Nathan Bransford, Author

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Can Authors Balance Publicity and Privacy in the Internet Era?

In the discussion on Monday regarding the person stopping by the office, an anonymous commenter chimed in with what I thought was an interesting point of discussion about boundaries in the Internet era.

He/she writes:

Have been thinking a lot about the writers who choose to keep their privacy, such as Salinger and Pynchon and those who are all out twittering hither-nither.

I have very mixed feelings about the personal publicity writers are encouraged to develop, even agents. It seems like we are auditioning for "America's Next SuperWriter" and the fifteen minutes of fame required.

...The photos do connect people. But then where is privacy given a boundary?

As I wrote in a post late last year, the days of being "Just An Author," if they ever existed, are basically over. Everything is out there on the Internet, and authors are really expected to put themselves out there to find their audience. Publishers want authors to be Facebooking, Tweeting, blogging, and everything they can do to get out there. It's really tough to do that without using at least part of your personal life and picture to make that happen, even if you're using a pen name.

What do you think: Is this the price the modern author has to pay if they want an audience? Is there a way to balance Internet presence with privacy?


Kiersten White said...

Just because you are "out there" doesn't mean you have to share every aspect of yourself with the internet. I keep up a pretty consistent presence online through twitter and blogging, and while my readers "know" me, I don't share things that are too personal. I also don't post current pictures of my kids, or their names, or my husband's name and/or profession.

It's a fine line to walk, but one that definitely needs walking. My publisher has told me time and again how much they love what I'm doing online. And I love doing it, otherwise I probably wouldn't.

So, point: You don't have to put your whole self out there, but you definitely need something. Decide what works for you and commit to it. Now I've got to go put up my credit card and social security numbers on my blog, because someone was asking about them.

Steven Till said...

I do think it benefits authors today to be more public through the methods you mentioned (blogging, tweeting, etc.) in order to get their names out there. And even doing these things, I don't think authors will have to sacrifice that much privacy. You still have more control over your privacy than movie celebrities or musicians, for example. Through Internet marketing, you still have some control over who you want to associate with. You can set privacy settings in Facebook, Twitter, etc to control who has access to your profile.

So I think it's important for authors to utilize these methods for exposure. You can be as exposed as you want to be without sacrificing a great deal of privacy.

Anonymous said...

If a writer can maintain a professional persona while interacting with the public on the internet, I see no down side. The point I start cringing for them is when things get 'loud' and they end up resembling the noisy neighbor instead of the elegant master of words the veil provides them.

I think a little mystery and not knowing everything about them and their family is a good thing, least for myself.

Kristan said...

LOL and ditto to Kiersten White. GEEZ I love that girl. Is it September yet? I want to read her book!!

Sam said...

I think privacy is possible, not that I want it. I, and many other writers, are fine (and thrilled) at the idea of self-promotion. My writing excites me, and telling other people about it excites me, too.

As the internet evolves and online writing finds its niches, it will find more and more parallels to music.

Case in point: There's an underground band, called Blank Dogs, that has reveled in being unknown. It took about 18 months before the founder of the band was properly revealed, and that was only because he had been in prior bands and maintained those connections. The band cultivated a sense of mystery by utilizing exotic and ancient imagery. Of course, the music ain't bad either, and that helped.

The combination of purposeful, authored mystery and well-done content is powerful, and perhaps represents the next wave of introverted creators.

Kelly O'Connor McNees said...

For better or worse, I think being connected is, as you say, "the price authors pay." It can be time-consuming and overwhelming. But connecting to your audience can be rewarding too. I have been touched by the level of support and excitement I've heard from total strangers (and my novel isn't even out yet). After all, you are writing for readers, and the new connectedness encourages you to remember that.

The difficult thing becomes getting your writing done while maintaining tweets, blogs, etc. But overcoming distraction has always been a writer's biggest challenge--this is nothing new.

Ultimately, the author has to draw the line where she feels comfortable. And please familiarize yourself with FB's new privacy settings! There are ways to shield photos and more personal interactions from the public eye.

K. A. Laity said...

I think the dangers of obscurity still outweigh any dangers of publicity. A little common sense is always good (i.e. not trashing other writers, former agents or publishers) but it helps if people can find you. Your online "personality" may be the first thing a reader encounters that makes her decide to check out your book and click that BUY link.

Josin L. McQuein said...

Pen names will become more popular, as will "photoshopped beyond belief" photos.

Limari Colón said...

I was thinking about this yesterday. After I decided to become a writer, I knew I had to give up my internet phobia. Taking baby steps, I have created several profiles online and even a book club! I think people want to know who they are relating to. The popularity of your blog serves as proof.

I love to read the latest news and thoughts of people I look up to. It makes me feel I have a shot at being successful too.

Thank you.

Nerb said...

I think that this is more an issue for older writers than for younger. The current 20-something and rising generation is already used to having everything out there on the Internet for the world to see. The Internet is a powerful tool if used appropriately.

Melissa said...

If someone really wants to protect his privacy, he can use a pen name and create an complete, but fictional persona. Use stylized images rather than author photos. Be active in the online world, but don't do book signings or personal appearances. DO interviews by e-mail, phone, or radio. If he gets big and MUST do personal appearances, he can hire an actor to play himself in the real world. :-)

Malia Sutton said...

"So, point: You don't have to put your whole self out there, but you definitely need something. Decide what works for you and commit to it."

Kiersten said this well, and I couldn't agree more.

Anonymous said...

There are degrees of exposure re: tweeting, blogging, etc.

There's also time: one only has a limited amount of it.

Promotion, as it's currently being put forth, seems at odds with any sort of deep, high quality writing. It's logistical as much as anything. Are writers really wired to be full-time carnies for their work?

These devices, the net, etc. seem to encourage what is counterintuitive to writing. I see a meta dialogue about writing / technology emerging, & the embrace tech narrative seems more false by the post - esp. when you have the biggest proponent of "free," John Lanier, disavowing (in a hard back book & Harpers) the disasterous paradigm he staked out & started pimping ten years + ago.

Last week's topic (Amazon's price point, MacMillan's leverage), I didn't see one post referencing the fact that the high churn on devices is driven by the romance genre. It makes perfect sense for a writer who can turn out 24 books a year - and has the audience to sustain that - to charge $6.99. But a novel that takes 5 years to write, another 3 to publish, that $6.99 isn't sustainable. (And even if s/he's turning out 24 books a year, how much time, really, does a romance novelist have to devote to promotion?)

I am hoping these blogs will start to parse some of these issues, esp. as they relate to genre vs. literary fiction. They're two v different demographics.

IDK if this is for a forum, but will mention anyway: a recent huffington blog post by a former music industry exec gone publishing hits on the evolutionary similarities of struggle between the two industries.

SarannaDeWylde said...

I agree with Kate and Kiersten.

I'm a new author and I want everyone to know who I am. Yeah, it's time consuming, but my personality is my voice.

Sure, it's hard to decide where that line is, what to share, what not to share. Not to mention tact has always been a problem for me, but it's hard for everyone to decide what to put out there, not just authors.

As a former corrections officer, I don't have any illusions as to my privacy. Someone can find whatever they want to about you regardless of how carefully you guard yourself, but there's no reason to make it easy on them.

I think ultimately, it depends on how your package yourself.

Ink said...

I'm with Kiersten, and I think it helps knowing what you want to share (and what you don't) when you start in. Where do you want to draw your line?

And the online stuff should probably have a purpose. If it's utterly random it's more likely to slip into unwanted self-revelation.

I think basic prudence is the key. Have an approach, and follow it carefully.

Emily White said...

I think there's a broad line between having a few accounts on the internet so that people can find you and know what you're about and telling the world your personal life. I may have a blogger account, but I don't share anything that I would like to keep private.

Kayeleen said...

Being relatively new to social networking, I have a hard time finding the balance of how much of myself to put out there. It has to be enough that people want to interact with you, but not enough that they can drop by for beverages at any time.

When so much of my experience with writing is interwoven with my personal life, it's hard to separate the two, but I'm slowly learning.

Anonymous said...

Two words: pen name

I write with one to preserve my privacy and delineate between my author persona and my "real life." So yeah, I might be up online and sharing parts of my self and my life with people, but people who read what I publish get just as much of a sense of who I am as people who I communicate with online.

T. Anne said...

I think since this is new territory it's safe to say we haven't worked out all the kinks yet. Part of the appeal of being a writer when I was younger was the thought I could remain reclusive. Not so. It's a learning curve for most of us for sure. You're a great teacher Nathan!

Liberty Speidel said...

Kiersten said it all too well! (I just learned of this writer yesterday through her agent's Tweets--and even though I don't read her genre, am interested in reading her book.)

I think that with Google and Facebook, a writer just has to decide how much privacy they want. Right now, not having any publishing prospects on the horizon, I'm happy having my blog and making friends on FB (and tweeting, too.) When I hook an agent, that's when I think I'll really start promoting myself, and that'll mean to me shifting my focus to a fan page on FB, urging some of my online-only friends to the fan page before I start trimming my personal page (which I keep very tightly guarded to non-friends anyway), and really promoting myself as an author.

I agree about not sharing your spouses name (my husband is the only one with his name in our metro area) or your children's names, or their pictures, at least on your professional side.

However, how many of us writers will dedicate our books to our spouse or kids, and name them? Isn't that about the same as putting it out there on the internet? I've already written the dedication to my book, and name both my husband and my child (soon to be children). While that's a personal choice--and one that in this world of identity theft, I should discuss this with my husband--what's the difference with putting that same info out on your blog/FB fan page/website?

Stephanie said...

Even when you want to be private or semi-private, enterprising people find ways to find you, even if it's just an e-mail address. If people want to invade your privacy, they will, no matter how much or how little on online presence you have. Like others indicated, you can choose what you put out, even when there's a demand or compulsion to provide more.

Actually, writers are probably among the best-equipped people to maintain public personae. We can handle the criticism ;)

Destiny Rae Booze, Novelist said...

Sure, that's the price every modern author pays. It's a very small one to pay in my opinion. The author is the filter for how much information gets out there. Nothing more than the author is comfortable with needs to make it onto the keyboard.

Social media is about much more than putting your life on the internet. It's about connecting with people, connecting with readers. Why wouldn't every author want to be available to their fans?

