Another look into the archives

August 17th, 2010 • Kate

archivesWay back in March of 2008, I answered a reader’s question about websites. I think the answer still rings true for me — what do you think?

Scott writes

In the AuthorMBA interview, you said every author should have a Web site and blog. I agree, and have had Web sites since before most people knew there was such a thing, and I’ve had a couple blogs. I’ve coached a few other authors on creating or improving their own Web sites. Because of this, I’m very interested in your thoughts.

What would you expect or hope to see on a writer’s Web site, especially a new writer who might not have books or articles to promote? You mentioned not wanting to see information about agents and editors who’ve been queried and have rejected the writer’s work. What else do you not want to see?

Scott, I’m going to be lazy and throw this over to Kristin Nelson, who I feel had a great post the other day on the same subject. She suggested what you should have up on your author website, and also echoed my own thoughts and said

What you might not want to include is a whole play-by-play of your current editor, agent, or publisher search. This could backfire. I have seen sites where an author has clearly outlined all the rejections (sometimes the letters are posted there verbatim!). It would make me think twice about asking for the full.

Besides that, what else shouldn’t you have on there? I’d be leery about extremely personal stuff. Do you really want to put up that picture of your spouse in an embarrassing situation? Or yourself? Daily minutia of your life is fine for a personal blog, but if you intend to publicize your site to agents and publishers, they likely don’t care about what you had for breakfast.

I think the important thing to do when writing a blog or creating your author website is to be very aware of the impression you want to make. You’re not going to go wrong by erring on the cautious side — it’s easy enough to add more personal stuff when you’re more comfortable writing, and you want to share your impressions of tv shows, and tell your readers every detail of the previous evening, but if you put it up too early, it can be hard to erase. The internet doesn’t forget. I read a great article the other day about cleaning out your blog archives, and it’s a worthwhile read even before you start keeping a blog. The author shares

When I looked back into my archives, I was actually a bit embarrassed by some of the early mistakes. I also felt that these posts would detract from the overall message of Zen Habits, and so I took them out of the archives. Did I delete them? Some of them I did, and with others I found a compromise: I just marked them as private, so that only I could see them.

If you’re keeping a blog, you already know it can be a lot of work to go back in and fix things, so consider if you want them up there in the first place.

Ultimately, I think the most important distinction an author needs to make in their website is that it is a professional site, not a personal one. Let everything else flow from that decision, and you should be fine.

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6 Responses to “Another look into the archives”

  1. Meghan Says:

    I agree that the answer still rings true – authors definitely should have website. I quite often check out the websites of authors, both favorites and new discoveries. It's nice to see more information about other books a person has written, or updates about forthcoming projects. If they have a blog, that's great too.

    While we're on the subject of websites, I also think that literary agents should have websites. I'm amazed how many don't – come on, it's 2010! Not having a website in this day and age is almost unprofessional. The KT Literary site is one of the best, and I'm not just saying that! I've been following the Ask Daphne blog for awhile, and I've learned a lot about publishing and writing, and I also feel like I've found an online literary community.

  2. Rissa Watkins Says:

    Yup, stil sounds right to me. I use my website to announce special projects coming up, short stories I have published or awards I have received.

    Eventually, I will have sections for my published novels.

    Oh and I totally agree with Meghan. It bugs me when an agent doesn't have a website.

  3. Allison Says:

    So how early should you start a professional blog/website? When you're ready to query, or before then?

  4. Prince Says:

    I need to save this page. I will be needing it soon to create my website. Thanks, Kate!

  5. Patricia Says:

    What kind of website would you say a writer needs most? Facebook? Blog? Twitter? Something completely different? All of the above? What is most effective?

  6. Abby Minard Says:

    I've noticed a lot of newer authors and debut authors using plain 'ol Blogger for their blog/website. Kristin Cashore only uses Blogger for her whole website, and there are many others that started blogs on Blogger before they were published, and then created a website once picked up by an agent or editor.

    But I have noticed personal stuff on a lot of these author's blogs, and I actually really like that. It makes me, as a reader, feel like I know them just a little more. Since authors are celebrities to me, it makes me happy when I can get a glimpse into their lives. I've actually been trying to figure out what to do about a blog- do I purchase my own domain and website, or do I just start with Blogger and make a webiste once I get published? I don't want to screw up, or lose my name as a domain or anything.