Saturday, May 26, 2018

How should I prep my website before I query?

After 6 years my novel is ready to be queried. I am redoing my website to include showing me as an author in addition to the other ways I'm known in the world before querying it so that my platform looks professional and thought through.
 If I'm querying a novel, is it a no-no if I present it, talk about it, post images that reflect it, say I am currently querying it, offer excerpts, read excerpts or in other ways make it look it juicy and fun on my website? Or should I keep it under wraps until an agent decides they would like to work with it/me. Is it OK to show or record, for example, a few short stories I've written that haven't been published or articles that have been published, etc. I would like to create a sense of intrigue or excitement around it without giving away the goods.

You misunderstand why an agent would be looking at your website.
It's not to find out more about the book.
Everything I need to know about the book should be in the query; the pages with the query; and/or, the requested full.

In other words the LAST thing you want to post is writing that might not be as fluid and stylish as your novel.

The reason I prowl around your website is to know more about you.
Are you nuts?
Are you really nuts?
Are you only creatively nutso?

Thus post pictures of you doing fun things like hanging out with your backyard chickens.

or of your handsome dog





or of places you've been



or of books you've read and loved


Leave off anything about the querying process, your frustrations with publishing, and things that makes you sound cranky.

I like to work with people who love books. And aren't asshats.  All you need to do with your website is demonstrate what you are, and what you are not.  It's easier said than done of course for rodent wheel running writers, but it can be done.

Any questions?

33 comments:

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I am so glad OP asked this. I am in process of redoing my website for the same purpose, I was not quite sure what to do pre-query. Now I have some great ideas. Thanks, Janet.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hey boys and girls this is going to be a great day because Janet used my favorite word, "asshat," not to be confused with, my cat, your cat, what's that hazmat, I will never be a doormat.
Yup good day.

Karen McCoy said...

Hooray for asshats!

(Did I say that out loud?)

Hooray for 2Ns, at least. Your wit always astounds.

How does this blog always find the perfect timing? Earlier this week, with querying tips, and now with websites? Honestly, it's like the QOTKU has a honing beacon of some sort, finding all of us on the massive rodent wheel, running so fast we're blurry.

Side question: I'm working on a landing (home) page, with headings. I'm hesitant to include "Books" though I know it will have to be added eventually (once I have some), along with About, Contact, etc. Publications seems a bit overwrought, but I'm hoping for some kind of placeholder during the query process. Suggestions from Reiders? Or from the honing beacon herself?

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

So that hilarious meme I made about the heartbreak of querying and writing a synopsis is a no-no. Got it.

OP: Congratulations on the completion of your novel. Now, onward!

Karen McCoy said...

Blurgh, that would be homing beacon. That'll teach me to post too quickly due to over-excitement.

Julie Weathers said...

I'm still putting my blog back together from the hacking. Hopefully, it will be together by the end of next month. Putting it together has meant tracking all the pictures, acknowledgments, and references to other books and places people might be interested in that pertain to the post.

I decided to post mainly things to do with the Victorian era or Civil War. Cats, rats, and mice and how they pertain to a lady's hair, for instance. They were all rolls, usually made up of the woman's own hair, to give volume to a hairdo. Or how buttons were used to mend wounds in horses. I hope to do a good enough job that people interested in these subjects will start noticing the blog and I can build a platform with these readers.

The purpose is twofold. One, I hope it's something a little different and interesting. Two, when someone reads the book(s) (hopefully) and they say, "A Victorian woman would never do that." I can say, "You might be interested in the blog post on--"

I'll still wander off and do book reviews, post recipes, or the odd Wrangler post from time to time. The Wrangler Patch post and the How to Starch Wranglers are still my most visited posts and they've been there for years. Who would have thought that?

I don't know that the secret to a successful blog is other than be interesting and be consistent. I sort of want mine to be like someone dropping by for a quiet visit. We're sitting out on the porch, rocking and drinking sweet tea and I'll casually say, "See that bank over there? It was held up in 1911. My grandmother was sitting right where you're sitting now when they came out guns a blazing. You'd never guess what she did."

Karen McCoy said...

Julie--I would read that blog.

Sam Mills said...

Karen I used Writing as a navigation bar heading (leads to a page with a couple of short story credits....FOR NOW). I've also got a Reading tab because I compulsively make lists of the books I read each year. XD

And oh boy, always have a contact page!! I felt pretty goofy maintaining a website and Twitter for half a dozen friends and family members, but when my first pro short story came out (just last month, whee!) I suddenly had strangers pinging me online, including direct email via my site, and I was glad to have it all in place in advance.

Casey Karp said...

Karen, I used "Books and Stories" as the menu item. It's a short menu right now--one book and one page of my short story rejections--but it gets the job done. If I did non-fiction and/or poetry, I might go with "Books and Other Writings". It's got a kind of comfortable, hanging out with friends vibe that something more formal would miss.

And every morning I tell myself the menu will grow.

Karen McCoy said...