Every author should be out there to connect with their readers. The only true price they pay is time, and the fans deserve that time.

jjdebenedictis said...

Warning: Opinions ensue. And you know what they say about opinions.

Marketing and publicity don't sell books.

They only convince people to pick your book up off the shelf (out of the hundreds available alongside it) and consider buying it.

Which is crucial, because you can't make a sale until they have the book in their hands. However, they make their decision to buy based on the words on the page, not the publicity campaign.

Spontaneous, enthusiastic word-of-mouth ("going viral") is what makes a book's sales really take off. If you get good word-of-mouth, the benefits of your self-publicity will be negligible in comparison.

And good word-of-mouth come solely from having written a damned good book.

So do only as much self-publicity as you can stand to, and provide no more of your private self to the public than you are comfortable with.

Your career will rise or fall based on your ability to write. Networking and self-publicity can kick-start word-of-mouth but they don't substitute for it.

ella144 said...

Speaking as a reader, while I enjoy learning about the people who write the books I love to read, and hey, look, their next book comes out in a few months, I don't want to know all the gory details of their lives because who they are is not part of the equation that makes me like their book(s).

Speaking as a writer, knowing that other writers balance writing with their day job, kids, school, spouse, and so on helps me when I start to feel overwhelmed by it all. And, hey look, her new book comes out in a few months.

Ann M said...

I would say that some exposure is good. Over exposure is probably bad. When I think of the authors I follow, typically they blog about writing. For me, it's more about the characters of the stories than the authors. That said, it makes it ALL the more fun and enjoyable to know the author of a beloved book is also a nice person. From that point, what I'm most interested in isn't what the author did that day, or what the spouse, children, great-aunt, is like, but how that author came up with such a unique plot, intriguing characters, or the amazing twist at the end! So, that's what I look forward to, delving into the author's mind to learn how they came up with that awesome book I want to read again and again!

As for an aspiring author (or an up-and-coming-author) I suppose it's more difficult. Still though, I think what would draw me to a new author would revolve around their book, not so much their daily life.

JDuncan said...

I honestly don't have much problem with the public image and being out there in the public sphere. I'd also be fine if I sold books without having to raise a finger to find readership. For me, the biggest drawback isn't the breaking down of any barriers to privacy, but the time it takes away from everything else to make your presence known out there to the public. It's a big time investment, time that would generally be better spent writing or being with family and friends. So, in that regard, it's a big sacrifice and I hope publishers understand this when it comes to the expectation level put on their writers.

Mark Terry said...

Here's a Corollary Question that I think demands a little more thought on the part of your readers.

If the typical advance for a novel is around $5000 and it may take years (or never) to make it to a point where you can even make a couple house payments based on the money you earn from your book, is the lack of privacy worth it?

Thomas Taylor said...

If writers have to share their off-page lives with the world then I'd certainly rather be in the driving seat of the process. And it's very easy to bend the truth on-line, or at least cast ourselves as something we're not quite.

Christi Goddard said...

I had successfully avoided blogging, facebook, twitter, and the like until I wanted to publish my book. Now I've broken down and created a blog and a website in the hopes of attracting readers, but I think that is where the line for me would be drawn.

A website with book information and 'about me' sorts of things, and a blog with random thoughts and an interface with readers. Add Facebook and Twitter to that, and there would be no time left to do my actual job: writing more novels for my wonderful agent!

Anonymous said...

I'll post as an Anon as to protect myself from the onslaught.

I think the only people that give a damn about authors twittering, blogging, and facebooking are other authors.

Writers always claim they are reaching their fans. No they aren't. They are reaching the other writers they know who only seem to leave comments, ect as promotion for their own books (using their book cover as an avatar, natch).

True story. I went to the blog of a specific writer (whose successful debut book I read two years ago) to try and find info on if there were other books coming out. No information existed. I posted on his blog, asking for any info.

In going back to his blog for a number of weeks, hoping he'd answer, I got nothing but too much information about his personal life... What his wife got him for his birthday... The expensive weekend getaway he took... Pictures of the food he ate... Pictures of the dog he saw... Pictures of his wife climbing a rock or something... Tales of enamoured fans telling him how great he was... Pictures of those fans...

And ALL the comments for these mind-numbing posts? ALL of them writers or aspiring writers, saying Gee! Fun! Wish I were there! You rock!

I still don't have a clue when his next book is coming out. But now that I think of him as a slightly self-important dum-dum, I no longer care.

Alexis Grant said...

I agree with a lot of what's been said here already -- Even if you have a strong online presence, you don't have to give up your privacy. In fact, sometimes I think when people complain about how they're "supposed to have a blog" and don't want to because they're not into sharing every detail of their lives, they're just using it as an excuse. Either that, or they don't understand what blogging is, how to use Twitter, etc.

Giving everyone a sense of your personality is really important as you build an online presence -- we care about YOU because we like you. But that doesn't mean you have to tell all. In fact, if you tell all, we'll like you less. There's a fine line between giving us enough information to feel like we know you, and offering TMI.

Nathan Bransford said...


I think it's important to remember that just because a blogger's online presence is not what you personally are looking for doesn't mean that the other people who are reading/commenting aren't actually enjoying it. I may not want to read every site I come across, but that doesn't mean I go around thinking they're a jerk just because their site doesn't have what I personally want to read about.

Shelley Sly said...

I agree with those who have said that you can have an online presence without disclosing too much of your personal life.

As someone who is by nature a quiet and private person, I was pretty intimidated when I started blogging. But I knew that having a platform could make a difference in the long run if I plan to get published. I think I've found a good balance with some, but not full, disclosure.

I definitely recommend that writers blog and use sites like Twitter and Facebook. I've heard published authors say that they've gained a wide audience that way.

Suzannah said...

A while back, I wrote about how I was using my baby's mid-night feed times to work on my novel. I've perfected the art of typing while holding him.

Yesterday I received an anonymous comment accusing me of being an 'all-American,' and that my article was 'the type of crazy overachieving nonsense [they] brits have come to expect' from Americans. This person also accused me of not giving my child enough attention.

Obviously this was a drive-by commenter who knew nothing about me (my About page clearly states that I'm Canadian). But beside that, I felt like it was a personal attack on me as a mother.

Like Kristin said, I never give out personal details of my life on my site, but sometimes I use personal experiences as a springboard for my articles.

Now, obviously, I have to either keep everything completely impersonal, or put up with stuff like this. Of course, I think those types make up only a very small portion of one's audience, so I guess it's worth it.

I suppose the higher your profile, the more you have to endure (right, Nathan?). :)

Nathan Bransford said...


Definitely, and I think that speaks to the difficulty authors have balancing publicity and privacy. It's not just a matter of handling the balance of public/private that you put online, but the fact that being out there online brings a certain element to you whether you want it or not.

D. G. Hudson said...

Privacy can be a safety issue as well as a personal issue. There have been a few instances of harassment online. If you maintain a public presence, some thought must be given to what you say. There is always the chance that a post may offend someone.

Authors can balance publicity and privacy, but it takes extra effort. One must consider how much of yourself you want to expose. IMO, much is said on the various social networks that repeats what has already hit the news headlines. Where is the value in that?

For purposes of getting our writing published, we must conform to some of these requirements. Just remember, once your privacy is breached, it can't be taken back.

We never know who lurks behind those other screens or phones, watching or even tracking our internet movements.

It's all about being aware of the consequences.

Seamus said...

I like Kiersten's distinction, but even still, I think this makes an enormous difference to who is writing and who is successful. Anyone who has taken the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator test knows that among other continua, there are those who recharge themselves through social exchange (called "extroverts") and those who recharge by withdrawing from social exchange (called "introverts"). Both have something unique and important to say in the world of literature. I have watched as the naturally "out there" population (extroverts) take to the social media and others hold back, because it's not a natural way for them to relax. Does this mean, like so many other professions, that the most successful in our craft will be those with extrovert tendencies? We will lose a great deal of literary strength, as a culture, if so.

Kristi said...

The blogging isn't an issue for me since it's primarily writing related. I was using Facebook for more personal stuff, but since I have a number of writers as friends now, I've been much more careful about what I post there -- still need to figure out those privacy settings!

Fawn Neun said...

I think it's the price they have to pay.

Look at Neil Gaiman... he tweets, he blogs... As a matter of fact, I did an interview with his new fiance, Amanda Palmer, a musician who is known for her internet self-promotion and I asked specifically if she thought that the shy and introverted were going to fall by the wayside. Her take was that it was part of the job.

We're living in a tough time when publishing houses and record labels don't have promotional budgets, so the artists are going to have to pick up the slack.

You don't have to tell-all or bare your soul, but you do have to have a certain accessibility.

I think she put it best when she said that if she didn't believe in her work enough to promote it, who would?

Nick said...

I've a blog, but I don't update it often, mostly because, like everyone else when they begin, I'm talking to myself. I've a Facebook, but I keep it private as I can. Reckon if I do get published I'll make a fan page or something to communicate with people. I've a twitter, but like my blog I never really update it, because frankly I have nothing to say.

This does remind me of something I was thinking of the other day though. Are author photographs REALLY necessary? I mean if they are I'll grin and bear it, but personally I think I'm quite the ugly bastard and like to avoid photographs whenever I can. Only two pictures of me on my Facebook, and one more of me over on my sister's, but that one's a good five years old now, and I like keeping it that way.

I will say I daena think it's impossible for authors to be Salinger-esque these days, either, but it is a very, very hard thing to do, and I think you would have to be like Salinger. One thing people so often forget is, Salinger didn't just disappear square off the bat. He was never some big social butterfly and did certainly keep to himself, but he did do appearances and interviews and things up until 1980. So, you know, get some publicity under yourself, even if it's only a little bit, get a fanbase going, then feel free to disappear into the ether.

Not saying, mind you, that disappearing into the ether is necessarily a good strategy, but I reckon it could still be done if you were deadset on it.

At the end of the day I think an author should do whatever they are comfortable with doing to market their book. If that means shameless plugging on a couple of forums or hanging up flyers around town, great. If that means parades down Broadway, fantastic. Unless you're a "name" like King or Meyer, don't leave it all to the publishers. But the author should still have the final say-so with their end of the line. Especially when it comes to the internet.

