Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Query question: no website, no read

I recently read a blog post by a writer who has received a request for a full ms. Was left rather stunned by the following paragraph:

This agent informed me that when she receives a query, pitch, or manuscript, the first thing she does is look to see if they have a website. “No matter what else they have to their credit, if I can’t find a website with their name in the address, I push their work to the junk pile.”

To be honest, if I was in that writer's position I'd question if that agent was for me, because it should be my writing that's important.

I understand an agent wanting to see a writer can navigate social media to some degree (a blog, twitter, facebook for example), but surely the above is something that can follow a contract? Or have I got it wrong?

Wow. That's one fast way to make sure you throw the baby out with the bathwater!

I've signed clients who had no idea what a website was, let alone that they needed one. I've signed clients who had to be tracked down by my blog readers because their email bounced and their webpage wasn't there any more.

I have a MySpace account solely because it was the only contact point for a writer who sent me a darn good query but no pages.

In other words, you'd have to hide on the moon to avoid me if you've queried me for something I want to read.

And the idea website/no website is even a reasonable way to differentiate between writers you want to work with and writers you don't want to work with is absurd.

MANY writers, very fine writers, have no clue about the online world.  Not everyone is connected to the world through a USB port and thinks of their avatar as a selfie.

It's a good idea to have an electronic address. It's one of the things I advise writers to have in place before querying.

It's NEVER been one of the reasons you won't hear back from me if you query.

I certainly am not going to tell another agent how to winnow their query stack (of course I am)  but this method is actually one that I favor for OTHER means more good stuff for ME.


french sojourn said...

As usual, great post. I have the exact opposite problem.

I have a few site I opened and haven't closed due to lost passwords and I really want to lose those old sea anchors.

Well, I don't have any agents tracking me down...well literary agents anyway.

Cheers Hank

Unknown said...

One in four American's believe the sun revolves around the earth:
No kidding.
This makes a great down-selecting method. I try not to have these people as business partners. Same goes for this agent, even if the last agent on Earth. Too stupid for words.

Cindy C said...

Your answer is good news for me. I have a blog, but haven't written anything new in a LONG time. I'm on Twitter, but rarely tweet. My Facebook account is private, not an author page. I'm not averse to an online presence, I've just had to move it way down the priority list. Between the day job, the WIP, and Life Stuff, I rarely even have time to comment on this blog! My plan is to focus more attention of that kind of thing once I'm ready to start querying . . .or when I can retire, whichever comes first.

Anonymous said...

Well THAT is quite the conundrum...

I can't help but feel like this would be akin to me not purchasing music that I haven't heard on internet radio. Or perhaps on the actual radio. It may whittle my list down to the savvy folks who know how to accomplish this goal, but it still seems pretty aggressive.

Then again, watching this blog post video did not make me feel any better. It seems to me that agents do what they can to develop a system, and once they have it and have had some luck with it, they tweak as necessary but mostly stick to it.

I suppose this is also why query widely is the name of the game.

I don't, however, know if that system really has much to do with the value of the agents work. Perhaps they only select authors who write main characters with blue eyes. So what. So they're insane. They could still be really good at selling books to editors. Personally I'd be pretty thankful for the full request regardless of the strange filter it went through.

After all, getting published (if we're honest) can sometimes be a mix of luck and timing and random circumstances (such as having your blog readers track Gary down and him having no clue his email and website were no longer working) -- as well as, of course, great writing.

mhleader said...

BUT...wait...I'm confused. On that "what you need before you query" posting you cited from 2010, it CLEARLY says that fiction queries DO need to have a website (such as a blog). And Facebook and Twitter don't count.

Has that changed in the 5+ years since you posted that? Not that I disagree with the QOTKU. I value my shark-tooth-free head...

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

This is an interesting topic. Two of my friends, who are very successful, are adamant about not having a web presence. One is a non-fiction writer. The other realized that the big galleries looked down on individual artist websites.

I know successful people, mostly published scientists, who refuse to Link-in, refuse to be published in who's who, don't FB, never tweeted and only have a website because their businesses requires it.

Then there's the anchored like Hank and myself. I have too many websites which, I plan to incorporate into one.

Love that Gary Corby was one of those unconnected. And it's funny to see QOTKU had only 8 comments back in 2004.

Times change. Good stories last.

Donnaeve said...

Back in 2010, I read somewhere that the publishing world wanted authors to have an online presence. I quickly developed a blog, a Twitter account, and already was on FB, which is private for now, but would change upon publication.

Why am I not surprised to read this? It may not be smart, but oh well for them.

RobCeres, maybe I'm misreading your comment, but it sounds like you're doing exactly what you accuse the agent of being stupid for by not choosing a biz partner if they think the sun revolves around earth...unless you're a scientist by day, or your day job is somehow involved in matters of space/universe/solar system knowledge? Cause then, yeah, I'd see your point. I also found it interesting the article pointed to "Americans."

Colin Smith said...

Yay! The Gary Corby Story post!! I was going to hunt around for that article because it's such a cool story. And I'd much sooner have an agent who will hunt me down because s/he loves my query than one who will dismiss me because I might not be quite as tech savvy as that agent would prefer, even though I have a sox-knocking-off query.

Yes, blogs are an important way to connect with a 21st century audience. But to trash a query because the writer doesn't have one?

mhleader: What size cave do you need here? We have a few vacant holes on Carkoon so you get a choice. :)

Colin Smith said...

Angie: Gary is actually very tech savvy, and his disconnectedness was due to a server move that knocked his website offline.

Colin Smith said...

Oh, and two points I draw from that "Gary Corby, Where Are You?" post:

1) Having just finished the fifth book in his wonderful series (the one he was querying back in 2008), my heart skips a beat at Janet's last words on that post: "Last chance!" Eek! What if...?? :-O

2) Julie Weathers has been commenting since 2008. She deserves an award. :)

Donnaeve said...

Kitty has too - I mean, there can only be one vommenter named Kitty - right?

Kitty said...

Donnaeve, I'm a vommenter?

Colin Smith said...

Kitty: If you've said more than a few words on this blog, you're a vommenter. Especially if you've been vommenting for seven years... ;)

Donnaeve said...

LOL! Exactly Colin. She's years ahead of some of us on vomments.


Kitty said...

Oh, okay! :~) I wasn't quite sure what that was.

Donnaeve said...

