Got an Author Newsletter? You need a Privacy Policy!

If you are an author with a mailing list or in the process of setting one up, it is a good idea to have a privacy policy listed on your website that details what you’re going to do with the personal information you collect.

According the Small Business Administration’s article “7 Considerations for Crafting and Online Privacy Policy,” you primarily need to have the following:

1. Explain How You Collect and Use Personal Information

While not required by law (although the Federal Trade Commission prohibits any deceptive practices), creating a privacy policy is important if you want people to buy your products. This is particularly important if you are involved in e-commerce or if you collect information in surveys or marketing forms. Every customer has a right to know how you collect and use their information.

Online privacy policy generators (just run a search on that term and you’ll find them) can help you craft a policy. As you craft yours, be sure to clearly explain the following:

  • Your Cookie Policy – Cookies are used to store user preferences or shopping cart contents. Clearly explain your cookie practice.

  • How You Share Customer Information – Customers need to know that their data will only be used to complete the transaction and that any further use of that data (including selling or distributing it) requires their consent.

  • Contact Information – Make it easy for your customers to contact you or file a complaint.

Clearly, if at some point you are considering using Facebook ads and any of their targeting/tracking methods over on your own website, you should probably have some type of disclosures about cookies.

While the FTC and many states do NOT yet require websites to have privacy policies, it’s a good idea to have one because some states (and some countries) do. California, Delaware, and Nevada all require “operators of Internet websites or online services that collect personally identifiable information” about their residents “to notify consumers about how that information is used.”

And quite honestly, in my own author mailing list, I have no way of knowing where those subscribers are based because I don’t collect mailing addresses, only emails.

Because I AM based in California, my website IS required to have a privacy policy.

But not every indie author (especially this startup indie author) has the money to pay an attorney the money to draft a privacy policy.

Luckily, googling terms like “free privacy policy template” or “free privacy policy generator” will bring up a whole slew of websites.

But which one should you trust?

According to this attorney roundtable podcast on the Smart Passive Income Podcast (which is well worth a listen, or going to the site and downloading the transcript for free, to because 80-90% of what this show talks about setting up a business structure applies to indie authors), some of these policies are junk.

Luckily more Internet searching turned up the San Francisco Better Business Bureau website, which links to a privacy policy template. I trust the BBB because it’s a non-profit that I’ve actually heard of. I copied and pasted their template, aand modified it to use for this website (just scroll to the bottom, and click Privacy Policy which currently links to an external google doc because I’m still trying to figure out this wordpress theme).

Even if you’re not in California, the San Francisco BBB’s privacy policy template pretty much covers everything you need (I think) and is worth a look, if you’re looking around for a free privacy policy template.

Please note that I am not an attorney, and this is in no way meant to be legal advice.