The Internet and Your Career

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Apr 28 2010

I spent this week thinking a lot about blogging, Tweeting, and the Internet. I read this Huffington Post article by Jason Pinter and remembered when he was fired and the rumors and speculation that followed. I also thought of the backlash that all bloggers and Tweeters have received at one point or another and, most important, I thought about the careful line we all tread to be interesting and insightful and still keep our jobs.

Jason is certainly right when he talks about how much social networking has changed in just three short years. Three years ago I had just entered the world of blogging and was very careful about what I said and did. Other agents were critical of the few of us who blogged and hardly anyone was on Facebook. Now, though, it seems more and more agents blog and almost everyone Tweets. And Facebook. Well, I have 730 “friends,” few of whom I actually know personally. While I agree that publishing is embracing social networking and it’s a good thing, I’m not always sure that everyone is embracing it in a way that’s helping them.

As many of you know, I’m a very occasional Tweeter (you can find me at @BookEndsJessica), a regular blogger, and I have a public Facebook page (Jessica Faust BookEnds). With each post, Tweet, or status update I make I think carefully about my audience and how I want to be perceived. I also have a private Facebook page where I let it all hang out (without the photos) and am very careful about allowing only friends and family in as “friends.” The truth is while I don’t have a boss in the context of someone else sitting in my office whom I answer to, I still have a number of bosses in the form of my clients. I also have to answer to editors and other publishing professionals and want them to only see “work Jessica.” Not all the other Jessicas that my poor family has to see.

We’ve talked a great deal about building your brand as a published author and what you want others to see and know about you and what you probably should or shouldn’t post on these pages. What we haven’t often talked about is who you allow in as your friends. The other day I logged into Jessica Faust BookEnds to see a very political status on one of my “friend’s” pages. It was the kind of status that was sure to provoke some heavy debate and the kind of status that contained information I probably don’t want to know about clients or potential clients. I think a lot of unpublished writers out there forget that seeking publication is a job search, and like any job search you probably want to be careful about what potential future employers (I’m thinking publishers here) know about you. Do you really want every tirade, every sick day, or every political rant cataloged for the world to see?

I’m happy to have lots of “friends” on my Facebook page, but I wonder, if you’re going to be my “friend,” would you better serve yourself to also have a public and private page for the two yous? Do you really want your future agent, for example, to see your spring break photos, your daughter’s first trip to the potty, or hear about your rather extreme political views?


60 responses to “The Internet and Your Career”

  1. This is one of the reasons that I use a pseudonym for my online presence. I don't want any crossover from my business (not writing related) and my writing.

  2. Avatar steeleweed says:

    If you really want to find out about someone, you probably can, but why make it easy? Keep your personal life private as much as you can.

    I have multiple websites now and may start more. One domain is my name, partly to keep anyone else from co-opting it. That domain currently is IT-related but will become an author site when I retire from the IT world, write full-time and (hopefully) launch my books on an unsuspecting world. This will be my Internet presence as an author.

    In the next year, I will also start an 'indie press' and this will have its own Internet presence as a publisher.

    I have a personal website and may build more for different content. All the websites and any content will be unrelated and probably not cross-linked.

  3. Avatar Cyndy Aleo says:

    You raise an interesting question: how homogenized does an online presence have to be for a writer?

    I had an Internet presence for years under a pseudonym before I started freelancing. Because so much of my work is done for clients I never meet in person, I've been fairly careful about what I post. No pictures of my children, for instance, nor do I use their real names. At the same time, however, I am who I am, and things I feel strongly about, such as civil rights for domestic partners, will creep into the links I post on social media sites.

    I remain conscious of everything I post, but at the same time, I think it's important to be genuine instead of trying to homogenize myself. I would worry constantly that someone would find out through a big "reveal" if I tried to whitewash my personality too much.

    In all honesty, if an agent or publisher was offended by a link to, say, the Human Rights Campaign I posted on Facebook, I'm better off not working with them at the outset than having it come up later.

    The younger generation, however, has grown up online, and I've seen a lot of the drunken Spring Break photos, etc. I've also covered stories about individuals who were accused of a crime in a story that ran in campus newspapers or similar publications who cannot get the Google results stripped because the campuses refuse to pull their archives.

    The Internet preserves forever, and I think the detritus of poor decisions will eventually mean less as those of us "old schoolers" are replaced with generations who all share the same online history, including both the good and the bad. Total transparence will someday be the norm.

  4. Avatar Kimber An says:

    I had to tread that careful line during the last presidential election, because I live in Alaska and having our governor chosen as a vice-presidential nominee was the most exciting thing to happen since the PFD, regardless of politicial affiliation. I couldn't not say anything on my personal blog! It was a learning experience and that was for sure. The big thing I learned is people are a lot more divided down party lines in the Lower 48 than they are here in Alaska. Example, our democrat senator is a member of the NRA.

  5. Avatar Alexis Grant says:

    This is something everyone should think about, not just writers.

    Social media is useful in so many ways, the biggest of which is networking. And I find it works best when I let my personality shine through, when I give a glimpse of what I'm like as a person.

