Content warning: stalking, harassment, threats, and law enforcement indifference to those things
It’s generally assumed that if you’re going to write a book, you are going to promote that book. Tell your friends, buy a copy for your mom to take to bridge club, whatever. “I did this!!!!” you shout from the rooftops. You actively work to build your social media standing, so as to increase the reach of your posts, so more people get the treat of reading your work. That’s how it works, right?
Except when it doesn’t.
For many of us, existing within both digital and meatspace means double the opportunities for harassment and stalking. According to the CDC, something like 1 in 6 women and 1 in 17 men have experienced stalking. This number conflates physical and digital stalking and only includes cases actually reported to law enforcement. But much like with rape, people know that law enforcement will do literally nothing, so people don’t report, and so likely these numbers are way, way lower than reality.
People who haven’t experienced stalking have trouble understanding precisely how bad it can be when someone is dedicating themselves to creating misery for you. When you have to consider how much pain you will have to endure if you use your name in public and your stalker finds out about it. Will they just write nasty things? Try to get you fired? Will this finally be the time where they find out where you are physically and endanger you that way? You never know, and the stress of that is hard to describe, but it’s real, and it’s horrible.
The real sticker is that we all think it’s “just us” when it happens. It’s incredibly isolating to watch everyone else be free on social media, while you have to consider how much risk even a single post may put you under. I didn’t really realize how bad it was until I was in the jury pool for a nationally-visible murder trial. When the judge asked the jury pool of nearly 400 people if any of them had experienced stalking personally, every woman in the room stood up. And so did a few of the men. When the judge then asked us to sit back down, I flagged down a bailiff and asked why we weren’t being disqualified. He replied, “it’s like that every time now. If we disqualified jurors for having been stalked, we’d end up with all-male juries, and that’s not fair.”
We are writing this post at personal risk. We had to IP-block a staff member’s stalker a few years ago, and we have to hope that he’s still blocked, and has moved on to other hobbies beyond destroying us. Before we published this, we consulted with the rest of our team, to let them know that this might provoke the stalker to another round of insane and dangerous behavior. We don’t know. But we do know that you, the readership and authorship of Paper Angel Press and its imprints, need to know that if you submit works to us, and need to maintain anonymity, we will protect that for you however you need us to, to stay safe. We have been there and done that, and until our culture and society figures out how to stop the scourge of stalking and the people who use their power to make others miserable, the rest of us have got to accommodate survivors.
We are absolutely prepared to work with you to find alternate ways to promote your book. If you’ve avoided social media due to stalking, we will work around that. We will happily collaborate in whatever ways we need to, to make sure you get the same promotional opportunities as people who have not been stalked, because at the end of the day, we stand strongly against stalking behaviors, and are willing to put effort behind that on our authors’ behalf.