Guest Post: Security Tips for Self-Publishing Authors by Cassie Phillips

Today, I’m excited to bring you a guest post from professional blogger Cassie Phillips. Cassie writes for Secure Thoughts, a website dedicated to helping everyday people manage their personal internet security. Here, Cassie provides her tips and tricks for securing your self-published work, as well as protecting yourself and your copyright. 

writingSecurity Tips for Self-Publishing Authors

It’s an exciting day for you. You’re ready to publish that novel you’ve been writing for months, if not years. Perhaps you’ve taken a shot at non-fiction and want to share the knowledge you’ve put together in a single tome. You may even be writing about something brand new and exciting.

You could go with some big publisher, but the costs are high, and you risk making very little money on your book as the publisher will be taking most of it. So here you are. You’ve decided to self-publish. Maybe it’s your first book, or maybe you’ve done it a few times before.

What you may not realize is how important security can be for publishing your book. It may be your idea and your hard work, but it doesn’t take much to lose that. Unsecured work can suddenly turn into a disaster as you watch your effort turn to nil (or even identity theft). Using a publisher you thought was trustworthy could leave you just as broke as having gone through a big time company.

Here are some things you should consider as you’re publishing that next book.

Protect the Devices You Work On

First and foremost, you need to be sure the PC, tablet or mobile device you’re working on is properly secured. If you’ve been doing work from a device that can access the internet (and honestly it would be stranger if you weren’t), your work is always at risk. It’s safer to work offline, but reasonably you should feel safe using any device.

Make certain you have a working anti-virus program at all times. They can be acquired for free for any platform you use, from providers such as Avast, AVG or Panda. You can pay for the extra service if you want, but I don’t feel like its necessary most of the time. These programs usually help you avoid getting a virus.

Use Malwarebytes Anti-malware to remove anything that does get through. It’s easily the best program for removing hard to eliminate viruses. It too is free, with premium features (which I usually don’t think are necessary).

Much of writing takes place on the go, so you may want to consider investing in a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service. It will save you trouble on public WiFi, as you’ll be able to access the internet securely with an encrypted connection. This is a paid service, but additional perks include access to geo-restricted services (such as Netflix and Hulu) anywhere and an anonymous IP address (keeps you from being tracked).

Keep Your Accounts Safe

Maybe you’ve opted to save your work online. I personally backup my data on services such as Dropbox and Google Drive in case of disaster. There are some risks to using these services, but they’re entirely avoidable.

Make sure your accounts have strong passwords containing a mix of letters, numbers and symbols. You should avoid using real words or things that could be associated with you or your work, as those are easy guesses for anyone trying to steal your work.

Most of all, use unique passwords. If you have 5 different services, it only takes one being compromised to ruin the others if you don’t have different passwords for each. There are a few different problems that can arise from stolen accounts.

Your work may be deleted or altered without you knowing. At the worst, your identity may be stolen and your hard work used to someone else’s gain. Imagine seeing the book you spent weeks on with someone else’s name on the title and no way to prove you were the proper author.

Read Contracts

When excitement sets in, the first thing you may want to do is sign here, click confirm there, and be done with it. You absolutely can’t afford to take shortcuts with your publication. Whether you’re planning to try to sell your book on Amazon, through your website, or some other seller, you need to be sure you’ve read through contracts thoroughly.

Understand who has the rights to your book in each avenue. You may find yourself buying copies of your book to sell, yet owing a royalty to the printer if you didn’t go through the contract properly. It’s easy to lose control of your book, even if you’re self-publishing.

Copyrights

There are a few things to know about your publication’s copyrights. While you do own your work by default, it’s still necessary to register your copyright and include a page in your book about it for safety purposes. It helps if someone tries to steal your work or use it to profit later because you have a legal avenue to pursue.

Just be careful you aren’t treading on anyone else’s copyrights. If you’re writing a book that focuses on non-fiction (or realistic fiction), try to avoid using brand names. A character in your book might want to be depicted as drinking an ice cold Coca-Cola, but that may be an issue if Coke decides they don’t like how you’re depicting their product.

Be sure any images you use are original and that you have permission to use any trademarked or copyrighted words. It’s better to invent a fictitious brand for your book than to deal with legal proceedings with a big corporation who decided they don’t like your book.

Don’t Get Discouraged

While there are plenty of problems you need to deal with before you can publish yourself, don’t get discouraged. Publishing is easier than it’s ever been, and if you’re taking the right steps, you can at least avoid problems on the security front.

Of course there’s no guarantee your book will be a hit. But it certainly won’t do well if it never reaches the press because you got bogged down by some hacker or lost data. Do yourself a favor; be safe, and be successful.


Thank you Cassie for reaching out to me and helping the indie author community learn more about this important topic! If anyone has any questions for Cassie, please leave them in the comments or contact me, and I can put you in touch with her.

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15 thoughts on “Guest Post: Security Tips for Self-Publishing Authors by Cassie Phillips

  1. Helen Jones says:

    An interesting post, Kate! All very sensible suggestions. The only query I have is regarding copyright – as we own the copyright by default, once the book is published with a copyright page and we have notes etc to back it all up, do we still need to register the book as well? My understanding was that the copyright belonged to us as a result of the book being published, plus in the UK we have to send a copy to The British Library to be catalogued. It’s just that registering copyright costs money, and many indies are already working within a fairly tight budget. Thanks! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kate M. Colby says:

      If you like, I can send your query back to Cassie and see what she says. Obviously I’m no expert, but from what I’ve heard, most full-time indies don’t bother registering copyrights. As you pointed out, we own our work by default and the copyright page declares that as well. However, it is a good extra step if you are seriously concerned about being copied (ie: you have a hugely successful series or suspect someone of trying to steal your work), and can be that final nail in the coffin of a pesky court case.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Helen Jones says:

        Thanks, Kate – I might do that. In the UK we have the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society, which is a rights management society. You pay a yearly fee of £25 and on return they collect outstanding royalties and help you to protect your rights. Is there something similar in the US?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Helen Jones says:

        Oh, I hope you find something – I’d be very interested to hear. I found out about the ALCS through the Writers & Artists Yearbook, which Bloomsbury puts out – wonder if there’s a similar publication in the US? Or a US version?

        Like

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