    But that doesn't mean letting it all hang out. I'm still smart about what I put out there for the world to see. And each network has its place: on LinkedIn, I'm professional because I'm connected with colleagues and potential bosses; on Facebook I'm personal because I'm only friends with people I'm actually friends with (when I break my own rule on that front, I use a limited profile setting); Twitter is a combination of the two.

    I've written a good deal about social media on my blog, including this post that might be helpful for your readers… How to use Facebook to — shhh — promote your book:


  6. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I hear you. I'm allergic to most time sucking social networking. I barely have enough time to write, much less spend two hours catching up with people I don't even know.

    However, I did start checking in on the tweeting agent that had my ms for eight months, and while her emails to me were of the I'm-so-sorry-I-haven't-gotten-back-to-you-yet-about-your-requested-ms-and-revisions; I'm-just-so-boged-down-with-work variety, her tweets were packed with taking "long" weekends, attending any and every play, movie, restaurant, envelope opening in NYC, and regular, squeals of fleeing the office to have fun, like she was a teenager whose parents were out of town.

    Don't get me wrong, everyone has the right to take a break, have a life, and enjoy themselves to the fullest — but why act (in an email) as if all of New York publishing is on your shoulders when, truthfully, you're not getting back to me simply because you don't want to?

    I kept thinking, doesn't she know I can read these tweets?

    The same thing happend with an editor that had an (agented) ms of mine. She'd taken it to acquisitions, where it had "passed" but she just wasn't sure yet. She kept me waiting for eleven months. I'd read her blog — the woman traveled more than humanly possible. It was San Diego to visit friends one week, an Asian country the next, an annual family get together in Aspen, and then, a full week in Florida. Oh, and the requisite "writer's conference" to "give back," tucked somewhere in there. I'm not exaggerating. I've never seen anything like it. No wonder it took her 11 months to decide she didn't want my ms — she was only home for five minutes.

  7. A good reminder to all of us to be wary of our internet footprint. Writers seeking publication can no longer enjoy the luxury of being "anonymous".

  8. I don't put that stuff on my personal Facebook anyways. Even my friends and family don't need to see my dirty laundry thrown out there. (And I'm of the internet generation since I'm only 23.)

  9. Avatar WendyCinNYC says:

    I don't know–most of my favorite writer's blogs/tweets/status updates have personal stuff mixed in. I mean, how many times can I read BUY MY BOOK or MY WRITING PROCESS before I lose interest?

    Jennifer Weiner is a master at mixing the personal and professional in social media. In part because it so closely matches her writing style.

    ITA about the extreme political views. Unless, of course, that's the subject of your book.

  10. I often talk about this concept, which is referred to in marketing circles as "online reputation management."

    Privacy, in many ways, is an illusion. Most people don't read the terms of service for any website that they use — including blogging or social media platforms.

    My online presence has actually helped me because I knew what the ramifications were before I started building my presence.

    If you're interested, I wrote an article for SFWA available here: Thinking About Your Writer’s Platform? Consider Your Online Reputation First.

  11. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Kimber An– I'm Alaskan too, and your excitement was my dismay. To many Alaskans that governor was an embarrassment, and as time goes by she only becomes moreso.

    I'm surprised you haven't noticed any of this sentiment in Alaska. Sometimes perhaps we seek out the society of those who agree with us.

  12. Avatar Philangelus says:

    I've been building a following on my blog for a couple of years now, and a lot of it does deal with family stuff. But it's not just "Look, my kid's first trip to the potty" as much as it is the funny story about the kid's trip to the potty and the way mothers connect with other mothers (because those would be the audience for my fiction anyhow). It's the humor in life that my blog tries to evoke, and I know many other writers are doing the same thing. It's tribe-building.

    As a previous comment said, there's only so many times a visitor will read "BUY MY BOOK!!!1!!" before the visitor doesn't come back because the writer sounds like a cardboard cut-out. Many blog readers want personality and heart, not just information.

    I do limit what goes out there, though, in terms of politics or anything that would make me sound more bizarre than I already do. 🙂

  13. Avatar Cheryl says:

    With Facebook, I have all my friends separated into lists and permissions locked up tight. My philosophy is to approach Facebook the same way George Costanza approaches relationships.

    "If Relationship George walks through this door, he will kill Independent George. A George divided against itself cannot stand!"

  14. We had a discussion about this a couple of months ago. Somehow the Civil War came up. Having studied parts of it and many of the primary actors in it, I had a more than passing knowledge of some things. Basically, it was presented that a southern general was a racist, the south only fought to preserve slavery, etc etc etc. When I said that particular general actually never owned slaves and wrote extensively and publicly that owners should train their slaves so they could be self-sufficient and slavery should be abolished.

    I got branded a racist and liar by some and the insults flew.

    I am very, very pro-troops and not bashful about expressing my support for them. Someone suggested I should avoid anything political because it could affect my ability to get an agent or a publisher.

