Agency Lessons: Pen names (part two)

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.

I'm back, after my brief hiatus. Thank you all for you kind words over the past week. We aren't out of the woods yet with our family situation, but things are improving so we soldier on.

Let's pick up where we left off a few weeks ago on pen names. We talked about why you may or may not want to use one. But let's assume you've decided to take the plunge. There are three types of questions I get the most.

1. How do I query with a pen name?
There is an easy way to do this and a hard way, and it all depends on how secretive you want to be. For my clients using pen names, they aren't hiding from the mafia, so it's easy. They queried me as Real Name
Writing as Pen Name

That's it. Nothing fancy or formal, just a little line tagged to the end of their query. All their contracts are signed with their real name and the checks get made out to their real name as well. But their pen name is on the cover. 

Now if for some reason you absolutely cannot use your real name, that's okay. It just requires a few more steps. First off, as you agent, I never have to know this. Of course, your secret is safe with me, but If your lips are sealed that's fine. So, I'll call you by your pen name, pay you to your pen name, and all your contracts will use your pen name. However, to make sure that you are dotting your Is and crossing your Ts, you should sign up for a DBA. This stands for Doing Business As. It's a pretty basic form that you can get from your local government offices. You fill it out, pay the nominal fee and then you're good to go. This basically gives you the green light to conduct all of your authorial business as your Pen Name. Nifty!

2. Do I need two websites, social media profiles, etc., if I use more than one pen name?
So, the long and short of this is, yes. If you are going to be two different authors then you'll need two of everything. Two websites promoting your different books, two Facebook fan pages, two Twitter accounts. Two of everything. Now, if your genres compliment each other, you can probably get away with a single mailing list. However, if you write MG and Erotica, best to keep that separate as well. Most authors use two pen names because they want to keep their various genres separate, combining all your social media defeats the purpose.

3. What about my profile pic?
Two different authors, so do I need two different pictures? Maybe. Some authors I know will use different images of themselves. Not making them look drastically different, but more to help them differentiate all their different accounts. Some authors I know stick with the same picture and don't worry about it. In the long list of things you should worry about when building your author career, whether or not to use two different images is pretty low on the list.

Now, If you are going for anonymity, consider changing up your look for your author photo. Use this opportunity to try a fun wig or different make-up. Some authors who need to hide their author identity will use a big hat or take a photo from an angle that only shows part of their face. I'm sure each of you has had a picture taken of yourself when you felt unrecognizable. There are plenty of ways to look different for a picture.

Okay, that's it for this week. If you have any other pen name tips, please leave them in the comments. Also, feel free to drop off your own questions for me to answer in the comment box or you can enter them here anonymously. And thanks again for all your prayers and warm thoughts this week. You guys are the best!