website content

Dear Miss Snark

I hope that you are recovering well from the crapometer (passes large bottle of gin through the ether).

The question of writer web sites has popped up a few times on the blog and I was wondering what your ideal writer web site would contain? I'm a copywriter and my clients are nagging me to set up a web site to show my work so that they can pass it on to their mates and hopefully net me more work. I was wondering about combining this with some of my fiction. Bad idea? (ducks clue stick).

If you were googling a potential client and found they had a web site, what would your ideal content be? Bio? Short stories? Book excerpts? Family pix? George Clooney pix? Blog? What would you like to know?!

Do not not not combine your fiction site with your copywriting/looking for clients site. They are two entirely different animals and your target audience is different. Your copywriting site needs a "sign up for my email newsletter" button on every page, and you need to send out a regular helpful hint every month that keeps your name in front of potential clients. (example on this is Marcia Yudkin the master of internet marketing).

Your fiction site is to showcase your fiction, and you. When I google an author I look for published books, blurbs, first paragraphs, something about the background of the book. Mostly I look for voice. Be funny, charming and witty...yanno, the easy stuff.

It can only help if you have a picture of a horse or a dog of course. Don't put pictures of your children on your site. Or their names. I'm always stunned at the idiocy and naivete of people who do that.

And you want contact info. Email of course.


Anonymous said...

I'm a freelance copywriter with a website showcasing my advertising work. (Yes, poster, you need a site.) I also write fiction (pubbed short stories, agented but unpubbed novel). For my fiction, I set up a page on Publishers Marketplace. Yep, it's not cheap, but for now, it's how I keep those two sides of my writing life separate. When you Google me, my copywriting site comes up first, my PM page second.

Now, if I get published in novel-length fiction, I plan to set up a "gateway" home page so people can choose my copywriting or fiction. (Libby Fischer Hellman does this.)

Bonnie Shimko said...

Hold it just one tiny minute. I take umbrance - severe umbrance - (I stole that phrase from Marie on Everybody Loves Raymond) with your no kids' photos rule.

When you're old and shopworn and scary-looking, and the photographer who took your author photo kept adding more and more filters and kept backing up until he hit the wall and then tried to push his way through it, you put a very tiny book-signing photo of yourself where the signees are nearly hiding you and then a photo of your dog and really adorable photos of your kids when they were little (because they don't look so hot anymore, either) to add a personal touch.

Therapistwriter said...

Yes, Bonnie, but how do you feel about pedophiles using your kids photos for "inspiration"? Personal touch gains a whole new meaning. And perhaps there is a difference if your kids are grown as you indicated. Otherwise, photos of current children acts as a veritable shopping list for cyber-creeps.
Think I'm paranoid? I'm a licensed professional counselor and have worked with pedophiles and their victims for many years.

Ballpoint Wren said...

Bonnie, I think Miss Snark is concerned more about the safety aspect than the personal touch aspect.

Lots of sickos out there, and it's easy for them to find out where you and your kids live.

Heidi the Hick said...

I don't care is an author isn't pretty. I still want to know what he or she looks like. (Lemony Snicket is the exception!)

I personally wouldn't put my kids on my website. I want them to have privacy and a life away from what I do. That's just me.

My dog however can have some celebrity. And you know my horse will be on any website I have despite having never written a darn thing.

I agree about VOICE. When I go to an author site I really want to know what that person is like. I want to know if this work is something I'd want to read.

Heidi the Hick said...

Now just to clarify...

An author's web site needs to have PUBLISHED writing, correct?

Kim said...

I've been asked about getting my picture up on my website and it's one of those things that is really at the bottom of my to do list. Besides, what anyone imagines is probably a lot more flattering :)

My website is strictly writing related, with pertinent info. Besides, this way I can take it as a business expense come tax time. :)

As for my kids, I would never put them up there, simply for the safety factor. Why give the looneys any more ammo? I give their names on my bio section, but that is it, and I'm considering changing that as well. No other personal information will be provided and if someone doesn't like it, well, that's too bad. That part of my life is a separate animal and there are enough whack jobs out there.

