Secrecy? Privacy? How do authors protect themselves?

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne


After a recent situation in which a friend of mine found some of elements of her books reproduced without her permission, I started thinking about the issue of secrecy and privacy for authors. As far as I’m concerned, I follow some pretty straightforward guidelines and don’t tend to get too het up about ‘secrecy’ when it comes to my ideas or works in progress (then again, I haven’t had anyone nick any of my ideas either…) 

Basically, when it comes to my work, I don’t tend to publicize details of ideas or formative WIPs online or in social media – and least not until they are manuscripts out on submission or accepted for publication (or, if I was going the indie route, available as an e-book) and even then I tend to stick to just ‘blurb’ style summaries. I certainly don’t post or publicize online passage/extracts while I’m working on them (though I think that’s probably more out of embarrassment!).  I am, however, fine with chatting to my friends (both author and non-author) about what I’m working on – so I guess in my mind I have a dividing line between what I consider ‘private’ friends who know me on a personal level and ‘public’ friends who know me in my professional guise and who I may have met in person or only online via social media. 

My friend’s recent experience was a little unnerving, however, as it sounded very much like this ‘dividing line’ had become blurred – which also got me thinking about how in this Internet and social media era it is becoming increasingly hard to maintain privacy and secrecy (just look at JK Rowling and how her author pseudonym Robert Galbraith’s anonymity was undermined by a leak).

As a corollary to this, I started to think about just how hard it is to separate out the ‘private’ me and the ‘public’ me when it comes to social media. I also have rules regarding what I will and won’t post in this regard too – especially when my kids are involved (e.g. I don’t put photos up of them on Facebook). But it seems to me that the way the Internet is heading, even when you try to separate out these aspects of your life (personal vs. professional) on-line it can often be very hard to stop one bleeding into the other (just Google yourself and you’ll see what stuff ends up out on the Internet!).

So TKZers, how are you navigating the online and interpersonal landscape when it comes to your writing? Are you secretive about your work? Have you been burned by someone who used your ideas or took some of your fictional elements and incorporated them in their own work? Do you have your own guidelines for how you post things on social media or what you will/won’t say online? How do you keep the ‘private’ you and the ‘public’ you separate – or is this just an old-fashioned division which, in this day and age, is impossible to truly maintain (especially if you want to achieve a connection with your readers)?




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Secrecy? Privacy? How do authors protect themselves?

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne


After a recent situation in which a friend of mine found some of elements of her books reproduced without her permission, I started thinking about the issue of secrecy and privacy for authors. As far as I’m concerned, I follow some pretty straightforward guidelines and don’t tend to get too het up about ‘secrecy’ when it comes to my ideas or works in progress (then again, I haven’t had anyone nick any of my ideas either…) 

Basically, when it comes to my work, I don’t tend to publicize details of ideas or formative WIPs online or in social media – and least not until they are manuscripts out on submission or accepted for publication (or, if I was going the indie route, available as an e-book) and even then I tend to stick to just ‘blurb’ style summaries. I certainly don’t post or publicize online passage/extracts while I’m working on them (though I think that’s probably more out of embarrassment!).  I am, however, fine with chatting to my friends (both author and non-author) about what I’m working on – so I guess in my mind I have a dividing line between what I consider ‘private’ friends who know me on a personal level and ‘public’ friends who know me in my professional guise and who I may have met in person or only online via social media. 

My friend’s recent experience was a little unnerving, however, as it sounded very much like this ‘dividing line’ had become blurred – which also got me thinking about how in this Internet and social media era it is becoming increasingly hard to maintain privacy and secrecy (just look at JK Rowling and how her author pseudonym Robert Galbraith’s anonymity was undermined by a leak).

As a corollary to this, I started to think about just how hard it is to separate out the ‘private’ me and the ‘public’ me when it comes to social media. I also have rules regarding what I will and won’t post in this regard too – especially when my kids are involved (e.g. I don’t put photos up of them on Facebook). But it seems to me that the way the Internet is heading, even when you try to separate out these aspects of your life (personal vs. professional) on-line it can often be very hard to stop one bleeding into the other (just Google yourself and you’ll see what stuff ends up out on the Internet!).

So TKZers, how are you navigating the online and interpersonal landscape when it comes to your writing? Are you secretive about your work? Have you been burned by someone who used your ideas or took some of your fictional elements and incorporated them in their own work? Do you have your own guidelines for how you post things on social media or what you will/won’t say online? How do you keep the ‘private’ you and the ‘public’ you separate – or is this just an old-fashioned division which, in this day and age, is impossible to truly maintain (especially if you want to achieve a connection with your readers)?




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