As authors, our name is one of the most important things we can own. In the age of the Internet it’s becoming increasingly hard to protect. Until a few weeks ago, I’d never even heard of the term “cyber squatter,” but, boy, did I ever fall victim in one of the worst ways possible.
Notice the URL for my official author Website is Ortolon.com, not JulieOrolon.com. That’s because I made a really big mistake way back in 1999 when I bought my domain name. I didn’t buy JulieOrtolon.com fast enough. I didn’t think anything about it until recently, when I hired an Internet marketing specialist to help me improve my Web presence. She stressed that I really needed to change my URL to my full name for branding reasons. That was when I discovered that a cyber squatter had purchased that URL. Basically, they’re holding my name hostage and they want $1,000 in ransom to release it.
So, if you read nothing else on this blog, I hope you read this, and I hope you forward it, link it, and tweet it to all your writing friends, especially if they’re newly published or very close to making a first sell, so they don’t fall victim to this bizarre Internet twist on identity theft. Cyber squatting isn’t new, it’s been happening for years with big businesses, politicians, and celebrities. But a romance author? Call me naïve, but I never saw this coming.
For Writers on the Brink of Making Their First Sell
If you don’t already own YourName.com, I suggest you go ahead and buy it from someplace like BlueHost.com, NetworkSolutions.com, or GoDaddy.com. You don’t have to actually launch a Website, or even pay for hosting. All you need to do is buy the URL. This costs less than $10.00 a year, so it’s a worthwhile investment.
For Published Authors
Sadly, cyber squatters don’t just grab domain names anymore. Now that social networking sites are popping up all over the Internet, we’re more vulnerable than ever. Since opening accounts on all these sites costs nothing, it’s easy and free for someone to open an account in our name. Once they do, they can sit on the account until we pay their ransom. Or worse is the possibility of malicious intent; someone opening a social networking site in our name to damage our reputation. There’s also the well-meaning reader who wants to create a fan site but does it in a way that gives us no control over how we’re presented.
Here’s the bad news: Even if you have no interest in being active on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or any of the other social networking sites, I strongly suggest you open an account simply to protect your name.
Now, the good news: This isn’t as hard as it sounds. In fact, I found two handy-dandy links to help take care of this nuisance as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Before you sign onto these sites, brace yourself. There are 100+ social media and networking sites out there, and they are growing every day. So, yes, it’s overwhelming to face this reality, and it’s a little time consuming to deal with it. Do you need to open an account at every single one of these sites? Hopefully not, since I plan to hit only the better known ones, and let the others slide. Even that’s a bit overwhelming. If you do want to lock every door and window possible, you have a few alternatives: 1) Do it yourself. 2) Pay Knowem.com or another service to do it for you. 3) If you have a teenager in the house, get them to do it. A fourth alternative might be to trademark your name, but I haven’t explored that yet. Input welcome from any of you who have explored this! I’ll happily do a future post on that subject.
For today, I think I’ve tackled enough. Next up, I’ll delve into Facebook. If you found this post useful, please share it and subscribe to the newsletter or RSS feed.
Until next time, happy cyber surfing!
UPDATE: Since writing this post, I have wrestled my name away from the cyber squatters who were holding it hostage. Actually, “I” didn’t do it. My Internet marketing adviser figured out how to do it without paying the exorbitant extortion. So yea! I now own: JulieOrtolon.com