Off topic (imagine), I vote we include "Reiders" on the blog glossary, - yet another stupendous twist akin to "vomment" from our very own Diane Major.

She refers to those from QOTKU blog as "Reiders" when visiting DLM blogspot.

Dena Pawling said...

“Not everyone is connected to the world through a USB port and thinks of their avatar as a selfie.”

LOL love this! Now of course my kids, being of that “younger generation”, can't imagine life without those things.

EVERY SINGLE AUTHOR [sorry, couldn't resist] in my local RWA chapter, recommends a website and Facebook. I have a blog and twitter. I'll probably set up a website once I get closer to publication, but I don't see a need for it now. I HATE Facebook. I'll only set up a Facebook author account if my agent [sigh, love that term] says that's where my readers are.

On an entirely unrelated note, my youngest two start driver training this evening. With my oldest, I was excited about him learning how to drive. Not so much my youngest.

The sun doesn't revolve around the earth? When did that happen? I suppose now you'll be telling me the earth isn't flat?

Colin Smith said...

Donna: I'm not sure about "Reiders"--it's a clever pun, but maybe too much about Janet and not as much about the blog. The closest parallel I can think of would be the difference between "Mohammedan" and "Muslim." I'm sure Muslims object to the former since they would say they follow Allah, not Mohammed. That's how it strikes me, anyway.

LynnRodz said...

Brian, I actually had the opposite reaction to the video you posted, it made me feel better. It was quite interesting in the sense that almost all of his rejections stemmed from the writer not telling him what the book was about. It goes back to what Janet keeps saying, it's the story that matters. If people keep querying agents and talking about themselves and why they wrote their story, or how interesting their lives are instead of what matters, then it means there's less competition.

Donna, I love the play on words. Reiders of Janet's blog, that's great!

Craig F said...

I have noticed that several agencies have set up pages for their clients. The template they use has a header for both a website and a blog for each of those authors. That points in one direction.

If you look at the blogs of several of those authors you will see 0 or 1 comment on each of their posts. Seems like a waste of time.

I have two websites but they have to do with other parts of my life. The e-mail list on those reach over 15000 people. If I get a contract I will set up another site and let those people know I am now a writer. I am not going to say anything speculative at this point. If an agent can't accept that then I will another.

I started this because some of the parables, proverbs or whatever I have posted had some effect on people. I was asked to immortalize someone. Perhaps I was a fool to agree because queries and I don't get along.

We'll see what happens with the short story I am almost finished with. It is also written with an eye toward high energy pacing. This might also be thought of as an infectious rhythm though I prefer the term pacing.

Jenz said...

So here's the proposed scenario: agent reads a great query, followed by amazing pages. In great excitement, they rush to check the writer's website only to find no such site exists. Agent goes, rats, I was already imagining best seller list but into the trash it goes.

Does anyone believe for a second that would happen? I didn't think so.

The agent is probably using this as a weeding device for borderline work they aren't sure about. They put that on their site to emphasize the importance of paying attention to industry standards. And Janet has also noted that web presence is a good idea.

You can try to rely on your superlative writing to pull you through while you flout standard advice. But I've noticed that students who consider themselves above the rules and want everyone to see only their quality work while ignoring other points of professionalism aren't the ones I'd like to hire myself.

Colin Smith said...

Dena: It seems to me there has been a blurring of the line between website and blog. For many, if you ask if they have a website, they'll point you to their blog. Now, I think there is a difference--quite a big difference. A website is largely static information and is great for non-interactive information. Your blog, on the other hand, should be updated regularly with new articles, and also have a means for readers to comment/interact with the articles. The website is the front of the store showing off the merchandise. The blog is the sales staff. Roughly.

french sojourn said...

Vommentors comment on the blog.

Reiders lurk and don't comment?

Julie said...

FYI - Going to hospital. Pancreatitis.
Week from you know where. Cleveland.

Unknown said...

Donnaeve, actually, I'm a scientist in training, and an engineer by trade. My comment really was more about having business partners who are smart. I want to think my future agent is not only really good at the agenting part of the job, but also smart. I also him/her to be honest and a pleasure to do business with. Mega bonus points for being able to enjoy her/his company over a beer. Having an agent say I won't read a submission unless the author has a website, to me, is a mark of someone too set in their ways for me, and I would not submit to that agent. But maybe it's me who's too set in my ways. Sorry if I offended. Maybe my wording was too strong.

Anonymous said...


I think what unnerved me was less that he was likely making good decisions based on advice we've all recieved and more because he seemed to know in about 3 sentences whether he wanted it or not.

If people judged me based on my first three sentences, I wouldn't have any friends. No really, just ask my friends. ;)

But you're right. It shouldn't scare me. If I'm confident in what I know, I should be encouraged by it.

Colin, you've conscisely described something that is completely the opposite of what should be. :) This idea has plagued me for the last four years.

Until I found the grid. I knew someone in the tech world would figure this one out for me... My website will soon be using the grid platform instead, combining ever-changing content with generally static information in a wonderful marriage.

If you'd like to see the video, click here!

But seriously. I think web development has pegged exactly what Colin so keenly pointed out, and it's definitely changing how website creation occurs. :)

Basically, Colin is a genius.

LynnRodz said...

Colin, I think you may have been on Carkoon a little too long, too much sun, and that sort of thing. You are, after all, the first one sent here, but saying "too much about Janet and not as much about the blog," well, it doesn't look good for you wanting to take a furlough to the Paradise branch office. Last time I looked, this was Janet's blog, so Janet may confine you to your cave for the rest of the day.

I think Hank summed it up prety well:

Vommentors comment,
Reiders lurk.

Unknown said...

And oops, just noticed that was my typo! Why does American's pass the spell check? Could someone please show me a sentence where "American's" without an an in front of it would actually make sense? Sigh.

Kitty said...

Julia, best of luck to you!

Matt Adams said...

Good luck, Julia. Had mine three years ago. Very easy recovery. No visible scar (but I am very large and hairy, so it would be easy to overlook).

I've had a couple of websites that I've let go down. One of them was work-related and failed, the other was about beaches and it was cool, but i didn't see the point in maintaining it. And if it would be something just about me, I can't imagine it would be of any interest to anyone that's not in my family.