    I discussed this with my writer's group. A friend said, do you really want an agent who is anti-troops and would hold this against you anyway?

    It was a valid question.

    However, I did make a new account for twitter for when the conversations become more political.

    This sword swings both ways, though. I took one agent off my list after one of his political rants on the official agency blog. I took another one off the list when he/she was talking about they didn't want any GD this or that. Being a Christian, that bothered me to be in an official submission guideline.

    On the other hand, several people complained when Janet Reid referred readers to Rachelle Gardner's blog for some very good writing advice. Since she reps Christian material, it was no surprise many of her regular readers are Christians. Some of the new readers were outraged that Christians were commenting and they were "forced" to read comments from Christians. Poor dears. They completely missed the point of the excellent writing advice.

    If an agent can keep their personal beliefs totally out of their working relationship, then I think it's fine to be very non-committal. If they can't, I would like to know ahead of time and save us both time and aggravation.

  15. Avatar Kimber An says:

    Actually, anon, I haven't paid attention to it since then.

  16. I've thought and talked a lot about this with friends. I'm careful what I say, do, post online, but I hope I don't sap my FB page and blog posts of all personality because I'm careful.

    I did 'unfriend' someone on FB because her posts were sooo political (and not in a good way) that I felt the urge to lash out at her extremely bigoted (In my opinion) views. It could have made me look bad, I suppose, if I said what I wanted to say! Context is everything, and remarks can so easily be taken out of context on the 'net.

    It's a balancing act!

  17. Avatar Fawn Neun says:

    I have to disagree, but only to a point. I think it depends on HOW you want to brand yourself as an author. In the past, our literary heroes have been men and women of strong opinion and larger than (our) lifestyles. If you political position is part of what you write about, why pretend to be anything else, or to have no opinion whatsoever. How dull.

    Now, in the 'publishing business' – for those who are editors and agents and publishing executives, I can see where keeping a vanilla internet presence is a necessity. You need to do 'business' and you don't want anyone to be prejudice against what you're bringing to the table because of your political or social views.

    But is this the correct attitude for an artist? Writers are artists, or should be, and yes we have to be careful about offending people, but I think it's part of our job to express our perspective and I don't see a problem with tying that in to some degree in our 'marketing' or social networking.

    Even though I'm straight and married, I have strong feelings about LGBT equality issues and I'm not afraid or ashamed to admit that in public. It's part of what I write; I have strong LGBT characters in my fiction and I'm pretty sure that anyone who disagrees with my position violently isn't going to like my writing, anyway. Why should to have any other view?

    I'm also all about humanism, and I suspect that anyone who is die-hard religious isn't going to appreciate my work, either.

    I forgot who said it, but what I remember is to write what you love, be who you are, then find your audience – there will be one. If that means losing a deal with a homophobic or religious publisher/reader/agent, well it's not like they were going to take on any of my work in any capacity whatsoever.

    On the other hand, I don't think there's any reason to be a jackass or talk about your medical problems, etc.

    I have also noticed, to my GenX independent horror, that younger audiences seem to love the interaction with their entertainers. A lot of what's becoming a driving force in the arts is the interaction between creator and audience. It's been happening a lot more in the music industry in the last 6-10 years and just catching on in literature. I think the global village has become so big and complicated and busy and overwhelming that personal relationships matter. Audiences crave a personal experience and make emotional investments in their entertainers now. One way to develop that is to admit to being human; small joys, small failures, insecurities, personal beliefs, meatloaf recipes, etc.

    Much of what is and will be happening in publishing (as an entertain form, not as a business) seems to follow what has happened recently in the music industry. What seems to be acceptable for the 'traditional' old-school big-house publishers might not be the best approach for the publishing industry that is emerging.

    Again, I think it really depends on what kind of writing you're doing and how you really want to brand yourself as a writer. There's room for all sorts, at any rate, and what's best for a Hunter S. Thompson might not be the best for Nora Roberts. People are deliciously complicated and confusing and no size fits all – on either the writer's end or on the reader's end.

  18. Avatar Silver James says:

    Jessica, I lurk a lot, reading every day but so very seldom respond. Today, I want to thank you. My political views, religion, philosophy, or life style is no one's business but my own, my family's, and a few select friends. I don't share outside of that circle. Conversely, as a writer/reader, I don't need (or WANT!) to know the same about other writers, agents, or editors. The only time such information might become relevant is if I'm considering working with a person and diametrically opposed views could create friction in that professional relationship. At that point, I'll discuss it with the party in question.

    I'm a fiction writer. I want people to buy and read my books because I tell a great story not because they agree or disagree with my views. I hope they get to "know" me through the personality I exhibit on my website/blog and in my comments to blogs. A little bit of personal info goes a long way. Anything else is, to use a internetism, TMI!

  19. Avatar Fawn Neun says:

    @Julie Weathers –
    I'm a secular humanist, and I think Rachelle Gardener is awesome. I have a great deal of respect for her and the integrity with which she follows her vision to create in the world. She's a good, helpful, professional agent and I can't understand how anyone can complain about her. I follow her blog… er… religiously. 😉

  20. Avatar Heidi Willis says:

    An interesting discussion here. I've often wondered what people are thinking when they post rants, especially divisive ones, and what could be deemed offensive tweets.

