Staying anonymous when self-publishing

Among my nieces and nephews are several aspiring Chekhovs and Poes who want to self-publish, one story at a time, on amazon. They will use pen names and they want to register their work on copyright.gov.

So the question has arisen: What’s the best way to stay anonymous–to keep one’s name out of public records–when self-publishing copyright-registered work, using a pen name?

Copyright registration info is public. One can register under a pen name, but that might be problematic later if one needs to prove oneself is the actual author.

One can form an LLC, where one’s name is not public. The registered agent’s name–typically one’s attorney–is public, but the LLC owner/members are not. Then register copyright using LLC.

Is that right? Do privacy laws relating to LLCs vary by state?

Self-published writers: What’s your experience with this?

You can copyright your work under the pen name. If there’s an infringement (less likely than winning the lottery, especially for a self-published work), the author would just need to prove that they were the one using the pen name. A copy of the registration form might be all you need. But copyright infringement is so rare, you probably will never need it.

You don’t need to form an LLC. Arrange to be paid by check, endorse it with the pen name, and then sign your real name below it and deposit it into your account. As long as the check clears, the bank won’t care.

I suspect you could also set up a Paypal account connected with your bank account, with an email address like penname@gmail.com. Paypal might be able to connect the two, but it’d require a search warrant for them to release the information.

I’m assuming the OP is really because they want to do this sort of thing…

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The Copyright.gov form allows you register your real name, the fact that the story will be published pseudonymously, and the pseudonym.

Having registered for copyright on a couple novels I self-published, my thoughts are that I wouldn’t bother with it. A new author’s enemy is obscurity, not piracy, and how likely are you, as a private individual, to actually hire a lawyer to go after a faceless book-pirating website? No, just publish the books via Amazon, click the box that turns on DRM when you do it, and pray somebody cares about the books enough to steal them.

No way. I self-publish stuff all the time and before long it’s all over the Internet, reused without my permission. Maybe it’s different for stories; I usually publish non-fiction articles and photographs. I don’t bother registering copyright because the cost greatly outweighs the benefits, given the monetary value of what I produce. (If I seriously expected something I produced to be a best-seller, I might make an exception for that case.) Anyone who publishes anything on the Internet should expect it to get redistributed without permission. They don’t necessary have to accept this; they just need to be aware of the possibility and be willing to either overlook it or spend the rest of their lives playing Whac-A-Mole.

Please don’t do this. DRM does much more to prevent legal, legitimate uses of your book by paying customers than it does to deter unauthorized redistribution by dedicated criminals.