I really don't get the point of personalized websites anymore. It was a neat idea five years ago, I guess, but right now I don't see it worth the effort. What am I going to say: "The musings of Matt Adams, sailor, former real estate developer, reporter and tree-cutter-downer. Read Matt as he weighs in on the world as we know it, with topics as varied as his difficulties starting his chainsaw on cold mornings to his controversial thoughts on Pluto's reclassification." I can't imagine anyone -- including me -- caring.

LynnRodz said...

Haha! Only here on Janet's blog can one vommenter say Colin's had too much sun, i.e., he doesn't know what he's talking about, and another saying he's a genuis. I love it!

Julia, I hope all goes well for you.

nightsmusic said...

Not everyone is connected to the world through a USB port and thinks of their avatar as a selfie.

For the win today! I loved this line.

Colin Smith said...

Lynn: LOL--that's exactly what I was thinking! Love this place. :) Seriously, though, while Janet does have a very healthy confidence in herself--she is QOTKU, after all--how many times has she said "the best part of the blog is the comments"? Now, we may protest and say "If it wasn't for the wonderful, insightful, vomment-inducing articles, we wouldn't vomment!" and I think there's validity to that. However, I don't see how someone who is always pointing away from themselves (she's one of the very few agents I know who doesn't have a picture of themselves anywhere on social media) would be comfortable with having "Reiders."

Of course, I could be wrong--I might be overthinking it, taking it too seriously. It is summer here on Carkoon, and the heat makes Death Valley sound cool and refreshing. :)

Colin Smith said...

Julie H.: Echoing the sentiments of the others--I hope all goes well for you today. :)

Anonymous said...

Matt -

Personally I would LOVE to read about your controversial thoughts on Pluto! :) As well as the chainsaw one.

I know you were trying to make your life sound bland and uninteresting, and maybe this says more about me than anything, but I would read that blog. :)

You'd be surprised at what people read. I recently found out my blog has just shy of 2000 followers. I have no idea who they are or why in the world they follow me, because they certainly don't comment often, but hey apparently someone thinks my random musings are interesting.

Stephen Kozeniewski said...

So, just to be clear, if, say, Chuck Wendig were to query this agent, despite being a fairly well-known author with a strong web presence and a high-traffic website, his query would be declined because his URL is "" and not his name? Brilliant policy.

Anonymous said...

I have a dear friend who thought I needed a website. She's a designer. So, we spent a few months coming up with my site. I still don't understand it, but I have it. I had to renew the hosting the other day. Personally, unless you really need a site or want one, a blog with a way to contact you is sufficient.

If an agent wants to reject me because I don't have site, I don't need them.

"2) Julie Weathers has been commenting since 2008. She deserves an award. :)"

She needs a gag.

Donnaeve said...

So Colin, my dear, :) IMO, "Reiders" simply means those who come to this blog regularly and vomment - or not. And sure it's Janet's blog, but calling this bunch by that name is really no less of a association to QOTKU's blog than Carkoon, woodland creature, or any of the other special words we've come to use here.

Also, it was great to explain the difference between a website/blog, which I understood, yet didn't have the forethought to differentiate to anyone who might think them one and the same. Actually, I'd probably stop blogging, and change to an "Author Website," on publication b/c I'd be paranoid about meeting deliverables, etc.

Hey Rob, no offense taken at all! I just read the comment, and was kind of like, huh? Isn't that the same thing? Seriously though, had we been standing in front of each other having this "conversation," my facial expression wouldn't have been a snarl, but a laugh/smile.

Colin Smith said...

Julie: What do you call a fish with no eyes? A fsh. :D

You said you needed a gag!

Karen McCoy said...

Colin's sunsoaked state of being brings me to a conundrum I had during last week's discussion of website versus no website. I have a blog, which I maintain regularly, and a website (I was advised to at least snatch up a domain with my name on it before someone else did). I don't put a lot of work into the website itself (because writing comes first), but I do have a section where I keep excerpts of book projects I'm working on. Since they haven't sold, I'm wondering if I should temporarily take them down or leave them as is and not worry about it.

So, to excerpt or not to excerpt? That is the question. (I'm guessing the answer lies in the latter.)

Donnaeve said...

Good luck Julia! I'm so busy trying to remember all the stuff I want to remark on that I neglected to mention that! You'll be fine!

Colin Smith said...

Donna: I already do obeisance to QOTKU every morning (see this past Sunday's WiR), so it makes no difference to me whatever we're called (I've been called worse). I'm just looking at it from Janet's POV. I could be wrong, she might not care, but it's possible she might not be comfortable with it. That's all. :)

Colin Smith said...

Karen: From what's been said here over the past few weeks, I don't think those excerpts will get you into any trouble with an agent or a publisher. The only reason I would consider taking them down is if you don't think they represent your quality of writing as it is today. In other words, if your writing may be adversely and unjustly judged as a result of those excerpts, take them down. Otherwise, leave them. That's what I think, anyway.

Anonymous said...

Julia! We'll be sending our thoughts and prayers out to you! :)

Karen - I think this one probably falls in that catagory of cart-before-the-horse again. If you think about it, an excerpt helps you sell books based on your writing. It's proof that you know what you're doing. But if you don't have a book out, what does the excerpt really do?

Agents aren't going to check our websites to verify our writing. They've got queries and sample pages for that. And we don't really have fans unless we've done something like self-publish, in which case we could excerpt self published snippets.

I can only surmise the purpose of the snippets is to build "buzz" before the release, but 3+ years of buzz (a rough guess from pre-agent to post-publication) is a lot of hoopla for a long time.

Sort of like watching two canoe's play chicken from other sides of the lake. Even with Jaws music, it'd only hold my attention for the first hour. ;)

Colin Smith said...

Karen: Another thought: you might want to remove them if those book projects have grown and developed such that the excerpted sections have been edited out of the novel, or they have changed significantly in the final (or latest) version--in which case you might want to update the excerpts.

Julie said...

Ohhhh yeah. This isn't going to be a "Two liters of saline, please, and send me home, please," dealieo. It's going to be a "Get out your pens and some paper and let me tell you about me and my pancreas while you call for a bed and I stew about how annoyed I am to be here" kind of dealio. It's an "I just put on my scrubs, packed my suitcase and typed out my med list to make sure you have it in front of you" dealieo. And if whoever it was that said they baked brownies that one time wanted to do that, too, it might not hurt.

