Websites - Guest Blogger Walt Mussell

Today, join me in welcoming another friend of mine and fellow GRW member, Walt Mussell. I met Walt a few months ago when he showed up at one of our monthly meetings in Atlanta. Since then, Walt has become an active member of the group as he works on several non-fiction writing projects and a fictional story that I can’t wait to read. You can find a few of his heartwarming stories in the magazines listed below or pop on over to both of his blogs, Daddy Needs Decaf and Walt’s Place. Thank you Walt for giving us your time!!!

Oh What A Tangled Web We Weave

To Tami, thank you for inviting me to offer my thoughts on unpublished authors having websites. I appreciate the opportunity.

My name is Walt Mussell. I write humorous, non-fiction essays about relationships and family and stories addressing issues raising a special needs child. My credits include Parent: Wise Austin and Atlanta Parent magazines. I’ve written a non-fiction manuscript on relationships and am working on a fiction novel while I try to get my manuscript published.

I don’t have a website. As I write that statement. I can almost hear a chorus of other unpublished authors saying Hi, Walt as if I’m at a meeting for some 12-step program. And like someone who’s yet to commit to taking a necessary step, I always feel like adding that I don’t have a website yet. Can I be found on the web? Yes. I keep a blog for Atlanta Parent. I also write a blog where I discuss things related to college football. Given this, a website would seem appropriate. However, two things concern me:

1) Time - Between job and family, my time to write is limited. At work, I write during my lunch hour. At home, I rise early to write or else write after everyone’s in bed. Is this enough? As a nonfiction writer, I need to build a platform, something that will convince an agent or a publisher that I have a hook to bring in audience. To do this, I write magazine articles. At this time, I have three out for a review with requests for additional submissions with April and May deadlines. This keeps me busy.

A website takes time. For me, that’s time away from my writing. Recently, I set up a myspace page. However, as I have so little time to devote to it, the inbox is mostly full of solicitations from former Emperor’s Club employees who are seeking side jobs. If I can’t devote time to the myspace page, I doubt my ability to commit to a website.

2) Superstition (not mine…my wife’s) - My wife knows I want to be published. However, she is a private person and has asked I keep my writing secret. Friends and family know I write blogs and have published credits. Fewer know about my completed nonfiction manuscript. Even less know about my fiction novel. My wife worries family will ask, “How’s your book going?” and I will have to respond, “Still not published.” For my wife, the appropriate way for family members to learn of my book is to see it on the bestseller list.

I know not having a website will affect me soon. In late April, syndicated columnist Susan Reinhardt will mention my manuscript, my writing, and even two recipes in her next book Dishing With The Kitchen Virgin. As a wannabe, I hope Ms. Reinhardt’s following will look me up. Are the blogs enough or do I need a site? I honestly don’t know.

Tami, thanks again for having me.


Devon Gray said...

Well, Walt, you know what I'm going to say, right?! I haven't made it a secret how important I think having a website is, but that is only my opinion and it all comes down to personal choice. Having said that, here are the reasons I think you should:

1. You have been published. Readers who like your work will go to the website listed. I know I do. Some of the best contacts I've made in this business have been done this way.

2. Accountability. Personally, I don't believe you can "jinx" yourself by putting your ambition out there for the world to see. I understand that your wife is a very private person and her point of view should be a deciding factor. For me, publicly stating what I want has kept me on track. After all, who wants to read on my blog "today I got a pedicure and dreamed about what it would be like to finish my manuscript..." ? I make sure I am constantly creating forward momentum so I have writing related material to post.

3. You can find the time. Once the initial site is up (and you will need to set a large block of time aside initially to do this, but it is a one shot deal) the maintenance side really isn't very daunting. Your blog (which you update anyway) is the heart of your website, the part people follow to see what you are up to, what progress you've made. This will be a link on your website. As far as making other changes? Software makes it easy. I was lying in bed last night and started thinking..."You know? I think I put too much of chapter two in the excerpt section of my website." I came downstairs, opened Frontpage, clicked a couple of times, highlighted what I wanted to remove, deleted, hit the save button then "publish site". I was back in bed within three minutes. Simple!

4. You've done a lot of networking. I, for one, would be happy to link your website on mine. Remember my Google ranking! Because of your gender, people will be curious. Why is a man's website being promoted by a female romance author?! Just normal human curiosity will drive people to click on your link. The unique always drives curiosity.

GEEZ! My comment is probably longer than my post for Tami last week! Best of luck with your decision. Do what is right for you and your family.

Tami Brothers said...

I completely agree, Devon.

Setting up a site does take a big chunck of time originally. But with Frontpage, it is very simple to make little changes and tweak things as you go after it is set up.

Since Walt already has publishing credits, I completely agree that he should have (or at least be in the process of setting up) a website. Even if it is a simple one to start off with...