    I have to be careful about content on facebook because I have quite a few teens that have "friended" me that I'm hyper-aware of. I have family and my husband's co-workers that follow the blog.On twitter it's mostly professionals.

    I choose to be positive, safe, and somewhat surface personal. If I become uber-famous maybe that will change. For now, my personal and professional are closely intertwined, so I try to make each blog post, status update, and tweet appropriate for both.

  21. Avatar Kim Lionetti says:

    Honestly, I think some of you are missing the point.

    While editors and agents will hopefully keep their own personal religious/political beliefs out of the equation when considering your work, you can't expect the same of a perspective buyer of your books. It's in a publishing professional's best interest to be as objective as possible. Readers have no such motivation. If a potential customer sees on your blog that you argue strongly against her political beliefs, she could very easily decide she doesn't want to spend her money on your mystery novel. And beggars can't be choosers when it comes to book sales. You want to open yourself up to the largest audience possible.

    So if an editor or agent turns down your work because of the content you're posting on the internet it's likely they're concerned about how professionally you will present yourself once your book is released and how it will affect your sales.

  22. My Facebook friends are a mixture of real life friends, old highschool acquaintances, family–including some nieces and nephews,writer friends I've met online, and coworkers. Because of that mix, I'm very careful about what I post. I never complain about my work, for example. I will also never rant about politics, use profanity or air dirty laundry about my family.

    If I want to rant, I go to my Livejournal, friends lock the post, and I have a pseudnym there.

    What astounds me is the way a teenage niece posts all kinds of racy things about herself. She's a smart girl, goes to Purdue, and you'd think she'd know better.

  23. Avatar Kristan says:

    Hmm. So, I'm not sure I think it's fair for anyone to be judged on something that someone else says just because it shows up on their FB page. We are not responsible for the thoughts, words, or actions of others. Yes, to some degree, the people you associate with reflect on you, but I don't think it should make or break you, particularly via a social media page.

    That said, I would like to create a public FB page so I can have a personal/private one in the future. (My Twitter account and my website/blog have always been more public than personal, so I'm less concerned about those.) But I've already let so many people become my friends at this point… I'm not sure how to go about telling the more distant ones, "Hey, sorry, can you go friend this other page instead?"

    THAT said, I don't have much to hide or much that would bother me if people knew/saw. I'm thinking more about the future, if I have kids or whatever. I'm more concerned about protecting my friends/family's privacy than my own.

  24. Avatar LilySea says:

    I have one rule: if I don't want everybody in the ENTIRE world to know, I don't put it on the Internet. Period.

    My politics and little anecdotes about my kids are there, but not in any form I wouldn't want an employer to see–or anyone else, for that matter.

    So I self-censor in some ways, but overall, I'm a pretty above-board person. So there isn't much about me I have a problem with people knowing.

  25. Avatar dawn-metcalf says:

    When I was beginning the publishing process, I had agents and editors ask why they couldn't find me on Google. (I'm actually a private person and had experimented with many styles of writing, all under pen names.) I explained that since I wrote everything from PBs to adult books, I wanted to wait until I had a debut offer before building my "brand" — that I was actually waiting for their help before alienating a potential online audience. I promised that if they gave me a year, I'd be out there.

    My goal was 500 followers on Twitter, 1000 on Facebook, blogging regularly 2-3 times weekly & be interviewed by 5 people. All those goals were met (& then some). I learned a lot about publicity and privacy.

    I don't post family pictures and never mention either of my kids' names. I delete comments that contain this information or politely ask someone to delete and rephrase. There are stances I have that I want to be known for, and other privately held beliefs that are not necessary to associate with my professional name. Balancing these things, like writing time and online promotion time, is a BIG part of this business and about being human nowadays.

    I try to keep these two things in mind: "Never betray yourself in writing" (wise words from Les Liaisons Dangereuses) & while emotions are in the moment, the Internet is searchable forever.

  26. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I've found that readers do enjoy personal author posts on social networks, with personal photos. They adore it. And if you don't post photos (because they all do) they get mad and think you are trying to scam them. Then they ignore you. And that's because there are, in fact, many scammers on facebook and the other social networks. Not posting any personal photos is almost like a red flag alert in some cases, and people get bored and move on. It also suggests a sense of superiority, in most cases unwarranted.

    Having said this, you do have to be careful what you post and what type of photos you post. And, politcal/religious comments and rants just don't work. I've seen authors do this and I've personally defriended people who insult my political beliefs with their rants. Last weekend one author must have been slammed, because he posted that he's not going to make political comments anymore. The damage, however, had already been done. People don't forget.

    And if you're going to do two facebook pages, one for work and one for family and friends, do it right from the start. If you do it after you've already established a following you'll really piss people off if you defriend them by trying to separate your fan page from family page. People don't like being defriended. I defriended one author, quietly, because he annoyed me, and he actually contacted me about it with an e-mail, wondering what had happened. I had to lie, and tell him I'd made a mistake. Then I had to apologize to him for making the mistake because I would have looked bad. I don't like him, but didn't want to lose his contact.

