I learned a lot of things while compiling the (continually evolving) Women In Comics list over the last few months. Before I get to that though, let me remind you to please check out the list and if you see names we’ve missed, please add them in the comments, and even more importantly, since voting closes today, GO VOTE!
Now back to business. We could sum up a lot of what I learned with: a lot of people have crappy websites with really incomplete information and non-intuitive navigation.
But that seems mean and judgmental, what I mean is that when you embark an endeavor this time consuming -- running hundreds upon hundreds of Google searches and trying to parse out from those searches, real information relevant to what you’re searching for vs. the insane amount of worthless dross on the internet, you end up coming away with FEELINGS. FEELINGS ABOUT THINGS.
THINGS LIKE WEBSITES.
So here are a few tips for cultivating and perhaps better yet, curating your online information. This is specifically geared toward up and coming comics creators that definitely WANT their information to be clear and available to those looking to add you to lists or MUCH better yet, give you work. I really do encourage you to take these (very few) simple tips (that should be obvious) and update your online information, at least the stuff you’re easily in control of. Don’t make it A FIGHT to figure out who you are and what you do. You have to make things as easy as possible on publishers, editors, and others looking to spotlight your work.
I’m going to use screenshots from my own website as an example, not because my website is so great, but just because I don’t want to use other people’s websites (good or bad) without their permission. For the record, my own website, like any website, has plenty of flaws, and probably more than your average website because I can’t afford a fancy professional website and I don’t know HTML, so I’ve had to build it myself in iweb. Your website can be more or less fancy than mine, mileage and ability varies, obviously. The point is that my website, however flawed, is still highly functional in getting across the information I need people to know, and except for my own blood, sweat, and tears, plus the cost of my domain, my website is essentially free. Flawed but free. Flawed but I make sure if someone is trying to contact me (hopefully to give me work and money!) I am easy to find. You should too.
Especially because maybe someday I want to come to your website again and not kill myself trying to find (or verify) the most basic of information.
1. YOUR NAME
I know this seems like a gimme, but you would be shocked, SHOCKED I TELL YOU by the number of people that don’t have their name front and center on their website or barely on their website at all...hidden in little nooks where you would never think to look!
My name is Kelly Thompson, which is A) a pretty boring name and B) a common enough name that all good twitter handles, websites, etc., for “Kelly Thompson” were taken long before I got there.
As a result at a fairly early stage, I decided on a unique online “persona” I guess you’d say (1979 Semi-Finalist) that I could brand myself with and use for these kind of things – my corporation, my website, twitter, email, tumblr, etc. are all 1979 Semi-Finalist. Sometimes you’ll get screwed (damn you twitter and your character limit! See: 79semifinalist) but as much consistency as you can manage is important. More importantly, on all those various sites that I use 1979 Semi-Finalist for, my real name, the name someone sees on my novels and comics, the name that someone cuts a check to, is also FRONT AND CENTER.
There is no confusion for anyone going to those sites about who 1979 Semi-Finalist is. It’s Kelly Thompson. Kelly Thompson is 1979 Semi-Finalist and 1979 Semi-Finalist is Kelly Thompson. Crystal clear. No room for error.
There is literally no reason to be cagey with this stuff. If your name is out there publicly and you also have online identities, then don’t make this a guessing game. Make it easy for people to find you and to be sure they have the right person.
Again, this shouldn’t be rocket science. Unless you DO NOT want people contacting you, make yourself easy to get in contact with.
Have a clear CONTACT (or email) button of sorts (you can combine this with Bio/About if you like, see point #3). But whatever you do make sure your email address in an easy to find location. The button doesn’t have to do anything fancy like create an email when they click it, just make sure it’s there. I email people for ALMOST EVERYTHING and if I can easily find your email, then you’ve made me insanely happy. Now I don’t have to spend twenty minutes tracking you down and give up part way through for another creator who has their email address front and center on their site.
There’s just no reason to make people work for this. Make it EASY to find you, easy to contact you, easy to ask you questions and give you work.
If you’re not comfortable with your email being public, or if you prefer to have them go through representation or something else, that’s fine, but make that clear too. Don’t make it look like you just forgot to include your contact information by not addressing it.
Cutesy, charming, and humorous bios are fun. And feel free to have some fun with yours, but make sure it ALSO includes the relevant information people are actually looking for when they head over to your bio.
People want to be assured of who you are. Are you Kelly Thompson the super famous very talented New Zealand Illustrator? Or are you Kelly Thompson American Novelist and burgeoning Comic Book Writer? Don’t leave them any room for confusion. Your bio, while it’s fine to also talk about your love of cats and coffee and hatred of insert quirky thing here, should leave no doubt in their mind as to which Kelly Thompson's page their are viewing, who she is, what she does, and if she's the one they're looking for.
Make sure to list relevant publications and/or job titles. Things that will clarify that you are indeed who they are looking for. Include links when you can, but that can get messy, so it’s not a must. Don’t list everything you’ve ever done (that’s a more of a bibliography than a bio). Your bio isn’t a comprehensive reference list of everything you’ve ever done; it’s your greatest hits.
And it’s the best/quickest/easiest way for people that are looking for you to verify that they’ve got the right person. If you have no credits, there are still things that easily define you and help you stand out from all the other Kelly Thompsons. You currently reside in New York, or you went to school at SCAD, or you write a column for Comics Should Be Good, or run a small webcomic called insert clever webcomic here. There are many things that help define you and separate you from all the other Kellys. Make it easy for everyone.
This is also the place to clarify for searchers if you go by some other pseudonym/ pen name/web handle (like 1979 Semi-Finalist). Many of us do this and for a variety of reasons, and if you have had one or do use one (for any reason other than anonymity) this is the place to make that clear. Clear that you are who you say you are and you’re also “this name that you may know from this period I went through from 2001 – 2004 or whatever”
I’m personally a fan of just making your bio page also your contact/email page to keep the number of needed clicks down, but your mileage will vary. That said, nobody ever got hurt by putting their email address on both their contact page and on their bio page.
And if you don’t have your own website, many people do not, but are still active on social media and have an easily accessible blog or tumblr, twitter account or FB (or all of the above), consider carefully what you put in those bios. They usually have limited space, so use it wisely. How much do you REALLY need it to say “writer. artist. superhero. And two of those are almost true.” (my OLD twitter bio by the way!) How charming and funny is that really? It's maybe better for everyone to just lay out who you really are so in the massive number of twitter accounts people can find the one they’re actually looking for? Weigh it!
Okay. That’s it for me. That is all the rants and advice I had in me this week (still very tired from the Women In Comics list to be honest). And again, reminder to both check that out and help us keep it relevant and accurate, AND TO VOTE. LAST DAY TO VOTE.
Update those websites and online identities, kids!
Kelly Thompson is a freelance writer living in Manhattan. She is the author of the superhero novel THE GIRL WHO WOULD BE KING recently optioned to become a film, and her new novel STORYKILLER is out now. She is also writing IDW’s JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS, co-writing Marvel's forthcoming CAPTAIN MARVEL & THE CAROL CORPS, and her first graphic novel HEART IN A BOX is forthcoming from Dark Horse this year. You can find Kelly all over the place, but twitter may be the easiest: @79semifinalist