Web sites

Hi Miss Snark,

I love the blog; it's very helpful.

My question is this: how important is something like a web presence for a writer (of fiction)?

I'm not yet published but hope to be someday, and was curious about this. It seems like everyone and his uncle has a blog or something similar. I read on someone's blog that they DO check a potential client's website and appreciate when there is one, and at the very least, I think even you've said you Google us.

Would it look bad to wait to establish one until you're submitting things and potentially being Googled, or would it be more advisable to just do it anyway, in the newbie phase? My husband said it's counting my chickens before they're hatched, and I suppose he's right in a way, but getting a blog/site is something I've wanted to do and what's one more good reason, especially given the Internet-savvy age we now live in? It's also easier to network online if you have a homebase yourself, a problem I've run in to as I live in other blogs' comment trails.


I think it's imperative for a writer to have a web site. You don't need to keep a blog, but you MUST have a site. These days not having a site is like not having a phone.

You don't need one before you're published quite as much but it's a good idea to reserve your domain name, and get started building one. You can put a picture of your dog on it and start building a links page.

Mostly though you can get used to having one and updating it regularly.

I look at author's websites ALL the time now. This is probably one of the biggest changes in my business practices in the last two years. Previously you couldn't have dragged me to a site unless you offered cash AND pictures of Mr. Clooney. Now I'm all over them practically before the ink is dry on your query letter. (High speed access and a speedy little computer are the reasons.)

I pay particular attention to the websites for authors querying me if they've had previous books or they are changing agents.

I look for what's not mentioned as well as what is.

Mostly though you need a web presence so people can contact you. Blurb requests, review requests, library appearances, all sorts of stuff comes in electronically now. Email is always my first choice for initial contact, and that too is a change from a couple years back.

We are in the middle of an information delivery revolution here and you HAVE to be on top of it. This is the equivalent to learning to drive when cars were invented.


mkcbunny said...

Do agents expect a writer's site to be solely about writing? If the writer has a varied professional resume related to other arts, would it confuse/turn off a writing agent to see other pursuits on the site?

Zany Mom said...

I have a website and am easily googled, but it's not about writing (other than mentioning I'm working on my second novel). I have a blog which is not about writing. Should I get a site specific to my writing?

I'm all over my e-mail daily, but a site is needed too? I'm not published yet. Just a wannabe.

Simon Haynes said...

mkcbunny - that's why you need a blog and a website. Use the blog for cute cat pix, keep the site for writing.
Sometimes I visit author pages and wonder whether they realise it's called the WORLD WIDE web for a reason.

Sonya said...

What if I have a website but I don't have a phone? O_o

Seriously...I don't have a phone.

jeff resnick said...

First time poster on the site :)
So what if someone with my name already has a website? Do I create a nickname and use that? Or possibly use the name of my book as the site? Or something else entirely?

Dave said...

Back in 1994 when the joint I worked for got internet access (yes, I'm ancient) the great laugh was a website that had pictures captioned:
Here's my house
Here's me
Here's my kids (three of them)
Here's my dog
Here's my motorcycle
Here's my wife naked on the hood of my car.

ooops, that's not a website we want to see, is it?

Christine Fletcher said...

Jeff -- My name is also already taken, so my website designer advised www.mynamebooks.com. (I've also seen www.mynameauthor.com.) The point is you want people to be able to find you when they type your name--i.e., the name you publish under--into a search engine. A nickname won't serve.

Anonymous said...

Greetings all ~

Jeff do you mean your name is already used as a domain name? If JeffResnick.com is not available, try looking up variations like Jeff_Resnick.net or Jeff_Q_Resnick.com or whatever.

If you just mean someone named Jeff Resnick has a website ... feh. Ignore the man behind the curtain and build YOUR Jeff Resnick, Author Extraordinaire website. And be proud. ;-) Any prospective agent will swiftly discern your site from some guy with an interest in classic cars.

Question for the group at large: HOW does an agent find out an author has a website? Does she google the person's name to find it, or are we supposed to include a URL along with all our name/addy/phone/email contact info on the first letter? I'd hate to clutter up my query letter with too much ostentatiousness, being a *new* author, but if that's how things are done ....
Cheers ~

G. Atwater

John said...

There are lots of variations on a name, as far as domains are concerned:

All the above can also work with the .net, .name and .org extensions, too. Plus, there are the national domains, such as the .me.uk domain for us Brits. You just need plenty of imagination :-)

pax et bonum

Ted W. Gross said...