Ryan Field said...

Bonnie Shimko can do whatever she wants as long as she keeps writing those wonderful, perfect books!!!!

Bonnie Shimko said...

I appreciate all the comments and cautions. I really do. As a former teacher (little kids) I spent a lot of time warning them about the dangers of pedophiles and sickos. I'd NEVER post my kids' photos or names if they were still little. I never let them wear T-shirts with their names or other identifying things as they were growing up. Plus all the other careful stuff parents do.

My kids are pretty okay with having their photos posted. My daughter's a former school counselor turned police officer (with a real gun and real bullets) and my son's a college professor with big muscles.

Besides, I'm so unknown and my books are so tame that a pedophile would have to be typing in his sleep to find my website.

Again, I do appreciate the words of caution and I agree with everything everyone has said.

Anonymous said...

Chose your images carefully. The art should be relevant to the writing material and also attractive or at least interesting. This is advertising. And amazingly enough, it's about the book. It's not about you. Consider book covers. There's a reason the author's portrait is on the back, if anywhere. You mean to sell your work. You're not selling your face, and you're especially not selling your kids. As a reader, I don't need to know what you look like, but if you put your photo up there it will inform my opinion. If you look like a movie star, this might be good. If you look like you should be in radio, that photo probably doesn't help your cause. The soft focus trick will make you look out of touch with reality, but it won't slim your figure. Your best choice is to use imagery that illustrates the style and subject of your writing. If that means a photo of you, then use one. If it doesn't, don't.

Anonymous said...

I'm still waiting to hear an answer to Heidi's question on website content.

Bonnie Shimko said...

Ryan, you're the greatest. Thanks! I felt pretty much like a scumbag loser and wished I hadn't replied to this thread, and then you go and say that. Sometimes, just when you think it's going to rain, the sun comes out.

Lauren said...

I have a web site that features quality book reviews and literary commentary from eight writers. We have no photos of the contributors, and that is a deliberate choice. Not only does it mean that our visitiors focus on our writing, but it provides a measure of safety. Having been stalked once (pre-Internet), I prefer this.

Also, I do not like the trend of presenting authors as pretty pictures. Leave that to the models and give me great writing. Everything else is unnecessary. Any publishers listening?

Robin L. said...

OT question here about the kid thing - my girlfriends and I use our blogs to share pictures of our kids with each other and family members - do you all really think it's dangerous? My rationale has always been that a creepy guy at the grocery store has a better chance of seeing my kids and following me home than somebody online does of figuring out where I live from my blog...

Anne said...

Bonnie, your description of the photographer taking the author photo is very funny. Reminds me of the scene from the movie "Tootsie." Dustin Hoffman, impersonating a female soap opera star, is being filmed in close up. The director, watching the filming on monitor, keeps telling the camera man to back up, and he finally asks the camera man, "How far can you back up?" The camera man answers, How do you feel about Cincinnati?"

Kate Pearce said...

I don't have my picture on my site-I'm not sure if I want to scare people...I do, however, have a couple of pictures of my cavalier king charles spaniel who is way cuter than me-and when I put his picture up I get loads of responses on my blog!

Heidi the Hick said...

As for the actual author photo... sometimes the less pretty people are more interesting to look at. Let's keep that in mind ok?

Because we are all interesting people, right? Right?

katiesandwich said...

I've been asked about getting my picture up on my website and it's one of those things that is really at the bottom of my to do list. Besides, what anyone imagines is probably a lot more flattering :)

I feel the same way. Not about you, about me! But seriously, this website thing. Just as writing a good query is different than writing a good novel, it's hard for me to write the content for my website. I feel so corny! I mean, how do you say, "Hey, my stuff is great and you should read it" without sounding like a self-important asshole? I know it can be done, but I don't know how. Thoughts, anyone?

Anonymous said...

