Monday, August 11, 2008

Why Authors Need A Web Presence

One of my writer friends does not have a website or a blog or any presence online. I've talked with her several times and encouraged her to start something but she's not interested. If you google her name, you will learn in the first entry that she has written over 90 books with over three million books in print among other things. Yes, her publishers display her books online but you will be challenged to find anything personal about this author.

Times Have Changed

Several years ago, it was OK for an author not to have a website. In fact, there was a great deal of skepticism about anything online and whether it was true or not. There were many examples of people who built complete false identities online through websites which stretched the truth. The pendulum has swung the other direction. While it's a good idea to have some degree of skepticism about the information you find online, in today's publishing climate, the Internet is often the first place that people turn for information about anything and anyone.

When I call an editor or literary agent and talk about an author, I can often hear them clicking their keyboard and searching for information as we speak. Normally they use Google or another common search tool to locate information about an author or would-be author.

As literary agent Richard Curtis explains, "When I pitch authors to editors over the phone, I can actually hear them typing on the keyboard as we speak. I know that while we're talking, they are going on Google or Amazon and checking out the author. They'll say, 'I see, oh yeah, I see the author's picture or the cover of his last five books.'" BTW, Curtis has a fascinating blog well worth reading.

What do you find?

Open a new tab or window in your Internet browser and go to Google.com. Type your own name into the search window and see what you find. From time to time, it's a good habit for anyone in publishing to check this information. This exercise will give you some idea of your level of presence online.

At a recent writers' conference, I heard Rick Frishman, founder of Planned Television Arts, tell the audience about the importance of every would-be author knowing their own reputation online. He described a situation where a major book was canceled over something that an editorial assistant found about the author on the 25th or 26th page of Google. You may not think that a publisher will go to that level of vetting for an author. Be aware some publishers will invest this level of checking your public information online because when you become one of their authors, their reputation is hooked to your background.

Because of the ease of accessibility and many other factors, every writer needs to have visibility on the Internet. In my post tomorrow, I'm going to provide some specific ideas about how to begin and resources to use in that process.

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