Personally I'm a very private person. I do share details about my life, to a point. I'll tell you I live in Pennsylvania, I've got three severely retarded pets, that I live in a tiny house, etc. Those are just inconsequential facts to me. But there are some things I just cannae dig sharing. And I don't just mean with a potential future fanbase. I've been going out with my current girlfriend for nearly three weeks now, and so far no one knows but us and her family. Far as I'm concerned, things like that are my business and my business alone, and if at any point something arises which necessitates outside knowledge of affairs, that's when the information goes out.

I think it's important, too, for authors who are fine with sharing a lot, to not share too terribly much. Share too much and it ruins the mystique, and mystique is important. Can you honestly say you were never once curious about what Salinger did while holed up in Cornish?

Sorry for the long rambling post. Making it up as I go along, so it's kind of like "Right, this thought here and then I'll be done and WAIT! What about that?" So, yeah. Back to what I was saying.

Another long post, so again I must split it.

Kelly Bryson said...

My blogs don't feel nearly as revealing into who I am as my WIP does.

I created a family blog and a professional blog so that people can easily choose the content they are interested in, plus it frees me to write about potty training on the family blog, and my critique group on the writing blog without worrying that I'm boring either my family/friends or professional contacts. I try to be the same person in every area of my life, though.

Nick said...

Continuing on:

I feel I should point out the obvious pitfalls of the internet being a central part of self-promotion, too. Although not entirely related to the subject at hand, I feel this works as a fair enough caveat. After Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks aired, Helen Raynor went on a big Doctor Who fansite to see what people thought of her episodes. Half an hour later she was on the phone with the executive producer in tears, talking about quitting writing. So even if you've got a thick skin, it's important to watch yourself out there.

Some web presence is certainly necessary. I've found some stuff -- not much, but some -- of wht's in my collection because I'd read about it somewhere else, or someone mentioned it, or something, and I went and googled and it and said "Yeah, I'll have go with this".

Still slow going on getting myself a website, because I am poor. I've $429 now, but $270 is banked for, well, emergency funds (the amount will grow, I promise), and the remaining $159 will likely have been spent by Easter. Plus, I just don't have anything to really do with a website right now, you know? If I get some books published I could think of some stuff to put up there -- about the author page, blog, forums, info on the book(s). But as is, what would I put? So even after I get a job, probably going to hold off on that front. Probably. We'll see what happens.

Maybe do some candid meet-n-greets or something, too. I do like a good drink every now and again, and I love the pubs in Dunoon and Inverness especially. So, y'know, could do something there I guess. Everyone of legal age come round for a drink.

I don't know. I'll worry more about marketing myself when I'm nearer to publication.

And that's about it. Buh-bye for now.

Chuck H. said...

I've been told several times that I need a blog. I'm not sure I want to. What if I put myself out there and no one cares? I have enough just dealing with your rejection of my obviously superior writing, Bransford. I don't need it from everyone else.

WV: dipser - yeah, right.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post!

Marilyn Peake said...

I think that writers can definitely balance their private and public lives. Some of the best writers, e.g. Cormac McCarthy, are very private. Some of the worst writers are constantly clamoring for attention on the Internet. I think Cherie Priest is one of the best and most intelligent genre writers today. She blogs, she tweets, she posts pictures of herself at book promotion places like steampunk conventions, but she doesn’t share every single detail of her private life. Sometimes I think that writers take the lazy way out when they post regularly about their private life. It takes more effort to write entertaining posts on a variety of topics. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy your Blog, Nathan. Monday through Friday, there’s always another interesting topic.

Anonymous said...

I think there are a bunch of things going on here. First, unless you're a full time writer, I would suspect most writers would like to separate their personal lives from their writing lives. Second, employers do search google as part of the hiring process, so this might influence the type of material a writer produces. Last, a lot of the social networking sites provide zero privacy.

I think the above will just cause more writers to use pen names.

Susan Quinn said...

Having a public persona is part of deal for anyone who works with the public - authors just being more recently part of that group.

And just because your blogger face is your public "persona" doesn't mean it's not a true part of you. I think people respond to bloggers that are a) genuine and b) offer something (information, community, entertainment). Keeping your public and private persona's separate is simply a mark of professionalism, one that most people practice in their work-a-day lives. Authors, being a secluded bunch, simply do it on the interwebs, and (potentially) reach a much larger audience, but the same rules apply.

Vegas Linda Lou said...

Those of us who write memoirs are lucky since our lives are [literally] an open book. We want to instill curiosity about us and it’s a thrill when readers say they want to know more or wish they knew us in real life. I think it must be tough to be an introverted writer these days.

Dara said...

As others have said, you can be known in the social networking sphere without having to divulge really personal details.

I think it also depends on what the author feels comfortable with.

Christi Goddard said...

I agree with Seamus regarding the 'extrovert'/'introvert' personality types. Some people can express themselves far better in written form than in personal form, and many are more comfortable with interaction than others. When I think about being published, I think about the book signings and conventions and how much fun they will be, while my one writing friend is terrified of being the center of attention like that. It's not that I want center stage, but I love to entertain people and make them laugh. Social interaction feeds my soul.

Cam Snow said...

Yes, you can be both public and private (note, this is not the public-private partnership term the government keeps using when they want to screw us out of more money).

You can blog about your writing, your books, your book tours, how to get published, how to write better queries, etc. You can set up a new Facebook account and friend everyone and hype away. You can do signings without having to reveal personal facts about yourself.

It also helps that writers generally don't have paparazzi following them or a bazillion people with fan pages. Your life can be your own.

Munk said...

If I remember Nathan once blogged that you don't have to "do" every social media, just find the one you like the best and invest.
Well, I don't "like" any. Some of it is that I don't find my personal story all that interesting... but mainly, it's that I don't want potential readers to be interested in ME. I want them to be interested in my stories. Frankly, I don't really care if you like me or not, don't take that personally, sometimes I don't like myself.
To look at it another way... I don't know much about any of the author's personal stories that I read, I study their style, but I couldn't care less about whether they have two small dogs or one big one, or what they had for dinner last night, or what color they just painted their bathroom, or how much they love their car, or how much they hate their car.
I'll finish with this... To me FB, Twitter and even blogging reminds me of being in a bar full of people, noise everywhere. One guy stands up on a table and gets everyones attention... for a minute. Just as he does someone runs in the bar, pulls him down and gives a passionate speech... completely unrelated to the scene a third person with a wonderful picture immediately steps in front of my table and coughs, noise everywhere. I like intimacy, not insanity.
I don't like crowds unless I am simply observing them... it is one of the main reasons I like writing.
Oh... but back on point... I suppose if to get someone to read my stories they have to know whether I wear boxers, briefs or those boxer/brief things... I'd tell them. I got nothing to hide, I just can't figure out why anyone would want to know.

Portuguese cunt said...

Yes... NO... Damn.

There goes my Wikipedia page.

Jana Oliver said...

Knowing the whole privacy thing was going to be an issue as my career grew, I created a "moat" around certain aspects of my life. My very close friends have my contact info, all the rest have a mail box and a cell phone number (which can easily be changed). Certainly a very clever person can find those out if they try hard, but I saw no reason to make it easy.

IMHO authors have to be "out there" so I do a lot of conventions and I answer e-mails from readers. Meeting and talking to the fen (plural of fan) is what charges me up so I can spend hours at the computer in my writing cave. Privacy is important. So is visibility. The trick is to find the perfect balance.

Lesli Muir Lytle said...

It's a choice from the beginning. Even if you only have three fans and one is a stalker. YOU ARE SCREWED. You chose to get screwed when you picked up a pen, when you sent off your first tweet, blog, or query.

It's over. Embrace the horror and keep writing--and hope that King Stephen took the worst hit for us all.

Topic Anon said...

First of all, thank you Nathan, for opening this discussion. I am the anon who wrote that post asking for more of this discussion. And thank you all who are participating in this conversation.
I personally think this is a very important area to keep think-tanking and appreciate all these opinions and thoughts.

For myself, this is an evolving place.
I find that anonymous connections can be safe (which is one reason why I use them more) or dangerous.
Yes. Just like deep River's episode or the unknown factor of someone just showing up. Ask anyone who has had to deal with a stalker.
Less fearful but still daunting can be the drive by snark.

Also, a few times, my learning curve as a writer was off and it was embarrassing. It was only through the kindness of strangers,who upon my request, removed my posts, that my bloopers didn't stay out there to haunt me.

On the other hand, I really trust face to face, conferences, and bookstores. I have put several blogs in place and am slowly getting prepared for more blogging.

I think, as many of you have pointed out, that it's a lot about your style and comfort zone. What can you do to promote your art while not destroying your privacy?

Many of my own favorite authors, artists, musicians, and thinkers remain very private outside their art and work AND they are/have been and remain successful.They go out, I have observed, in their own comfort zones or within their own communities first (such as scientific communities).

Anyway, it is an area of consideration that there is a LOT to keep considering.

Thank you again so much for this conversation.

Lisa Lane said...

I agree--readers want even more than ever to interact with their authors. One cannot sell books today without putting oneself out there via social networking, blogging, and regularly updated websites.

Vicki Lane said...

I blog daily. Since the setting of my books is a place very much like our farm, I include lots of pictures of where I live. I'm enjoying the exchange with my readers and I've picked up more readers along the way.

I don't find it an invasion of privacy because, as others have said, I only share what I'm comfortable with strangers knowing.

I'm on Facebook but not really very fond of it. As for Twitter ... not for me.

Anonymous said...

My problem with this whole publicity thing probably revolves around my "life" as a reader. I don't know if I'm an oddball or what, but I never have much interest in the personal lives of those who wrote books I love. I mean, a little blurb on the back cover (or wharever) telling me a bit about the author has always satisfied my "need to know."

Because of this lack of interest, more or less, in authors lives in general, I now become a tad befuddled about what on earth to share about my own life. Before public versus private becomes an issue for me personally, I guess I need to become a lot nosier about the lives of other authors. LOL

Sharon (jjshannon)

Crystal said...

I'm 30 years old and love computers, but I really have taken my time getting used to the let-it-all-hang-out-ness on the internet. I think that, in a handful of years, the pendulum will swing back to people wanting more privacy even as they depend more on the internet for their daily activities. So - is "privacy" these days just an illusion, no matter how careful we are? When we hear how the Chinese government was trying to hack into dissidents' Gmail accounts, and how cyber security is becoming an increasing issue (on all levels), I can only see this question continuing to be asked and to evolve as our technology does.

