Many authors use their pen names on their Facebook profile, which puts them at risk for being reported as having a fake account or impersonating someone else. This has happened to me several times (thanks to a twatwaffle who has nothing better to do than to report others) and a few of my author friends. What might follow is sheer panic and frustration while trying to jump through the hoops of FB’s gauntlet and, quite possibly, being ghosted by FB. I recently got my account back after being ghosted for a few days, then helped an author friend who had been reported as impersonating me after she went two weeks without her profile.
What to do BEFORE your profile is suspended:
It’s always best to be prepared for this because it will save you a lot of time and frustration if you are suspended. You may not need to do ALL of these, but it’s recommended that you do as many as possible. The more proof you provide FB, the better chance you have at getting your profile back.
- Make someone you trust (a PA, friend, relative) an admin for all your groups and pages so you can access them if you’re suspended.
- If you live in the US, get an employee identification number (EIN) from the IRS. There is an option for an alias/pen name. You’ll receive a PDF with both your real name and your pen name on it with the EIN. If you live outside the US, research what documentation you can get in your country that will link your real and pen names.
- Open a PO Box with your real and pen names. The post office will send you documentation for both names. Take a photo of it.
- Have mail sent to your pen name. Take a photo of it.
- Take screen shots or photographs of any writers’ organizations you belong to (RWA, NINC, etc.) with both your real and pen name showing or just your pen name.
- If your copyrights are in your pen name or have both names on it, then take a photo of them.
- If you go to book signings, take a photo of you with your banner with your pen name on it.
- If you have a DBA (Doing-Business-As) for your pen name, take a photo of the paperwork.
- If you have an LLC for your pen name or your publishing company, create an employee ID badge for yourself. Make sure it has your photo, pen name, and date of birth on it. And, yes, take a photo of it.
Put all the above in a file. I recommend saving it in several places – computer, external hard drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, etc. If your profile is suspended, FB will ask you to send them proof of identity. Send them all of the above. They may ask you to take photos of you holding up the information. Hopefully, this is all it will take for you to get back in without any further problems. If not, keep reading.
At some point, you might get frustrated with the back and forth emails with FB without any results and you might just get … let’s say, snippy with them. Oh, what the hell … you’ll get bitchy with them. This is when they will ghost you and stop responding to all your emails. This is also when the real panic may set in. Don’t worry. There’s more you can do.
During my latest suspension, I recalled the confrontation between the drag queen community and FB a few years ago. The drag queens wanted to be able to use their stage names for safety reasons and to prevent being outed to family and friends, if that was a concern. After the media got involved, FB finally relented and allowed the use of stage names. What many people didn’t realize is that this also pertains to other groups, such as authors who use pen names. I contacted Sister Rosa, who had been very vocal for the drag queen community during that time. The advice I received was what helped me and the other author get our profiles back.
- From the email addres you use to sign into your pen name profile on FB, send all the above proof to email@example.com
- In the email, put the following:
- You are an author with published books.
- You use a pen name for: list the reasons, i.e. you are protecting your identity and that of your family; you might lose your real job if someone discovered you are a steamy romance author; etc. In my case, I mentioned that I’m a retired police officer with an uncommon last name. I didn’t want anyone I had arrested during my career tracking me down through my pen name.
- You are known publicly as your pen name. Your readers only know you as your pen name. You attend book signings under that name. Let them know if you are a best-selling or an award-winning author.
- All other social media sites allow you to use your pen name without any problems. Give them a list of all the links, including Amazon, Bookbub, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.
- Give them your website address.
- Put a statement similar to this in your email. “Like the drag queen community, authors use pen names to protect themselves and their families. You allow the more famous authors and celebrities to use their public personae names, like … (list a few people: I used JK Rowling, E.L. James, and Vin Diesel.) If you insist on authors using their real names, then you must apply that to everyone, and demand that those people use their real names as well.” (I did not put this in my original email, but in a second follow-up one after I did not hear back from them.)
- Tell them you DO NOT currently use a profile under your real name.
After I sent all that information to the firstname.lastname@example.org address, I DID NOT get a reply. The next day, I sent a follow-up letter, again with no reply. However, the following morning, I decided to try and log into my profile and was able to get back in. The other author had the same thing happen. After sending her information to name support twice, and me emailing name support and telling them we are two different people, that I live in the US and she lives in the UK, and that she was reported by someone with a grudge against me, she tried to log in and was successful. I have no idea why they don’t email you back, but then again, I don’t know why we must deal with this crap in the first place. If you can’t get back in, keep sending the emails to name support and keep checking to see if your account is reactivated. Once you get back in, they will keep that information for at least three months to up to a year. If you get suspended again, respond to the notification email that you sent all your information to name support and they have it on file. That should get you back in within a few hours.
The following is the entire first email I sent to name support. The more detail you put in there, the more likely you are to get your account back.
My name is Samantha A. Cole. I’m an independent, self-published author of twenty-eight novels and novellas, and as of this past October, I’m honored to say I am a USA Today Bestselling Author.
