“Our people did a thorough Internet search on you,” the editor from the conservative publishing house told me.
Immediately, my mind kicked in its antivirus program, searching for anything I did online that I might regret. Her voice stopped the reeling. “They didn’t find anything negative that would hurt your chances, but there’s another problem.”
My heart sank.
“They’re telling me that we don’t know anything about you.”
And there it was, the conundrum, not unlike having no experience when applying for a job that requires it. The more channeled you are, the better chance you have of being noticed. The more you put on the information super highway, the bigger risk you take of alienating a potential publisher or agent.
Besides being careful of what’s posted about your personal life (I hope that guy really did delete that photo from college graduation…), what is a writer to do about his or her work?
With this in mind, I’ve come up with a few guidelines that may help:
- Never hit “send” after midnight!
- Start a blog only after you have something worth blogging about.
- Save your brilliant, experimental pieces to be discovered after your death.
- Use a nom de plume with anything that has a dirty word in it.
- Google yourself. Find someone that shares the same name. Perhaps it was them and not you who did or wrote that.
- Study the author pictures that accompany writers’ profiles. Make an appointment for a professional photo shoot, place your hand under your chin, and then run like hell before you hear the camera click.
- Know that any World Wide Web fame you achieve will most likely be the one thing you are most embarrassed of.
- Do an extensive cyberspace investigation on yourself. Using disappearing ink, carefully list whatever might give you pause. Sit back. Watch it disappear – it’s the only time you will ever see it vanish.
Truly, writing, studying, reading, practicing (nothing new here) and using sound judgment are the best defense against a negative Internet presence. A good copy editor helps, too.
Also, surround yourself with peers that you trust and that will be open and honest about what you’ve written. Share with them before you publish. Then, be big enough to take an honest look at what they have to say, especially if more than one of them are of the same opinion.
If you have a big project that is dear to your heart that you want published in a different format, not wired someday (and you’re not already famous), choose wisely what you post or publish online, steering yourself in that direction, not off a cliff.
Realize that even famous writers look back regretfully, sometimes at their more recent works, too. We are constantly growing with our writing, developing our craft. What we write in the future will hopefully be better than what we pen today, so be mindful before you click “send.”
Michael Suppa is an elementary school writing teacher in Ellwood City, Pa. He also has presented professional development programs on writing and portfolio assessment. He received his Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Wilkes University under the mentorship of Dr. J. Michael Lennon.