Blogger: Rachel Kent
When I like what I’m reading in a proposal and manuscript, the next step is to look up the author online. I’ll start with a Google search. On Google, I’m hoping to find out if the author has a platform with the topic he/she is writing about. I should be able to find articles written by the author on the book topic (or similar relevant topics) or news about speaking events, etc. I don’t want to see any arrest history or criminal records. 🙂
I’ll also check out the author’s website to make sure it is professional. I’m looking for a well-put-together site with information that is relevant to readers. I don’t want to find a website that is full of family photos or a blog that is all about what the writer did every day that week. I want to see a professional photo of the author, an author biography, an up-to-date list of upcoming speaking events (if the author is a speaker), and possibly a blog that is centered around the topic of the book’s main topic or that is relevant for the author’s audience. If the author is already published, I like to see a page listing published books with links to different retailers for purchase.
If you write fiction and don’t have a website yet, it doesn’t mean I won’t still consider you for representation, but I really do think it is a good thing for authors to reserve their domain name right away and to put up a nice, professional site even if you don’t have a whole lot to list on it yet.
I also look up a potential client on Facebook and Twitter. I like to get a sense of the person and what they post. I can usually tell if the author is someone I could work well with just by how they handle themselves on social media. I also look at the number of followers an author has on these sites.
If an author has books published, even if they are self-published, I will also go check out the Amazon page for the books. I’ll look at reviews and the sales ranking–though that doesn’t usually mean much.
I know that most agents do online searches when considering a client. Some even do the research before reading a potential client’s proposal. Is your online presence ready for scrutiny? What can you do to improve your online “appearance”?
Kristen Joy Wilks
I put up a website in 2008 when I started querying agents. I just got it updated in 2015 when I finally had a book come out. This list is helpful, Rachel. It shows me that yes I have the elements you are looking for on a website…although there is one part of my site where I will go off topic about my fun and fabulous children and our 90 pound puppy and everything that she has eaten over the week. But I’m afraid that no one is going to talk me out of being me on my blog. We are told to approach social media in a way that is us, not stiff and fake, and so I have. But it is good to see that I can follow your handy list and find the items you need, book page with links, pro author photo, and what not. Interesting to hear that you visit websites. I wonder who has stopped by mine? Interesting to imagine.
Kristen J Wilks
Boy, that comment ended up sounding really grumpy! Sorry, Rachel. The terrible mix of typing fast and having strong opinions. Didn’t mean to be a grump. Oops.
I’ve noticed some authors treat their website like a blog, but I thought we were supposed to have a blog in addition to a website.
Your post is so helpful. I’ve been thinking for months about creating a website, but I’m not published and have struggled with what to include. After reading your post I’ll include links to my other social media.
Now I think I’ll include information on loving God, loving our families, and loving our country/military. (This is the direction I’m heading in my future books.) What do you think? I’m open to whatever you want to tell me. Thanks so much!
Jackie, I don’t know if my unlettered thoughts will help, but here goes…
* I’ve found more writers through their blogs than through their websites, because they are willing to talk about – and keep current – content that I find relevant.
* For me, if I have to click to the specific blog page, I often won’t. It seems that the blog really should be the front page to ‘catch and engage’ a viewer who’s there because she’s fundamentally a reader.
* Again, for me, blog content that’s more than a few days old says something negative about the writer. I can’t define what; it may be that I feel that the opportunity for ME to find engagement by participating in the comments has passed by. But I’m less likely to return.
* I like to see a mission statement in the header. Something that gives a clue to personality, like “And on the eighth day, God went surfing!” or “When The World Dials 911, A Marine Picks Up The Phone.”
* I have seen some author pic mega-fails…when an ‘old’ picture was replaced with one that’s current, and much less flattering (and have seen this with both male and female authors). The dissonance between my original impression and the new image created a barrier for me…and I suspect for others as well.
* Please understand that these aren’t professional thoughts, just an overview of how author websites affect me as a reader and writer.
You mean I can’t use a picture of me in my 20s or even 40s? Rats! If I always look “normal,” I probably shouldn’t use a glam shot of the current me either so no one will be disappointed, or at least not surprised, when they meet the real thing.
Carol, I’m always tempted to ‘orientalize’ a picture of Brad Pitt using Photoshop, and post that! Instead I use Sylvia the Big Pit Bull…who is both better looking and more intelligent than I am.
But she doesn’t type as well.
It’s about time for me to get a new picture and now I’m scared! Hopefully my new picture doesn’t startle anyone. 🙂
I am late to this conversation today (one day each week a few of us gather early at work to pray and today was the day, which makes for a very good excuse). I agree with you, Andrew, both about the blog as the landing page and keeping the content current. Without those basics, I feel like I’m at the front door but no one is answering the doorbell.
That all sounds good to me! Be yourself, but write about the topics that will appeal to your readers.
Thank for this post, Rachel! It’s so interesting to see an inside perspective of what an agent will be looking for in an online search – it really helps to know what to prioritize in creating an online presence. And this might just be the push I needed to create a website 🙂
You can do it! 🙂
Great post, Rachel.
* One of the things I have to do is put up a dedicated author website, but it’s hard, because the blog I write takes a LOT of time and attention.
* OK, well, that’s part of it. The other side of my reluctance is just what sort of ‘current’ content I should put in. I know what, as a writer, I like to read on writer blogs…and I suspect that many writers do write, at least subconsciously, for an audience of other writers. (Are you with me so far? I think I kind of got lost.)
* Getting into the readers’ minds…that’s harder, unless one is writing in certain specific genres that attract a very loyal following (like, Civil War, or Amish).
