Whether you’re a New York Times Best Seller or a new writer ready to self-publish your first book, the moment your author website goes live—you’re a public figure. Your readers will want to get to know you better, and you’ll be eager to tell them your life story. But along with true fans and interested literary editors and agents, Web Design Relief knows you’ll also get visits to your author website from scammers. So how do you share your personal journey while maintaining your privacy and not putting yourself at risk?
Five Biographical Elements NOT To Include On Your Author Website
Between social media and online databases, you’ve already shared a huge amount of personal information with the world. An online search of your name will quickly bring up social media pics, information about the trips you’ve taken, the houses you’ve bought, the cross-country moves you’ve made, and maybe even the funerals you’ve attended. So you might want to consider using a pen name to protect your privacy and identity.
But if your legal name is already established as your author name, you can still protect yourself and your identity from those who want to do you harm.
One way is to obtain domain privacy protection for your website. When you registered for your URL, you were required to input your real name, address, and phone number. That information is publicly available in a database run by WHOIS, the overarching organization that manages domain registration. Domain privacy protection allows you to mask your personal information from the public, adding an additional level of privacy.
If Google Analytics states you have only a dozen visitors a day, you might think that it’s okay to include your hometown or your home address in your biography. But if your next book takes off like a rocket, the number of visitors to your website will also increase—and most will be strangers.
If you feel you must include an address on your website, don’t use your home address. Instead, get a locked post office box in another municipality. Better to make a few quick trips a week than risk finding a stalker at your door.
It would seem to be a no-brainer to include an email on your website so fans, editors, or agents can contact you, but scammers troll websites in order to deluge them with spam. Some of those spam emails may be infected with viruses and other malware that can steal your personal info and do real damage to your computer.
Instead of offering up your email address, use a contact form page on your author website which masks your email. Then, to ensure you’re dealing with humans, use CAPTCHA codes to ward off dangerous bots.
While you’re telling stories about your wild and colorful family in your author bio, make sure you’re not spilling more information than you should. These days, many banks and credit cards require that you answer personal questions if you forget your log-in information. If you’re giving away some of that information publicly, you’re setting yourself up as an easy target.
Common identifying information can include:
- birth date
- mother’s maiden name
- high school where you graduated
- name of your first pet
- name of your first car
- name of the street you grew up on
- place where you met your spouse
Combined with your legal name, this information can be used to steal your money and your identity.
Personal Social Media Pages
For safety and privacy purposes, it’s always smarter to keep your personal social media accounts separate from your writer social media accounts. Setting up a Facebook author page and a separate author Twitter handle allows you to continue posting personal communications on your personal profiles while you cultivate a following on your author platform. Make sure to link only to your author profiles on your website.
Be mindful of what you share on all your social media pages. Scrub them so that your high school, birth date, current address, etc., aren’t available publicly. And watch what you post: Don’t use geolocation services for pics taken in and around your hometown. Periodically check your privacy settings to make sure you know with whom you’re sharing your personal data.
Question: If you have a pen name, why did you decide to use one, and how did you choose it?
Thanks for the info.
I created a pen name for a publication niche I was experimenting with. If it tanked, I could just dump the name without hurting my “flagship” author-identity. I also use my “legal” name for “literary” works and a short-form for my “practical” works. I’m still debating of I want to use my legal name for SF or make another short-form variant of it. (Since I haven’t succeeded in publishing any SF, I still have time to make the decision, though I hope to have my novel ready sometime this summer.)