Writing, Websites, and Craft
Here's some cool news: This blog was just given the "Writers' Inclusion Award" from Stepping Stone Magazine…so we're now officially an award-winning blog. :o)
Pierce had a question related to my last post: "Do you have specific recommendations for companies that can help beginning writers with creating the necessary tools for a business — letterhead, business cards, website, etc?"
There are countless companies that can print you nice business cards, and it seems like you can't swing a stick these days without hitting a web designer. So instead of naming a bunch of companies, let me simply tell you who I work with, and you can use that as a starting point, Pierce.
My logo, letterhead, envelopes, and business cards were designed by Kevin Burr at Ocular Ink in Nashville (www.ocularink.com). Kevin does great graphic design work. My website (www.MacGregorLiterary.com), which routinely garners great comments from people in the industry, was created by Nick Francis at Project 83 in Nashville (www.project83.com). Nick is simply the best in the business. You can find people who will do this stuff cheaper, but you won't find anyone who does it any better.
Tiffany wrote and said, "When I go 'live' with my author site, I want to have a different feel for my nonfiction, my suspense fiction, and my speaking pages. Do you suggest different marketing tools for each facet of a writer's business, or do you suggest we have something that represents us in all capacities?"
That probably depends on the writer, Tiffany. I think you can have projects that share an audience on one site, but they need to be somehow related. If there are widely divergent aspects of your business, you may want to have different websites. For example, if the speaking you're doing is on time management, but the writing is on dog grooming, you'll be hard pressed to make those work effectively on the same site. If your nonfiction is on weight loss, it's tough to expect readers to also wade through information on your World War II spy novel.
In a similar vein, Sina'i noted, "I'm a fantasy writer and artist. Most of my art relates to my writing. If I'm not trying to sell my art at the moment, would it be a bad idea to include some of my art on my web site?"
If your art relates to your writing, and you're basically using your site to promote your books, then I see nothing wrong with using some of your art to dress up your site. I'm not saying a writer should refrain from also being a fine artist — I'm just saying that a writer's site needs to focus on his or her words.
And Haydon wrote to ask, "Would you suggest authors put their agent's contact information on their websites?"
Yes, I would. By including your agent's information, you make it easy for editors who visit your site to know how to contact you. (And, let's face it…this will also keep away the agent wannabes who are trolling for clients.) You can do this subtly, by simply referencing them in your bio, or perhaps by including a link to their site on your index page.
Ed sent in this: "Over and over I hear you talk about the need for great writing and big ideas. Can you give the name of two or three debut books that you feel had strong writing and a big idea?"
Happy to to give you several recent examples. Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife is a wonderfully complex novel with excellent, thoughtful writing. Yann Martel's The Life of Pi has a good story and very strong writing. Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner was a debut novel that had a big idea and great writing. Haven Kimmel's A Girl Named Zippy is quirky and inventive, with writing that shines. Shane Claiborne's The Irresistible Revolution is a well-concepted and well-written book of Christian nonfiction, and Ginger Garrett's In the Shadow of Lions is a wonderful first novel.
Ben wrote and said, "You talk quite a bit about the Christian book industry. The Christian market obviously has different moral and content standards than the rest of the industry. Do you find this restrictive? Does it hurt the quality of the submissions you get?"
No, I don't find the Christian market to be restrictive; I find it to be focused. Christian publishers are creating books for Christian readers, so OF COURSE there are some moral and content standards. Publishers creating books for educators also have moral and content standards, as do those creating books for children, the cooking market, and business professionals. Publishers of software books have specific content standards. The fact is publishers create books for specific readerships. CBA is no different.
But your second question is one I dislike — it suggests that having moral restrictions on a book somehow limits its potential quality. What utter tripe. Most fantasy writers would argue that C.S. Lewis is one of the greatest craftsmen of the last century, and his Christian worldview didn't limit his writing ability. Any American short story writer will point to Flannery O'Connor as one of our best writers, and her religious faith didn't diminish the quality of her craft. Mystery writers point to Dorothy Sayers as a wonderful storyteller, and her faith never got in the way of a good book.
The notion that "Christianity" is somehow incompatible with "Craftsmanship" is silly.
If you need examples of great contemporary writers who happen to be Christians, pick up a copy of Lisa Samson's Tiger Lillie or Charles Martin's Chasing Fireflies. If you're a nonfiction writer looking for great craft, try reading Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies or Brennan Manning's Ragamuffin Gospel or Lauren Winner's Girl Meets God — fine writers all.
Got a question? Send it in and we'll try to answer it.