    To be honest, and I'm not saying this is a mean way, I've seen a few agents on facebook and other social networks, and frankly I think some are taking themselves a little too seriously. In their world, they are known because there are tons of unpubbed authors trying to get to them. However, this attitude of being "hard to reach" only works with unpubbed authors. The rest of the world just doesn't care.

    This was a good blog post in the sense that authors (everyone) has to be careful what they post on social networks, especially if they are promoting something. But I'm not sure whether you are getting the dynamics behind social networks, especially when it comes down to author/reader releationship. Readers want as much personal info as they can get, and the author has to be smart enough to know how much personal info they want to give without losing too much privacy. And without pissing people off.

  27. Avatar Malia Sutton says:

    I was excited, too, Kimber An. But I kept it to myself through the entire election for fear they'd all attack me.

    With all these loud people on the Internet, Kimber An, I have a feeling people like us were the silent majority in the last election.

    And please, politcal people, don't comment on this comment. I don't care what you all think. Like Kimber An, I've moved on.

  28. Avatar Chris says:

    This is something I have struggled with quite a bit, and even blogged about recently. As an author trying to secure an agent, I have to wonder how my blog and my Twitter feed might influence that decision.

    My first instinct when I started querying was to censor everything, but soon I wasn't saying anything at all. I realized that if I was going to "build my brand," the only brand I could commit to was the real me – a person of strong opinions, politically and personally. I still think about what I post, but often it's to remind myself to be courageous and express myself.

    Part of me says that any agent who turns me down because I'm an outspoken liberal or because of my sexual orientation is probably not an agent with whom I want to form a long-term relationship. What I do fear, however, is that an agent will see that I express strong opinions and figure that I must be hard to work with – which is so not the case!

    But then there's the voice in the back of my head that keeps reminding me I'm an unpublished aspiring writer, not Gore Vidal. Maybe I'm totally shooting myself in the foot and I should be playing by the rules of cocktail parties and avoiding religion and politics (even though I don't even do that at cocktail parties). Maybe strong opinions are reserved for writers earning three figures a year, and the rest of us plebes should keep quiet until we have a three-book deal and Jon Stewart calls up.

    Jessica, I'm willing to put myself out there for science. You already have an e-query from me currently pending. If you care to take the time to glance at my blog (linked below) or my Twitter (it's on my blog) and share how it does or does not color your feelings toward a prospective new client, I PROMISE I won't throw any tantrums or freak out.

  29. Avatar Janine says:

    This is one of the trickiest aspects of almost any business these days. I find myself disagreeing often with many tweets and blogs I see from writers and agents that deal with political issues. Most of the time, it is just a difference of opinion and no big deal–doesn't make me feel negatively about the author/blogger/agent/tweeter. However, it sometimes seems as though the attitude behind especially the overly political posts is that any sane person would agree with the author. And that is an attitude that is offensive, as I often disagree! I think when we are presenting ourselves in a public forum, especially as a form of marketing, we need to be aware of our whole audience, including those educated, intelligent and potential customers/clients who will disagree.

  30. When I created my pen name, I did so as a conscious effort to separate myself from my real life identity, and also the previous online handle I've been using for the last ten years. No one needs to know my political views to enjoy my writing – I have a blog on a big political website under my handle for that.

  31. Avatar RJS says:

    I try to follow LilySea's rule; as a result, I find myself saying less as I get older and theoretically wiser about the many ways in which one's words can come back to haunt one. But I'm Gen X, and didn't grow up immersed in this stuff.

  32. Avatar WriterGirl says:

    this is really good point. i've recently added an agent or two that i hope to query in the future to my facebook page to keep up with their updates but i never really thought about them seeing my information…i don't think i'd want my future agent to see some of my university photos or realise how many pictures i take of my cat. i suppose it's not likely that an agent will facebook search me or reject me based on some photos but i agree it's a good idea to have a professional profile.

  33. it's curious that no one brought up the major zeitgeist that is "transparency". in governments and corporations, salaries and expense accounts and travel. celebrities and paparazzi and blogs like perez. twittering as the new celebrity self-reveal. memoirs, blogs, and gps tracking. the sites where you can post every purchase you make. there's a huge debate going on in the medical professions – doctors: should they tweet or does it cross the line into too personal?

    i've been working as a medical intuitive – a real live practical psychic – for over a decade. to me, there's always been transparency, and now western culture is catching up to folks whose circuitry is wired to see what's going on underneath the masks and coverups.

    in the animal world, there are all sorts of tricks and lies and coverups. it's a great survival tool. but we're evolving beyond that. what sort of society would it be if there were no more lies?

  34. If you use social networking to increase your 'tribe', then what you say should be pitched to entertain others–not yourself, but others.

    And just as a publishable novel can be extremely personal and opinionated, your online presence can also splash your personality around freely.