I am at the point now where I almost NEVER concede defeat and go in. Almost never. But new doc put me on new med. New med has "extremely unlikely side effect" of pancreatitis.

Except in people with congenital pancreatic conditions who aren't doctors any more because of the amount of time they've spent dealing with their bloody pancreases.


I forgot to back up my Manuscript last night...

I vaguely remember deciding to make someone an FBI agent just as the pain started to hit, so we'll see how this all pans out.


(I would expect some fairly random and amusing posts in the next few days... My heartfelt apologies, but they really ARE likely to be sort of... off the beaten path. Pancreatitis hurts. The fix for that yields interesting writing.)

Colin Smith said...

Karen: OK, and Brian makes a good point too. And I'm not just saying that because he called me a genius, though that was very nice of him. Of course, I'm not a genius--I just hang around smart people and some of the clever rubs off from time to time. :)

Julie said...

Oh. And I still have no roof. But at least it stopped raining last night. And there was a ladder there when we left for the hospital just now, so that's promising. And it's no longer fifty degrees. So there's that.

Anonymous said...

Julie H.

Good luck and yikes!

Colin. I walked into that one.

Anonymous said...

So much to say today! I'm sorry in advance for taking up so many comments...

It's entirely possible this agent isn't actively seeking out new clients. We don't know this from what's been posted. In which case, the agent might only be willing to take on authors with a certain business bent, that they won't have to help set up an online presence.

Re: Blogs vs Websites

These days, blogs are websites. Websites aren't necessarily blogs, but blogs are websites.

Blogs used to be simply a place where someone wrote stuff and other people might look at it. Now, you can add pages of all sorts to a blog, especially if it's on one of the major blogging platforms. Blogs, today, are often more intricate and useful than a website that isn't blog-based.

So if you have a blog, you have a website. If you want your blog to be seen only as a website, see if you can get it linked to a URL that is your name. The big blog sites will often let you take the 'wordpress' or 'blogspot' out of the URL, though it might cost money. But if you can give as your website instead of, then even an agent who doesn't think a blog is a website can be fooled. But I doubt this is necessary.

What I find interesting, though, is the 'name in the address'. If you have a common name, that can be pretty difficult.

Anonymous said...

Hank: Have you tried contacting the hosting company? Everyone understands lost passwords, and I doubt a company will *want* unmaintained sites on their system.

mhleader: She said an author needs a website for querying fiction. She also said that is NOT one of the reasons she will reject a query if she really likes it. In otherwords, although she won't reject you JUST because you don't have a website, it's still a very good idea to have one.

Dena: It's Carkoon that is flat, and it revolves around the Earth. In some dimension, anyway.

Craig: I've seen one editor say that publishers are failing authors if they don't create websites for those authors. That editor then got dressed down by authors saying, "Keep your dirty mitts off my website", and others saying, "You gotta be kidding, right?" In this day and age, while a publisher can encourage a website - even offer a place for the author to host their website - no one wants the publisher to have autonomous control over the author's website. What if the author wants to change publishers?

Julia: Feel better. Wow. I hate weeks like that.

Matt: Your suggested blog is a lot more interesting than some of those out there. :)

Anonymous said...

Regarding Facebook:

Facebook is every-changing. Since I've been away from doing it as part of my job, I've gotten a bit behind. I was going to suggest Donnaeve simply keep her FB private and create a fan page... but it's getting harder and harder for a page to get its posts into its readers' feeds. You see, FB thinks it knows what people want to read more than those people do.

Facebook algorithms: "Hmm. Felix Buttonwheezer *says* he wants to read the posts from the Carkoon Exile Committee, but those posts don't look very interesting to us. And the CEC won't pay to promote their posts, so obviously NO ONE wants to read them. So we'll only send these posts to one of their readers. If that reader 'likes' it, we'll send it to a couple more. If they 'like' it, we'll send it to a few more."

So I don't know what to advise authors to do anymore. I know I don't want to share my personal account with just anyone, though. So I do more of my social media on Twitter, because you will reach the people who want to see your posts.

Also: A Facebook page can be considered a website. Many businesses go this route. I'm not sure I like it, though, for reasons above.

Karen: Janet spoke to this earlier this week. Excerpts of books are fine. But (from my experience) don't post exerpts of short stories or poems you might want to sell to magazines. Have you considered moving your blog to your domain name? (Hint: it doesn't take any actual movement).

Huh. You post three messages in a row, and you get to pick food. One of the not-food was a Starbucks frappuccino. I want some now.

Terri Lynn Coop said...

Total vommenter here, I can't remember when I dipped my toes in the shark tank. I refer to fans and followers of Chuck Wendig's TerribleMinds blog as "wendigoths."

This email bordered on weird. I wonder if it was one of those queries that required you to turn in a marketing plan with the manuscript.

As Her Sharkiness said, more good books for her!

Julia - would you stop that? You have me worried and this is all, after all, about me.

I don't get a lot of comments on my blog, but my traffic is steadily, albeit modestly, increasing. I always love the sudden 10X visit spikes that I have no clue whatsoever about. That shows that the lovely organic swill called the Internet is churning beyond my own modest efforts.

I decided to make it an expression of my personality rather than a determined bland cheerfulness. There is plenty of opinion in there. No rants, but no shirking from difficult subjects either. I'm finally getting back on the blogging horse after having to put it on hiatus to deal with stuff. I thoroughly enjoy it.

But, yeah, this is an agent I would likely push back into the slush pile.


Donnaeve said...

Colin, I'll also speculate on QOTKU's view, and say I don't think she'd look at it like we're paying her homage. By that I mean, I don't see any groveling, brown nosing, or folks not honestly speaking their minds out here just b/c she's Janet Reid, Literary Agent Super Duper Extraordinaire.

Oh. Is that a little grovel? Maybe a speck.

Grovel. I like that word - for some reason.

Donnaeve said...

BJ, thank you for that suggestion. I've no idea what I'll do if I ever need to do it, b/c I've read that same thing about FB shoving "here's what you want," more than once. Ick.

Sometimes trying to get ahead of the game actually puts you behind as technology changes.

TLC - Wendigoths? Love that.

Wow, that was a first from Captcha. Maybe I'm vommenting too much today, but I had to choose pizza and then it said, "Please identify more to be verified" and I had to pick sushi. It has been all about food tho, every time.

Colin Smith said...

