University of Maryland Press Release
The Internet has never been a safe place, and we book bloggers are not above those online dangers. Just because a person is an author, it does not mean that they are a good person. And just because a person claims to be an author, it does not mean they actually are. These days anyone can publish a book. They can be a terrible person offline, and an amazingly likable author online. How do you know which one you're talking to?
Visualize this with me. You're out late at night on a dark street all alone. You hear a noise behind you, and you speed up in the direction of your car. You glance behind, and there's an ominous looking person following you that you know you want absolutely nothing to do with. You break into a run, jump in your car, lock the doors, and drive off. Hours later, that person turns their computer on and adds the finishing touches to their new young adult novel, presses the publish button on whichever online publisher they use, and begins to contact bloggers for reviews, asking if they can send them a complimentary copy to their book. Come to think of it, there might not even be a book! But now they have a bunch of addresses of people they can go after. And if they searched for bloggers in a certain area (I've seen a lot of "About Me" pages that give out way too much info), you might be really close by. Would you give that nighttime stalker your address? No! Would you give your address to a random person online who thinks you're amazing? I doubt it. So why would you give your address out to an author you've never heard of, who might not even be an author at all?
And of course, this does not just go for authors. This goes for our fellow bloggers as well. How do you know that the blogger you've been tweeting back and forth with is not someone with less than honorable intentions? How do you know if they really want to send you a birthday present, or if they just want to get your address out of you? I see so many bloggers throwing their addresses around like beads during a Mardi Gras parade, and it scares me so much.
I adore all of my blogging friends, and I would just die if any of them got hurt as a result of being too trusting. I've seen friends give out personal information to people who they have no reason to trust. So, I've thought up a list of things you can do in order to have a safer experience blogging about books.
Top Ten Ways to be a Safe Book Blogger
1. Don't accept physical books from self-published authors unless they go through a professional publicity company with a good reputation. Go for eBooks instead. I'm not saying self-published authors are bad people, I'm saying that they usually have nobody to vouch for their credibility. It's better to be safe than sorry. Some of my greatest friends in the blogging world are self published authors, and I love many of them. It only takes one person with malicious intentions to raise the needed for extra precautions, though. I'd definitely still accept physical books from the major publishing houses, though. They are trustworthy, and it's their job to get the word out.
2. Don't link your personal blog to your book blog. Register with a separate e-mail address, or remove your personal blog from your blogging profile. You don't want just anyone in the world reading about your personal life!
3. Don't include your location or last name in your "About Me" page or Goodreads profile.
4. If you have a Facebook page for your blog, don't "Like" that page. If people search the blog fans on that page and recognize your picture, all of a sudden they've got your last name.
5. Utilize Facebook privacy settings and don't allow your location to be shown to people who are not your friends.
6. Don't include your last name in your e-mail address or signatures.
7. Don't enter giveaways that require you to enter your full name upfront. Use your blog's name instead of your last name. I doubt there is someone out there with your exact blog name, as well as your exact first name. The giveaway host does not need your last name in order to tell you apart from other entrants with the same first name.
8. Don't enter giveaways that require your home address upfront. Why do they need every single person's address anyway? They only need the winner's. Some giveaways I've tried to enter mention that it eliminates the extra step of e-mailing the winner and waiting for their response. I think that's kind of a lame reason. I'm assuming they can wait a day before sending you your book, especially since most people do not mail out the book the day of/after the giveaway results are drawn.
9. Don't take on extra blog contributors without really knowing and trusting them first. You could lose everything.
10. The ARC tours are kind of scary... Anyone can be a part of those, and you have no control over who has your home address. These books will be released one day, so don't risk your safety for the opportunity to read a book a few months early. It's not worth it.
All in all, minimize how many people you give your personal information to. No book or bookish opportunity is worth risking your safety for. I care about you. Yes, you. I'm pointing at you now. Please be safe. :)
So, let's discuss this. What do you think? Do you have any ideas for how to be safe, yet still enjoy the bookish community? Have you learned anything through your own experiences?