In this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast (which you can find a full transcript of below), I cover 5 topics, from writing ebooks under a pen name to why I’ve recently been collaborating on a blog.

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  • 1:07 – 1. Writing under pen names
  • 4:23 – 2. Blog collaboration
  • 7:01 – 3. An email newsletter tip
  • 8:01 – 4. Some Kindle Notes
  • 11:09 – 5. Better guest posts
  • 12:17 – Featured podcast
  • 13:13 – Featured digital publishing tool

DPP023: Writing Under a Pen Name, Collaborating on a Blog, and 3 More Ideas

Hey everyone, I’m Tristan Higbee, and this show is all about the things I see and would like to see in the world of digital publishing, from blogging to ebooks to membership sites and more, plus things related to internet business and online marketing. At the end of the podcast I’ll mention my picks for this week’s featured podcast and featured tool for digital publishers. You can find a full transcript of each episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast at DigitalPublishingPodcast.com.

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Ok! I’ve got 5 topics to talk about today, so let’s get started. This podcast will be a bit shorter than usual, and I will be traveling a lot next week, so know that there may or may not be an episode next week. If not, I apologize in advance.

1. Writing under pen names

I recently got an email from someone asking me about writing using pen names. Here’s the question:

“What do you think about pen names for fiction or nonfiction writing? Even “real” publishers expect their authors to promote themselves in interviews and social media. What if you want to hide behind a pen name?”

And here was my response.

Baby's First Zombie BookI currently write my books under my real name and two pen names. The ones under my real name are ones that are more or less professional. They’re nonfiction books about the things that I have a lot of experience with. The ones under one of my pen names (T.H. Wilde) are for fun. Those books include a couple children’s books and a book of poetry, and I think I even say on the Amazon author profile that it’s the pen name of Tristan Higbee. I don’t care that people know that T.H. Wilde is Tristan Higbee, but I don’t want my zombie book for kids showing up in the search results when people search my name.

And then I have a series of other books that are all in a very specific niche that I wrote mainly just to make money from, and those I wrote under a pen name. No one knows that that person is me.

As far as social media and interviews go, I don’t see pen names as a problem. If you want your real identity to remain unknown, you can just create new social media profiles, email addresses, etc. for the pen name. You could do audio and text interviews without any problem, but I guess you’d have to wear a mask or something for any video interview, and that’s just weird. That’s the only issue I see.

As far as pen names and Amazon go, you can have two pen names, complete with their own individual Amazon author profiles, in addition to your real name. So if people click on the name T.H. Wilde on one of the books I’ve written under that name, they’ll go to the page that shows my bio and the other books I’ve written under that name. If you want to use more than the two pen names, you can without a problem, but you can’t create separate author profiles for them. In that case, if your pen name is Jane Smith and someone clicks on the name Jane Smith on your book’s page, they’ll be taken to an Amazon page that shows the results for all books written by people named Jane Smith, not just you.

2. Blog collaboration

I recently started a new blog with a friend of mine. It’s called Gripped and it’s at gripped.org. I’m really interested in what’s going on in different parts of the world, and my friend, who I first met in Moscow 13 years ago and then re-met in Utah when we became rock climbing partners, is always sharing interesting news articles about various places on Facebook. So I sent him a message on Facebook, asking him if he wanted to start a blog with me, where we both just share links to the cool articles we come across. He said yes, so I set up the site and we’ve been both been posting to it daily since.

It’s a simple Tumblr link blog and will never be anything more than a fun side project, but even so, this is the first time I’ve ever done a collaborative blog like this, and it’s great. The blog gets updated without me doing anything! That’s a new experience for me!

The only other time I’ve really worked with someone else on a project is when I wrote a children’s book called Vegesaurus Rex, about a tyrannosaurus rex who’s a vegetarian. I wrote it and a friend of mine illustrated it. That worked out great, too, because though I could do and have done my own illustrations, I much prefer the writing side of things.

I’m a very independent person and like doing things myself and being in total control, but I’m slowly warming up to the idea of collaboration. Neither one of those two projects I talked about, though, makes any significant money, and I doubt either one ever will. While I like how collaboration takes some of the burden off of my shoulders, I’m less enthused about having to split up any earnings with someone else. Still, I could see myself doing something like writing an ebook with someone else in the future.

Like I said, this collaboration thing is new to me, but I like it so far, and I’d recommend that anyone else who is fiercely and happily independent and a control freak like I am finds a side project to work on with someone else. You might like it and you might hate it, but at least you’ll know.

3. An email newsletter tip

I don’t remember where I saw this recently, but I read that in the first email you send to people when they sign up to your mailing list, you should ask the person to email you back and introduce themselves and let them know that you’d love to hear back from them. I think this is a great idea, and its is definitely something I’m going to do for my email lists.