Hey Miss Snark...Come On..Give A Look This-A-Way....(A Little More To Your Left Please)

Karen Dionne said...

"So what if someone with my name already has a website? Do I create a nickname and use that? Or possibly use the name of my book as the site? Or something else entirely?"

Any and all of the above. If you're lucky, you'll get your name with the .net extension. The other lesser-known extensions definitely aren't as desirable.

Adding your middle name or initial, or changing your name (assuming you're willing to publish under a pseudonym - Lemony Snicket, anyone?) are also good alternatives.

Using the name of your book is okay for a published book, but if the book's not sold yet, there won't be much point in buying the domain because titles often change. And then what will you do for book two?

A web presence is so important - not just for writers, but for other artists, business people, etc., I think a fabulous new-baby gift would be a twenty-year domain registration of the infant's name.

skybluepinkrose said...

mckbunny, another alternative to a blog and a site would be two separate sites. I know artists who maintain two and sell different kinds of works through each one.

JMHO, unless you know you have at least a small base of people who will read your blog and comment, I don't see the value of starting one. Blogs where nobody comments just look lame. Blogs also require much more vigilant upkeep than sites. Put in the time on your "real writing." I doubt I'd have put up a site before I published, either (although when I started, nobody'd heard of the Internet), because I don't know what it would have been about except my "wannabe" status. But these days, when you sell your first ms. is a good time to reserve your domain name and start building.

Again, JMHO, use your own name if it's available. You hope to be more than just one book title. You also want your URL to be as intuitive as possible. If Mary Smith is already taken, try marysmithbooks.com.

Another piece of advice I've heard is to have an audience in mind when you build a site. Will your visitors be readers? Wannabe writers? People you hope will hire you to speak? For example, my visitors are mainly my students. Not that you won't get hits from all kinds, but focus on the audience you most want/expect. Also, visit lots of other writers' sites to see what you like and don't like.

Swordswinger said...

I don't have a proper website yet, but I do have space on Myspace. Does this count, or should I just regard it as a placeholder until I can set up a proper site? (My novel has been taken on by an agent, but not yet by a publisher - extant creds are all short stories and poetry).

Rik said...

Websites are fun. Learning a bit of webcoding helps to build a better website, and is a useful skill to have if you need to earn a bit of pocket money while writing the Blockbuster to end all Blockbusters.

Mind you, it can get addictive. I've got poems and photo galleries and constructed languages and everything on my website. Pity the poor agents who go googling for my internet presence ...

The Rejected Writer said...

Hmm...Miss Snark - dame of the snail mail query (complete with SASE) is going more and more electronic. Do I smell an opening for email queries on the horizon? Hmm???


eric said...

well I did an end-around on putting my name in my address:


I'll go back to the regular query angle when the current novel is finished. Until then....

Kristen King said...

Miss Snark, I couldn't agree with you more on this. But I think it's worth noting is that the only thing worse than no site at all is a crappy, unprofessional site. There's nothing wrong with going the free route, but tons of blinking banner ads at the top of your site and stuff like "me n boo @ j-dawg's 30th bday partee--i got trashed" with a shot of you totally wasted and hanging onto your friends to keep from collapsing in a drunken heap are definitely not going to reflect well. Admittedly the blinking banner ads are better than plaster pics, but seriously, your online presence reflects on you, period, and with the way information travels these days, there's little if any separation between the public and the private online. If you're going to do it, do it right; and if you're not going to do it right, maybe better not to do it.


mkcbunny said...

simon haynes: To clarify, I didn't mean a place for cat pics [don't tell my cat]. I mean that I have a fine arts resume [15 years] that came before my writing. My single pro-writing credit is a long editorial stint [6 years], and I'm currently writing a novel. When I get to the query stage, I'll want a Web presence for the writing.

So my question is: Is it better to have an extremely limited writing-specific site, or a more comprehensive site that addresses my complete creative resume?

skybluepinkrose: Thanks.

Wanderer said...

What exactly is one supposed to put in an author website if one is as-yet unpublished? I have my domain name registered already (trying to think ahead) and I certainly know what I want to do with my website once I have something to put on it, but it seems to me that advertising myself (which is essentially what a webpage does, after all) or my books when they're not yet even represented, let alone slated for publication, is a good way to piss off potential readers. ("What do you mean this great book I've been reading about on your site isn't anywhere near actually being available for purchase? See if I ever bother trying to find YOUR books again!")