The Economist this past week has a really good article on the topic of privacy:

"Research published last year by Pew showed that some 60% of adults are restricting access to their online profiles. In an earlier study the institute had found that, contrary to received opinion, many teenagers and young adults are also using privacy controls to restrict access to online information about them. Nicole Ellison, a professor at Michigan State University who studies social networks, says that over the past few years she has noticed that her students have become steadily more cautious about whom they share information with."

Michelle Moran said...

I agree with the first blog poster, Kiersten. Being "out there" doesn't mean you have to share everything about yourself as an author. I have a website on which I share hundreds of travel photos (to historic places, since I write about history). But no one knows (or needs to know) what I ate for breakfast, what my daily schedule is, where I get my manicures, or even where I live.
I really do think writers can achieve a balance between sharing information with readers and privacy if they're careful.

With sites like, google maps and, almost anyone can be found, along with the other members of their household, their emails, their phone numbers, their location, what their house looks like, etc. On the you-can-never-be-too-cautious side, I make sure that none of my information on these sites is updated/available. But that doesn't stop me from sharing photos with readers or keeping a Facebook page. I think how much is too much is different for each individual. Tweeting about where I've just dined for lunch - for me, that's in the TMI category. But that's not the case for everyone.

Samuel said...

What about the psychological effects of having an online presence? Does the inevitable wondering, over-thinking, conjecturing - the horrible two a.m. ‘who’s lookingness?’ of it all - not contaminate your writing brain at all? It’s this that concerns me the most. I know how much I need solitude to write, and I worry that allowing the internet into my thoughts means I’ll never be alone to just worry about the words.

I’m reading The Paris Reviews at the moment, and both Capote and Hemingway say how vital ‘internal’ privacy is to their writing process, and how invidious they find public interruption. In literary terms at least, I wish I lived fifty years ago.

Anonymous said...

You can be "out there" every day discussing your book releases and news, engaging in discussions with fans about the subject matter of your books, developments in the publishing world, etc., without ever divulging a single piece of personal information about yourself.

Promotion doesn't necessarily mean "personal." It just means

Anonymous said...

Agree with above anon that many of the authors that have heavy presences really aren't exposing themselves much. Their profile pics are only book covers, their profile info lists the same stuff as you can find in in the About the Author section of the books. It's not personal at all! It's just an illusion of access.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:18:

SOME authors do it like you describe, maintaining an interaction with fans without reallybeing personal. However, there are those authors who really do get personal, sharing family events and pics, what they did on vacation, etc. Depends on the author.

But it certainly is possible to maintain distance even while keeping up fan interaction.

Stephanie said...

There's a difference between privacy in terms of sharing details about yourself and privacy in terms of not having people show up on your doorstep.

The first one is easy - for the most part, you can be whoever you want to be on the internet. The second one is a lot harder. It doesn't take much for superfans or superenemies to find potentially dangerous information about you online, like where you live. In fact, you don't even need to be online for them to find if your offline presence inspires fanaticism, it doesn't matter whether or not you have a social network where people know what you like for breakfast or what you named your new dog.

Publicity has always been a double-edged sword. Sure, there are exceptions like the Salingers and Pynchons of the world, but for the rest of us writing under our real names, the public presence that puts privacy at risk is also what reminds readers to care about buying your book. As soon as you achieve anything that makes people want to find out more about you, the risk is there.

With those scary thoughts in mind, I say embrace internet publicity. Part of publicity has always been defining your public persona. If you want that persona to be about your day-to-day life, that's your choice, but if you'd rather focus on your writing or larger issues you care about, then it's easy enough to leave your personal life out of it.

Terry said...

Good question.

This is a big issue for me. And I've been working on getting over it. But I think a lot of writers don't want the limelight. We're happy, quietly tapping away on our stories, chatting a bit on blogs or hanging out with family and close friends.

We have no need or desire to be even a minor celebrity in any way, shape or form. So, for us, it's difficult. If I wanted that much personal attention, I would have become an actor.

Like, Munk, I want my story to be the focus.

Anonymous said...

It's not just writers. In a computerized society, personal information is collected and stored all the time. Privacy is a relative thing now.

But for online platforms where we choose to say things about ourselves, it's a good idea
to decide ahead of time what we will share. Will we tackle politics? Religion? Will we review other people's books--if so, only the ones we like? Will we talk about family members--if so, who, how much, and by pseudonym or real name? Will we post pictures--of whom, and under what circumstances? Will we mention our day jobs, medical problems, friends? Before I started blogging, I set a policy for myself on all those questions.

In most cases, there's no right or wrong answer--just the answer you can best live with.

Stephanie said...

@Samuel 12:14

That definitely takes some getting used to. I suppose it's not that different than wondering what people are saying about you and your book once it's on the shelves...except there's more of it and more of a chance that you'll actually find out what's being said about you.

Just like you have to develop a thick skin during the querying process, you need to form internet callouses to help you not only walk away from the web, but also learn not to take comments too personally.

Internet anonymity makes people bold and brutal, and you have to learn to separate that from the real world - and your fictional world - or it can drive you crazy.

Thermocline said...

I'm wondering if having a significant online presence is as important for authors of children's or MG books. It seems like it might be a little weird to have nine year olds following posts about your life.

reader said...

THANK YOU to Munk @11:40, you took the words right out of my mouth.

I read five really, really good books, all in a row recently. I'll certainly pick up each of those author's next work. But I haven't looked up any of them online because I DON'T CARE about their personal life or their "online" persona.

When did the book itself stop mattering so much? Do people like a book more because they can read about the minutia of an author's life? I don't.

Yes, people can blog without divulging personal stuff, but how many blog posts about the minutia of creating Book X are really interesting? Truthfully, not many.

I firmly believe most writers would be better off spending that time suck of twitter and blog posts actually writing. Good books sell copies. Good blogs, not necessarily, (imo).

It's gotten so writers who haven't even finished a rough first draft are already paying big money for custom designed "author" blogs -- as if the book is an afterthought even though it's not finished, queried, sold, or published. That's kind of sad to me.

Ishta Mercurio said...

Kiersten said it pretty well, really. A public presence is important, but you don't have to air your laundry out online.

There is a distinction to be made between promoting your work and promoting yourself.

Nic said...

There is a line to tread. I think its great if your in the public eye, whether its being an author or as part of a tv show or whatever, its great to do tweet or blog.

I follow some of the stars of my favourite celebrity reality show and i think it adds a whole extra dimension to the show because i'm following them on twitter.

While i twitter, and have a blog, i don't think i reach a particular wide audience and i don't tend to talk about the work in progress that i'm writing or about writing in general.

Samuel said...

@Stephanie 12.38pm -

Thanks for the response. I'm sure you're right: it's a case of knowing to walk away - that you have to walk away - and not becoming too depressed about it all. I've just got no idea how you do that. Time will tell...

Anonymous said...

"I think the only people that give a damn about authors twittering, blogging, and facebooking are other authors."

In many cases you are right. But I have built a fan base through twitter and facebook and I wasn't even sure if I could do it. It's not my entire fan base, but it is about a fourth of it.

However, I have seen too many writers promoting to other writers when they should be spending their time trying to reach everyone.

And, I DO NOT appreciate getting invited to facebook events, yahoo events, and other nonsense from other authors. I don't care about your blog, twitter page, or free give away either. If I want to read a book, I'll buy it. All this rude, aggressive networking ties up my e-mail, wastes my time, and insults me. Writers...find a fan base of readers, not other writers.

This is why anon comments are necessary :)

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

My general rule of thumb is that I don't post anything that I wouldn't say at a speaker podium or, more conversationally, once I sat down afterward to eat lunch with the event planners, gatekeepers, YA readers, etc.

Nicole said...

Blogs, Facebook, and Twitter are just like any other public appearance. Just like you choose what to wear and how to act so you choose what to post about yourself. The internet is even better. You don't have to get dresses, gas up your car, and find your way somewhere. Just turn on your computer, access the web and bam! Your at your own publicity event! Embrace technology, it's the future, and it opens up a world of possibilities :)

Clarity said...

A tough decision, I admire the Salinger Way.

But we do live in new times; if one is very astute and sincere, one can share from a respectful distance.

I hope to be as clever as "one".

Jenny said...

I think there's a difference between the way authors are being asked to put themselves 'out there' and the way other kinds of celebs are out there.

1. Most authors, even if they put every minute of every day into writng and publicity are not going to have the problems that the Brangelinas of the world have. Even Stephen King, JK Rowling, and Stephenie Meyers seem to only have those issues when a new book/movie release is out.

2. Us writers are not hot. We spend days sitting at a desk letting things spread that shouldn't spread.

Even those among us who *are* hot are not going to be posing for Playboy and using our images to drive sales because that seems agains the nature of the writer. What you're going to see as far as authors and images is (hopefully) a classy picture on the back of your book. (And, hey, with e-books that becomes even less of a deal.)

3. Plus, the methods listed here as far as promoting writers are all, well, written. Blogs. Comments on Blogs. Twitter. General Internet. As writers, we control what we put out there. And we can even make bend some of it up to make ourselves sound cooler.

For example: I am a Nicole Kidman look-alike. =)

lotusgirl said...

I think you can still market yourself and keep your private life your own. You don't have to blog or tweet or buzz about every little breath you take. It's important to remember that those places are PUBLIC forums and friend and foe alike read them. Post accordingly.

Mrs. G.I. Joe said...

This is a tough one. I am sort of working thinking through the privacy issues. I know you have good arguments for not using a pen name but because of my husband's job I absolutely have to make ever effort to keep our real names out the spot light. Its just for the best. If some soldier under my husband were to realize "Hey your wife wrote that book!" That would cause all kinds of distractions that you can't have in a military setting.

So I think it will probably be a boat load of work to keep private lives what they are...private. But rarely does an author turn out to be a celebrity. People love and adore Stephanie Meyers' books but most probably wouldn't recognize her if she walked into their bar, know what I mean? If someone did dig up something on an author's private life that was meant to be kept secret it would have to be HUGE in order for people to care.

(Like the "Million Little Pieces" scandal).

