A Certain Lack of Focus

Friday, February 01, 2008

Living Online

computersI was reading Neil Gaiman's online journal and it got me thinking about modern authors and whether or not they really take advantage of the internet.

It seems like well known authors fit into one of three categories. The first is full throttle web presence: Gaiman fits into this category. You can find out anything you might want to know from his website, and (nearly) daily he updates his journal with thoughts that are interesting enough to keep people coming back. Obviously to me this sounds like the best option but I can understand why not all authors would opt for it, or why they might do it with less than full enthusiasm. Stephen King has a frequently updated site like Gaiman's, but it's clear he doesn't put quite the same attentiveness into it. Although there are still nearly daily updates, they are brief and seem to be done for the sake of doing it: it's a message board rather than a blog. Only the occasional update comes from King himself which is an important difference. Still, there is a current and full web presence for Stephen King in a similar way as there is for Neil Gaiman. J.K. Rowling also has a site like this, though she doesn't seem to update the blog section as frequently. This site, I might add is one of those obnoxious visual ones that looks super cool but is a pain in the ass to use. One of my favorite artists, John Van Fleet is guilty of the same sin.

I would classify the second segment as authors with helpful, current official websites, but without the author's presence. Terry Pratchett has a website like this. It's attractive, informative but not particularly personalized. I'd wager Pratchett has never actually spent much time on his own site and didn't put much input into its design or... anything really. And that's completely fine. At least you know that whatever's on there is going to be accurate.

catThen there's the third type which is the one I really just don't get. This is the category of authors who not only have put no work into their online presence, they haven't bothered to pay someone else to do so either. My favorite author is children's author Diana Wynne Jones. When you click on what google calls her official website, what you get is actually an extensive fansite. The information on there is likely current, and probably accurate, but who knows really? The design is horrible, which is understandable because it's by fans, and probably something put together in some teenager's spare time.

In all fairness, I think Diana Wynne Jones is getting on the older side, so her lack of online involvement isn't entirely surprising. But then I come across the website for Tamora Pierce which is again, a badly designed fansite. I'm not sure how old Pierce is, but anyone who writes comic books is young enough to have a real website, not something put together by dedicated fans. Particularly for someone like Pierce whose primary audience is teenagers.

These authors are popular enough that web presence might not be necessary (though I can't think it would hurt) but in the future I see that changing rapidly. I'm always shocked when I look for an author or artist and discover that they don't have a website these days. Worse, a new business should always have a website, it's something relatively cheap and extremely easy that may help increase a customer base. Even my dad has his own website and he can't even copy/paste without help. I think the electronic age has taken over so quickly that some people still don't realize we're in it.

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