Blogger: Rachel Kent
When your book is published, you are a public persona. You suddenly have fans, and people from all over contact you. Your publisher expects you to put yourself out there as much as possible on the Internet and through speaking engagements and book signings.
You might also end up with a group of people who dislike you or your book. Most of the time these people limit themselves to negative reviews or pointed emails, but a person might try something more personal. Being an author could make you a target for identity theft. You can protect yourself and your family by following these simple steps.
1) Get a P.O. Box. This will keep readers–friendly or not–from showing up at your front door, and it will give individuals a way to contact you that isn’t your home address. Making your home address readily available allows anyone to see what your home looks like through Google Maps, and everyone can access basic details about your house’s value. Often they can see photos of your house through old real estate postings. Best to keep this information as private as you can by obtaining a P.O. Box and only sharing general information about where you live. Some authors don’t give their hometown in their bios but simply name the state they live in.
2) Help to prevent identity theft by autographing your books and hand-written letters differently than you do checks and legal documents.
3) Keep a tight reign on things like your birthday, your mother’s maiden name, your driver’s license number, your school mascots and any other information that might be used by a bank as a security question. Many fans want to know everything about an author, but it can be dangerous to share too much through a variety of interviews.
4) Don’t allow yourself to become responsible for another person’s property. Some fans will ask if they can send copies of your book to you to autograph, or they’ll ask if they can send something they’ve written for your endorsement or just because they believe you’ll enjoy it. It’s not a good idea to allow anything to be sent to you that has value to the other person in case it is lost or damaged. You can offer to send a signed bookplate to the fan instead of mailing the book. Consider making it a policy that you do not accept manuscripts or books from anyone other than the publishing house after a formal endorsement request. Posting this policy on your webpage will also give you something to point to if a package is lost on the way to you.
5) Remember to protect your family as much as possible as well. Really think about what you’re posting online.
I don’t want to freak you out, but I do want you to think about these things so that each of you is doing what you can to stay safe. I remember a story from 2012 about a San Francisco-based literary agent who was stalked by a disgruntled author–the agent had rejected his book via email. He found her and attacked her while she was in her car. She suffered some injuries, but was all right. It’s hard to believe something like that could happen, but it can. So please be careful!
Do you have any tips to add to the list? What safety tips have been helpful to you?