What to include on your fiction website? Don't confuse this project with building a personal/family gossip site. It should all be about your writing / the book[s]. Here are three excellent examples for inspiration:




Kanani said...

General rule of thumb:
When in doubt always post a doctored photo of you and George Clooney on your masthead.

Heidi the Hick said...

One last word from me-

Is it WRONG for an author to have a pretty picture? Are we now faulting authors for being attractive as well as for being unattractive?

Are writers supposed to look a certain way?

Are farmers supposed to look a certain way?

I might just keep my hand over my face...

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I agree with Miss Snark. Posting photos of your children online is insanity. My personal experience with an AOL based pervert taught me never to post personal photos online.

Now my own gorgeous photo, wings and all, is online somewhere.

I'm figuring on using my baby picture as an author photo. And didn't we cover all this last year sometime?

I'm really not curious about an author's appearance. I don't care much at all if they're short or tall. I care not a wit if they look like a twit. I really am disinterested in their belly be it slim or distended. I'm interested in their words and reading. Forget the photo and write well; that's what I'm pleading -- Insta Poem by Rachael

Maria said...


I took your first post to be amusing and I laughed, assuming you were being humorous. In no way did I think you were ignoring the real dangers, only poking a little fun at Miss Snark and your own age perhaps.

Write on.

Judy said...


re: sharing your kids photos with friends and families online

There's a big difference between putting photos on a personal site or blog for people you know, and putting pictures on a very public site which you would presumably publicize to the masses and on which you're soliciting attention.

I don't share my personal blog address or website address with people I don't know (for example, they are not in my signature and not listed in the Blogger directory), and I don't state my son's last name. Once in a blue moon, I'll google his name just to see what kind of exposure we have (very low... lots of guys with my munchkin's name doing a lot more news- and webworthy things).

You're right, the creep that you might run across in the grocery is probably a bigger threat than pictures shared online. Still, better safe than sorry.

Bill E. Goat said...

I'd be impressed with a picture of a cute French Alpine doe. Put that on your web site. I'll read your book!

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Okay, it's time to get a bit serious. One of the Family chats on AOL is haunted by an abusive, somewhat stupid and very cunning, woman who steals photos of children and puts them on her own profile. She does this to mock or upset the other mothers in that chat. She particularly likes photos of children who have died, so she can mock your morning and sorrow. She also has myspace account and posts photos there too. She has a criminal record and a work history that is marred by theft. (Yes, I know who she is, where she lives, and other information, but read on.)

She takes these photos from profiles or private emails that one or more of her "friends" has sent to her. She makes harassing phonecalls to the homes and places of employment of those she's stalking.

This has gone on for at least four years. AOL doesn't care. I learned that it takes a lawyer or the State Attorney General to get their attention. Left on their own, AOL ignores complaints. They may act on a stolen photo with a certified mailing of a notarized statement that the photo is yours. The statement must be accompanied by other proof. AOL acts reluctantly in these cases and will resist even a demand from your lawyer.

When this woman placed an unauthorized link to my web page (illegal here) and my full personal name (totally misspelled) on her web profile, it took the state attorney general to get it off. AOL sent them a rude form letter, but AOL did remove it. Numerous emails from me, my business partners and business manager had no effect. AOL is the least responsive of all the ISPs in my experience.

It is insanity to place your personal information and especially your child's photos online. Even sharing them with "friends" you might make online is stupid. Do NOT do it. Once you've lost control of your child's photo you will not get it back.

Kim said...

Katiesandwich - I so agree about the bio thing - ugh. It was the hardest part to write. Sooo, instead of blowing my own horn, I used reviews to do it for me. All the good, none the bad!

Luckily for me, my kids have relatively common names and I don't offer up their last names, either. Better safe than sorry, is my motto. At least, some of the time.

My blog is the same way, neither my husband or the rugrats are ever named. They are DH (which is dear hubby and not a certain part of the male anatomy, as one of my DH's friends thought) and my son or my daughter. I've never mentioned their ages and I won't. I've never used their names, which I won't. As judging by Sha'el's comment, there are some really sick psychos out there who will harass in whatever medium is available. How sad is that?

