Some people have been asking me about the ins and outs of author websites, especially for aspiring authors — whether I pay attention to them, whether (and how much) original material to put on the Internet, and whether to include websites in queries.
Honestly this is something I’ve kind of avoided blogging about simply because I don’t know if there’s yet a consensus on what exactly author websites should entail, how much energy authors should devote to them, and whether original work should be posted therein. So please pretend that there’s a big warning label affixed to this blog post: publishing professional opinion may vary.
My own personal feeling is that every author out there is doing themselves a disservice if they don’t have some sort of a Google-able web presence with an e-mail address. Often I’ll come across a short story or an article that strikes me (ouch!), and I’ll try and track down the author, sometimes to no avail. Avail, authors, avail! You know what they say, opportunity can’t knock if opportunity can’t find one’s Myspace page.
The website does not have to be a web miracle. Something simple and professional is totally fine, although if you are an aspiring author, definitely don’t forget that professional part, and that goes for every single thing you post online, whether it’s a blog, blog comment, or Twitter.
On the all-important matter of how much work to post online — I think it’s fine to post some work. However, I would be very, very, very careful about posting excerpts from a novel you want to publish. If you can control the material and the amount you are posting is limited to a chapter or two and you can pull the work from the Internet at any time, I don’t think there’s necessarily a problem (but again, there are varying opinions about this).
But be exceedingly, ridiculously, copiously careful when you allow excerpts of your novel to be published in journals and/or elsewhere — not necessarily because of the risk someone stealing your work (that’s extremely rare) but rather because you might be tying up the rights. As always, know what you sign!
In query letters, yes, absolutely include a link to your website if you have one, although if you want me to see something, put it in the query — I can’t tell you how frustrated agents get at the “please click here for my query” e-mails. If we have to click on a link or an attachment to see something that could just as easily be written into the e-mail if the author had taken the time….. anger, folks. Anger. We don’t have the time and we don’t want the viruses. If you do have a website just put a link beneath your name. Simple as that. It’s like dessert — a nice bonus if we’re still hungry.
Lastly, how much time you devote to a website is up to you, although I think the jury is out (or rather, will convene in tomorrow’s You Tell Me) about how much it pays off to have a blog, expansive web presence, and whether that time is well-spent. So please stay tuned for that discussion.