I have a blog (as many of you know--thanks for visiting at some point!). Before I had the blog, I had a website, which is why my WordPress blog doesn't have "WordPress" in the URL: I host my own WordPress blog. I used to maintain the website separate from the blog, but eventually came to a couple of conclusions:

1) I spend far more time on the blog than the website.
2) I don't really have much to put on the website right now.
3) My website sucks because I'm far better at the musical and literary arts than the graphic arts.

So I added a redirect to my website that takes you to the blog. I'm reserving the site for when I finally get published. I can then say to my publisher, "Here's the URL--make me a lovely shiny pretty website. And if you want to create a matching theme for my blog, have at it!" :D

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I started my writing blog and accompanying Twitter account back in 2011 when I had a contract with a small press to publish a collection of my short stories. Though a chain of events which were, near as I can tell, under control of no mortal hands, it didn't work out and I officially requested the rights back for my work.

I revisited many of those stories back in October, when I was submitting a story to a magazine every day for all 30 days (Janet had posted about it, and I thought it was a nifty idea). And boy, I'm glad they weren't published in the first place, in that state, with that publisher.

But. I kept my blog and my Twitter and have enjoyed both thoroughly. And that's my story, in brief and without libeling anybody.

DLM said...

Julia, please get well soon. And let us know when you have.

RobCeres: An American's perspective on this issue may be unlike an Englishman's. :)

Geez, Brian! I've got 34 followers. *Hangs head in ingominy*

My vote on Reiders - don't use it here, it's just my silliness, and I use it very differently than the way the voting is going here. I don't want folks on my blog to come from here and get confused about me yammering on about lurkers. :)

Lynn and Donna, thank you! I used "Reiders" mainly because it'd be clear shorthand for my audience from here, who appear to have become as loyal as Mojourner, Cute Shoes, and Gossamer the Editor Cat, and it would give the non-participants here a clue what I was referring to since I talk about the community here fairly consistently on my blog. (PSST! I am not talking about anyone behind their backs! :))

It is, however, a bit on the nose, as Colin points out, so I never got handsy and tried to push it on the glossary list with vomment, as we really don't use it here anyway. (Hank, for the record, I just use it for everyone here, but perhaps more for those who actually do participate than not, just because those are the ones I know!)

On the actual topic, Jenz' point is a good one - I use weeding devices like that myself. Say I'm looking at grey flats on eBay, and two pair I like are from sellers with great feedback and are located in, respectively, Delaware and California. They're priced right, they're both good options. I'm going to eliminate California for fairly subjective reasons.

But if I find four pair of flats, three of which are over a thousand miles from me, one of which is fairly high priced and close by, and the one in Cali just happens to have a cute bow detail I can't resist and has photos that show me it's a good designer for comfort, whose flats I've had before and they last well.

I'm going for California, because comfortable shoes that wear well are comfortable shoes that wear well, and I know what my feet need.

This agent has a certain set of priorities. Like many priorities, they're subjective, and may not be easy to explain to someone else ("Just what the hell is wrong with California, Diane!??"). If there were something that overcame the subjectivity/arbitrariness, I'm sure the agent would do differently. Just because this one admitted this particular doesn't make them a terrible agent.

This SAID. In researching for queries, I'm similarly turned way, WAY off by agents/agencies whose focus is clearly on sales before writing. If they're on about "you have to have this and this and this" platform before I ever query, I may not do it. If they come off as particularly punctilious (snobby) about previous publishing creds - well, I mean, I really don't have those. I'm not wasting my time nor theirs, if that is their obvious priority, and historical fiction is not.

We all cut off our noses to spite our faces, probably most often without ever knowing it.

I'm overjoyed Gary Corby and Janet Reid did connect. But who knows with whom I may have failed to connect, myself, now that AX lies fallow ... ?

Karen McCoy said...

Thank you, Brian and Colin! This helps a lot.

I usually update the excerpts once I change them...but I think I might just take them down for now and archive the pages until something sells. I can always summarize what I'm working on without giving an excerpt.

Thanks again! This community never ceases to amaze.

Adele said...

The Family made me open a Facebook page that I don't use, the instructors at a course I took made me open a Linked In profile for a profession that isn't writing, and in 2010 I had a blog that still pops up when you Google me (again, the subject is a profession that isn't writing). Nothing informed or up to date, and nothing I ever use, and nothing involved with writing. I'd hate to think that no matter how good the manuscript, these web presences would torpedo any chance of my writing even being read.

I always thought that if I were published I'd use a pseudonym and start a web presence when I signed the contract.

Karen McCoy said...

bjmuntain: Ooh, that's a relief! (this will teach me to read the comments section more carefully). And, my blog is linked from my website, so hopefully that will suffice for now.

And ditto on the Facebook page stuff. I've heard of people establishing those pretty early too, and not having much success with them.

b-Nye said...

I recoil at the Internet presence mandate. I've tried and found I didn't like 80% of the people I came across and I quickly tired of trying to decipher their clever repartee which aleads seemed 6 degress off the original thought.... I am going to be one of those writers that lives in that spot on the map where the government doesn't allow cell towers or civilian satellite usage...with my alpaca herd, and Royal typewriter. Newsletter anyone.

Susan Bonifant said...

I apologize if this was asked up there, but I had to scroll-ish today and didn't see it.

For people who are reluctant to keep a personal blog, my question is this:

Why does an agent want to see a website at all? What are they looking for past the things that can be seen in pages? Creativity ? Personality? Politics? Are they gauging the agreeable-ness of a potential client? Are they trying to glean mental stability? Do they want to see how old we are?

I agree with Jenz. If the pages are strong, etc. what is the need for another look? AND,without knowing that, how can you design and maintain content?

I keep a personal blog because I think agents, like I do, want to know what is NOT in the standard query. I suspect agents want to know we're well-behaved people and on my blog I think I can put that across, whether I'm writing about chasing the homeless guy to give him money, or the chaos I witnessed in the airport food court when Dad took over.

Very few things on my blog have anything to do with writing. I do that intentionally, I wonder if I'm wrong.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hey, I've been around since Mary was lactating.
Back then I was Wry Wryter. Seems like a lifetime ago. It was.
You'd think I would have figured this stuff out by now. Sometimes this writer's head is too hard for learning and too soft for reason.

Anonymous said...