Like hundreds of other authors who write fiction, I use a pen name. The use of pen names has been around for centuries, protecting the identity of authors who may attract the wrong attention based on what they write. There are a variety of reasons why authors prefer to use a pseudonym, such as, authors who write steamy romance have been known to lose their jobs, especially in school systems, and they are trying to protect their families. Stalkers are occasionally an issue, particularly if they disagree with what the author has written or believe the author is “easy” because they write steamy romance. In my case, another reason is that I am a retired police officer, whose real last name is unusual enough that it wouldn’t be difficult to track me down if I was using that name to publish my books. I had arrested hundreds of people during my career and would prefer not to have any of them showing up at a scheduled book signing. I am the only person in a county of 300,000 people with my last name with the exception of my elderly mother who lives in a nursing home. I can not risk having my past career clash with my current one.
The problem myself and many authors are facing is that Facebook has made it extremely difficult for us to maintain a pen name as our profile name. When asked if we could have a profile under our pen names, your response has always been we can list it as a secondary name under our real name profile (which defeats the purpose of trying to keep our real names separate) or we should use a business page for our pen name. There are many reasons why the latter is not practical. I currently have close to 5000 “friends” on Facebook under my pen name. While many of them are authors, editors, photographers, cover designers, bloggers, and other people who work in the book community, most of my “friends” are readers who enjoy my books and like being able to communicate with me. It brings them closer to me, my books, and my characters. I have a FB group with over 1300 members who love that I interact with them daily. Most feel that the “human” factor is removed when they interact with a page and not a profile. There are also things I can do under my profile that I can’t do under my page, such as post video trailers in groups that invite authors to share in them.
Back in 2014, Facebook finally relented and allowed drag queens and those who use stage names to use their alter-ego names on the site if that is what they were known by the public as, however, this only applied to that community. I work approximately fourteen to sixteen hours per day as Samantha A. Cole. It is the name I use on my website, Romance Writers Association, Instagram, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books, Google Play, Twitter, AllAuthor, Bookbub, Fictfat, YouTube, Goodreads, and Pinterest. None of those sites have an issue with my pen name – only Facebook. I go to dozens of book signings and author conferences each year and the only name I am known as is Samantha A. Cole. I have not used my real name FB profile in four years because I spend all my time networking, marketing, researching, and other business matters under my pen name.
Over the past year, I have been harassed by another author, who has reported my pseudonym profile as being fake or impersonating someone else or someone else impersonating me. That person uses their fake accounts to report me. While that is a separate issue altogether, the problem is FB blocks my account and repeatedly forces me to prove who I am instead of wondering why my profile is being reported so often. Several times I was able to get my profile back by supplying you with copies of my IRS EIN (issued in my pen name and linked to my real name), copyrights of my books issued by the US Copyright Office in my pen name, a screenshot of my RWA membership in my pen name, and an employee ID badge for my own New York State DBA Suspenseful Seduction Publishing. That has always worked in the past until this recent incident.
Two weeks ago, after I was able to get back into my profile after being in “jail” for a post your bots deemed as too steamy, someone took to reporting my personal assistants and other friends of mine with the name “Sam” or “Samantha” as impersonating me. The first few attempts, Facebook realized they were not me and ignored the claim. However, when the reports turned to other people named Sam and Samantha, another author and personal assistant for a third author were reported. The PA was able to get her account back rather quickly because that is her real name. However, the other author, from the UK, has not been able to get her profile back over the past week, despite sending FB numerous documents proving who she is. She had a new release today and is unable to talk to her fans or market the book thanks to the person with a grudge against me. I have contacted FB several times about the person harassing me, but I always get the same “canned” useless response.
Recently, in a FB group where people can post anonymously through a Google form, mildly veiled posts were made stating that a purge of certain authors in the online book community was going to take place. I have been quite vocal over the past year about plagiarism, pirate book sites, and more, which has put me in the line of fire. Monday evening, after I’d shut down my computer for the night, I was again reported for having a false profile. When on logged back on yesterday morning, I was met with being blocked out of my account. I had an email from Facebook stating I needed to supply proof of who I was. I sent them the same information that I provided the last two times to get back in. This time they responded I needed to take photos of myself holding up the documents, which I did. Three times I received a response saying they couldn’t see the ID badge, and twice I took more photos and sent them back. In all of them, you can see my photo, my date of birth, my phone number, my name, and my company name. After the third email saying to take a better picture, I got frustrated to the point I asked, “What can’t you see? I can read clearly the information on the badge in each photo.” I was not rude in my inquiry, just unsure what they were having trouble reading. After that, Facebook stopped responding to all my emails. I have sent the required information to them in six more emails but have not received one response. I tried contacting a FB business marketing person who sent me an email recently about my author page, which is still up, but apparently, I no longer can do that since my profile is down. I get a message saying only certain people can contact them – two weeks after I got an email from the advertising office; I am no longer one of those “certain people.”
Like the members of the drag queen community, authors have very valid reasons for not wanting to use our real names on our profiles, yet Facebook is the only social media platform that does not allow us to do so. Other authors and I are at a loss on how to appeal our case to them as there is no way to contact the company unless they want to contact you. There are several well-known, traditionally-published authors who are allowed to use their pen names as their profile names because they are famous, but for most authors, we are not afforded the same luxury.
Please give authors the same rights afforded to the drag queen community and those who use stage names on Facebook, which is where the majority of the indie author world does its networking and promoting. This is our livelihood and my readers are wondering where I went.
Thank you for your time.