First of all, I want to thank Roni for giving me the opportunity to guest post on her blog. I know I don’t have to tell you that Roni is a stand up blogitizen. Over the past year, I’ve blogged a lot about blog design, web sites, and general marketing for writers before agent and publication. I think I can say confidently that Roni and I have always been firmly in agreement that a professional blog is important.
Heck, it might even get you an agent.
Roni’s professional, active online presence surely influenced her agent, Sara Megibow, before signing (although I think her kick-ass writing had a lot to do with that, too). I wanted to talk today about some of the elements you might want to consider developing for yourself. A caveat first, though: by no means are you required to do any of these things. However, presenting yourself professionally when you make your online footprint as a writer is always a good idea, just as is writing a professional query. Here are some of the elements you might consider in your overall online footprint:
A website or a blog with a clean, professional layout.
This doesn’t mean no design elements, but it does mean being tasteful. Limit bright, flashy things, and try to stay away from the hard-to-read fonts. A black background was cool back in the early days of the web-- but it’s not cool now, it’s hard to read white text on. Very hard. Make it easy for your viewers to see what you have to say. Here’s a secret: if your web site or blog is appallingly difficult to look at, people will read your blog in a reader like Google Reader--and that means commenting.
Professional information about you.
Your blog or website should contain An "About Me" page--and it shouldn’t involve tawdry tales of what you did with your neighbor last weekend, nor should it include the photos of the event. That said, it’s good to put some personality in it--but try to keep only as much personality as you would want a prospective employer having. Check for typos. I ran across a writer’s blog shortly before drafting this post that had typos throughout the About Me section, and even worse--called attention to it by saying “attention agents!” Honestly, it didn’t leave a good impression. I have more specific tips on an About Me section here: http://sierragodfrey.blogspot.com/2009/12/about-you-section.html
A dedicated e-mail address.
You’ll want to use a dedicated address for querying, but it’s also nice to have one for correspondence with others throughout the blogosphere. Ideally, you want an email address that doesn’t start with “Vegasbabe1876xxx00,” and you shouldn’t have any spam blockers setup that require people to register to email you.
A page that describes your writing.
It should state up front what you write, the genres you write in, and if you've been published. It's okay to have a placeholder for this and list only the basics. ("I am working on a novel.") I know of a blogger who was contacted by an agent based on what she wrote on her blog, and having this kind of information available might help.
I don’t mean site design, here. I mean, keep things clean. Don’t bash other writers or publishing professionals. Don’t air your rage unless you can do so in a considered way that presents a good argument for something. This is a cornerstone of being professional online, really.
Lots of advice about successful blogging and online presence will tell you that writing to a specific audience is the way to go. But what does that mean, exactly? When you’re a writer, either unpublished, unagented, or agented, or anywhere in between, you’re probably not writing for readers --yet (although your followers could become future readers). You’re writing for the community of other writers. So, will you dispense writing advice, explore writing topics, or post excepts of your work? It’s up to you, but one of the best ways to focus your wares (your writing) is to create posts that will demonstrate the way you write. If you write humor, you’d want to write posts with a lot of humor.
I think the key to being professional online is to do what you like doing--that is, if you don’t enjoy twittering, or facebooking, but love blogging-- do that. Remember that if you’re peddling yourself as a writer with aspirations of publication, this is your foot in the door for future promotion. Use the community you engage with to your advantage by making friends and supporting others. Give agents and editors a reason to say, “Damn, where’s this person’s email address, because I’m writing him or her right now!”
Sierra, thanks so much for all the terrific information. Lots to consider!
So what do you think is vital to presenting yourself as a professional online? What will turn you off when you go to someone's website?