Great suggestions, Sam and Casey! Thanks so much!

Karen McCoy said...

And yes, Casey, that menu will certainly grow!

Karen McCoy said...

Congrats, Sam, on your short story!

JEN Garrett said...

Uh oh, I think I'm in trouble. I blog about writing all the time. I blog when I'm stuck, blog when I'm not, blog about how critiques have helped me to come unstuck. I don't blog any specifics of my manuscripts or identify the people I'm querying. But I just signed up for the Insecure Writers Support Group. Is that bad?

I'd be tempted to think I get rejected because of my blog. But nope, it's the manuscript. I know, because last month while blogging about onomatopoeia instead of writing, I had a break through and my manuscript got unstuck.

I blogged about that.

Steve Stubbs said...

JR: "The reason I prowl around your website is to know more about you. Are you nuts?"

I'm a writer, aren't I?

JR: "Are you really nuts?"

I hosted a bon voyage party for my sanity years ago.

JR: "Are you only creatively nutso?"

Nuts are good for colon health, so I eat a lot of nuts. You are what you eat.

Who was it who said, "You don't have to be crazy to work here, but it helps"?

The way we put it at my company is, "If you are not crazy when you start here, just close your eyes and count to ten - slowly."

And no, I don't work for a literary agency. My job is to torment agents by sending out scintillating, brilliantly well written, compelling queries. I make them say, "I hate like hell to turn down anything this good. But I'm not going to let that stop me."

It disturbs their sleep at night, cackle, cackle.

Soon I shall make someone rich. Then we will ALL be raving.

And for you blondes out there, this is a joke.

Colin Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gigi said...

@Karen - If you're using something simple like Wordpress, you can just leave it off for now. You can add pages at any time in platforms like Wordpress, so no need for placeholders.

One Of Us Has To Go said...

I'm kind of frustrated with the need for a website for finding a literary agent.
I somehow understand the importance (and even more so now that Janet has said she wants to find out if we are nuts and how much!), but at the same time I am not really able to afford the costs associated with this!

I've run my website, which I really like, with GoDaddy. First year was affordable but recently, they charged about $CAD 90 for the second year. That was an automated thing, and then I received another email from GoDaddy, saying I would need to pay another $189 to keep it going or lose it.

WHAT????

If I need to spend this money to try and find a literary agent, which might take me years, then I find it a lot to ask for.
If a literary agent said to me this was a condition to sign me up, I'd have no problem whatsoever and make my best effort to create a beautiful website.

I just don't want to ask Boyfriend to spend his money on my website when I watch how it shrinks and shrinks. (In case you wonder: I have zero money myself.)

So, my website may die in a month or so 😞.

P.S. Does anyone here know how I can change my username here? I thought I'd be brave and use my real name since I have decided that that will also be the name I'd want to be published as.
I've tried to change One Of Us Has To Go, but I didn't manage.
Thanks :)!

Colin Smith said...

One of Us: When people say "website" you can often substitute "blog"--that's all you need right now. And you can set one of those up for free. WordPress and Blogger are probably the most popular. I'm sure a blog would more than fit what Janet (and other agents) will look for. Once you get a publishing deal, you can use some of your advance money to pay for a nice website.

As for changing your name, I think you can just set up a new blogger account...? If I'm right, that might be the easiest thing to do.

Craig F said...

Who's definition of nuts are we shooting at anyway? You would probably consider me nuts for shoehorning my skinny butt into a sixteen inch wide kayak and getting in tight with the snakes and gators. But I have nine state championships from it.

I have contemplated a blog/website a few times but haven't gotten there. Too varied of interests. If I tried to cover them all you wold think me nuts for sure. But I would disappoint some friends if I didn't have a section on kayaking and paddleboarding, a section on tying flies, nature conservancy, art, etc. All that and I haven't said a thing about urban gardening and homegrowed tomatoes.

I don't have time for a blog for each of those things, or even cooking. I'll just have to do it some other way.

Craig F said...

One of us: If you are using a gmail account, you can go to gmail. Log in and go to your icon in the upper right corner. Click on it and go to edit profile. You can change your avatar name there.

One Of Us Has To Go said...

Thanks Colin, Thanks Craig.

I'm not using a Gmail account, but I'm using a Google account that was offered to me to choose when I first commented here.

Now, when I comment, it only says "comment as:" and "One Of Us Has To Go" is in there by default.
In the drop down menu, the option "select profile" is grey, not black, so I cannot click on it.

I'm using our mobile phone to comment, maybe on the computer it would be different, I haven't checked.

Or maybe it makes a difference that I am in the UK now? (Although I don't really believe that, only that I was shocked when I first opened Janet's blog here and the bright pink background was all red, and the writing was orange. I could hardly read it. Also, I can't connect to it as a .com or .ca so site, it automatically jumps to co.uk. Sorry if I appear stupid, I'm not. Only sometimes... ;) )

LynnRodz said...