However, I might put up a photo of the family dog - she's half pit bull and looks like she means business!

Anonymous said...

Holy dog, Sha'el, that's a horror story and a half. And reason No. 4 million not to patronize AOL.

Dave said...

I worked with a lady who demanded that we take down pictures of the "halloween event" and "take your kids to work day" that showed her kids on the internal website at work. No public access.
We did it no fuss.

I will always remember the first day back in 1994 when a coworker described a website that had pictures - here's my house, here's my kids, here's my boat, here's my wife naked on the hood of the car!!!

That's about the absolute worst thing that you can do.

I'll tell y'all another thing. I have a friend who is gay and he has shown me pictures of men from 15 years ago that adorn the "dating" pages. They take their head and superimpose it on another man's body. It takes about 2 minutes in Photoshop for you to look like Hulk Hogan. Or the latest miss america.

Please leave your family pictures on your mantle or desk.

nir said...

I'm not wild about the idea of author pictures. I want people to read my work, not ogle me.

If they don't like that then they can buy something else.

Anonymous said...

Or you can have multiple pictures.

Here's my kid.

Here's my Glock.

Here's my latest spread pattern.

Mark said...

Well, this screenwriter/reviewer in Hollywood Unsung Critic's Review of my book, undertaking a similar endeavor as miss snark, has reviewed my history book. I'm amused by the fact he can't imagine someone submitting a screenplay can read let alone write a book. That's the sad state of literary affairs out here. Crossing fingers, that producers read this guy.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Dear Anon of the Last Kind:

Glocks are for sissies. I have a permit to carry. And I don't carry a Glock. I carry a hulking, rebuilt, restored Radom 9mm. And yes, we short winged people can shoot.

I am a better shot with my High Standard Olympic Special. It's lighter and better for small hands. But it's not a stick-it-in-your-briefcase pistol. It's great for timed shoots. It fires ten shots as fast as you can pull the trigger, or 11 if you cheat and put one in the chamber. Just call me "dead-eye pixie."

The only thing I've ever killed with a gun, other than targets, is a rattle snake. If someone threatens my children, that would change.

My grandpa insisted on gun-safety and responsible gun use training.
He was very old school. He was a conservationist when there weren't many, but he hunted. He was a lumberman who fought for forest conservation. He made a conservation film back in the 1930s.

Mostly, he was my grandpa whom I miss terribly and love now as much as I loved him in life.

Anonymous said...

i would never send my manuscript to someone like this, and especially not a screenplay. He won't identify himself and he claims he gets nothing out of this. However there used to be another guy who did this kind of thing (trolling for newbies with scripts and no clues) who would then shop them with himself attached (for finder's fees). Problem is, people did not want to take on a project that already had his baggage (as an attachment). So these writers didn't even know their work was being shopped and rejected when what they should have done was go get an agent or submit directly to production cos. In the worst cases, he ripped off the ideas and wrote them himself or farmed them out to friends. Clueless in Ohio or Michigan had no idea money was exchanging hands because most projects never make it to screen.

If you want real reviews, go to real reviewers. Getting desperate just results in future regrets.

Mark said...

Well you keep yours then anonymous. I don't see snark's real name on anything here either if that's your criteria. The guy know's what he's talking about, and like pod-dy mouth is produced i.e. published but we don't know who he is. Sounds familiar.

The reason they don't want to be outed is because of nitwits like you claiming theft and fees and the like based on nothing. Get a clue. Now go pay Kirkus for you unpublished book and report back.

Anonymous said...

In response to Mark, Snark is quite different. Snark is for real which is why I dropped in to post.

i see you must have taken my comment personally, since you resorted to name calling and insults. It was actually directed to help readers who might want to know what goes on behind the guise of certain websites (not Snark's) that claim they just want to help. I hope every young and unpublished writer would think twice before sending off their work this way and trust their writing is good enough to find success via legitimate avenues.