The writing profession starts off as a private venture. Creating ideas and stories in the privacy of your own home. But those of you who become serious about the work and slowly become more visible the issue of personal protection needs to be addressed.
I cannot emphasize this enough. Eighteen years ago I began working as an editor for Bethany House, but I worked from home. I never considered the need to keep my home address out of the public eye until I had three separate writers show up at my front door with manuscript in hand asking to see me. Very quickly I secured a mail box at a local mail service, changed my business cards, and have never made that mistake again.
I thought it appropriate to discuss a few of the simple steps you can take to protect yourself from your adoring public. I asked Ellie Kay to write down some of the ideas she has used. She started writing books for Bethany House in 1998 as a stay-at-home mom, since that time her platform has grown to national proportions.
“Be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves.” As many of you know, I’m on national, mainstream media weekly (both radio and TV) and I’m so thankful I have these safeguards set up. Before I did this, I was stalked a couple of times!
I would encourage writers to do a few basic security checks:
1) Set up a PO Box – Or use a mail service (like a UPS store) that has a physical address where you can received FEDEX and UPS packages. You should never list your physical address on any promo materials.
2) Set up an Online Contact Form — This uses code that the person will have to enter in order to send your office (or you) a note. Never have your email address listed openly on a website as there are cyber-spiders that crawl the internet, harvesting these addresses and sells them to spammers. If you do list your email, have your webmaster put a space in it somewhere and indicate to the reader that they will have to adjust the script when they mail it. I.E. assistant @ elliekay.com or [assistant at elliekay.com].
3) Set up an Assistant Account — This should be where your online contact form sends mail. Even if you cannot afford a assistant, set up this account. Then, if you feel compelled to respond to fringe people, then your assistant can do it first and there’s another layer of protection.
4) Set up Caller ID – Our phone won’t accept blocked calls. The caller has to leave a message and wait, if their ID is blocked.
5) Do Not Engage — Chuck Swindoll says he never reads an anonymous letter, I take his advice. He said, “If they don’t have the courage to put their name on it, then it’s not worth my time.” The same applies to email, you don’t have to respond or engage a looney. If you get a bad feeling about the person, then do not feel you (or your assistant) has to respond to the fringe. Pray for wisdom and act accordingly.”
Thank you Ellie! Those are excellent ideas. The one about the email is very important unless you want to be deluged by s.p.a.m. I made that mistake in the early 90s and had to change my email address to escape the flood.
In addition, consider setting up your writing business under an LLC (limited liability corporation). This will help separate your personal income from your business income. I did this for our agency at the very beginning. Ask your tax accountant for advice on how to set it up and use it. The easiest book to digest on this subject is Limited Liability Companies for Dummies by Jennifer Reuting.
A couple of our clients have gone a step further and created and S-Corporation (Inc.). This is a much more complicated procedure but has distinct advantages and protections, especially if you get sued. Again, consult experts in these areas before doing anything on your own. The best book I’ve read on the subject is Inc. Yourself by Judith McQuown . Make sure to buy the Tenth edition (published 2004) as the laws changed a few years ago.
If you plan to sell books from your home or office don’t forget to obtain a sales license for your city and state (each city and state have different laws and procedures on this). Why? Because if you sell books to anyone in your state you must collect state and local sales tax. Even if you don’t want to charge tax at your book table, you are still liable for those taxes. Again, this varies widely by state. Just make sure you are doing the right thing where you live.
If there are other idea you have or questions on these issues feel free to post below and I will try my best to help.