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I posted these opinions on The Midnight Hour last summer and the responses were very interesting. Someone here at FFF asked about whether or not to have a website before being published, and another person mentioned editors & agents surfing the net. I thought everyone at FFF might be interested in reading the opions of some of the top editors and agents in publishing, including:

Deidre Knight, Literary Agent, The Knight Agency, Monique Patterson, Senior Editor, St. Martin’s Press, Diana Gill, Executive Editor, HarperCollins, Erika Tsang, Senior Editor, Avon Books, Nancy Yost, Literary Agent, Lowenstein-Yost Associates Inc., Christina M. Brashear, Publisher, Samhain Publishing LTD., Michele Bidelspach, Assistant Editor, Warner Books, Audrey LaFehr, Editorial Director, Kensington Publishing Corp., Paige Wheeler, Literary Agent, Folio Literary Management, Leah Hultenschmidt, Editor, Dorchester Publishing, Signe L. Pike, Assistant Editor, The Random House Publishing Group,

 

“I always check out an author’s website and blog if I’m considering offering representation, and have in the past discovered nasty comments on blogs or message boards from authors—although that’s been from writers whose work I chose to pass on. Still, when you consider that the next book might have been “the one” it really doesn’t make sense to publicly “diss” me or any other agent/editor for that matter. You’d be amazed how many clients I didn’t sign on for that first book they submitted. I think the problem rests in authors taking a rejection as a personal affront. That’s why I prefer the word “pass” over the term “rejection” because it’s much less loaded, and much closer to the truth—it’s a temporary “pass” not an ultimate rejection. Oftentimes that first work that we see just isn’t the magic one, but a later manuscript turns out to be a perfect fit.” Deidre Knight, Literary Agent, The Knight Agency

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“If it’s a first time author, I don’t go looking for a website because I figure there isn’t one yet–unless the author or agent tells me that they have already put a website into place. For already published authors (print or electronic) I will pop over to their websites to check them out. It doesn’t sway my decision about the book, but if it’s a good website it can give me a good initial feeling for the author’s savvy and their ability to reach out to the audience.” Monique Patterson, Senior Editor, St. Martin’s Press

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“I don’t have time to check things all the time, but yes, I definitely think that having a professional website/blog is important. When I do check things out, I’ve been amazed at what people will say on the web, and then be surprised that someone else knows about it.

If they wouldn’t say it to the person directly, then they shouldn’t put it on a site/blog, imo….

Of course, I also believe that applies to editors, publishers, reviewers, etc. as well.” Diana Gill, Executive Editor, HarperCollins

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“Yes, I do take a look at the author’s website to get a feel for her personality, what it would be like to work with this person, if she would be receptive to my comments about her work. I would want my relationship with authors to be professional and respectful, so I’d expect to see that on any blog. And if a published author is unhappy about something, I think she should go directly to her editor to address the problem. Posting complaints on a blog rather than communicating with your editor is just unprofessional as well as counterproductive.” Erika Tsang, Senior Editor, Avon Books
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Yes, I will review an author’s presence on the web–how they present themselves visually and the content of their website or blog. In today’s marketplace, having a professional look to your website is as important appearing and behaving professionally in public. More and more people are learning to use the internet and having their visit to your “world” easy to navigate and pleasant in appearance is very crucial–not everyone has the same equipment or could be visually challenged. Samhain’s marketing guru has set up an advertising group and has regular classes on topics such as this.

How can an author be taken seriously as an author when they use a free hosting services like geocities? eBook authors have a harder row to hoe, this is one area they should pay serious attention to. I liken a sloppy website to wearing ratty clothes to a public appearance, it doesn’t show you take who you are seriously.” Christina M. Brashear, Publisher, Samhain Publishing LTD.
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“I do check out the websites of authors I’m considering, and I am absolutely influenced by the tone of the dialog (or, more accurately I suppose, the monolog).

All the maxims you hear in life hold true in webworld: ‘no one likes a complainer, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all, don’t air your dirty laundry, it’s better to be silent and thought a fool than to open the mouth and prove it to be true’; and let’s not forget that what you complain about often reveals your own flaws more clearly than what you’re complaining about. I could go on, but you get the idea. In two words: sour grapes!

Now, I’m the first person to realize that publishing is a frustrating and sometimes seemingly incompetent business, but the minute someone blames another for their lack of success the usual impression it leaves is:
a)an unwillingness to take responsibility for their own mistakes,
b) a personality that I don’t necessarily want to deal with (if they complain about x. will they complain about me? will they ever be satisfied?),
c) (most often) a person with only a partial grasp of how publishing works, and
d) a lack of judgment and/or common sense (who knows who’s looking at your site?! Not everyone is trustworthy or rooting for your success– come on, people, get a clue!)

If the writing is absolutely fabulous, would that stop me? Let’s just say, the more obstacles there are, the more amazing the work has to be. Who needs that kind of handicap?” Nancy Yost, Literary Agent, Lowenstein-Yost Associates Inc.