One thing I DO do when I send out new editions of my newsletter is at the end say something like, “I’d love to hear about what you’ve been up to or got done in the last week. Just hit reply to this email and tell me about it.” That actually works really well. It’s fun hearing about what people are up to, and a lot of people reply back with questions that I can help them with, that I can also answer here on the podcast or in a blog post.

4. Some Kindle notes

Here are a few random notes about Kindle ebook publishing. One of the ebooks that I wrote and published last month is called 101 Travel Tips. I mentioned two episodes ago that I recorded an audio version of the book and included a download link and password in the book for free. On the cover of the book is the book’s title and subtitle, “101 Travel Tips: The Essential Guide to Making the Most of Your Adventures.” To highlight the fact that the ebook comes with an audiobook, I included the words “Free Free Audio Version” in a little circular badge thing on the cover, and in the official title of the book on Amazon, I included “Free Audio Version” in parentheses. About a week after I published the book, I got an email from Amazon saying that I had to change the title of the book because it contained “extra descriptive content.” The email went on to say:

“Extra descriptive content in your book’s title field that is not part of your book’s actual title can be distracting or misleading to our customers. Your book’s title field should only contain the actual title of your book as it appears on your book’s cover and would appear on the spine of your book. Examples of items that are prohibited in the title field include but are not limited to unauthorized reference to other authors or titles, advertisements, or reference to sales rank. If you would like to provide information that describes your book or its content, you may include it in the product’s description.”

So that makes sense and isn’t a huge deal, but I wonder if I could have gotten away with it if I had made it part of the book’s subtitle on the cover. It’s something I might try in the future, but we’ll see.

If you listened to last week’s episode, you’ll remember that I gave away that travel tips book and my travel apps book for two days. In the past, I’ve given my books away for only one day at a time. This was the first time I’d done two days. By the end of the first day, both books were in the top 10 free travel books, with one at #1 and the other at #7, and both stayed in the top 10 for the whole of the second day, even though there were actually fewer downloads on that second day than there were the first day. I’m guessing that those sales rankings have got to be cumulative to at least a tiny degree for them to stay there in the top 10. I guess now I’ll have to try 3 and 4 days and see how those work out.

5. Better guest posts

Tim FerrissI know that some people aren’t fans of reading guest posts on the blogs they like, read, and subscribe to. It’s one reason why I don’t allow guest posts on my blogs. The idea is that you subscribe to a blog to hear one person’s take on a subject, and you don’t want someone else to hijack the blog.

I read a guest post on author Tim Ferris’s blog the other day, and I really liked the way that Tim handled it. Throughout the length of the other person’s article are brief comments in brackets made by Tim. The result is that you read this great article written by someone with expertise that Tim doesn’t have, so it’s information you normally wouldn’t get, but you still get Tim’s opinions on what the person wrote. It’s the best of both worlds.

Featured podcast and tool

How to Do EverythingAnd now it’s time for this week’s featured podcast and featured tool for digital publishers. If this is your first time listening to the show or if you’ve been wondering how the featured podcast I talk about each week relates to digital publishing, it doesn’t. It’s just a podcast that I like and want to share. Having said that, this week’s featured podcast is called How to Do Everything [link]. It’s a pretty random show. There’s no general theme from episode to episode or even within episodes, but as the name suggests, the podcast is all about how to do various things, from how to rescue a deer stuck on a floating piece of ice to how to fly a jet fighter. The hosts usually interview people that have done these things, and there are usually a few different topics in each episode. Each episode is generally 15 to 30 minutes long, and a new episode comes out roughly every week. Check it out at howtodoeverything.org.

My pick for this week’s featured tool for digital publishers is a WordPress plugin called FooBar [link]. This is not a free plugin. It’s $16 at codecanyon.net. You might be familiar with a service called HelloBar. It displays a bar across the top of your website with a message of some kind on it, like “Click here to like this page on Facebook,” or “Click here to download my free ebook.” Something like that. HelloBar is great, but they charge a monthly fee once you get above a certain number of pageviews. They do have one that you can pay a one-time $29 fee for, but it’s not a WordPress plugin, even though there is apparently a workaround to get it on your WordPress blog. But FooBar is a great alternative. It’s a one-time $16 fee and you can have an unlimited number of bars on an unlimited number of websites. I’ve been using it for several months now on fkb.me, which is my free Kindle book website, and it works great. Again, head on over to CodeCanyon.net and search for Foobar.

Final words

And that’s all for episode 23 of the Digital Publishing Podcast. Be sure to check out digitalpublishingpodcast.com for complete transcriptions and other blog posts there at the blog.

Please don’t hesitate to email me any question you might have regarding digital publishing. I love talking about this stuff, and I’d love to help you out. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.digitalpublishingpodcast.com. That will redirect you to my Twitter account, since my name is a bit tricky to spell. And again and as always, I’d really appreciate it if you went into iTunes and rated and reviewed this podcast, and thanks for listening.