Karen: Starting a Facebook page isn't a bad idea. It just isn't as useful now as it used to be. You have to try to post things that Facebook will think people will want to see: pictures, videos, etc. You can also ask your 'fans' to click on 'receive notifications' - this is under the 'Liked' button under your cover photo.

But I still see Twitter as being more conducive to discussion.

This time the food included two cakes. And there was Tim Horton's coffee. I think reCaptcha is trying to tell me something...

Anonymous said...

I find it odd that the first thing the agent does when they receive a query is check for a website with the author's name, and yet the agent had requested a full.

Apparently my reading skills aren't adding up today. Granted, I'm late with the coffee even though Gage the Wonder Dog had me up early because he has to bark to let me know he's going to get a drink, which means he's going to want to go pee then. Yes, I know, there's a little old man trapped in this dog's body. I would kiss Gage to break the spell, but what the heck am I going to do with a little old man?

This may not be a good time to be editing with limited comprehension engaged.

Anonymous said...

Susan, you're not doing anything wrong by not writing about writing. Many writers will write about their writing on their blogs, and often only other writers are really interested - until, such a time, as the blog owner is published. In which case, the blog owner then has other topics to write on, other than simply writing.*

*This has been an exercise in seeing how many times the verb 'to write' and its noun forms can be used in one short paragraph.

I think it sucks that reCaptcha won't let you select the example. Mostly because the example is usually the only thing that actually *looks* like what you're supposed to select.

Anonymous said...

Susan -

I don't think you could be more right on. And I can prove it -

Back in the days of touring - we had the great fortune of growing close to one of the biggest bands in Minneapolis in the last 20 years. We did this, of course, in the most logical fashion - by playing board games.

I was walking around at Warped Tour, which is this enormous punk/rock tour that moves state to state, and I ran into said band. They, of course, were playing Settlers of Catan. Because when you work all day long, the last thing you want to do is talk about work with people who don't always know a lot about work (unless you're Janet Reid and you've got some kind of genetically enhanced heart of gold). So I took this as a good opportunity to talk about anything BUT music, and they eventually invited me to play. Seeing I had a keen eye for the thing, a game night was formed. Take one guess as to what we never talked about? That's right. Music.

Some 8-10 months later, after considering and considering how I might bring it up, and after hearing story after story of why so many other bands who had the delight of meeting said amazing big band had biffed it by talking about music (because back then I was just a woodland creature holding a guitar)... finally one day I determined I would bring it up. I waited for the right moment, halfway between moves, and just as I was about to speak, the guitarist turned to me and said,

"So when are you going into the studio next? I'm going to help you."

I never said a word about music. And it turns out, that's why they liked us. Because we treated them like... get this... people. :) We showed we were people who like board games. They liked board games too. This made us down-to-earth and accessable and not crazy (although possibly incredibly geeky).

Janet talks about it too. Don't pitch your book to her if she offers to buy you a drink. Talk to her like a human and enjoy a wonderful night. That other stuff will come later perhaps.

Boom. Drops the mic. Walks off stage.

Susan, you are brilliant for not talking about writing. I think most people would agree that's the right way to go. Unless, of course, your platform and target audience is writers, in which case you should probably talk about writing. ;)

Colin Smith said...

2Ns: Ahhh... you were hiding under a pseudonym back then. Unlike now, Ms. 2Ns! :) We're certainly racking up the people with longevity on this blog. There ought to be a prize for you all. :)

I know we talked about what writers should blog about before, but these topics tend to come around more than once since not everyone was here the last time. I used to write more about writing than I do now. I came to the realization that people hunting out blogs for writing tips are going to go to people like Stephen King, Chuck Wendig, Donald Maass, etc. i.e., people who have a proven track record of writing things that people like to read, or who have a proven track record of spotting and selling good writing. I'm neither of those, so, right now, I don't stand very comfortably on that platform. I'm much more comfortable on the floor with my peers, like here, where I'm one voice among equals and not being looked upon as an SME (Subject Matter Expert). :)

Ardenwolfe said...

Since when does a good website trump a good story?

Anonymous said...


Criminy, you don't have to write about writing. Some people do and do a great job, but the internet is flooded with advice about writing. I'd far rather write about something interesting.

One of the most visited blog posts I have is one about proper starching of Wranglers and how I starched my ex's Wranglers so heavily the zipper glued shut from the body heat. He had to cut the zipper out with a pocket knife.

"You didn't harm anything I'm interested in, did you?"


"Then what's the problem?"

Luckily, he was in California and I was in Texas when we had this discussion.

Dozens of carefully written posts about writing I was sure the world needed to file away for posterity and what do they look up? How to starch Wranglers. Well, some people may be looking at my collection of Wrangler patch pictures that go along with the post. That's also possible.

Donald Maass is not a fan of blogs. He thinks a lot of writers spend so much time fooling with blogs and blog posts that they satisfy the itch to write. They fiddle around with a blog post to get it perfect and then never actually create anything.

They in essence turn into drugstore writers. Women go into bars looking for handsome cowboys and usually what they find is the drugstore cowboys. They look like cowboys, but they aren't cowboys. The real cowboys are out on ranches working and when you have to get up at 4, staying out until 2 drinking isn't often an option.

Don't flog me. I'm not saying you can't write blog posts about writing. I'm saying don't expend all your writing energy and creativity on blog posts. You're a writer. You have other things to do.

That being said, a writer friend of mine once posted about some stinkhorn mushrooms growing in her backyard. Because I am a sick individual, they became an interesting part of the manuscript. So, thank God for her and her blog post, which definitely wasn't about writing.

Colin Smith said...

Julie: My post popular post is STILL the one about British equivalents to the Graham Cracker. Go figure!

I wouldn't be so bold as to say those who spend all their time writing blog posts "never create anything." Writing is a creative act, that includes writing blog posts. The same crafting of words, phrases, and sentences that happens in well-written blogs happens in flash fiction, short stories, and novels. I think it's better to say, if you intend to be a novelist, but spend more time crafting blog posts than writing novels, your priorities are skewed, or maybe you REALLY want to be a blogger. :)

Anonymous said...

Colin, true and I probably misquoted him. He wasn't overly fond of spending a lot of time on social media as it robs a lot of time and creativity away from where he felt the focus should be, and that was the novel.

Don't hit me. Look at how much time we spend here.

Colin Smith said...

