We all know the importance of self-promotion for writers. A writer who doesn’t have an up-to-date online presence won’t be able to connect with readers, editors, or literary agents as easily and effectively as one who has an active author platform.
Of course, for the more introverted writers among us, sharing personal information online can be uncomfortable. That’s why pen names and professional online author personas exist.
However, people interested in you and your writing will be curious about the person behind the words on the page. Sharing some of the details that make you uniquely you is a great way to build audience loyalty. But keeping yourself safe is also vital to your online survival. It’s important to know where to draw the line when revealing your private life.
What You Should Never Post On Your Author Website:
Identifying Information. Your home address and email address are made public when you register a domain name unless you purchase domain privacy. Don’t share any other information that might make it easy for people to track you down. This includes your place of work, where you spend your free time, or where you’ll be staying on your next vacation.
Intimate Medical Details. For some writers, their medical histories are an essential part of their author identities and stories. But if your medical journey isn’t the inspiration for your writing, talking about your ills may seem more like whining. When in doubt, keep your ailments to yourself.
Where You’ll Be And When. Unless you’re making a public appearance related to your writing, like a writers conference or a book signing, don’t mention where you’ll be or when, especially if you’ll be with your friends and/or family.
Friends And Family. Speaking of, never share personal information about friends, family members, or colleagues without express permission. In creating an online author platform, you’re making a conscious decision to make yourself public. That doesn’t mean the people in your life signed up for the same kind of exposure.
Interpersonal Problems. All families have their ups and downs. But oversharing information about a son’s drinking problem or a daughter’s expulsion from school is not appropriate for your author website. Focus on the positive, and relegate the messier parts of your personal life to private discussions with friends and family.
Full Names. Never mention someone’s real or full name, share pictures of them, or blog about something involving them without first getting permision. If you’re not sure—or if they say no—don’t identify these individuals. Be sure to blur out their faces in pictures. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Children. This is important—never share personal information about your children, especially where they go to school or when they spend time outside of your supervision. And those cute bathtub pictures? You can pull out that photo album later when you want to embarrass them in front of their prom dates—don’t share them with strangers on the Internet.
Money. Don’t overshare your financial picture, whether it’s positive or negative. There will always be someone better off or worse off than you, and money is a touchy subject for many readers.
Be Aware Before You Share:
Always keep your intended audience in mind, and adjust accordingly what you intend to post on your website. If your work is on the subversive side, you can get away with being a little more candid because your readers will be familiar with you and your style. But if your readership is comprised of religious conservatives or elderly book club members, you should save the edgier or raunchier side of your humor for your friends.
It’s always a good idea to give readers a chance to get to know you. Just be smart about the information you share online. This will keep you safe, help you build a positive reputation, and keep the focus on the most important part of your platform: your writing!
QUESTION: What other information do you think is worth keeping private when it comes to sharing things on one’s author website?
NEVER post your telephone number.
EXCELLENT point, Robert.
I can’t imagine anyone being foolish enough to post a phone number!
And for Lord’s sake, don’t badmouth other writers (unless you’re William F. Buckley or Gore Vidal).
Good article. I’ve been managing and designing website for years and I’ve always held these policies close to heart. As a writer, I use a pen name for my work because you NEVER know when a crazy person will key on something you write, or take something personally. Plus, my real name is shared by other members of my family and innocent strangers around the country (check your name on the internet and you’ll probably find the same thing). That’s a great reason alone to use a pen name.
You’re definitely right about being careful if you have a common name, Nathan. That’s a problem many writers encounter when trying to promote themselves online, even out of the context of privacy and safety.
That’s one reason I use my husband’s surname. My own name is quite common-not as bad as Smith or Jones, but it’s one you see a lot.
Pen names may be a way to go. How about not posting your photo? Finding that fine line between being known but being invisible is a tough one. Anything you say may be used against you…