Nathan, I just have to say I love your blog. Its been a huge help so far. But I have combed it over relentlessly to find answers to a few questions I have. Can we just post questions in the comment section of your recent posts?

Sophia said...

I'll be honest: I am an avid reader, but I have no idea whether the authors I follow are on Facebook or Twitter. I don't know if they have blogs. I really don't care. I want to read their books, not their diaries.

I can see how this type of social networking is beneficial for an author to get in touch with agents and publishers, but does it really have much of an impact on the reader? I'd really like to know.

Nathan Bransford said...

mrs. gi joe -

Actually I have discussion forums for questions you haven't been able to find on the blog:

Anonymous said...

Book sales are about people wanting to read what you have to say (fiction or not). The more people know you and like your thoughts, the more likely they are to buy your book. However, I will actually not purchase a book if the material is retread from the author's speeches, short stories, website, etc. What's the point when I can get it for free?

It seems like the more interesting your material, the more likely it is to sell. The recent influx of soldier and spy memoirs, I think, says as much since it's not like any of them had incredibly large Facebook followings prior to the book. Really, these are all for after the fact.

Once someone reads the book, they follow up to check out the writer. So, the book is already sold. The goal of Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, etc, in marketing is to get publicity. Publicity need not be for the producer (writer), but the product (book). A brand name (author) is best built not by being a major internet junkie, but by putting out solid writing that is immediate, open, and interesting.

My two cents...

Sarah Olutola said...

I don't think there's a danger unless the author doesn't know how to censor him or herself before posting.

Anonymous said...

Some observations I have had about writers social networking:

Some writers use *every* opportunity to sell themselves. Where this may be marketing savvy, sometimes it gets obnoxious. (I even have friends who put advertisements in EVERY personal e-mail.)

I really like it when I connect with someone when it feels personable. I think this blog–Nathan– pulls that off nicely.

In our culture, there is often a sense of overload on the commercials that seem to never quit.
I would much rather listen to an author speak in a calmer way on Public Radio or Actor's Studio (etc.) than be bombarded with advertisements from Amazon (for example).

Sometimes less is more.

Terry said...

This isn't just about online blogging and tweeting. Writers make public appearances, too.

I've seen some very well-known authors at my local bookstore, talking and hawking their books.

Icy @ Individual Chic said...

I think the online presence is not so much about "sharing yourself" as to "generating sales". If someone runs across your internet presence and decides, "hey I like the sound of this person, maybe I'll buy the book they're banging on about", well then your online presence has done its job.

It doesn't matter what you share, (your thoughts, your baby pictures, how you wrote your book) your job is to generate sales.

Do it any way you want.

Elie said...

It's about the book.
Not about the author.

Verisimilar Knowles said...

Accessibility is a great thing. As a reader, I hit a stage where I googled every author I could remember. I didn't want to know the gory details, just the little things about their writing I wouldn't know otherwise.

I think the authors I have found online have been (almost) as a big an influence on my writing through their blogs as through their books. Some of the authors I haven't read yet, and I'm completely sold.

I followed links from Shannon Hale to Laini Taylor to Stephanie Perkins, Kiersten White, Natalie Whipple and you.

It's like a great big online literary matchmaker. Complete with weirdos and stalkers. ;)

Michael Pickett said...

Sometimes I think that even the stuff that authors write about themselves has some sort of element of fiction to it. What they put out there has an engineered persona that keeps his real self a step back. At least, that's what I would do if I were a famous author.

Lissa said...

Okay Nathan, as a sci-fi fan you've no doubt read Arthur C. Clark's and Stephen Baxter's "The Light of Other Days." It presents an interesting picture of the end of personal privacy. In similar fashion, our kid's generation is already getting used to the lack of privacy. In some ways they revel in it. The beautiful thing is, the more information is out there, the more daunting it becomes to sift through it, the more unlikely it is for someone to care about what you've posted.
Eventually, agents and publishers will become either irrelevant, or known individually for their ability to bring literary gold to the surface. What will it be worth to have someone else shuffle through the heaps of crap on the internet and deliver something worth reading to your ipad.
As for the authors, I hate to bring it to your attention, but everything about you is already out there for someone who's looking. Get used to it. Better to shape your own presence and satisfy your audience than go into hiding so they're tempted to dig you out.

Kathryn Magendie said...

I don't go to my stylist house, knock on her door, and ask her for a quick trim (or to do it for free).

I don't go to my doc's house and ask for a diagnosis (or to see me for free).

This is my job, even if it is one I adore and have dreamed about - but, it is a business, too.

My online presence is necessary, yes, and beyond that I enjoy interacting with other writers, with readers, etc - writing "full time" can be an isolating experience, as well, and without an internet presence, I'd be a half-crazy mountain woman - but I keep my private life as private as possible. And I expect to be respected by general all around human courtesy, and I have been - no one has crossed any boundaries that have made me uncomfortable.

Dawn Maria said...

Great topic.

I have a website/blog and I'm on Twitter (no Facebook). On Twitter I have two accounts- one with my pen name where I promote/connect/meet other writers and a private account for my real life with my sci-fi geek friends, because sometimes I need to discuss Star Wars at length.

On my blog I do post pictures of my family, but I don't use my husband or sons' names. I've tried to create a site that has the same combination of personal & professional info I enjoy on my favorite authors' blogs.

I try to be aware of not giving too much personal info away, especially where my family is concerned. With myself, I'm earnest about my feelings and struggles and those tend to be the posts that readers connect to.

I agree with many of you that the promotion side of things gets greater attention than the quality of the writing. For me, the balance struggle isn't so much about privacy, it's about finding the time to write and promote and work and take care of my family.

April Wendy Hollands said...

This is why I've chosen a pen name: I'd like to stay private if possible but still have a public persona so that people can buy my books when I'm a famous author one day.

Henya said...

I am the kind of person who stands in the corner of the room at gatherings. I resent having to take the time from writing my books and go through the process of jumping up and down in order to be seen or heard. I wish I didn't have to. Right now, I am writing. That's all. Just writing my books.

Anonymous said...

How about making up your entire bio online? If you write fiction, you're used to making stuff up. Why not make up yourself?

Sharon M. Smith said...

I am not a published author, but I am working on it. I am really trying to expose my name and my writing so I am Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and keep a blog. Whew. I am very authentic and open, but I too leave out small details of my life and names of husband and kids as well as places I hang out.

Anonymous said...

With sites like, google maps and, almost anyone can be found, along with the other members of their household, their emails, their phone numbers, their location, what their house looks like, etc. On the you-can-never-be-too-cautious side, I make sure that none of my information on these sites is updated/available.

I've tried to keep up but I've lost the battle. Business-related sites like Manta have pulled my business license information from public records and refuse to delete my information. I also live in one of the cities that Blockshopper targets--so my name, address and the price I paid for my house are now out there in the world. Blockshopper is notorious for ignoring delete requests, claiming the have a right to public records. It creeps me out.

holly said...

yeah, authors need privacy just like any other person. and some people share everything to fans and others share nothing, it all depends on the writer and how much private life they want to keep.

KSCollier said...

I believe it is great practice and shows our future agents and publishers we are truly serious about writing. They say it's not personal, it's about money and sales. I understand the agents and publishers want to see if we are marketable material and willing to help increase the sale. Why should it be all their responsibility, when it's our book.

Nick said...

"How about making up your entire bio online? If you write fiction, you're used to making stuff up. Why not make up yourself?"

I tried that once in real life. For several years in fact. I still can't totally remember what I made up and what's my actual history. If you're gonna do it you gotta be good at separating that stuff, because it is one hell of a slippery slope, my friend.

Trisha Wooldridge said...

Writers being public figures is not new.

In fact, writers being secluded and hidden is. It's really a construct that became "popular" with the 20th Century.

Before that, part of being a writer was promoting yourself; writers performed. It was the odd ones who stayed home and labored away from the world.

It was a big thing in Victorian era to hold parties where writers would read from their works. Twain for example toured, reading from his works, and made himself a public figure through his articles, too. Dickens was always booking public shows.

In fact, you see so many letters from Victorian - and before that, Romantic - writers because they did travel. They went out into the world, read their work, and sold books, pamphlets, etc. that way. They were superstars in their time.

And consider before that, when printed books were not nearly so popular - and well, of course before printing presses in the 1400s - The ONLY way writers could make money was to book themselves to parties and events; they had to be well known. They wrote for the pieces to be performed and delivered.

People wanted to know bits of these authors' personal lives, and if the authors didn't provide it, fans would make it up. (Kind of like verbal tabloids). Authors were public figures - and the more people saw of the authors, the more they heard readings, the more the author could make.

Now, with culture moving towards a shared global community, it's no surprise that authors are expected to be public figures again. We can return to our bardic roots of performing via podcasts and videos... and we can share our writing with fans. The way we have been for millennia.

JTShea said...

Look at J. D. Salinger. The guy became a near-recluse and only published one novel in 91 years. And it only sold...65 million copies...Okay, bad example. But I'll bet sales are up after his death. Likewise Michael Jackson. Maybe death could be a good career move for a writer?

Donna said...

Recently, I had a cyber-stalker who graduated to a tele-stalker by somehow tracking down my phone number via my web site (not that hard to do with Google). Like Nathan's mysterious office visitor, I do feel this fellow was more misguided than malicious-- he kept saying he just wanted to be my friend!-- but this was a huge step over the line for me. I tried to be professional, but he would call five or six times a day and leave angry messages when I didn't answer. I finally put on my stern school-teacher persona and managed to convince him his behavior was completely inappropriate, and eventually the phone calls stopped. My feeling throughout this whole mildly creepy encounter was simply-- I don't get paid enough for this! I am not a public figure. I wasn't elected to office and my face doesn't bring in millions of dollars in box office. The public doesn't own a piece of me. I write books. Why can't I be left alone to do that?

That having been said, the vast majority of my readers are respectful and appropriate and I deeply value my interaction with them. I absolutely understand the value of having a strong internet presence. But I will never again underestimate the risks involved either.

Anonymous said...

It's the internet. No one tells the truth about anything anyway. They are only telling you what they want you to know. :)

The Garden Ms. S said...

