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How Important is an Internet Presence? 3 Top Agents Weigh In

Your Writing Coach Lisa Tener
Your Writing Coach Lisa Tener

A client e-mailed me a couple of days ago suggesting that he didn’t really need an internet section in the promotion plan of his book proposal. “Isn’t that an agent’s job–to publicize my book on the internet?”

No. Book publicity is your job. Both agents and publishers want  close to a sure thing. Your proposal needs to convince them you’ll do a great job publicizing your book.

Before I Got Too Smug…

As I started to e-mail back this client,  telling him he had to have an internet component to his promotion plan to be taken seriously, I noticed that my answer had a pedantic feel to it. I wrote quite definitively and then thought: Do I know for sure? It’s important, sure, but could that one missing piece alone take him out of the running completely?

There was one way to find out. I e-mailed several top agents and here’s what they said:

Rita Rosenkranz wants to see an authors interest in developing their internet presence
Rita Rosenkranz wants to see an author's interest in developing their internet presence

Rita Rosenkranz said this, “Lisa, the good majority of authors can profit from a Web presence. They at least have to show interest in building their presence, with enough seeds planted to prove to a prospective publisher the interest is real. If an author makes clear he or she has absolutely no interest along these lines, it’s safe for me to think the project would be a tough sell.”

Elizabeth Pomada needs to see an authors commitment--and that needs to include the internet
Elizabeth Pomada needs to see an author's commitment--and that needs to include the internet

Elizabeth Pomada wrote, on behalf of herself and Michael Larsen, “One of the key ingredients we must have from any author, fiction or nonfiction, is commitment. And the author must be totally committed to succeeding in their new career–which is really a business and must be looked on as such.

“Any writer who will not take advantage of every way they can to promote their work and themselves is not someone we’d want to work with.

“The internet is very demanding, that’s true. But it also allows people to network and promote themselves and their book(s!) in many ways that will not intrude on their lives. They can do radio and TV tours on line, blog, podcast, get on You Tube.”

Elizabeth stresses the importance of building your fan base online. She says, “Yes, social media take time, but I remember when one of my authors spent two days a week just writing to her fans! Think of how much easier that would be to do it online. Another friend is working the social media route by making friends–guesting and responding to other people’s blogs.”

Literary Agent Jeanne Fredericks
Literary Agent Jeanne Fredericks

Finally, Jeanne Fredericks weighed in with, perhaps, the most forgiving response, but even so, it sounds like the internet’s a tough trend to buck.

Jeanne replied, “I think that most editors now expect that authors will have an internet presence.  A few years ago having or planning a website devoted to one’s book was considered sufficient. Then having an ‘interactive website’ became the preferred version since they built more traffic to the website.

“In the last year or so, a wide range of publishers, even those in traditional areas such as religion, have been touting the benefits of blogging, twittering, and viral marketing.  I think it would be wise for all authors, especially those who are not already nationally known with strong media presences, to build their followings through these new social marketing techniques.

“The investment in time in learning the techniques is likely to pay off in generating more interest from agents and editors.  Having an internet presence, though, is just one element that I look for in a potential author.

Jeanne reminds us that the internet is just one aspect of your book, “Writing something fresh about a subject of interest to a sizable population, and being an author with the right credentials and experience to write about the topic are still just as essential as they have always been in my evaluation of potential authors.”

As I thought about my client–a very accomplished professional with 14 hour work days, I realized that most new or aspiring authors are intimidated by the internet.

If you’re already working your tail off, how do you find the time to learn how to harness the power of this vast resource? Even if you hire someone to do most of the internet publicity work for you, how do you know you’re hiring the right person? And what do you have them do?

I’ve been planning a week long blog series on the subject of how authors are making use of the internet in various ways to promote their books (before and after their books are written). Post comments and ask questions here, as well as let me know what you’d like to see for Internet Publicity Week 2009. Stay tuned for more details.

Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

Reader Interactions


  1. lisatener says

    Just after I posted this entry, I heard back from literary agent Albert LaFarge, who wrote, “One ought to be prepared to make exceptions for works of exceptional literary excellence, no?”

    Yes. However, from what I hear from many writers, almost everyone wants to be an exception! Even with a work of pure genius and powerful prose, an internet presence can only help the cause.

  2. lisatener says

    More agents are weighing in. Rebecca Gradinger e-mailed me with this:

    “Assuming we are talking about non-fiction and particularly prescriptive non-fiction, I don’t think internet presence is absolutely necessary if you have a clear platform from which to launch (you are a columnist, you have speaking engagements, you are on TV often). Without such a platform it is imperative, in my opinion to have some internet presence. The first thing anyone does is Google the author. Hands down this is true.”

    Rebecca added, “I take on people based on their work first and then their experience, background and platform.” Rebecca gave the example of an author without an internet presence but solid experience in national TV. In such a case, she would suggest setting up a simple website that includes clips of the TV shows before approaching publishers with a book proposal.

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