Do writers need websites?

<p>Writers get websites for all the wrong reasons. <br />
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They get them because they like the idea of having one or because other writers have got them or because they think they ought to.<br />
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It might be vital for a publisher to a have a top-notch on-line presence, <a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/blogs/42825-death-of-the-publisher.html">if Mark Thwaite is to be believed</a>, but for authors it's all too often an expensive self-indulgence.<br />
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The theory's great. Writing, after all, is about communicating with your readers and the internet, surely, is a good way to do this. <br />
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In reality, it rarely works like this. I was convinced I was going to be inundated with inquiries when I got my website. What was the book really about? What was I working on next? Would I be paid handsomely to give a brief talk in a bookstore? Richard and Judy next Tuesday?<br />
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The big day came, my site went live and I sat down and had a cup of tea. I had a grand total of three emails in the first three months. And one of those was sent to me by mistake.<br />
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Fact is, websites simply aren't cost effective for most authors. You'll be lucky to get any change out of &pound;500 for one and you can easily notch up a bill of two or three times that.<br />
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OK, you could do it on the cheap - but a bad website is worse than no website. It suggests corner-cutting and a lack of professionalism. If your website's rubbish, why would your books be any better? <br />
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One of the key advantages of getting online, so advocates insist, is interactivity. You get that rarest and most valuable of things - feedback. It's true - any feedback is valuable, good or bad, but the internet's main advantage is also its principal weakness: it's accessible to anyone. You might be lucky and get lots of lucid, cogent comments about dramatic tension and characterisation. But you probably won't. Fact is, there's a huge amount of, eeer, how shall we put this delicately, nutters out there.<br />
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All this is assuming people visit your website in the first place, as well. Like your books in shops, most stay unfound and invisible (if you want to prove me wrong, you could always check out mine at <a href="http://www.timrelf.com">www.timrelf.com</a>). Remember, you'll be competing with millions and millions of other websites.<br />
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If you're still determined to get an online presence, there are ways of avoiding the cost. Public blogging platforms are free and can be customised to contain some of the information you would have put on a website. <br />
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You can also get your name 'out there' using social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace or Bebo (messing around on these is, incidentally, another fantastic way to avoid writing).<br />
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The other two inquiries I had via my website in my first three months, in case you're wondering, were nothing to do with my books. <br />
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One was from someone else called Tim Relf. He was living in Spain and, spookily, was even born in the same year as me. He saw my name on the internet and wanted to say hello. The other person was an old school friend who I hadn't seen for nearly 20 years. To the best of my knowledge, he still hasn't bought one of my books yet.</p>