you know the poster’s mind, and once people know that your alias is, in fact, just an alias…they’ll add it up fast. Don’t be lazy. Switch accounts and answer questions TO your alias FROM your alias.
  4. Using the same exact wording with both accounts to describe the genres you write. Similarities like this make it pop out and it’s obvious after that. If you describe your writing genres as – for example – “romantic animalism” and “post-apocalyptic love stories“, keep in mind how specific those are. Then be sure NOT to describe genres from your alias the exact same way.
  5. Using the same writing voice, style, and limitations without any apparent difference. Think about how you usually write when you interact with people. Do you say ‘lol’ a lot, use a lot of emoticons, or quote Doctor Who often? Whatever habits you notice, be sure to eliminate them on your alias. And, along the same lines (but less noticeably), if you are going to write the same exact genres on both of your accounts without pushing any limits, saying anything bold, or crossing any lines, consider whether or not you need the alias at all. If there are absolutely no differences in your own work from that of your alias, you’re really just giving yourself double the work having to promote two people instead of one.
  6. Sharing multiple posts from your alias account (or vice versa). You might be trying to come across as a fan or dedicated friend, but once someone realizes you are one and the same, all your shares stand out.
  7. Not paying close enough attention to which account you’re on. This is the biggest mistake I’ve seen so far. I’ve seen a post get a comment or ‘like’ from someone, only to have it instantly deleted and put back up from another account. Not everyone catches it, but there’s always someone who does. Its even worse when the alias comments on their own post and you don’t realize it until someone else comments afterward. If you are going to take the time to juggle two accounts and two personas, then please – for your own sake – take the time to notice which account you’re on when interacting with the public.
  8. Joining all the same social media groups. When you find a support group you like, I understand wanting all your aliases in it, too. But it makes it harder for you to keep separated from your alter ego without everyone learning that you’re one and the same person. If your alias writes a different genre, find them a genre-specific crowd for 90% of their social time.
  9. Tossing out guesses to other writers, asking if they are [insert your alias’s name here]. Most people, especially other writers, are more interested in your work than in finding out who you are. When you go out of your way to try throwing people off track, it tends to have the opposite effect. One of the best ways you can stay distanced from your alias is by NOT querying other writers with things like, “Hey you look a lot like [insert alias’s name]; is that you?” The less you talk about your alias, the less people will associate you with it.
  10. Only supporting your alias. Indie authors rely on the support of their peers to help make themselves known. This means forming friendships (or at least working relations) and promoting one another when possible. Don’t let your alias be the only person you promote. If you created an alternate persona just to help promote your work, you’re doing it wrong.

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