    The thing to remember is you speak to an audience, and your goal is to say something they're interested in hearing.

    You're not there to be self-indulgent; you're doing your job as an entertainer.

  35. Avatar terripatrick says:

    Thanks Jessica and all those that commented. I was an insider to the internet during the early stages and very cautious about my first public presence.

    I don't do ideas and beliefs confrontations yet love learning others opinions. So if you have strong opinions and beliefs on a topic, you'll be heard by more people if you are expressing them while not slamming others opinions.

    That said, once I did create a professional persona for the web, I soon realized I already had a presence! The real me was easy to find!

    People have found my blog from a search of my personal name. Other blogs have referenced both my names together so it's not something I can change. This is another example of – you can't control what others say or do about you.

    Which makes it even more important how you present yourself.

  36. Avatar Oliver Yeh says:

    Very valid points.

    However, it's not too late.

    If you're on Facebook, content is easily deleted.

    If you're on Twitter, you're out of luck as the Library of Congress has your goods.

  37. Avatar Lisa_Gibson says:

    It's always a good idea to keep in mind that thousands of eyes could be reading what you've put out there. As a friend of mine said, "Putting anything on the internet is like peeing in the pool." Great analogy! 🙂

  38. I hear you, Kim, (and Jessica), and I'd agree for getting an agent and editor, but not for getting readers. I never follow or read blogs of writers who keep it strictly professional, with just book announcements and the like. They're just not interesting. It's like following a commercial. Sure, it won't offend anyone, but it's not going to attract any readers. Even if I follow them, unless half of what they say is interesting or real, I hide them. I don't need to sign up for a bunch of spam. Sure, that won't offend editors and agents, but it does offend readers.

    Unless you have lots of information to impart that people actually want, (like Bookends does, so it works for you) the only thing left is to be a personality. That's it. There really is nothing else. And readers want real characters, whether they're in a book or they're you, the author.

    If you're writing about baby's first poop? I'm SO there.

  39. Avatar Oliver Yeh says:

    @Lisa_Gibson: So what we really need is a button that releases chlorine into the web to clean out our dirty laundry.

  40. Avatar jfaust says:

    Question to detractors—don't you think it's possible to edit yourself and still have personality? it seems to me that you are linking the two too closely. I believe you can have opinions, and you should share some of them. It's just that you don't need to have an opinion on everything or share every tidbit about every moment of your life.

    Moderation in everything.


  41. Oliver Yeh said: However, it's not too late. If you're on Facebook, content is easily deleted.

    Google Cache can often bring back things that have been deleted. And even if it doesn't, some ne'er-do-wells will screen-capture posts that look controversial as soon as they see them.

    Just remember: If it happens on Google, it stays on Google. If you want something kept private on the internet, you need to be very savvy about how you post it.

  42. Avatar Anthony says:


    I love this post.

    All too often what we have on Facebook and Twitter, with its 140 word character limit, is irrational or poorly positioned arguments.

    For example, political views on Facebook. Many of my friends on Facebook are guilty of ad hominem attacks, straw-man arguments or linking to opinions and articles that are not original or factually incorrect.

    There is an ocean of difference between becoming politically sexless and putting forth an empathetic viewpoint. The art of reasoned discourse is drowning under a rain of mudslinging. It has been my experience that if people took a step backwards and put some thought into what they were saying, they would become less offensive and more read.

  43. My blog tends to be more along the humorous vein and seldom has anything to do with writing. People who have to prove their expertise and then hit me over the head with their latest pearl of wisdom bore the tar out of me. My last post was about my son's habit of drawing chalk outlines of bodies on the highways as they went to rodeos. Activists who despise rodeos probably will boycott my books to prove their point. I'm all right with that. Yes, I know we need to appeal to the greatest number of readers, but I am not the proper author sitting in her parlor, drinking tea and eating scones.

    When I was researching the historical, the personal letters, diaries, ledgers, census records and even editorials were the most interesting clues about the personalities. Obviously, they weren't trying to sell books, but blast it would have been boring to try and figure out what the person was really like if they did nothing except what was pc and safe.

    Yes, I understand the need to be careful what we post. It's also good to be interesting.

    Ms. Maybelle's six years of blog posts about what a great writer she is makes me want to vomit.

    Look what Pioneer Woman has done with her quirky blog. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but at least it's entertaining.

    On an interesting aside regarding Twitter, I posted a comment about my beautiful new KitchenAid mixer having some problems. A KitchenAid rep contacted me from that one remark. She asked for my phone number and called me. Then she listened to the mixer over the phone and agreed it had an odd sound. I have a new mixer on the way.

    You just never know who is going to pick up on a remark.

  44. @Faun Newn I met Rachelle in Denver before the RMFW conference and we had dinner with my writer's group. She is even more charming in real life. She always has interesting things to say on her blog or in twitterdom, plus she is just a very sweet, fun person. I wish she repped what I write.