Julie: Indeed--and look at how much writerly skill goes into some of these comments! The stories you post on this blog could be copied into a manuscript. Actually, I think you're writing the first draft of your memoir right here, aren't you? ;)

Susan Bonifant said...

Julie, I truly love how you tie a point to a story. And Donald (hold on while I check the a's and s's...oh okay, both) Maass is right about the "itch" comment, I believe.

Brian, that story was fantastic. Great outcome, loved it. Who was the band? Who? Who?

I guess I don't wonder if I should have a writer blog (oh my God, I'd bore myself) as much as I wonder if agents really go to a personal blog to know a prospective client better or rule out the crazy.

Anonymous said...

*reads Susan's last comment*

*runs to website to remove the crazy*


Dena Pawling said...

Compared to all y'all long-timers, I'm apparently a spring chicken in everything except chronological age. I've only been writing, and learning about writing, for about 3 years.

On the other hand, I've been stumbling through courtrooms for over 20 years. Therefore, my blog has a teensy corner, viewable by magnifying glass, devoted to writing but is mostly about all the antics I endure (and cause) in various courtrooms. I like to think it makes the blog more fun and definitely more informative than anything I could ever write about writing. Although, if agents go to my site to rule out the crazy, they'll probably find confirmation instead........

Julia, hope your hospital visit goes well and your ceiling is fixed. I know about ceiling problems, both personally and having represented a few slumlords in my day.

Beth H. said...

I'm finding "with their name in the address" difficult to understand. Does the agent mean that the email signature should include the author's name, address, and website? Or do they mean that the website's URL needs to include the author's name? If it's the latter, then this is a rather specific requirement. It would exclude something like or The whole requirement strikes me as strange.

Julie said...

Hello from lipase-ten-times-normal-so-I'm-sorry-I-told-you-you-had-no-diagnosis-land.

"Well, the hospital is full, and while I'm sure you know your own body, we can't admit you without proof."

Five minutes later...

"That lab we were waiting for is a little elevated."

Doctor enters.

"Lipase is 2500. Normal is less than 250. How do you feel about coming in?"

(I feel like that's what I've been saying all along...) "I think that would be good."

Anyway, re platform and geography snobbiness, I've heard the same: "They don't care if those 3500 likes are attached to a Vermont author. They don't care about Vermont likes."

Um... What?

Donnaeve said...

To write or not to write about writing on the writing blogs?

Hm. Welp. I do write about writing when I learn something that interests me and I want to share. Otherwise I write about crazy a** stuff going on like the circle jerk who tried to scam me using Harnett County Sheriff's department address and info. Or, about my new toys. I.e. I try to mix it up a little.

I sure didn't know what I wanted to write about when I started it, and I still don't. I just write what strikes me in the moment. I'll do a book review now and then, show you a pot of something cooking on the stove, and for one of my future posts, I'm getting ready to share the secret to sweet tea. How's that for blog diversity? If something writing related slaps me upside the head in the meantime, I'll post about that. That's the way I roll.

LOL! I just had to say that.I've had a beer. Can you tell? :)

Anonymous said...


Actually, I think you're writing the first draft of your memoir right here, aren't you? ;)

Caught me.

QOTKU has logged enough miles to publish a few books I'm sure. A lot of very talented writers, Chuck Wendig, Chuck Sambuchino, Bob Mayer, among others have fantastic blogs. I just don't think as up and coming authors we need to feel pressured to produce on blogs.

Karen McCoy said...

Very valid point, Julie. I've tried to cut back on original blog content (just me going blah, blah, blah) for just that reason.

But like bjmuntain says, there's nothing necessarily wrong with that either. And bjmuntain also makes very good points about Facebook too--thanks for those.

I guess there's no right or wrong way to do anything. It's what works for you as a writer. Whatever that might be.

AJ Blythe said...

Sticking hand up as the OP (bowing to the QOTKU in thanks). The above comment from the agent was given during a pitch session to the writer (not me), so it wasn't information on their website. The writer is now frantically putting together a website before subbing the requested pages.

I am relieved to know that the goal posts didn't change when I wasn't looking! I have bought a domain name - ever the optimist - which is sitting idle.

Side-track though... I read that parents are buying domain's for their kids at birth to secure the names. I'm thinking the kids will probably post their whole teen years as selfies and by the time they are 21 have had to change their name so prospective employers don't find *that* photo.

AJ Blythe said...

Kept reading through comments... Julia, I've no idea what pancreatitis is but it sounds horrid. All the best for whatever nasties the hospital is about to throw your way and hoping for a speedy recovery.

Anonymous said...


I was reading an interesting story recently. A woman who worked for a company who helps disabled people took a group of them on a field trip to Arlington Cemetery. She thought it would be funny to pose in front of the sign that says be silent and respectful in front of the tomb of the unknown soldier flipping the bird and acting like she was shouting. A friend took a picture of her.

She posted it on her facebook page admittedly acting "like douchebags" on company time.

Well, no surprise, it didn't take long to go viral. She lost her job. Now she has a public relations firm trying to scrub her image so she is employable.

So, I guess this is something for us to keep in mind as authors. We may someday have someone searching our name and probably don't want something like that popping up. Though I doubt any of us would be quite that unaware.

Megan V said...


Thoughts going out to you. Here's to a speedy recovery!

As to the Original Post, I have nada to add.
You've all summed it right up tight. Any Buttonwheezer worth their buttons might get wheezy when the writer has zero platform, but wouldn't sneeze away the chance to represent said writer if the manuscript is something they really do want to represent.

AJ Blythe said...

Julie, I puzzle at people who seem to think their posts on the internet are private. There have been similar things in Australia (like this one: A call centre worker faked a sick day in order to get off work. He posted "Not going to work, f*** it i'm still trashed SICKIE WOO" only to find out that his supervisor saw the update on his Facebook status). My biggest worry is others taking photos of my 2 Barbarians when they're teenagers and posting them online. All teenagers do stupid stuff, but when I was growing up you could learn from your mistakes privately, not have them aired to the world forever. You can control your own uploads, but not the uploads of others.

LynnRodz said...

I read just this week on an agent's blog that she signed two new writers at a conference when she wasn't even thinking about signing anyone, As she said, requesting pages, yes - signing, no. One of the reasons she did (besides the writing, of course) was " the author was ready with current social media numbers, number of emails collected, and unique website visitors per month. The author was ready with an explanation of the strategy used to build the platform."