To follow-up on the comment by Anonymous @ 9:14 a.m., they make a good point. A local author of some celebrity had a blog that eventually caused me to despise him. He was so obnoxious, elitist, pissy and arrogant that I stopped reading his blog, his articles -- and his books. I see he no longer has a blog but he does have a new book coming out. I wonder if his publisher made him take the blog down? Personally, I liked him better before I "knew" him via his blog. I guess social media can be a double-edged sword.

Eva said...

I think the days of hiding behind the scenes and being a successful writer are over. With the era of the internet in full swing, readers want to connect with the author. Connecting with the author is a way of further connecting with the story. I think there can be balance if done right. Although I see many authors utilizing multiple channels across the internet, I still don't see their faces plastered on newsstands. It's a give and take. You have to be willing to give if you want to succeed.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

I've thought about this a lot. One thing I did this year was establish a facebook profile just for me as a writer. That way I can keep personal life separate from private. It was a great move.

mkcbunny said...

I second Jana Oliver on the idea of creating a buffer around yourself. Separate e-mail, phone numbers, Facebook profiles, etc. for friends vs. business. And set those privacy filters.

A few years ago, I found myself at the center of an Internet brushfire. Weirdest and most stressful weeks of my life, reading scathing comments from complete strangers who didn't actually bother to read deeply into the issues at hand. The Internet can be a brutal gang if you are on the wrong side of any pivotal moment.

But through all of that, not a single person found my home e-mail address or phone number. I felt strangely safe and well-protected, actually. And trust me, people WERE looking for it all. ...

I think a basic Web site and method for fans to connect is pretty much required of writers. Blogging is only good if you can commit to it and you're an interesting blogger. Facebook is only good if you actually use it.

And I don't think anyone should use Twitter unless they already do or want to start. It's a live organism, and if you can't or don't want to participate on a regular basis, why bother? I doubt I'll ever Tweet. Closest I come is posting a spontaneous photo on Facebook using my husband's iPhone. I don't even WANT an iPhone. I'd be lousy at Twittering.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

After nearly 6 years online, I realize I no longer have privacy. I have a pretty active public life. I constantly call myself "not very well known" and yet I have strangers approach me, email me, drop by the blog, recognize my writing at school and at parties, buy my book...

I've developed a game face for conferences and online, but I don't think it's much different than the game face anyone would create for any job.

Polenth said...

Melissa said...
Use stylized images rather than author photos.

That doesn't entirely work. For many years, I've only had a arty photo and a mushroom online. People complain. Whether they think it's because I'm hiding something, or they're just curious, I don't know. But the more I become known, the more people want to see a clear photograph.

In the end, you create more pressure around that by avoiding it. Posting my own photographs will mean I can control it and make sure it's a decent shot.

Steve said...

A couple of points:

I fully respect an author's preference for privacy. The late Robert Heinlein, arguably my favorite writer, was notorious for this. Could Heinlein have acheived the same level of success in today's world?

Perhaps with simewhat more difficulty. Fortunately, he wrote in a genre with a strong tradition of short story magazines with established readerships. even today, anybody who appears regularly in Analog has a head start in book sales.

Yes, a successful writer needs to be well-known, and Heinlein certainly was - from the quality of his work - not through self-publicizing. I don't think fame has to mean celebrity appearances, if the author is uncomfortable "playing celebrity". Indeed - many REAL celebrities maintain their privacy - even though they may have to hire security to do it. :(

My second point is perhaps more interesting. Your commenter wrote:

"It seems like we are auditioning for "America's Next SuperWriter" and the fifteen minutes of fame required."

This hits at a point I've mentioned before. Record labels used to create superstars through massive publicity spending, just like publishers. Like publishers, they retreated from that. The retreat for the music industry began around 2003-2005. Arguably Avril Lavagine was one of the very last to benefit from the traditional "star-making machinery". Now the A & R guys want acts to "build their story" (In writing terms, build their "platform") before they will give them a look. This process I would guess to be about 5 years more advanced in music than in literature.

But look at the countertrend!

The countertrend is American Idol. ANerican Idol stod the star-making machinery on its head and turned it from a cost center to a profit center. American Idol monetized the drama, using all the traditional story hooks of the "fame" narrative, along with the newly expanded opportunities for direct audience participation. The Idol votes are the applause meters of the 21st Century.

I've said and will keep saying that whoever first successfully pitches "Ameticas Next Best Seller" as reality TV will become rich and famous. Remember you heard it here first.


Sara McClung ♥ said...

This may seem silly, especially as I am currently not represented/published, but I actually have two accounts, for facebook and other things... One for friends that I've had for years and one for when I build more of a brand, or following, as a writer. I stay true to my personality on both sides. As "out there" as writers are (and need to be) there are still SOME things that can stay private, and I like that.

Beverley BevenFlorez said...

I think a problem for the unpublished authors (like myself) is that we have to be especially careful not to blog or tweet something that will make us look foolish by editors. Yet, I think it is important to have at least something of a web presence when shopping that first novel. It's a difficult balancing act: how to not say too much while still saying enough to be interesting.

Brian said...

I never thought it was about me being famous. To me, It's about making the characters famous. So... a blog for them makes more sense.

Other Lisa said...

What Kiersten said, first thing.

I use a pen-name for a number of reasons. One of them is that I like the small amount of separation this provides me. Not that someone couldn't find my real name pretty easily -- it's more for my own emotional health than anything else.

Mira said...

Brian - exactly.

I've often thought if I created a blog for a published book, my MC would be the blog owner. Or even a secondary character. That's who the readers want to interact with.

It also protects privacy more. You have a good point, Nathan, privacy is hard to maintain nowadays. It's not respected in the culture. If it were, paparazzi would be illegal.

In terms of web presence for an author, I could be wrong, but I think there is confusion about social networking vs. marketing. They are not the same thing.

Social networking is making friends and contacts, and it might get you into the door, but it won't sell a book past the first person, if the book isn't good.

Now, marketing - that's a different tomato. I believe my job on blogs is to be interesting. I want people thinking - boy, I wonder what that person would write a book about. Maybe it'd be interesting.

You can be interesting in very different ways. I'm not talking about wild and crazy. Kiersten is interesting because she's so vivacious and lively. Natalie is interesting because she's so likeable. Bryan is interesting because he's such a thoughtful sweetheart. (sorry, Bryan.) Marilyn is interesting because she's intelligent and informative, and so on.

So, if you're an introvert (like me, I'm off the scale introvert in person), find your niche. There are still ways for you to be interesting on line - and sometimes less is more too. It's important to be genuine - people hate feeling manipulated and/or pushed.

One problem right now with on-line is that agents really want writers to 'behave' on-line, so it's easier to sell them to publishers. I get that, because publishing is such a hard sell right now.

But it's important to remember, that no reader could possibly give a hoot whether a writer is professional, polite and cooperative. No offense, but that's just B.O.R.I.N.G.

They want someone who is interesting.

Joni Rodgers said...

This is one of the many reasons I love ghostwriting. Love writing books. Hate doing promotions. This way I get to be Cyrano and stand in the shadows while my celeb clients bust out the hustle, which is their thang.

Mira said...

Oh, I want to add one more thing, since my post wasn't long enough.

Being interesting - that's just another way to talk about voice.

Just let your voice come out. Or if it doesn't want to come out directly, if that doesn't feel natural, do what does feel natural. Get creative. Create a story blog. Create a blog that's set up like the enviornment of your book. Lots of things to play with on-line.

Anonymous said...

I'll blog and tweet but I still want my privacy, whih is why I'm planning on using a pen name. I wonder about pictures on book jackets though....

Kaitlyne said...

Boy, do I hope so. I'm a private person who doesn't want people to know everything about my life. Then again, that's why I don't have a blog. I imagine it's possible to do a blog that isn't focused on your actual daily life.

Then again, I'm also someone who finds the current need to know everything about celebrities and what not to be pretty sickening. I understand feeling a personal connection and I think that's cool. You can give a little info without telling the whole world what you ate for breakfast. This blog would be a good example.

On the other hand, there are people online who actively seek out pictures of Britney Spears going to the convenience store...that I don't understand. I actually feel like we'd be a lot better off if we had stricter privacy laws in general, but that's just me. ;)

Moira Young said...

I think a web presence is essential. You just have to know where the line is, and that line's location is different for everyone.

I've said before that I'm part of the generation who has (essentially) grown up with the Internet. It was tough to be a teenager online in the '90s, because it was new and there were no established rules. On one hand, that's part of why I've taken a pen name. I need a chance to reboot. On the other, I learned some valuable, if painful, lessons about how to stay mostly private while posting publicly. They weren't fun to learn at the time, but they were worth it for what they taught me.

I'm sure my "true identity" will get out eventually, and I'm not too worried about it, but for now, I like being able to participate online as an adult, without the legacy of my original handle dogging my digital steps.

Mel said...

I am one of those writers who prefers privacy. I tried Twitting (or is it Twittering) but found it incredibly tedious. When I write, even for other people, I research everything thoroughly to at least make the bios accurate, the fiction realistic. I prefer to be doing this ... producing more books for publication, rather than boring myself with describing the minutae of my life. I suppose that why I choose to be a ghostwriter. Let others have the hassle, for some of them will enjoy it. Selfish? I know it. ;-)

Jon Gibbs said...

I'm certainly no expert, but I think it can be done.

A strong (and positive) 'online presence' will have a huge impact on a new writer's career, so I don't think it's unreasonable for a publisher to expect us to make an effort in that regard.

I have three self-imposed rules which help me strike a balance between publicity and privacy on the internet:

1: Never post anything which I'd be embarrassed to show my wife or children.

2: Remember, it's not about you - this may seem counter-productive, but just like in real life, if someone we know only ever talks about themselves, we soon grow bored with them.

3: Most important of all, find a way to have fun while doing it.

SphinxnihpS of Aker-Ruti said...

The internet is a great tool for promotion, but I'm not so concerned about privacy -- unless you are talking about readers finding a blog or Facebook account meant for friends/family only. Then I can see the fear.

After all, these promotional tools have to contain content that will attract readers. Personally, someone's daily life isn't going to interest me, unless that daily life is pretty amazing or the person is super-famous. I don't think they will interest that many readers either.


Jason said...

I think this has already been said, but you can market yourself as a writer without ever getting into anything personal.

I think David Letterman does a really good job of that...he basically keeps his private life private even though he's on TV most every day.

Mary Witzl said...

