My plan was to drive to uptown Charlotte, pick her up outside her building, and go off to a sub shop for a casual lunch.
The children and I were just about to hop in the car when I got a text. “How about,” my sister said, “if you park and come up in the building? We’ll visit for a little while and the kids can see my office. Then we can go for lunch.”
That sounded great, but the children and I looked really scruffy. I was wearing denim capris that had shrunk from staying in the dryer too long (oops) and a sweatshirt that had seen better days. My daughter had on an outfit that didn’t match and my teenage son looked like he’d just rolled out of bed. We looked all right for a sub shop with my sister (maybe), but not good for going into a skyscraper of a major bank and meeting my sister’s coworkers.
“Sure,” I texted. Then we all changed clothes before we headed out. :) We met some nice people on the 18th floor and looked like upstanding citizens.
I spend a good deal of time trying to make sure that I’m giving a good impression to readers, other writers, and people in the publishing industry when they encounter me online.
Making a bad impression in person isn’t good either, but at least those usually fade. If you mess up online, it lives online forever. It’s like the mistake that keeps on giving.
I know that, on Google, my website is the first thing that comes up. Which, actually, is bizarre because I’m sure my blog gets more traffic. My website (although it needs updating) tells people a little about me and my books and how to contact me or buy my books. That’s really its sole purpose. I keep it pretty basic. I think it’s important to have some sort of website to serve as a hub for our online identity.
Another important place to make a good impression is blogging. Again, I’ve got a way to contact me, something about me, and a little about my books. For me, blogging is my favorite way to interact online. Although I know some writers do tread into political discussions or other controversial areas….I’m just not going to go there. I’ve heard of a couple of writers who got negative feedback from different publishers for expressing some of their (strong) opinions. And again it’s the ‘making a good impression’ thing—I don’t want to turn off any readers, for sure. I wouldn't assume that everyone shares my views on different subjects.
Online bookselling sites are other places where writers need to make a good impression. Actually, it’s good to create a non-impression there. We really don't need to ever pipe up in the review section for our books. If we get a bad review, we get a bad review. Arguing with the reviewer really just looks unprofessional. There are times I’ve noticed, though, when readers have given a book a bad review because Amazon shipped it late, etc. In those cases, I’d just report the review to Amazon because it doesn’t have anything to do with the book. But I still wouldn’t defend my book online—I just don’t think the writer ever wins.
Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are tricky sometimes because it’s easy for words to be taken the wrong way. And I do recommend having a public Facebook identity and a private one. When my old friends from junior high want to friend me on my public page, I just gently suggest that they’d be more interested in my private one…and vice versa. Otherwise I’d end up being tagged in pictures from when I was 12 on my professional account. That would stress me out. :)
Looking back over this post, I’m realizing how cautious it sounds. I do interact a lot online every day—but I always read over what I’m saying before I hit ‘send.’ And with static sites (like my website), I try to make sure it’s just serving its purpose.
How do you work to make a good impression online?