The Internet is one of the most important channels a modern-day author can use to build their audience and drive book sales.
Cultivating a fan base and generating buzz around your next release takes time, effort, and some PR smarts; and while it’s never been easier to market yourself online, there are a range of data privacy laws that you should be mindful of.
Whether you’re based in the US or sell to an audience in the European Union, it’s generally advisable — if not legally required — to inform your website visitors of whether you collect any personal information about them.
In addition to disclosing any data collection that occurs on your website, such as through subscription forms or cookies, you need to list the different types of personal information that is collected (such as their name, address, or credit card details) and explain how it is stored and kept safe.
Nobody likes spam, but sending something as innocent as your latest newsletter could land you in trouble if someone hasn’t opted in to receive it! In the past, building and marketing to an email list could be a quick (and dirty) process, but thankfully, laws like CAN-SPAM and the GDPR now require you to get explicit consent from subscribers prior to sending them mass email communications.
By “explicit consent”, this means informing people up front of what they’ll be receiving from you (e.g. a break down of each individual type of email, such as newsletters and promotions); allowing them to pick and choose which communications they wish to opt in to receiving; and allowing them to opt out at any time.
Over time, you may also choose to switch to another ESP to accommodate your growing fan base and new marketing strategy. When it comes to transferring your email lists over, be careful of erasing subscriber preferences in the process – you don’t want to start sending mail to someone who had already opted out in the past!
To avoid missteps like these, we recommend keeping your email list updated and clearly organised for future data transfers.
Many indie authors run social media giveaways and competitions to reward and hype their readers up for their new book.
To avoid unintentionally doxxing participants (i.e. exposing information that could be used to personally identify them), do not ask them to share their details in public forums like comment sections.
To carve out more time for writing, you may choose to hire a VA manage your marketing and other administrative tasks.
Keep in mind that your fans may wish to share or produce content such as photos, comics, and even fan-fiction. Whether these are shared on your own website’s forums or somewhere else, you should take the time to review the legal risks and privacy concerns for user-generated content.
Writing a book or any other piece of creative writing is a labour of love — it takes a courage to share your ideas and vision, especially in the online world. While most writers are unlikely to be required to comply with as many privacy laws and obligations as other larger organisations, the five privacy considerations outlined in this article are crucial to ensuring you don’t get hit with a costly fine or have your website and social media pages taken down.