Most romance writers use a pen name, or more than one, both for marketing reasons and to protect them and their families from unwanted critism or attention. It’s comforting to think that’s all you need. But there are insideous ways your in-real-life (IRL) name can be found.
If you’re writing something that might gather vigilantes (certain types of erotica, anything to do with abortion, anything left wing) you’d be well advised to just check a few places your IRL name might be that you hadn’t anticipated. Even if you don’t think anything you write is objectionable, any romance that isn’t sweet and right wing probably has the potential to be targetted by someone with reactionary views and a taste for making people’s lives hell.
Although most of the bad behaviour is dick pics from men on twitter or authors stalking reviewers who dared 1* their magnum opus, authors can and have been targetted too.
A note: your copyright is still valid if you use a pseudonym and your legal name isn’t written in. Yes. It is. Check. I’ll wait.
These tips are in no particular order.
Legally your newsletter needs to have an address in the footer. A lot of authors amend the footer to have a vague ‘City, Country’, but technically this could bite you if a disgruntled person decided to report your non-compliance.
Much better is to use a poste restante service. Aka a PO Box, or re-ship service. Most of these are hideously expensive – but with https://www.reship.com you only pay if you actually receive post. And honestly, what’s the chances of that? When I signed up there was a $5 admin/registration fee, but they never actually collected it.
Either way, a one-off registration and sign up and you can fix this problem without putting your home address out there for anyone who signs up to your email list.
Who owns a domain name by default is available via a who is lookup: https://who.is . Hopefully you purchased/clicked privacy when you bought the domain. You can purchase screening from whoever sold you the domain or via who.is.
Who else is on your hosting?
Check this here: https://viewdns.info/reverseip/ The likelihood is you’re on shared hosting and this will be a random list of other websites. But if you host your author website on the same hosting as your personal website and have a fancy big VPN package, it might be pretty straightforward to guess who you are.
Admin of your Facebook author page / group
Facebook stuff moves pretty fast – so this is the best of my understanding at time of writing. Many authors have a profile in their pen name, which is great and saves a lot of confusion and stress.
If you don’t have a FB account in your author name, bear in mind that if your real name is the only admin or one of only a few on your Facebook page or group, this is basically revealing your identity. For pages, the admin can be visible depending on the settings. For groups, the admins are always visible.
Big red light next to group admins!
Social media – Email addresses
If you click reset password on your social media account it will often say, email sent to evexxxxxx@xxxxx (or similar). So if you use your personal email address for your author social media accounts, you might be giving away (partially) your real name. Combined with other information this can be a problem.
Social media – Location
Don’t have your village or any specifics about your location listed. It’s not that difficult with image recognition to cross reference, say, facebook profile pics from people living in X place with your author profile pic.
Social media – Birthdays
Don’t have this listed publicly, and it’s better not to tell people it’s your birthday either. Again, it’s innocuous on its own, but combined with other information could lead straight to you. This goes for those, ‘Make your Cute Rom Com Hooker Name’ things too. Just choose a random date and post that if you want to engage with it.
Socail media – Friends / Followers
If you only have a handful of follows/likes/whatever, and they’re all your IRL friends and family (lots of the same surname is a giveaway), that might make you quite easy to identify.
And hey, if this is you, we’ve all been there. You will make more writing/reading friends. Come and say hi to me. Don’t worry about having no followers. It’s alright. There’s time, and we all start at zero.
Payments and Services
I would love to say that all the promo sites and etc. are completely fine. But sometimes they ask for your IRL name, and especially when you’re not paying for a service, be really certain that you’re not the product. Please be wary of putting your IRL name into ‘we’ll promote your book for free to millions of readers’ things. Probably it’s just spam, but some people are enterprising. In a bad way.
There are probably some other places you should check. I’ll add them as I think of them.
Stay safe. Happy anonymous reading.