Why Writers Need a Website

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13 Responses

  1. Ben says:

    I’d be worried that people would steal my stuff if I put too much of it online for all to see. How would you deal with that?

  2. Dustin says:

    Ben: It’s a risk, but not the risk you’re thinking of. I think a lot of writers worry that some unscrupulous editor will snag their work and publish it somewhere. If only getting published was that easy!

    I don’t worry about that. What’s a more realistic worry is that unscrupulous website owners with automated site scrapers will copy your posts and republish them with their own ads around them. It’s an attempt to game Google — you’ve doe t work of writing keyword-rich content for Google to index, and they hope to make money off of it.

    There’s really nothing you can do about it. Fortunately, it doesn’t really hurt you so much,since Google is pretty good at sussing out which was first and counts it as the “real” content.

    But it’s a good idea to avoid posting anything you want to maintain control over — like a story you might want to take down if you sell it to a print publisher. But that’s regardless of whether your work gets stolen or not; between Archive.org, RSS readers, Google’s cache, and a multitude of website archiving applications, it’s virtually impossible to have absolute control over your content once it hits the Internet.

    The trick, then, is to make peace with that loss of control before you hit “publish”. Post material you’re not going to want to sell to venues that demand exclusivity. Avoid posting personally identifying information that could prove embarassing if, say, a potential employer or client came across it. If you’re posting from a work you’d like to publish, post excerpts r drafts. (Then again, Cory Doctorow posts most of his stories and books to the web for free download. Larry Lessig put his book “Open Culture” on his website, allowed visitors to edit and add to it, and published the results as his 2nd edition; there are lots of examples of people podcasting or blogging novels that later were published as conventional books.)

    Back to the quesiton of stealing: we put our work out where it could, theoretically, be stolen all the time. We send it to editors and agents, we give drafts to editors and proofreaders, we lend printouts to friends for their comments. In the end, work rarely gets stolen. And what would the senario be? A struggling author comes across your stories, copies them, and sends them to Analog, Reader’s Digest, Playboy, or wherever? Or to Random House? Takes all the time to write queries, shop it to agents, etc.? Pushes the book, champions it, makes the requested edits, indexes it, and then what? How satisfying is it to see someone else’s book on a bookshelf with your name on it? Once it’s published, what now? Go on a 14-city book tour, under horrible first-author conditions, reading someone else’s book, answering questions about a text you really don’t know the answers to, pimping someone else’s work? I don’t see it. Especially given the risk of being exposed — if you’re good enough to get published, and they’re bad enough to need to steal, you’re likely to know the likely markets far better rthan them — what happens when you see your story in print? WHen you email the editor with a link to your website? Publishing to your website establishes copyright — the editor just broke the law. I think editors of major magazines are a little more careful than that — and editors of minor ones not worth stealing a story and submitting for (steal a story for a contributor’s copy?!).

    I have a quote that says “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If they’re any good you’ll have to ram them down people’s throat.” Instead of worrying about people stealing your work, worry instead about creating work good enough for people to steal!

  3. Dustin says:

    Wow, that came out long! I should have written a post instead.

  4. Ben says:

    Dustin, I really appreciate the feedback. I’ve thought about it in the terms you outline. However, it still seems like it would be a jump for me…

    You make a very convincing argument.

    Great site! I just found it this evening and will become a regular.

  5. Ty says:

    Do you think blogging just has to be about writing? Reason I ask is I want to start a photography blog, but I feel I am better at expressing myself with photos rather than write. Should I even start it? With your experience could it work, more pictures, less words?

  6. Dustin Wax says:

    Ty: I think a good photographer can make a great blog posting images, although I think people are interested in the photographer’s process, what goes into an image, and so on. That said, there are plenty of interesting blogs that are primarily photos.

  7. Dustin Wax says:

    Ty: One more thing — make sure you use keywords and, especially, alt tags on your photo posts, especially if you’re not posting text or are posting very little text. Otherwise, search engines will have nothing to index, and your site won’t rank very highly.

  8. Viva Konick says:

    I am having some troubles trying 2 load your blog. I’ve been read it many times before & never gotten something like this, but now when I try to load something it just takes a little while (3-15 minutes ) & then just stop. I’ve tried with www or not. Does anyone know what the trouble could be? Please ask your support at hoster..And, yes, thanks for your post!

  9. Else Swords says:

    I adore the way you capture the heart and soul of the idea, really great writting style, I enojoyed it!

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  11. HH says:


    Thanks for this, really informative

    Can you tell me if there is any copyright for blog sites or is that just for actual websites? (i’m not very internet savvy!)

    Want to start a blog to display my writing style as it will be up and running straight away, compared to website that will take longer

    Thanks again


    • Dustin Wax says:

      Everything you ever write is automatically copyrighted, although there’s little protection unless you register your copyright, and even then, your content, if it’s any good, will get pirated. But that’s true whether you have a blog or anotherkind of website, or even if you publish only in print. (My academic book, “Anthropology at the Dawn of the Cold War”, is regularly available in a really nicely formatted PDF from torrent sites.)

  1. April 1, 2008

    […] Why Writers Need a Website – From Dustin Wax’s new site, The Writers Technology Companion. I hope Dustin is starting a series of posts on this topic. […]