So, I guess for some agents, an online presence is very important. I found the part about the number of emails collected interesting as well. I've collected over 2000 emails from people interested in knowing when/if my book is published.

As far as stats go, I use to blog around four times a week when I first started, I'm lucky now if I write two posts a month. I have conflicting stats depending on which one I use. On one it says that my unique visitors is over 560,000 while another says I'm nearing 350,000. Whichever is true, they could have fooled me because I don't get very many comments anymore. As my posts have tapered off, so have my comments, but I suppose that's only natural.

Like Colin's Graham Cracker crust, my most popular post is how to take the anti-reflective coating off of your eyeglasses. People still come daily to read that post although it was written in 2008.

Anonymous said...

I started my blog just before I went Self-Pubbed. I got plenty of interest from publishers without having a website/blog my name (mostly amounting to 'loved the voice, loved the story, but don't know how to market it'). It didn't seem to matter then.
I was glad to have it when I started self-publishing, though. It gives me something to refer people back to, a one-stop-shop for my books, tidbits of my writing, and blog posts on writing and books I loved.
I have to say, too, it's not something that stops me writing, or takes away the 'itch' to write. In fact, it's helped me immensely; especially with structure and order in writing. It's also a discipline (writing once a week at least) and that is immeasurably helpful in terms of writing. It helps me develop good writing habits.

Speaking of good writing habits, has anyone heard of
this particular trick?
I'm going to try it as soon as I can find some stickers. I love stickers, so it should be very motivational for me :D

Matt Adams said...

I do think there's a difference in fiction and non-fiction in regards to this platform thing. It just doesn't fit that agents would be asking for a MS on a non-fiction submission, when most of what I've heard about that is they want a proposal.

The agent in question might be using non-fiction criteria (where you do need to establish some degree of expertise) to deal with fiction writers. I just don't see how any of the things she mentions would do a fictional book any good. For non fiction, having a place to click to read more4 is a solid advice, but in fiction ... what am I going to do, provide bios of all my characters? Maps of the University of Florida, Bahamas and Crawford Montana?

I think there's a slight chance that the Opie's pal might be writing a non-fiction book, or asked an agent who specializes in non fiction and got a non fiction response. otherwise none of this makes sense.

Gingermollymarilyn said...

@ Colin, I have to agree with Lynn regarding the "too much about Janet..." I guess you're a masochist.

@ Brianshwartz - Interesting DIY website. Right up my alley.

@ Janet - your heading makes me think of "No woman, no cry."

@ Julia - I hope the tide turns for you, you've had a rough go of it as of late.

@ Julie W - I kinda agree with what Donald Maass says. All the time you spend writing in a blog could be spent better elsewhere, say, your masterpiece of a novel.

Anonymous said...

When it comes to Facebook, the first thing I advise people is: know your privacy settings. Get in there, and make sure you know where every post is going to show up. You can actually change the settings for each particular post, as well. You can also choose to see pictures before someone can post them to your Facebook wall, you can stop people from tagging you in photos, and you can keep all your information private. I think just about the only things you can't keep private are your cover photo and your profile photo.

You can also go through your posts and change the privacy setting on each post, all the way back to whenever.

As for the people who bought their kids' names as domains: while it may not cost a lot to register a domain at first, you're paying for that registration every year. Maybe it might be useful when they're adults - although some folks on Twitter were wondering if domain names will still be used in 20 years, and whether they'll be used in the same way. The internet is young - anything could happen. Maybe .com will get all bought up, so .biz, or .org, or other extensions may become more popular. Then are you going to go out and buy, .org, .everything .... will extensions even still be used? So many, many possibilities...

Matt: There are agents who put a lot of value on platform, even for fiction writers. Why? Because platform means sales. Do fiction writers *need* a platform? Maybe not. But those who have a platform can be more attractive than those who don't.

It made me choose food again. I have a sore mouth (lost a filling or broke a tooth or something last night) and I can't eat much. But now I'm hungry...

(I'm not complaining, though. Pancreatitis really sucks. I hope you feel much better very soon, Julia)

Anonymous said...


That's what I use. I use different colors for different things. Writing, editing, etc.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Thank God that when I was a teenager, blog was simply a misspelled word which rhymed with a Steve McQueen sci fi movie. If I had a blog then, or used social media, which back then was 4 hour phones calls while sitting on the floor of the hall closet, door closed, my big mouth opinions and kid-stupidity would have had me either behind bars or exiled to an unnamed island which is now known as Carkoon.

Anonymous said...


Ooh, I wondered what the different colours for some people were! I'll do the same. I have two different coloured stars, and then some tiny robots for when I finish a book, or a short story, so I feel more special :D

Believe it or not, I'd never heard of this method. Everyone I know of who has used it, swears by it, though.

LynnRodz said...

I agree, social media is important for non-fiction, but the agent I was talking about signed two new clients for fiction which I found interesting.

WR, let me know how the stickers works for you because I don't think it'll do it for me. Perhaps I need to think of some other incentive. Hmm, a frozen margarita might do the trick.

I figured out the discrepancy for my stats. The lower number began a year and a half later so, of course, the numbers wouldn't be as high. Still, according to the OP's comment all that doesn't matter because my blog address does not include my name.

Okay, Lynn, most vommenters have gone to bed and the rest have started their day hours ago, so you're sitting here talking to yourself. LOL!

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

In 2010 I updated my website. I was debating at the time whether to get my own domain name or stick with, which was quickly going out of fashion. I decided to wait until my tax refund came in, then I'd splurge on

A month before that an apocalypse happened and my life, including my writing career, was set back a good 3-4 years.

Humanity picks itself up and dusts itself off after apocalypses and I got back on the writing horse.

Much changes on the Internet at that time. Yet my old web site still lurks out there, very unprofessional and very much out of date. Last year I redesigned my web site for the purpose of supporting two novellas I had published. However, I never got around to uploading the pages. (Password issues I keep forgetting to sort out.)

I do have a blog as my main Internet presence, but I want a web site for marketing reasons. That's what they're good for, I believe, a neat and tidy one-stop shop for getting as much info about an author's backlist (including buy links, of course), press kit, etc.

Until I can upload my 2015 version of my website, I recommend you not take my current web site seriously. It's pretty bad.