Most aspiring authors have heard that they should have an online presence. I learned this last year when I went to the DFW Writer's Conference and everyone was abuzz about blogging, facebook, and twitter. At the time I was on facebook and had a family blog, but nothing that said I was a writer. The group of writers I was hanging out with at the conference also didn't have anything, so mild freak outs ensued. Why were we so behind? How did we not know this? When are we supposed to write if we're supposed to do all of these other things too?
I let the panic pass, then came home and started working on creating this here blog. Great. So I write about whatever I want and all is good in the world. Well, not so much. As I learned more and more, I realized you have to be vigilant about what you put out there on your blog. Talking about rejections? A bit risky if an agent stops by and sees no one else wanted your stuff. Whining about the publishing industry? Dangerous because you'll insult the very people you're trying to get "hired" by. Badmouthing a book in a review? Potentially burning bridges all over the place.
So is all that vigilance worth it?
After reading this article by Ellora's Cave editor Meghan Conrad over at Redlines and Deadlines, I would say the answer is a resounding yes. I tweeted this article a few days ago, so for those of you that follow me, you may have already seen it (and for those of you not following me on twitter, why the heck not? Go click that lovely birdy button in the upper right.)
Here is some of what Ms. Conrad says:
"I’ve rejected one or two good books because the author behaved so badly online, we decided we didn’t want to work with her. I’ve rejected a great many more books I was on the fence about after the author’s online presence ultimately convinced me the author probably wasn’t worth the effort."
I was surprised by that--not that they want to reject someone behaving badly. I mean, peeps, learn to hide the crazy. But by the fact that a weak online presence could be the deciding factor when they aren't sure about you. Wow. No pressure, right? Although, I will note that Ellora's Cave is primarily an e-publisher so online presence probably holds more weight there than in a traditional house.
So what are they looking for?
"In general, we’re looking for signs that you’re relatively normal, literate, and reasonable, which is admittedly sort of difficult to quantify. A well-written blog is a great sign, or a Twitter account with hundreds of followers. ...having followers is an indication you write well enough that people find your posts interesting and useful—points for you!"
Okay, I was alright with that one. Followers are good, that makes sense. But here's one point that scared me:
"Also worrying are blogs—or, worse, short stories or writing samples—with horrible grammar, punctuation, and spelling. No one expects you to be perfect, but I do tend to assume that the writing on your blog is a representative sample."
That one threw me for a bit of a loop because I'm a grammar nerd, but don't worry about it when blogging. My blogs are written as streams of consciousness most times and in a conversational tone, which means lots of incomplete sentences and dashes and parentheses. I do make sure that any excerpts I post are up to snuff in that area, but otherwise, I'm not really watching for it. I could see if a lot of things are misspelled. We do have spell check on here, but grammar? Really? Gah. (See I just totally went all non-grammary again.)
So, be warned, fellow bloggers. THEY, the they that we want to eventually work with, are watching you. Make sure you want them to see what you're putting out there. And if you do want to rant about the industry or do brutal book reviews, a pen name or some level of anonymity might be in order. I highly recommend checking out the original article because she outlines additional things she doesn't like to see.
So how about you? Do you have certain lines you don't cross in your blog? Do you worry what agents/publishers/other authors will think if they stop by your blog? Or, do you blog without worry because it's supposed to be a personal forum?