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“When I get a manuscript in that I do really like, I usually check the author’s website to get a sense of their previous books and how they market themselves. It’s rare that I read blogs in situations like these, just because of time constraints. But nothing sends a red flag up faster than an author badmouthing people in the business. Publishing is a small world–you’ve got to be careful not to burn any bridges because you never know what might happen or who might end up where. And a quick google search means anyone can find it…and forward the link along to everyone they know.” Michele Bidelspach, Assistant Editor, Warner Books

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“I am probably the last person to ask about blogs as I never visit them or read them. Occasionally I hear about the gossip and am surprised. Authors should consider themselves to be writing professionals; I can’t imagine other professionals in our business (editors, agents, sales people, etc.) dissing one another in a public forum. We may talk privately, but it’s important to know where and when and to whom to say what.

Yes, I usually do check an author’s website if I’m interested in buying, but mainly it’s to fill in missing information (usually about publishing history) from the agent’s or author’s pitch letter. A good website is certainly a plus!” Audrey LaFehr, Editorial Director, Kensington Publishing Corp.
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“Research on a potential new author for my list if vital. When I get a query, I generally check out the author’s website and blog (if listed). If they have previously sold, I use bookscan and check out their sales figures and review previous books on Amazon. I think a professional website is a key selling tool for connecting with readers and should be professional. It should not only deliver a sense of the author’s personality, but also give a sense of mood their book (or books) are trying to portray. A couple of things each website should have is a history of previously published and upcoming books, an author bio, and a guest log. The guest log is super important because it allows you to contact readers when you have news to share (like an upcoming book). Many authors also have a blog on their website. Again, this should be professional in nature. Since not only readers but also editors and agents check out websites and blogs, authors should tread carefully about airing their grievances in public. You want to promote a positive image and this is your platform to do just that.” Paige Wheeler, Literary Agent, Folio Literary Management.
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“When I receive a manuscript I really love, I often go to the author’s website (if she has one) to see if there are any reviews, interesting notes in her bio, etc., because I’m already thinking of how we can market the story. I might take a look at a blog entry to or two, but, to be honest, I don’t spend much time on that because there are always loads of other things to do. What the website tells me more than anything is what accomplishments the author has and how savvy she is about knowing what other people will want to know. Of course, this is all just for reference and is hardly make-or-break when it comes to buying the book. I’ve been fortunate in that I haven’t come across any public complaints about agents or editors, which would definitely raise a red flag.” Leah Hultenschmidt, Editor, Dorchester Publishing
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“When I receive a project from a literary agent that really piques my interest, one of the first things I do is check out the author’s website, if it’s given. I think well maintained websites are a must in todays publishing world — it gives me an excellent idea of an author’s self-promotion abilities and an instant understanding of their level of professionalism.” Signe L. Pike, Assistant Editor, The Random House Publishing Group

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Some food for thought for all of the authors regarding maintaining an up-to-date professional-looking website–and truly not only agents and editors agree, but it’s just common sense to avoid public dissing.

At a conference last year, I heard an editor talk about dissing–an author was griping on a blog about how long the editor was taking, etc. etc., and the editor said the work was good, but she will *never* buy anything from that author because of her public griping about said publisher and editor. If you’re going to gripe, do it in private with a friend who won’t forward your email to someone else.

I’d like to thank again all of the agents and editors who took the time to respond to my questions!

Chey

Comments

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
frost_light
Mar. 2nd, 2008 03:33 pm (UTC)
Excellent post, Cheyenne! Blogs can feel private at times, like chatting with a few friends, but of course the reality is that you're putting something in writing on the world wide web. More people could be reading than you'd ever expect, and anything you say can and will be used against you if it offends someone. These agent and editor responses are a reminder of that.

Plus, because she's my editor and I'm happy for her, I wanted to add that Erika Tsang is now Executive editor at Avon, having recently been promoted. Yay Erika!
cheymccray
Mar. 2nd, 2008 10:14 pm (UTC)
Yes, and it's making me think, too. My biggest weakness is stressing and letting it show. It's an internal struggle, it's nothing negative about anyone else, it's just something that tends to burst out of me about every few months. Then I'm good for another quarter. :o)
cheymccray
Mar. 2nd, 2008 10:15 pm (UTC)
Oh, and congrats to Erika!
anywherebeyond
Mar. 2nd, 2008 04:19 pm (UTC)
Times, they are a'changin', but they don't change that much. I had a very early, proto-website in '97 or '98, and managed to unsnag an agent because I had fan fiction on it. I don't think that's such a big deal now, but at the time, it was a dealbreaker.

And I had an agent tell me straight up- don't complain about how hard writing is, don't talk about rejection, and don't talk smack about anybody. I didn't believe her when she said HOW small the writing world was. At least, until I got a comment one day from an author whose book I'd mentioned buying because the cover was pretty. She wanted to know what I thought of the insides. :D (Glad it was that and not smack talk!)

- Saundra Mitchell
cheymccray
Mar. 2nd, 2008 10:18 pm (UTC)
Wow. Ten years ago I didn't even know what a website was! I never listened to my software developer dh. LOL.

