How To Copyright a Book with a Pen Name

How To Copyright a Book with a Pen Name

How to copyright a pen name

If you are considering writing a book under a pseudonym, or pen-name, you might be wondering how you would go about copyrighting your work.

There a number of reasons different authors choose to hide their real identity; from established writers wanting to make waves in a different literary field, to new and upcoming authors who are hesitant or reluctant to put themselves in the limelight. Regardless of your experience, you will still need to make sure that your work, and the artistic rights to this work, belong to you. In this short guide, we will show you how to do this:

Send your work to the British Library.

In the UK, there is no official registration process for copyrighting work. It is considered ‘an automatic right’. You can send a copy of any published work to the British Library, within one month of publication, to ensure that they include it as part of their published works. This will establish you as the original author of the work.

Ensure your pen-name is original.

Using libraries and the internet, make sure that there are no writers with the same or a matching pseudonym, within the genre you are writing. Don’t be disheartened if there are writers with a matching pen-name in other genres, as people will be able to distinguish.

Use your pseudonym to open a domain or website.

Using a domain name registration service, explore available extensions such as .com,, .net, and (if available) use your pen-name as the website title. For example, if your pseudonym was ‘Mavis Reed’, you might consider trying to open a domain under the name ‘’.

Add a book disclaimer to your work.

Adding both this, and the copyright symbol, can be extremely useful. Legally, in the UK (provided it does not infringe on previously published work) your work belongs to you, as soon as it is fixed in readable format. Placing the copyright symbol, and a legal disclaimer on your work, tells potential literary thieves that you know your rights and are prepared to exercise them.

Copyright your written work

Consider applying for copyright protection abroad.

Since there is no official registration service available in the UK, you can utilise international copyright registration services, such as those offered by the United States. This will cost a small fee, but some authors will feel more comfortable knowing their work is protected by a specific organisation. If you do decide to register abroad, specifically in the USA, there are a couple of options available:

1. Consider pre-registration. This is the best option to take if you feel your currently unfinished work, is of high quality and you do not want another writer within the field to repeat or use your ideas. Always be aware that pre-registration is not a replacement for actual registration, it is simply an insurance tool.

-First, pre-register your work online via the US Automated Clearing House Network, or via the Copyright Office. This will involve submitting a 2,000 character description of the work, and paying a small filing fee.

-Once your claim has been filed and processed, you will receive an email informing you that your request has been met, and a date on which the pre-registration of the material becomes active. You then have 3 months to publish and register your work, before the claim becomes inactive, or 1 month to take action if you feel someone has infringed your copyright.

2. Use the Copyright Office. When applying for copyright protection, you do not have to use your real name. Once you gain copyright protection from the office, regardless of whether you register the work under your real name, your work receives a minimum of 95 years of protection. You can decide when the time is right to give the office your real name. Using the eCO (electronic copyright office), you can submit an electronic copy of your work, and pay using a card or the internet, to ensure faster processing. Make sure when completing the form you fill in the ‘Copyright Claimant’ space, and tick the ‘Pseudonyms’ box to let them know you are operating under a pen name. 




One thought on “How To Copyright a Book with a Pen Name

  1. Dear Richard,

    Great and a very informative article.

    Would really appreciate your feedback to the following questions?

    Regarding copyright using a pen name, can I send my finished work to the British Library in ePub or digital format, or do I need to print it& bind it and send it to them?

    I am confused…as say somebody said in court well I it’s me John Smith using ‘Jon Marsden’ pen name. How would the pen name correlate to a unique individual or body if it was not specified somewhere also? I have revisions of my book send to my email address or if I send it to myself, would this be enough to associate pen with real name?

    Thank you for your kind attention to the above.

    Kind Regards

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