Looking Professional Online

Rachel Kent

Blogger: Rachel Kent

When you start writing for publication, you are putting yourself in the position of needing to keep up appearances–especially online.  If you are publishing magazine articles or books, readers might search for you online to see what your credentials are or to see if you have a blog or books to read, or anything else that might be of interest to them.  If you are still unpublished, agents and editors might search for you to see what kind of presence you have. From what I’ve seen, the authors that really take getting published seriously have started to build an online presence. Having a website and a professional Internet presence isn’t a prerequisite for agent representation, but it does show an agent/editor that a writer is getting ready to be published.

Here are some tips to help you to build a professional presence online:

* A bad-looking website can do more harm than good. Find someone with some website building experience to help you to put it together. You don’t need to spend a lot right away, but taking your website beyond the pre-built template with advertisements on it can really help you to look professional.

*Reserve your name for your website domain name. If you can’t get your name, be sure to use something professional like the name of your ministry or business.

*Use the same domain name for your email address extension. Don’t try to get cute with your email address. iloveshoes @ yahoo.com isn’t the way to go. If you want to use a free email service like gmail or yahoo mail, put your name in the email address somehow.

*There’s a big difference between a “selfie” and a professional photo. A snapshot taken by a family member isn’t the best idea either. They end up looking like mug shots, and that’s not the look you should be going for. Pay for the professional picture and be sure to get the rights to the photo. It is expensive, but it is important.

Remember, these business expenses can be written off of your taxes. Talk to your accountant about the details.

*Be sure you are posting relevant things on Facebook and Twitter, and do try to keep it positive. If I see that a potential client is an online complainer, I am very unlikely to take that person on. I am sure you all have some Facebook friends who do the complaining thing! If you love Candy Crush, Farm Heroes, or other online games, start a private Facebook page for your games and game friends. You shouldn’t be playing games on your professional pages.

*Always watch your language and think twice before you post anything.

What are some rules you follow to help keep your online presence professional?

What changes might you need to make in your online presence?

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How do you keep your online presence professional? Via literary agent @RachelLKent Click to tweet.

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31 Comments

  • Great advice!

    My main online presence is through my blog, and I’ve tried to keep it professional in the following ways:

    – A clean, and uncluttered template

    – A minimum of ‘extras’ in terms of ‘about me’ stuff

    – Consistent content, focusing on my core platform.

    – Consistent tone – not swinging between intellectual and folksy

    – Minimal images – I find blogs with a lot of pictures distracting, and the content can be hard to follow

    – Clear contact information. and clear sharing buttons

    The one unprofessional thing I do is that instead of my picture, I use the picture of one of my Pit Bulls. But she’s better-looking than I am, and her feelings would be hurt if I removed it, so there it stays.

    One eccentricity might not be bad, come to think of it. But only one.

    • Andrew, I like the color of your cyber home. (Of course, you realize it’s my favorite color.)You do a great job staying consistent and focused, while expressing an individuality that is uniquely you.

      A thought: Could you add an author shot somewhere in the sidebar, perhaps above your beloved puppy? I think (because we’re visual in nature) we enjoy “seeing” our fave authors on their websites. Also, maybe add a more detailed “About” section in addition to your Google profile? (Inquiring minds want to know!) :)

      You’re a tremendous asset to the writing community. You see the world through a very thought-provoking lens.

      ~Blessings

      • Wow, Cindy, thank you!

        I’ll do those things…I have always tended to keep myself in the background (which was reinforced by training for some of the work I did) and it’s hard to step out of the shadows.

        To receive such kudos from someone I admire as much as I admire you…wow. Makes me giddy.

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      Great feedback, Cynthia!

      And wonderful list, Andrew.

  • Jill Kemerer says:

    Great advice! It’s smart to do a Google search of your author name now and then to see what comes up too. Have a terrific weekend!

  • Rachel, great reminders!

    It’s always important to remember that our cyber footprints extend a long way. How we present ourselves online can leave a long-lasting impression.

    My personal philosophy (online and in life), I strive to take the high road.

    I try to strike a happy balance between down-to-earth and “professional.” I want to be “real,” but I’m sure no one cares what I burned for dinner. ;)

  • What rules do I follow? To maintain a professional image, I avoid controversial topics like politics or doctrinal issues.