Interesting about talking about how difficult writing can be is something that may turn someone off. It's not an easy process and we can learn from one another. It's a lot of hard work to learn the craft. More food for thought.
casaubon
Mar. 3rd, 2008 09:19 am (UTC)
And I had an agent tell me straight up- don't complain about how hard writing is

That's odd advice, since that theme is fairly constant across all the writer's blogs I read. :)
(Deleted comment)
cheymccray
Mar. 2nd, 2008 05:21 pm (UTC)
I won't even look at a site with blinking banners or cursors that look like little animals when you move them, or have things bouncing across the scrren, or that have that animated woman who talks to you. Drives me nuts. I just go somewhere else.
yasminegalenorn
Mar. 2nd, 2008 09:43 pm (UTC)
Or music. Pisses me off when music comes blaring over what I'm playing on my computer, or the silence that I may not want broken.

Great post, Chey. Mind if I link to it?

Yasmine
cheymccray
Mar. 2nd, 2008 10:02 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes. The music! Drives me nuts on MySpace. You go to visit a page and music blares out before you have the chance to turn your speakers down!

Sure, link away. :o)
jer_bear711
Mar. 3rd, 2008 11:09 pm (UTC)
Be plagued no more! Just edit your MySpace profile, click on Account Settings, then Miscellaneous, and uncheck both boxes under Music Players. People's music will never automatically play again, and neither will yours. :-)

--Jeri
(Deleted comment)
cheymccray
Mar. 2nd, 2008 10:05 pm (UTC)
This is more great feedback and advice, and I appreciate it.
(Deleted comment)
cheymccray
Mar. 3rd, 2008 02:18 am (UTC)
I've run across that same thing--no info on the books just as you mention above. It makes me a little frustrated as a reader, especially if I'm considering trying a new author.

Also when I organize panels--if I want to ask someone to speak I need to know if they're a good fit for that panel, and if I can't find the info I move on.

I didn't think your thoughts came across disjointed at all. It was all well said. Ouch on the migraine. Hope you're feeling better!
dpeterfreund
Mar. 2nd, 2008 08:24 pm (UTC)
I'm one of those authors that Deidre Knight picked up after a pass. She's sold six books for me since I signed with her in 2005.
cheymccray
Mar. 2nd, 2008 10:06 pm (UTC)
Deidre isn't my agent, but I just love her to pieces. One of the nicest, most genuine people you can meet.
cheymccray
Mar. 2nd, 2008 10:11 pm (UTC)
As a sort of aside...

When I originally posted this sometime back, someone linked to it and said, "What happened to our freedom of speech?"

I said "Nothing." You have the right to put whatever you want on your website or blog.

BUT, editors and agents have the right to freedom of speech and freedom of choice, too. They have the right to choose who they want to work with, and your freedom of speech may help them make that choice.

We all have the right to speak and to choose. So perhaps choosing what one says in public is a way to look at it.
misque_writer
Mar. 5th, 2008 04:09 am (UTC)
It's interesting what a spectrum there is, from agents who check the internet immediately, to those who really never read blogs and don't care. I imagine no agent wants to be bad-mouthed, however.
cheymccray
Mar. 5th, 2008 04:21 am (UTC)
I think that's like all of us--we don't like to hear negative things about ourselves. I can understand where editors and agents are coming from. If I was in their shoes, I know I'd feel the same way.
misque_writer
Mar. 5th, 2008 04:31 am (UTC)
Yeah, it makes sense. I would feel the same way. I think agents are also justified in asking themselves, "Would this person behave professionally?"
(Anonymous)
Mar. 5th, 2008 01:32 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes. This is a very important topic.
First, thanks to Misque for letting me know about this conversation. Anytime an aspiring author can glean wisdom from industry professionals, it's a very good thing!

Having a book review blog, Enduring Romance, I can say that, yes, most definitely a Web Presence can be vital. Just like public speaking, some authors and aspiring authors are not well-suited to building websites and blogging. Here's the thing - you can learn! Hey, I'm an introvert and I aced Public Speaking in college. I had an excellent professor who helped me capitalize on my strengths. If I could do that, an author can capitalize on her strengths in this area too.

I think all authors should at least have a website. When I review a novel at Enduring Romance, if a reader likes it she wants to learn more about the author and if the author has more books like that one. At the very least, she can pop over to a website and learn that. If the author comments under the review and/or maintains a fun blog, all the better. I've learned through Enduring Romance that the author is a part of the magic of the story. The better she's able to connect with the reader, the more enthusiastic the reader will be about the story.

Authors and aspiring authors should also keep in mind that certain readers are more likely to be active on the Internet than others. If you write any flavor of Science Fiction, for example, having a Web Presence is essential.

Anyway, that's what I've learned through my own experience with my book reviewing blog - enduringromance.blogspot.com
(Anonymous)
Mar. 5th, 2010 11:56 pm (UTC)
I read a few topics. I respect your work and added blog to favorites
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