Monday, March 02, 2015

Be Careful Out There - Cyber Security Tips for Authors

Ronie Kendig is an award-winning, bestselling author who grew up an Army brat. After twenty-plus years of marriage, she and her hunky hero husband have a full life with four children, a Maltese Menace, and a retired military working dog in Northern Virginia. She can be found at, on Facebook (, Twitter (@roniekendig), Goodreads (, and Pinterest (!

"Trust and betrayal are the themes of Christy Award–winning Kendig’s (Wolfsbane) fast-paced military suspense novel." -RT Book Reviews

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This month, it's my extreme pleasure to share the blogosphere with a woman who is amazingly talented and a beautiful person, inside and out! Kellie Coates Gilbert is a force to be reckoned with--so please welcome her and her sage advice about cyber security! 

As safety-conscious consumers, we’re cautioned to use a hot pad while removing a pan from the stove, to never blow our hair dry while sitting in a bathtub filled with water, or to mix ammonia with bleach before tackling a cleaning project.

These are common sense safety measures meant to protect us, and our wellbeing. Yet, I find myself frequently cringing when I see novelists interacting on social media without employing similar protections.

A very popular young author recently uploaded photos of herself on Facebook. She was dressed in a low cut blouse and tight skirt cut high above the knees, which incited comments from men who obviously are of the sordid sort. While we could spend time discussing her motives, the more important issue here is her obvious belief that this activity was not as dangerous as wearing the same outfit while walking down a dark street lined with shady individuals. Apparently, she thinks the internet is a barrier that keeps her safe.


All of us have likely done something less egregious on social media, but still unsafe. This motivated me to poll a bunch of author friends and I compiled a list for all of us to consider:

  1. Never reveal your address. You do not know who is following you and this just isn’t smart. I’m a former legal investigator. With a small amount of information, I can find out a lot. And so can unsafe people. 
  2. Never reveal when you're not home. This is difficult given many of us list our event schedules on our websites. But at the very least, we might not want to let followers think there is no one else at home in our absence. 
  3. This one is important to me. Do not identify your family members’ names. Just say Hubby, Son, or Mother. An author friend reported a reader fan actually showed up at her husband’s workplace with a book and asked him to get the novel signed for her. This alone suggests that reader was a bit off in her thinking. 
  4.  CHILDREN . . . this one is especially critical. Yes, there are predators on the internet and on social media. Please proceed with extreme caution before posting photos or using names. To do otherwise is just not smart. I love talking about my grandbabies on social media . . . and my readers love when I share about them. BUT, I’m extremely careful. I never post a photo with features that might show where we are. If I do identify a place, it is after we’ve returned home. I call them Peanut and Gumdrop. And I’ve cautioned all my family and personal friends to do the same. I have a lot of strangers accessing my social media and you can’t be too careful when it comes to our little ones. 
  5. Don’t accept requests and give just anyone access to your social media. When I get a request, I almost always delete it if it’s a man. Since I write women’s fiction, unless the guy has some connection to the publishing industry, he isn’t in my audience base and has no business interacting with me on Facebook. I always open the profile and ABOUT ME sections and do an internet search for the place where they say they work. You would be stunned to know a lot of “people” are not who they say. Anyone can put up a profile with some photo grabbed off the internet. What happened at SONY recently should sober all of us. BE CAREFUL! (I understand this is time intensive, but worth it) 
  6. Listen to this next one carefully as well: ANYTHING YOU PUT IN WRITING CAN BE ACCESSED—even those “private” message chats. Never push send on anything that might compromise your safety. I spent years working as a legal professional. In litigation, everything you write in emails and messaging, even texting, will be collected and reviewed. Let me paint an example. You write an email to your agent ranting about that publisher who isn’t doing enough marketing. Later, your agent gets in a lawsuit and all the emails on his server are subject to the discovery order. Guess what? Someone is now going to read that. Listen to me here . . . some conversations are just better made in person or on the phone. Rule of thumb: if you write it, it’s subject to be read. 
  7. If you feel uncomfortable in your gut about someone—unfriend them. 
  8.  In the event you suffer any activity that crossing the boundaries, i.e. cyber stalking, threats, people showing up at events repeatedly and you feel unsafe . . . REPORT IT! Tell your publisher, your agent and in some cases, tell the authorities. Do not talk yourself out of it and try to convince yourself you are being a drama queen. 
  9.  Consider a post office box for all your mail deliveries. 
  10.  Do not put your physical address on your newsletters, even if the vendor requires one. My publisher allows me to use their address. 
 In closing, let’s remember that line made famous in the television show Hill Street Blues:
 “Be careful out there!”

 What are some safety measures you employ when on social media? Tell us in the comments.

About Kellie:
Kellie Coates Gilbert spent nearly twenty-five years working in courtrooms and behind the scenes of some of the largest and most well-known cases in America.  Kellie was one of the lead paralegals in the Jack-in-the-Box litigation, where uncooked hamburger resulted in the deaths of several toddlers and made many more critically ill, which is now the subplot of her recently released WHERE RIVERS PART from Baker Publishing/Revell.  Her books not only explore the heart issues that matter most to women, but often allow readers an inside peek into her former legal world.

Find Kellie around the internet:


Ane Mulligan said...

Great tips, Kelly! Thank you.

Linore Burkard said...

Great reminders, Kellie, thank you. Have you noticed this one? I've often had friend requests by people on GoodReads who have 0 books listed and maybe only 2 friends. My immediate question is, 'Why me?' I never accept these requests. I get the same thing on facebook, men with a handful of friends who request my friendship. Um, no, thank you!

Kellie Coates Gilbert said...

Thank you, Ane. And Linore....I didn't notice that on Goodreads, but then I don't post much personal information there. But, you are wise to always consider who is behind the request, for sure!

Rebecca DeMarino said...

This is something that's been on my mind lately and you've given my much to think of and spurred me on to go check settings, "friends" etc!! Thank you, Kellie!

Richard Mabry said...

Kellie, excellent advice. I get "friend" requests on Facebook from people who have nothing in their "about" sections. It's possible they're readers, but in my mind, Facebook is optional. If they want me to let them in a "friends," they can at least post where the live and what their background is.

Angi Morgan said...

Excellent Post.
Thanks for the reminders.

Iola Goulton said...

#5 is why I don't accept all friend requests on Goodreads. I ask people to tell me how they know me - most don't. Ignore.

Linore, I get a lot of those requests on Goodreads. I wonder if perhaps I'm coming up on some "people you could follow" list for new users (is there such a thing?).