Your author website does more than brand you as an author or showcase your works—it’s also a resource for readers interested in getting to know you as a person. Do you kayak? Who are your favorite authors? These are fun facts your followers will enjoy learning about you.
But, while it’s important to make it easy for fans, agents, and editors to learn more about you, it’s also important that you protect your personal data from online predators. Thieves will skim your data on the net, then pose as you to your bank or unsuspecting family members.
Here are a few tips to help keep your personal info safe while still making it easy to contact you:
Use a contact form. With a contact form on your author website, visitors can reach out to you without you providing any personal information. It’s a good way to prevent spammers from finding your email address.
You can choose a very basic contact form similar to Noearaujo’s, which simply lists the email address to use. Or, you can use a contact form that’s tied into the overall theme of your website, such as the one found at Let’s Travel Somewhere.
Add social media icons to your contact page. Social media sites are reliable communication tools between you and your audience. You don’t need to offer personal information to interact with visitors on Facebook and Twitter if you have the responses function enabled so that third parties can contact you.
You can also increase your privacy settings on Facebook, by turning off the location tracker and tagger. Check out Facebook and Twitter’s safety guidelines for more details.
Create an author-specific email address. Separate your personal inbox from your professional writing inbox by creating a separate email account for your author correspondence. Remember to choose a name that is clear, professional, and memorable. Try to avoid addresses like SparklesAreMyJam741@aol.com.
Gmail is generally an acceptable address on a professional level. But for top marks on professionalism, ask your webmaster to set up an email address with your website’s address. Try these prototypes: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com.
A word of caution: Safeguard your email from spammers. Robots troll for email addresses on websites and then add them to advertising lists. There are ways to combat spammers, such as writing out the symbols in the address (example: yourname[at]yourwebsite[dot]com). Or for even better security, install CAPTCHA plugin software to make sure visitors are human and not robots.
Avoid giving away too much identifying info on your website. Don’t make it easier for thieves to rip off your private info: Avoid posting details about where you work, where you spend your free time, or when you’ll be taking your next vacation; this rule applies to your website and all your social media. These days, Internet scammers have upgraded from “phishing”—asking for personal data in emails—to “whaling” or researching a person’s data online and posing as that person to get family members to wire money.
Otherwise, topics that authors should avoid posting on any Internet outlet include your birthdate, personal home or mailing addresses, medical details, financial picture, kids’ birthdays or schools, or personal life issues.
By following a few safety tips and keeping your private information private, you’ll be able to stay in touch with your audience and still avoid getting caught in the dangers lurking on the web.
QUESTION: What are other ways writers can stay safe online?
It’s especially critical to make sure the passwords to any e-mails you post online are secure. I had a very simple password to one of my personal e-mail accounts. Someone hacked into my e-mail, got my banking and other financial info and completely wiped out everything I owned.