I think there is a way to advertise your presence and give an idea of what you write without baring your soul -- or giving it away. You just have to decide how much of yourself you want to reveal.

But I suspect others have said much the same thing...125 times over.

Whirlochre said...

I'm with Kiersten and haven't read further.

Publicity doesn't mean dangling your gonads before a slavering public and privacy doesn't mean locking yourself in a secure bunker.

Any interaction with other people requires moderation of precisely this kind and all that's happened here is a movement of the goal post in the publicity direction. We still have to choose what to put out there, and to be careful over those choices.

Jason Diltz said...

As previously mentioned, an author does have a great deal of control with regard to limiting the amount of information they wish to reveal while utilizing the various forms of online media. In a day and age where companies are viewing Facebook pages in hopes of gaining insight (dirt)on a potential job candidate, it seems that we all are in danger of having our right to privacy revoked. Ultimately, one has to determine how much they wish to reveal and once doing so, move forward with no regrets. It seems that there are far more pros than cons when it comes to the internet and self promotion. The more engaged people feel with an author, the more likely they are to continue that relationship. If cultivating a faithful following means me posting a few photos now and again and a blog here and a twitter there, then count me in!
Of course one must make certain that the posted photos are not photoshopped incorrectly so as not to draw a swarm of negative publicity. I'd hate to lose fans (if I had any), because my leg was removed or placed at an impossible angle or that somehow, I was graced with a stronger jawline and a six-pack although I would sacrifice fans for the latter.

Ink said...


I've been called worse things. I had a student once who always called me "Muffinhead". That was fun. said...

Wow, great post, Nathan! First, I love everything Kiersten White said.

A). Publishers could help by developing on-line personalities on blogsites, f/b and twitter. I don't mean "company" personalities (although some are doing a REAL GOOD job of this).

And don't make the editors do it. They have enough to do it. Two or three people should be hired in the publicity departments to do nothing but become on-line personalities. Blog, f/b, twitter.

I feel sorry for the publicity people who have to simply tell an author to do it, because (like editors) they already have a full workload of traditional publicity work.

B. Authors should learn how to act like they've been there before. Professional, honest, straight-forward and, for heaven's sake, concise. A little end-zone dancing is okay, :-) but enough is enough.

As a reader, I do NOT want to know what my favorite author's food is, how he sharpens his pencils, what she buys at Sams' Club, or (really) how they come up with character names. The question is "What do I want to know about an author?" Not much, truthfully.

Seriously, can anyone answer this question?

C. First-time authors quit telling me how to write. Chances are I've published more books than you have. Tell me instead how you write.

Imperative direct-address sentences (esp. if they contain the word "must" -- but "should" kind of pisses me off, too) are a pet peeve. I may be the only one with this pet peeve. But I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

If I'm ever lucky enough to be published, I have a friend who's willing to be my public 'face'. I don't mind the Twittering, blogging and writing parts. I'm not good enough to be a public figure.

Jason said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator. said...

But it's important to remember, that no reader could possibly give a hoot whether a writer is professional, polite and cooperative. No offense, but that's just B.O.R.I.N.G.

Careful, Mira, becuase we are also considering the converse: Would a (potential) reader give a hoot that a writer is unprofessional, impolite, and never responds to questions or requests?

I do sometimes wish Hunter Thompson was here, though. I'll bet he could find a way to shoot people through the Internet. :-) said...

I am so stumped by this, I am posting it twice. Help!

The question is "What do I want to know about an author?"

Seriously, can anyone answer this question?

Do you want to know that an author is just like you?

Nathan Bransford said...


I think the answer to that question varies from author to author and from reader to reader. There's no one way to be an author online. Even the readers who have strong opinions about what authors should and shouldn't be online don't agree - some think they should be professional, some think that's boring, some want to know more about what an author's really like, some just want to know about their books, etc. etc.

I think the lesson here is that authors should do what works for them and I wish the readers who feel strongly on this subject wouldn't assume that what they want out of an author's online presence is the only way.

Anonymous said...

How much info is too much? Depends, and THAT is the problem. I'll never forget the day I (against my better judgment) looked up a fav author on Wikipedia and, in reading tidbits of this and that, read about his sexual past (which he had revealed in a mag interview).

Sorry, I REALLY didn't need to know that. And now it's in the back of my mind when I pass by displays of his books at bookstores. Does it affect the way I feel about his books of his I've already read? No. BUT I have to force it out of my brain IN ORDER TO read his newer books. Why put out anything that can act as a barrier between your book and readers? I think an author himself/herself is the biggest barrier, imo.

Terry said...

Randy, I don't want to know much about a writer. I like to know more about how they write or what they think about writing. If they have advice about what works for them is helpful too. But more so what their characters are like, what their wip or published novel is about.

So for me, it's their work.

Kia Abdullah said...

I'm a little bit contradictory. I'm careful about what I say on Twitter, I have personal and public Facebook pages for privacy reasons, but I share a lot of personal information on my blog (you just have to read my last entry to see that). I think it's probably because the blog started as a way of sharing my thoughts rather than representing me as an author whereas the other accounts are more promotional/professional focused.

I agree with Kiersten and most other people in that an author does have to engage in this type of promotional activity, but it is controllable.

Stas Antons said...

Why not embrace the opportunities that Twitter and Facebook is giving the authors? This is a great chance to create a fan club and the entire eco-sphere around a book. I would certainly be interested as a reader or a fan.
-Stas Antons
SmartSymbols for Books

Anonymous said...

I turned my internet connection back on yesterday. After some second rate porn and rewatching my favorite music videos I felt kinda stumped. Same old wasteland.
Except for farmboy makes good becomes salad eating literary agent and decides to justify effort by running informative blog.

I had no internet or cable tv for a year and the amount of necessary real world tasks and writing I got done was eye opening. Wrote a decent 125,000 piece in two months.

We are our thoughts.
Last time Big N. had a kook at his door was right about the time I logged out.
Nathan... you need to do a strategic assessment with a set of underlying tactical grids so you can throw a spiralicly perfect awesomely deployed retort at every wanker (public-masturbator) who comes a knocking bro.

The net is for the very clever at guerilla publicity. I've done it as long as it wasn't for cash. Novelty goes viral pretty quick.

A research tip to check out:

"A Pure Formality" I'll blow the plotline and punch to sell the suggestion hard; because it's a good piece for analysis of all these questions this blog subject asks.

Writer "Depardieu" blows his brains out and doesn't realize he's dead Inspector "Roman Polanski" must identify the corpse and begins interviewing the famous writer.

Its in the thirty or so movies in my permanent collection that I allow to influence my writing.

If you've never seen it you should,

Dude get a few rubber mask.
Richard Nixon, Dracula, Grey Alien,
Keep them on a few hooks on the back of the office door. Inform staff you shall deal with all prospect sengaged in displays of "Irrational Exuberance" personally from now on.

Tweeter, Facebook, are brain candy.
A blog is only as good as it's administrator.

Write for the high of creating a quantum field effect that contains a new story.
A story interesting enough to garner the attention of the infinite mind that lives beyond all the isles of creation.
A story that makes the infinite being go..


We are thought.


Anonymous said...

I don't know. I cringe whenever I have to reveal something of myself. Maybe a much too colored past will come back to haunt me.

Anonymous said...

Publishers like authors who exhaust and beggar themselves promoting themselves and their books. It saves them money on marketing and keeps the author on a short and desperate leash. When the author burns out or gives up, there's always two thousand others fighting to take their slot, so the publisher doesn't suffer. In the end, all they care about are sales. Which is as it should be.

You can say no to them. They don't like it, but they can't force you to demean or bankrupt yourself. You can use your earnings to pay your bills instead of providing marketing for your publisher. You can refuse to do things that infringe on your personal life or that make you uncomfortable. You can promote the work intelligently and freely instead of spending every dime you make to peddle yourself to the world.

The only thing you have to do to become a successful author is write great books that people want to read. Focus on that, learn how to do that, accomplish that, and you can live in a cave on a mountain in Tibet.

RK said...

Jeff Vandemeer has a wonderful book on this called The Booklife. I just got it and love it.

Cassandra Bonmot said...

I'm not auditioning for anybody or anything. I'm an artist and I create for myself. If someone chooses to hitch a ride on my "3-remote circus act"... great.

I have been lying dormant for decades due to an illness and for me to expose my blog and my personality through the written word for the world to read, love and/or critique was a delicate decision.

This has been therapy for me and I have gained strength that I never had before.

Mira said...


It's hard for me to believe that anyone would want to call you a Muffinhead or any other name! On the other hand, being a student right now, I want to call all of my teachers Muffinheads, so I'm not sure I'd take that one personally. :)

Ghostfolk - Your question - well, Nathan have a good point. Maybe different readers want different things from authors. So, I'll just say I don't "give a hoot" whether the author is a professional, in fact, I secretly hope they aren't. But that's just me. :)

I guess my point last night - I was pretty tired - and I'm still formulating this. But I think direct marketing by the author, i.e. "Buy my book." "Be friends with me so you'll buy my book." "Here's my book, would you buy it" can be a turn-off. That requires a finesse that many of us don't have, I sure don't.

But Kiersten is a really good example (hope it's okay to talk about one person like this - hope it's okay with you, Kiersten.) Kiersten never says: buy my book. But she's so vivacious and witty and fun, that I find myself very interested in her book.

That does not mean all authors need to be vivacious, etc. I couldn't be vivacious at gunpoint, for example. But I think marketing is done more through letting your voice out, letting the part of you that your WIP reflects, letting the inherently interesting part of you shine on the Web, in whatever way is comfortable for you, which may be a very different way than other people. It might be mysterious and seductive, frank and disarming, or a whole hodge-podge. The internet can be a creative play ground for a writer. But anyway, people will be drawn to your 'voice', and the book that's reflected inside it.

Does that make sense? I might be wrong, but those are my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Nathan I have a question for you. You have created an influential and impressive internet presence with your agent blog and website. Now that you are going to be a published author how are you going to promote your books online and your author persona online? What do you intend to do or not do in that realm?

Nathan Bransford said...


I'd be lying if I told you I know for sure. I don't have a master plan. JACOB WONDERBAR isn't coming out until 2011, though, so I have some time to figure out what I want to do.

Mira said...

Oh goodness, I'm posting too much, I'm sorry.