    I do try to keep my page fun and personal. I think some authors go overboard on being too professional and post nothing to their author page except sales pitches and blog posts. They save all the personal stuff for their friends-only profile. Frankly, I think that’s sort of boring. Readers today desire to connect, so you have to give them more than “buy my book.”

    Just today, I learned that a favorite author of mine collects yardsticks (anyone know who that is?). I giggled, thinking, “That’s unique.” Now, when I see her name in a bookstore, I’m going to think about yardsticks. She’s more likable to me because she’s human. Without fun little things like that, she’d just be another faceless author.

    There’s another author who I finally “hid” from FB because he kept posting long rambling political commentary and some questionable theological assertions (in my opinion). Now when I see HIS name on a bookstore shelf I no longer have a good feeling about him, even though I used to enjoy his books.

  • Good points, Rachel. I think it is important to stay positive online–I get tired of the whiners.

  • Thank you for all these reminders, Rachel.

  • Christine Dorman says:

    Thank you, Rachel, for this advice.

    I started working on a website awhile back and abandoned it (never went public with it) because of frustration about the amateur look of the templates on the two sites I tried and (mostly) because of my own lack of knowledge / experience at creating a website. Now, I have a friend who does professional website and would be willing to help me, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s too early in my journey to put up an author website. Although I’ve shared somethings about my novel-in-progress on Twitter and on my blog, I’m not sure what to put on an author website since I’m not published yet and probably won’t be for a while. I thought it would be better to do it when I started sending out queries. Am I wrong? Is sooner better?

    Also, I have a question about Facebook. I have a personal page, but again, not an author’s page yet. I know that, as you indicated, agents often check out a potential client’s online presence before offering representation. My personal Facebook page is under the name “Christine Dorman.” Even after I start a professional page, the personal page will come up during a search for my name. Although there is nothing on that page that I would be embarrassed for people to see, it is not a professional page and does have comments about my favorite musical artists, tv series and movies. When I start querying, should I completely block the public from the Facebook page?

    Thank you for any guidance.

    Have a good weekend.

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      Hi Christine,

      I don’t think you need a website, but if you do put one up you are right to want to wait until you can put together a professional-looking one. I do tend to look to see if potential clients have a website or blog, but if a writer is writing fiction it is less important.

      I would block the public from my personal Facebook page if I were you, but I am a stickler for keeping writing life and personal life separate. You have to decide what you’re comfortable with.

  • Anna Labno says:

    I believe I will have to change my email address.

    Is anyone willing to give me a feedback? I was in agony for a few days, but I did everything myself two years ago. :)

    http://www.annalabno.com

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      I think your site looks nice! Your picture is very pretty, but if I could change one thing it would be taking the sunglasses off your head. :) I don’t think it’s too big of a deal though.

  • This is such a great reminder! I recently went through a couple rounds of submissions with a large publication. I mentioned something about my background to one of the editors, and he replied, “Yes, we know about that from your website.” It made me thankful that I’ve been careful to represent myself truthfully and that I haven’t followed certain trends that might given me traffic, but don’t really fit who I am (and wouldn’t be a good fit for the organization I’m hoping and praying I can write for!).

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      Wow, Amelia! Thanks for sharing this. It’s so important to remember that we need to represent ourselves as we are and not try to “puff up” our appearance online.

  • Lisa says:

    Great reminders. I still need to do the professional headshot. I need to check that one off my list, its been on their for awhile.

  • Thanks for the confirmation! Lately, I have spent quite a bit of time cleaning up author and book sites as well as working on social media presence…on the off-chance that an agent might be doing a little research. Glad to know the time wasn’t wasted. Thank you!

  • Thanks for these great tips! I had ads on my blog for a while, but I took them off in favor of a cleaner look. I think it was worth it. Still need a professional headshot though!

  • AshleeW says:

    Wonderful tips, Rachel! Thanks so much :)

  • Sarah Weaver says:

    Politics is one of those controversial topics that, while I may agree with what is said, I tend to cringe with I see famous authors use it. So I guess that’s something to take note of.

    The platform bit is tricky, as I’m not exactly sure who my platform would be.:/

    Thanks for the post.^^

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