So -- If I'm not into blogging, and I don't feel I'm in a position to give other writers advice, what kind of web presence should I have?

Sign me,
Sincerely curious!

cm allison said...

After reading this post I got curious, and googled my name. I'm extremely thankful I did, as my (full)name is already a published author! I'd already planned on using my initals rather than first name, but this was a very good thing to find out! Thank goodness I have a whiz-kid computer nerd hubby: who will now have instructions to grab me a web-site placer immediately! Although it may remain "under construction" for a while. Thank you for the heads up! (Hey, my verification word sounds like fine caviar, is that an omen?)

Ziptrivia said...

Try using a website to build an audience, the dreaded "platform" and your writing skills all at once. Try out different styles of writing, different material, stuff that would otherwise just sit in notebooks unseen by anyone, explore the elasticity of run-on sentences.

Write poetry, write news articles, write that screenplay or doctoral thesis. Pretty soon you might have examples or ideas that you can refer back to when trying to pitch new work.

Ryan Field said...

This is another interesting post, and I'm glad I actually took a minute to read the blog today. I had no idea having a web site was so important. There seem to be so many awful sites that are nothing more than self-indulgent expressions of dreamers with very little talent(Howie, from the TV show Big Brother, comes to mind). Not all(God bless you Bonnie Shimko and Kimber Ann with your wonderful, classy web sites), but many. However, in theory I can't disagree with Miss Snark, though I'm not personally ready to take a chance on becoming one of those self-indulgent dreamers yet.

Ziptrivia said...

A website is a great place to try out different writing styles and build an audience for free.

Write news articles, write a book, screenplay or doctoral thesis. Develop your writing style as you beuild a platform and get people to read your stuff.

nir said...

I'm wondering how to work this when I'm intending to publish under a pseudonym. Since from what I understand, the agent is the one who is responsible for such things (I do have one I like the sound of, but you never know how that will go), does it matter if I have a site?

I do have a personal site, but my last name is unpronounceable by most people and I'm protective of my family's privacy. I wouldn't publish fiction under my real name even if paid double.

Anonymous said...

Just because you build a website doesn't mean anyone is going to come visiting. Your website doesn't automatically show up on Google. You can 'invite' Google to come calling, but that doesn't mean they will! So build a site. When there's a reason for anyone to go looking for your site -- to find out more about that fabulous book you've written -- your link will be on the publisher's or literary agency's web site, getting plenty of hits.

Maya Reynolds said...

CM Allison: The good news is you don't need a whiz-kid computer nerd hubby to buy a domain. Just a credit card and the ability to type www.godaddy.com.

NIR: I'm confused. What exactly is it that you think an agent is responsible for? Picking your pseudonym, or setting up your website? Either way, I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed.

Tattieheid said...


Personally I would go for the comprehensive site (Providing the art side is of decent quality) for a number of reasons.

It gives potential readers a better sense of the depth of your creative talents and will appeal to those readers who think of writers as "artistic" and creative people.

From a marketing point of view if your site already draws a good number of regular visitors then you have a fantastic potential market to kickstart your book sales and spread the word.

The important thing is to design the site for easy and quick navigation so people can hone in on the elements that interest them. You can also vary the home page to give a marketing push to which ever element of your work needs it.

If it's done correctly and professionally you should find that the writing boosts the art sales and vice versa.

If you don't feel up to that challenge or fear alienating visitors then use a seperate site but make sure each has prominent links to the other.

Anonymous said...

I have a beautiful web site going to waste!

When you type my name the web site pops up at the top of the list, even though it's named after a previous book. When you type the name of the previous book, it pops up too.

The problem is, the site was set up by somebody else. If I want to add to it or subtract from it, I have to call someone else, who enters the information. Thus, the site has remained pretty much the same for the last three years. What can I do to gain control of my own web site? A couple of times I tried to glean this knowledge, but it seemed impossibly complex, like algebra, which I nearly failed in high school.

I feel so twentieth century.

Southern Writer said...

Woo hoo, Sonya. I thought I was the last person in the western hemisphere without a phone! I have a site, I have two blogs. I have a choice between working to pay for a phone, or staying home and writing. I'm not much of a phone chatter. I've managed to survive for years on end without it. People who know me know where to find me - my blog!