  45. I'm not sure I'm a detractor as I tend to agree with your original post. People do need to be careful about coming across as offensive. I think you can still have a personality and not be offensive. However, if you try to please everyone, that doesn't really work either. Just be yourself. Think about what you're saying. Don't post in anger. If a conversation starts to get heated, politely excuse yourself.

    My 2 cents.

  46. Avatar Mira says:

    I think you make a really good point, here, Jessica – although I also agree with some of the detractors as well.

    It's all very interesting because it's very new.

    Personally, I still feel that the publishing industry is erring a bit too much on the side of: be cautious, be professional. I really do think a writer's job on the web is to be entertaining – just like many here said – as a form of marketing.

    On the other hand, I think you can be entertaining without divulging too much personal information – but it's a fine line to walk.

    As for the internet being permanent – that's such an interesting point. That's true – but another perspective is that I've found it to be much more mallable and flexible than real-life relationships. My own experience is that my reputation on-line can vary drastically from one month to the next. There's a constant shift and change to the web, and people can shift, change and grow with it. That is one of it's best qualities and part of it's appeal.

    It's interesting. Social networking on the web is too new, I think, to know the impact for sure. So I think many of us are just stumbling along, blazing a trail in a new form of communication.

    Which makes these discussion so interesting.

    Re. Rachelle Garner, my understanding is that she's branching into secular publishing. I've found her to be welcoming to all creeds and beliefs on her blog – and to encourage that in her followers.

  47. Avatar Sheila Deeth says:

    Internet gives you an illusion of "I'm in my own home" safety while making what you say way more public than the guy wearing sandwich boards on the street corner. I'm still learning the ropes, trying not to be invisible, and hoping to wear a good suit of clothes as I stroll the blogosphere.

  48. Avatar Bernita says:

    "Other agents were critical of the few of us who blogged"
    But the first generation of writers who desperately searched the internet those few years ago are eternally grateful for the information and advice that you and the others like Miss Snark and Pub Rants provided.

  49. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Before I say this, let me be clear I mean this as a general observation – it is NOT, AT ALL, aimed at Jessica or anyone else specific.

    The great fallacy of the internet and – more to the point – social networking is the idea that people think having an outlet means anyone gives a flying shit what you think.

    I had a facebook page for about three days. In 3 days do you have any idea how many messages I got that said something really exciting like 'I just made chicken.' 'I feel like a beer' 'My kids are throwing snowballs.'

    I fought the urge every time I wanted to reply 'wow, your mom might care but the 5 billion people int he world think you have too much free time on your hands'

    The bottom line is, Jessica is right, you have to think about who is reading what you write. Is it professional? Does it reflect well on you? More to the point, does it have anything to do with you a s a writer, an agent or a whateveritisthatyoudo?

    I have actually stopped reading authors who can't help but use their web sites as platforms for their anti-democrat/anti-republican/pro-war/anti-war/whatever crapfests.

    They write books about fairies, dragons, teenage love, spaceships, serial killers, and a whole host of other things – none of which makes them any smarter, better informed or 'in the know' about politics, economics, social issues or anything else. The 'I have an audience so hear me bitch and moan about things' sense of authority seems too much for people resist.

    It's like people who brag on the internet about how cool they are. You are not a badass. Stop it. Badasses are generally in jail or on parole. Stop letting the internet gie you a sense that you can say what you want because no one knows who you are.

    The thing is, the fact that you are 'invisible' or just sheltered evn, means smart people take you less seriously than they would if you were sitting in front of them.

    My name is Al Rupert from Rochester NY and I am too lazy to resister for a Google account 🙂

  50. The comments on this post are so fantastic and thought-provoking they spurred me to write my own blog post.

    The short version of which is this:

    Your professional blog targets other people.

    Thus, you are playing for an audience. If your post will educate or entertain others, then it's an excellent thing to have attached to your professional name.

    However, if your post is merely something you feel like saying, that's too self-indulgent. Put it on a personal blog unassociated with your professional one.

    Social Media, or How Not To Be A Dork Under Your Own Name

  51. Oh, definitely. Nothing too personal or out-there will go on my writing blog, only things I don't mind the world knowing. My personal Facebook page will remain personal. If I start using Facebook to market myself as a writer, the personal one is getting hidden so that anyone interested in my work will find the professional profile and not see all my personal photos and life updates.

  52. Avatar Kelly says:

    I won't even touch politics on Facebook. I don't have any problem with other people getting into it on FB, but that's just not what I go there for. I don't post about politics on my blog, either; I want to keep it very focused on writing and publishing.

  53. Avatar Kimber An says:

    I think my experience was an example of what Ms. Lionetti said.

    While I tried to keep the mention of Sarah Palin to "Oh, wow, our governor from Alaska is a vice-presidential nominee this is so cool 'cause usually we just get ignored 'cause we only have 2 electoral votes!" But, some readers tried to turn it into a debate because they were so anti-Republican. I had to delete comments. I tried to explain that I vote for the person, not the party, and it's just me being proud to be Alaskan. Even after the election, nasty commments came in. I was baffled and I was like, "Uh, guys, your boy won and I'm happy history was made. Let's have some cookies now." But, ah, well, that's okay. Like the other commenter said, I've moved on. For what it's worth, though, my blog traffic went through the stratosphere.