* Plus, can you REALLY see my full name as an author website URL? Any suggestions for one that would be easier to remember would be appreciated!
* Still, it has to be done.
I don’t think you’ll find others with your name. Very original of your parents! But I’m sure it was a challenge to learn how to write all of that on your school papers in first grade!
Bet there were never enough boxes on the scantron forms.
Actually, Barb and I merged our names when we remarried (yes there is a story there). My ‘original’ family name was Budek…except (said he, with a deep hint of mystery) it wasn’t.
* And Carol…yes, that is a problem. The debit card form was short a couple of spaces!
A website is a landing page where people can find out all about you. You can link from there to all relevant pages–blog, social media, published books, etc. It’s just a place for a person to start to learn who you are. And I think you could be andrewbudeckschmeisser.com it is memorable. I suppose the spelling could be an issue though. Those who aren’t familiar with seeing your name might not know how to spell it.
This is really encouraging! I feel like my online self and presence is a good representation of who I am. I’m still growing my platform, but I’d like to think it’s clear by my website and social media that I take my writing seriously.
Sounds like you are on the right track.
I’m glad this was encouraging to you!
Informative post, Rachel. Social media, websites, and blogs have constructed a glass house around authors where they are viewed by the ‘world.’ But it seems that time is an important ingredient we just can’t get around. It takes time to gain followers and develop voice and discover what we want to blog about. Persistence is king, I’m finding. Thanks for this thought-provoking article.
Yes, you just have to keep moving forward and growing over time. 🙂
I believe that one’s blog should be integrated into your website. Your website is your online home. If someone visited your home to get to know you, would you tell them, “Sorry; I’m not really here. Only my resume lives here. To get to know the real me, you need to visit my vacation home.”
Yes, at least through a link, if nothing else. I like how Books & Such’s blog and website work together.
I’m so glad you brought this up, because I have struggled with building a web presence for fiction. I set out to build a fiction platform, but I didn’t know how, so I just started writing about my experiences with my autistic son. That drew readers, so I kept going. So now, while I try to get my first biblical novel published, I’m concerned that an agent will be discouraged by the fact that my platform does not match my genre. Any advice on how an aspiring novelist can make his online presence more attractive to agents?
Jason, I have a suggestion that might be useful for you to consider. I’m working on bringing up two web sites right now. One is my author site with a historical emphasis for the period of my novels. The other is a science-and-theology site where I hope to provide a place for science/engineering people (or anyone with a strong logical bent) who are curious about the Christian faith to learn more and have a place to raise questions that they don’t have anyone to ask. I’m planning to provide cross links from each to the other. You might consider starting a second author-specific site but with an obvious way to link over from your established autism-related site. It would be a terrible shame to drastically change a site that is addressing people’s felt needs, like yours probably does now.
You might want to start writing about Biblical topics. What interesting historical facts relate to your book? What could you write about to introduce your readers to your specific story’s time period, location, etc?
An occasional post about your son is fine, but if you are going to have an autism community on your blog, you probably should keep up two blogs.
On the subject of ‘author photo’, I have a question…
* I make it a point to avoid recognizable photos of me being released (the thumbnail here is about as close as you will ever see), so what about an ‘author portrait’, commissioned from a local painter? That would avoid portraying the damage that illness has caused, and would lay to rest the ‘recognizability’ concerns.
* And it would help a local artist. Thoughts?
Sounds good to me.
Tim Challies (challies.com) uses what appears to be a pencil sketch of himself. I think it’s clever 🙂 And you won’t have that irksome chore of “matching” your outfit to your blog colors 😉
That sounds great! It would help to create a brand for you, too.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
A few years ago, it was suggested here (either by Janet or Wendy) that we Google our names.
Okay so…Jennifer Lynn Major.
WHAT!!! Yeahhhhhh, the results explained A LOT.
Like all the “random” airport searches.
Apparently, one Jennifer LynnE Major was umm, arrested for pot and coke trafficking. And I don’t mean stainless steel and beverages.
BUT, if anyone Googles my writer ID, they get one person.
Pages and pages of me.
My agent (extorted) encouraged me to set up a website, so I did. I used Wix(dot) com and I’m quite happy with the results. I keep things as up to date and relevant as possible and keep my blog entries focused on my work and anything that relates to it. Although I did take a post to pay tribute to my beloved FIL who passed away on February 1st, at the well seasoned age of 99. I doubt that anyone minded.
One thing I won’t be doing is putting up pictures of my kids or my husband. One kid is in a profession for which public scrutiny is not acceptable. Also, they didn’t ask for this career, so why put them up there?
If people want to know anything about my husband, they can Google him. Look under “tree nerds” and he’ll be there.
I try to behave online. My mom, my agent, my friends, and my daughter all keep an eye on me. I figure with that army, I should be okay.
Sounds like the other Jennifer is quite a trouble maker! 🙂 I’m always careful to not pass judgement on an author until I know that person is the person I’m actually looking at online. I understand this now that I’m a Kent instead of a Zurakowski. Zurakowski was such a unique name that I was the only Rachel Zurakowski out there. Now I’m common.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
Rachel, you are not COMMON!
You’re simply easier to spell.
And believe me, being a Z girl, I know the thrill that is an easy to spell last name.
Darla S. Grieco
Great advice, Rachel. Several weeks ago when a magazine editor contacted me, the first words out of his mouth were, “I googled you and spent time on all your sites this morning.” I panicked. While I had most of these areas addressed, I knew I still had room for improvement. Thank you for this thorough list.
Great information. I appreciate these tips, as I am a new writer. 🙂