General Question

Carly's avatar

If I want to submit a story for publication under a pen name, do I have to do anything legally if I receive payment?

Asked by Carly (4555points) October 3rd, 2010

I’ve never published under a pen name. Is there anything I need to do legally, or can I just tell the publisher to use a different name?

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11 Answers

marinelife's avatar

You will want to copyright it under your legal name or an established business entity,

Jeruba's avatar

You put “by Aloysius F. Pseudonym” (your pen name) under the title, but you submit it with a cover letter in your own name and you get paid under your own name.

GeorgeGee's avatar

If you actually get a publisher, and you actually get enough sales that royalties are to be paid, no worries, author name and “pay to” are separate entries on the contracts. You can have your royalties paid to your real name, your ex wife, Uncle Sam, pretty much anyone you want.

Carly's avatar

@Jeruba so for example if my pen name was Mr. Flubbles (which its not) then I would write

“The Never Ending Story”
By Mr. Flubbles Pseudonym

just like that?
(ps. that title is also just an example)

Jeruba's avatar


Dear [Name of editor]:

Here is my wonderful story “The Never Ending Story,” which I am sure you will love and want to publish. (Of course, this is not what your letter will really say, either.)

Carly Lastname


The Never Ending Story
by Flubbles Pseudonym

Carly's avatar

oo great, thanks!

wgallios's avatar

If you are getting paid personally (DBA, not through say an LLC for example). You may want to setup a fictitious firm name perhaps under that pen name through the city. This way if your Pen name is “Doug Smith”, they could essentially make the check out to “Doug Smith” and you would be able to cash it.

If it is however an LLC or corporation getting paid, you’ll want to setup the fictitious firm name under the LLC’s name, this way you can deposit checks into the business account that would be made out to your pen name.

Carly's avatar

@wgallios how do you set up a fictitious firm name?

wgallios's avatar

@Carly You will probably have to look up the form through your local county, For example In Clark County in Nevada I simply had to goto their website ( and print out the form. I sent in my filled out form with $20 Check, and everything was filled. You can then take the approved form to the bank, and they will let you deposit checks under that fictitious name.

The laws may vary depending on what county/city you are in. I’m sure some simple Google searching can point you to the right place. But I’m sure the process is quite similar, and rather pretty easy to do. Hope that helps.

Jeruba's avatar

@Carly, I wouldn’t worry about creating a legal entity under a fictitious name in order to get paid for a story you haven’t submitted anywhere yet. It is devilishly hard to get a story accepted by a publisher, even a short story, even a minor publisher, and even then it may be one that does not pay cash. Why not take things in order? First write the story. Then see what happens.

iamthemob's avatar


I’m with @Jeruba on this one. The only reason to set up a separate legal entity for your writing is to address tax concerns (e.g., self-employment taxation) or to limit legal liability associated with the writing. Neither of these should be a consideration until you’re really, really making money. ;-)

Once you’ve written the story, you’ve copyrighted it. As long as you don’t start giving it away to people for free, legally it’s your property until you sign the contract with the publisher. It doesn’t matter how you want your name on the work or who you want the check made out to (UNLESS there’s something about the work that could count as defamation and you’re attributing the work to a real person that’s not you).

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