No pets, but can I take a photo of me with hubby's cactus? That's not too weird, right? Hubby wanted a dog, but when you live in an apartment in a big city, a dog (he likes big dogs) is not a suitable roommate. So-o, I got him a cactus instead.
"It's a lot easier to take care of." I told him.
"Yeah," he said, "but not something I want to pet."

OT: I'm looking forward to spending the next several months with my mum. Comments may be few and far between, but I will look forward to reading your blog, Janet, as always.

Colin Smith said...

One of Us: Blogger is owned by Google, so that's why your Google account is linked to Blogger. Perhaps if you set up a Blogger account, you might get the option to sign in with that account? You should then be able to create a Blogger blog, too.

Blogger users--am I right?

BrendaLynn said...

One woman’s asshat is another woman’s hair mouse.

Emilya Naymark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emilya Naymark said...

One of us - (trying to leave a message again, blogger ate my painstakingly entered message from my phone earlier). Call or live chat with godaddy and ask them why they are charging you that crazy amount. If you have a basic plan, it's about $8 per month. Unless you have an enormous amount of traffic on your site or you're doing e-commerce, you only need the most basic set up. I have my site on godaddy and about three client sites, and none of them are being charged that much.

Account name: whatever you are currently signed into google as, that's what appears. If you have a google account, gmail or no, that's the name that appears. So you can change it through your account settings or you can create a new google account just for commenting here.

As for landing pages, it makes the most sense to put the most important information on the first page. So if you have anything at all published, anywhere, put links on the homepage. Contact, also on the homepage, at the bottom, PLUS in the menu and maybe in the footer. And anything else that's meaningful about you in the middle. I wouldn't recommend doing any 'coming soon' links or pages, unless you already have a book coming and that's what the page is about. Nowadays, especially with wordpress, it's very easy to add menu items and pages when you're ready.

And an even better strategy - look at other author sites and see which ones seem the most professional and have the best organization. No need to reinvent the wheel...

Good luck with site building everyone! (and with writing) (and with querying)

Hungry Bob said...

Honestly, this sounds like some high school clique stuff to me. I thought literary agents were supposed to focus on the quality of the writing and the strength of the story, and not the writer having opinions they personally approve of. If we were still in the days of female writers taking on male or gender neutral names to increase their chances of being published (did these days actually end?), I wonder if going onto your blog and admitting that you're female would get you labeled as "asshat, do not work with".

Julie Weathers said...

Hungry Bob

Did you read what she wrote?

Agents who are interested in writers are checking them out the same way an author should be checking agents out. If an agent was continually ranting about Texans, and not in a good way, they probably wouldn't be a good fit for me. I get a little prickly about that.

If you're (universal you) the guy who posts rants about publishing, agents, editors, the query process, and then goes to a conference and gets rejected by an agent on a project she had previously rejected, then you flame her in a blog post insulting her age, intelligence, looks, what she wore, and everything else you can think of, most agents probably won't want to work with you. It's not a clique. You just publically demonstrated what an ass you are and you're proud of yourself for doing it.

If you're constantly whining about how hard life is and how depressed you are, they may feel sorry for you, but it's doubtful many will want to work with you.

An agent/author relationship is a working relationship, but it has to be somewhat symbiotic. It's not high school, it's being grown up.

I don't care how talented a person is, you still have to work with them. There's the interesting kind of crazy and then there's the crazier than a peach orchard board crazy.

Karen McCoy said...

Thank you, Gigi! I'll definitely consider that as an option...

One Of Us Has To Go said...

Thank you Emilya! I will live chat with GoDaddy! I (We) have done it when we set up my website last spring, so that should work.

I'll show Boyfriend what you suggested and then I'm sure he'll be able to help me with a new username.
I had hoped to be able to temporarily add my real name to One Of Us Has To Go and later edit it again and remove the old username. Because otherwise, unless every Reider has seen this comment by me, they won't know I'm still the same person, right!?

I could also just leave One Of Us Has To Go. I just thought I'd be consistent with an author name.

(I changed it yesterday on Twitter and will also change the domain name if I keep the GoDaddy site or any other new one/blogger blog.)

Thanks again for your help. Very nice!!

The Gold Digger said...

And if you do link to your blog from your resume #AND# you are applying for a marketing job with the posting that leads with, "Are you a storyteller?" and goes on to describe job duties that include writing white papers, make sure your blog is flawlessly written. No misspellings. No grammatical errors. All sentences start with a capital letter, please.

If you don't, I will fight hiring you so, so hard. I am not paid enough to fix your bad writing.

#1texasgirl said...

Please clarify. I didn't think a web site and a blog were the same thing.

Julie Weathers said...

TexasGirl

No, they aren't the same thing. My blog is on my website. You don't need the whole enchilada. You don't even need a taquito. However, if you have a blog or website, you should bear in mind how it appears to people who might be thinking about a professional relationship with you. That goes for any social media.

I'm shutting down my Facebook accounts. Some people really like FB.

Instagram?

Twitter?

Blog?

Whatever you do, keep in mind agents and editors might come calling.