    If a similar situation comes up and I'm agented, I'll ask for advice. I feel confident I handled it well, but things change when you're agented and/or published.

  54. Avatar Mira says:

    Yes, what Kinder An said:

    'For what it's worth, though, my blog traffic went through the stratosphere.'

    Okay, I just find that really interesting. There is a saying that there's no such thing as bad publicity.

    I don't think that's borne out in truth, there are some things it's hard to recover from – and I do think that the web is a new medium, so it's hard to predict.

    But it's just interesting to think about – blog traffic through the roof is not a bad thing. But obviously, it also made Kimber An feel uncomfortable, so there's that too.

  55. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I agree with Al Rupert at 4: 32 the most of all, I think.

    I won't put words in his mouth, but I detest most personal author facebook/tweeting/blogging for the sheer fact that writers think they are supremely interesting, and guess what? They usually aren't (and neither am I). Everybody tries so hard to be important, yet no one really is. If you were super important you'd probably be too busy to be on Facebook.

    Recently, I sought out an author's blog because I wanted to find out when — if ever — his new book was coming out.

    I couldn't find the info, nor did he answer my comment asking politely. So I started reading all the backposts, hoping to find a mention of a realease date or book title I could google. Still didn't find any info, but what I did find was a cache of navel-gazing posts, which would've been cute had I been a relative of his, but because I was only a reader, found inane.

    I learned his wife and he celebrated an anniversary, I looked at a photo of the hotel they stayed in and another photo of the squid they had for dinner. Then, in subsequent posts, I encountered several pictures of his dog, a photo of some high school kids that read his book, another hundred or so photos of his wife, some photos of him signing some books, some photos of him speaking somewhere, a photo of him standing by a rock at another hotel, another photo of him speaking somewhere, a photo of him standing in front of a bush, and a photo of a turkey sub he had for lunch at a deli somewhere.

    I no longer have an urge to read his next book, though I was sort of hungry for a turkey sub, by the end.

    I'm not knocking blogging or Facebook if it makes you happy, but I'd bet a zillion dollars it probably turns off just as many potential readers as it encourages.

  56. Jessica, sure, yes, I can definitely agree with everything in moderation. Right now I'm debating putting a political statement on my blog, something I feel passionate about, but I'm not sure I want to open those can of worms. I don't know, because a question like that also delves into the murky territory of who I am and who I want to be and what I want to stand for, which has nothing to do with the business, but still needs to be a consideration.

    I do think the internet has taught us to sort information quickly, and when it comes to people we just know online, we sort just as quickly. So with every statement/status/blog/tweet we make, people will sort us out, and the more you put yourself out there, the more people you will alienate.

    On the flip side, I hope the opposite is true, that with each statement we make online, the more people who will make a connection to what we said.

    Moderation in all things is good, though. 🙂

  57. This is probably the most important blog post I have ever read. I have thought seriously about what you have said here, the end result being the killing off of my MySpace account (which doesn't enhance anything), my LinkedIn account (which does some things very averagely but otherwise also enhances nothing).

    I'm not a a big user of twitter so that wasn't such a big deal BUT this evening, once I've taken away some things I want to keep, I'm going to kill my Facebook account. I figure that if people can't be bothered going to the source of my blog at blogger or my site, what the hell else do they expect me to do? Deliver stuff door to door? This is why God invented RSS.

    ..and as you so rightly say, until I hear Big Bertha The Money Machine coughing up, it would probably be best to keep my job – at least for the time being.

  58. I have two facebook accounts. One is private, non-searchable. Family photos, etc. on that one. Hardly ever use it now though. My public one, I don't post any pictures. I have a couple applications on there, but most status updates are writing-related. Or venting about life getting in the way of writing time. Or venting about writing. But I try to keep it focused. I connect with writer friends on that account.

    I use Twitter to keep myself motivated while I'm writing. You might get an odd Tweet or two here or there, but most of it is to let the distractions out so I can continue to write.

    I think that social media should always be used carefully and with thought. If you do that, you'll avoid potential problems.

  59. Avatar Claire Dawn says:

    I operate on extremes. Either I'm very public or very private. Some things I keep close to hand, like my political affiliations. You won't find them on facebook and you won't find them out in real life.

    The things you would find on my facebook are things that you would learn about me if you had to be around me for a length of time, so if you don't like them, we won't work well together. And facebook has just savedme a whole lot of trouble by helping me figure that out sooner, rather than later.

  60. This might not be popular, but if you avoid personal comment, or an identity online, you're in danger of blanding out. Too much and you find yourself in an Internet firestorm, but like hitting it big, it's often a matter of chance.
    People sometimes think too much about what other people think. Obviously don't get stupid, don't set yourself up as an Aunt Sally, but don't be afraid to be different, either.
    Anyway, that's what I think. NO worries. I'm just in it for the craique. The joy of writing and of meeting and communicating.