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Another look into the archives

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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