But I think I was sort of wrong, or needed to add more.

For example, it may depend upon HOW you say 'buy my book.' There are probably ways to do it - with a sense of humor or humility or enthusiasm or frankness or geniune excitement. It all depends upon your voice.

I could see putting alittle thing on a blog I owned: Everytime you buy one of my books, a fairy earns it's wings. Oh, and also love and happiness spreads to all corners of the world. And little birds swoop joyfully through the blue and sunny sky. Please buy my book for the birds. Thank you.

But that's my style. :)

Just a more human touch, that's the ticket. I think.

Okay, I'm done. :)

Anonymous said...

Part of the consideration of privacy is also time and the pressure to be "socializing."

Some writers are able to socialize without it cutting into their work and it comes more naturally to them and it can be balanced.

For others, it seems to eat up all their time and accomplishes nothing other than to make them look often like puppets of the trend for this sort of thing.

As has been pointed out, promotion of the work is different than the socializing networking twittering, ad nauseam. And I think, with the pressure that (especially new or unpublished) writers feel (i.e., that they must social network), that it is important to stand back and evaluate their involvement before they throw themselves out there, time wise or privacy wise.

Anonymous said...

From my own (limited) perspective, it seemed that children and teens were a social phenomenon on their own networking site. Adults were not wanted. But they seemed to push their way in anyway. Then it got crowded with wannabe and established musicians, twenty somethings, etc. until sixty year olds are now showing their hips there.
I went on a couple of the new (for adults too) networking spaces briefly at the urging of a writer friend.She believes in this as necessary for a writing career, but she exhausted herself and even quit writing her novel. It was quite a good novel–WIP anyway–that now may never be finished. On these social networking sites, I found large numbers of would be "experts," and many "wannabes" and nothing enough of substance to keep me coming back, so I abandoned this route. For me, anyway, it wasn't a way to connect.
Even after quitting, I continue to get e-mails from complete strangers who "want to be my friend."
That, to me, is a lot like a stranger showing up at my office. I don't know them.
I much prefer blogs. They, to me, serve my needs better and can become communities and formats where like-minded people can hold meaningful or interesting conversations,learn things pertinent to the career of writing, etc. and can engage, named or unnamed. There is more control by the administrators and less snarking. There is a reason to these I can appreciate better.

Fawn Neun said...


There are social networking sites that are just for kids that you might want to look into. You could even blog as "Jacob". :)

Ulysses said...

As may be obvious, I'm a little concerned about how much of myself makes it online. My nom-de-web serves to allow some privacy, while still allowing me to connect with readers. The time may come when I want to introduce those on-line readers to an author whose name is decidedly NOT Ulysses. When that day comes, I'm not sure whether "Ulysses" will survive, or be relegated back into the pages of myth that spawned him.

Anonymity is easy when you wish to remain obscure. When you don't... the whole thing gets tricky.

I've often thought about having the author photos on my books being somehow non-identifying. "Ulysses lives and works in Ithaka with his wife and children. This is a photo of his left elbow." Or "This is his cat, Agamemnon." Or maybe, "his bald-spot as seen from space."

Funny, maybe. Effective marketing tool? Mmm... nah. said...

Thank your for your apt comments, Nathan. There's no one way to be an author online.

I know of a literary agent who is on-line and he is professional, polite, and cooperative. His blog has 3022 dedicated followers at the moment.

And, dang, he's an author, too.
Professional, polite, and cooperative might just be a most excellent way to be an on-line presence.

J.M. Lacey said...

The use of the Internet, Blogs, Tweeting, etc. has provided a wealth of marketing advantages to writers today. And used with care, they can help us get our names and reputations out all over the globe. Unless we are the next Salinger, we can’t hide ourselves away and hope people buy our book. They don’t know we exist!

But with anything we use for good, we still need to exercise caution. So we wouldn’t want to write anything on the Internet that will allow certain undesirables (yes, there are sick, crazy people out there) into our lives by posting home addresses, names of our family (note Kiersten White’s comment), photos or anything else that is simply no one’s business. People forget that once IT is on the Internet, IT never goes away, whatever that IT is.

We also have time to think about and absorb what we’ve written before we hit that “post” button, so consider: how could what I’m about to put out in the open be taken by someone who hasn’t known me for the last 10 years?

Best thing to consider when posting: write for your audience, not for you.

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

Pet peeze, I mean, pet peeve: I hate going to a website and there are no names or faces attached, no physical physical address...but then, I don't include any of that info on my websites either - a friend went to my website and said she liked it a lot, but it seemed impersonal, without my name...sometimes I wonder if I should get one of those websites...but that seems horrible to me - my name + com, as in commercial, like I'm a brand, I myself as a person am also a brand. I think they need a new category - .author, so all the authors, wannabee authors, whomever, can have a website "" - seriously, why not? I'd pay extra bucks for a domain name if there were an .author extension. Get to work on it, Curtis Brown :)

Barbara's Spot on the Blog said...

I think having some self imposed rules and guidelines for posting are a good idea. I'm careful in what I share, how much detail. I've committed to not doing negative rants over things that have upset me and I try to keep my personal politics and religious beliefs off the airwaves.

I do love blogging though and I'd enjoy doing it whether I was a published author or not.

MACS said...

blah blah blah. Thanks Seamus for bringing up the introvert/extrovert thing. I'm 50/50 on the scale, and by the time I've read HALF the posts on your blog, Nathan, I haven't got the emotional energy to post a comment, never mind write my own blog or manage all the other social networking media. What bits of extrovertism I get I have to ration on my real-live people - friends and family. I completely relate to what Munk said about the random noise. If what so many of the energetic, 20-something, internet savvy extroverts are saying is even HALF true, then too bad for me. To succeed as a writer I'll do what I have to do, and no more, but I can't possibly compete with those people. Privacy is almost beside the point. In fact I have to go and lie down now.

Anonymous said...

I'm going with a pen name.

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mira said...

Oh, that was just silly and unnecessary. But it was fun. :)

I had one last thought about this. J.K. Rowling's blog. She doesn't interact with her readers on the blog at all, but it's fun.

And yes, her books sell themselves, but my point is that people enjoy her blog despite her virtual absence. So, for authors who are very shy or socially uncomfortable, there are still ways to market oneself on the web.

Sarah Aiglen said...

In the Age of Google, writers definitely need to have a Web presence. There are challenges, but who's complaining? A career in writing is all about finding your audience. E-resources such as Twitter, Facebook, and blogs are perfect for connecting with readers.

Daisy Whitney said...

I think it's vital to be online and like Kiersten White said, you need to have your own guidelines and rules about what you will and won't share publicly. That's how you find the balance.

Mark said...

If privacy is what one wants then a life in arts is the wrong choice. The writing life is about public adoration. That doesn't mean you'll invite them all to dinner. I've been fortunate enough to meet a few of my favorite authors and get such an invitation. Facebook can be a good venue for forming alliances too.

Molly O'Neill said...

I started pondering this question from a slightly different angle on my blog this week, under the header of "On Resonance & Responsibility". I definitely don't have the answers, but it's spurred some interesting conversation in the comments.

Anonymous said...

My level of privacy is so important to me that I actually left a semi-public role in a specific subculture in my previous job. Granted, I was also giving way to nesting instincts, but another priority was to give myself more time for writing.

It's the Catch-22 that I faced of wanting to reach my audience/making my message known, and still protect the amount of space needed to have the clarity to write. I did establish relationships w/in that subculture who can market me so that's good, but I also quit Facebook, share my blog w/ the most intimate crowd possible, in addition to staying home. And the question begs, were I to have something significant published, and it be requested of me to "go public," could I do this? Well, I'm not there yet, so it's not something to get worked up about.

But the point is, I left a lot of that public mumbo jumbo to leave the distractions that interrupted the parts of my life that I want to protect that enable clarity of mind to write. So if I then try to push myself out there, how much would that lend to becoming a better writer and writing subsequent, more challenging works? B/c I know what it's like to sacrifice that precious anonymous time, I think that the biggest devastation for me is to feel kept from a life that nourishes and enhances my writing; a private life that supports mental clarity and focus. So I would stick with my own established boundaries. I hated Facebook when I had it, see Twitter as a useless source of self-gratification, and that wouldn't change if I were pressured to sell work by selling myself.

However, I have spoken in front of audiences/workshops, and know that if I published a work that draws others to invite me to speak on the topic, then I would entertain that option, while still respecting my family time. I would have to be the one setting the boundaries to be happy, and to maintain the future of my writing.

Lucy Coats said...

Some really good points here. I write for children, and it's difficult to walk the line between my readers (5-teen) and parents/teachers/librarians who are going to be the people who actually buy my books. So--I put a certain amount of info out on my website (which is almost entirely for kids), I have a FB fanpage, I tweet (hopefully in an interesting and amusing way), and I blog about writing and how I do it. Privacy is important--so I take a leaf out of Robin McKinley's book and give family, friends. places aliases. I try never to put my birthdate up--and I write under my maiden name not my married one, which I never ever use online. That way I can create an author persona which has truth to it and authenticity, but am still able to keep my family and the things which really matter private. It's surprisingly easy to do.

Lucy Coats @

Sarah Duncan said...

I started blogging and Twittering, because my publisher wanted me to. I concentrate on writing techniques/craft and how to get published - I'm a creative writing tutor as well as a novelist so that makes it easier.

I'm careful not to put anything up that would impinge on my family and friends and try to remember that anyone could be reading it - including my agent and editor. But at least I control the content.

Far more intrusive are journalists who are keen to interview you IF you're prepared to wash some dirty laundry in public, but aren't interested otherwise.

There's a real pressure to trade your private life - which usually means sex life - for media coverage.
Shame mine's so boring!

Anonymous said...

My concern in all of this is actual privacy. For example, what happens when readership builds and fans want to find out even more about the author than they should have a right to know? All they have to do is go on Intelius or any of the other people finders, pay a small fee, and find address and phone number (along with such personal info as age, divorce, income, names of children and spouse(s). It's all out there, right now, whether or not you ever used the Internet yourself). I know someone who has received unwanted phone calls. Writers need physical privacy if they are to produce; good writing takes time and it's hard work. Reaching the public is great, but what happens when the public starts reaching into your ACTUAL private life? What does the savvy author do about that?

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