Thursday, April 28, 2011

Some Thoughts On Those Online "Resources" For Writers

If you are here on this blog, you are most likely one of those writers that have many "online resources" you go to for assistance with your craft. As you all know, Writers Digest just published their top 101 Websites for Writers in their last edition. While all of these sites are great, I always want to caution writers when they work with these. I am especially talking about those sites that are supposedly an interactive reference list of editors and agents (those clearinghouse sites), those sites that offer the chance for feedback by posting your work and those that are bulletin boards with "authentic" comments from other writers. Let's talk about each.

I fully appreciate the web sites out there that try to consolodate the massive amount of information out there for writers. This is a huge task. However, I do believe, and I have certainly seen it from the submissions I have received, that many writers seem to believe that this is the definitive answer. I don't know how many people have submitted to me because "they found my information on Agent Query." The scary part is I have often rejected these people very early in the process.


The only work these writers did came from that site. They did not go directly to the website of Greyhaus Literary Agency. They did not find out what I am specifically looking for. And, in far too many cases, they even failed to find out that my name was not Mr. Greyhaus.

Sites like this are simply a starting point. These sites work just like the abstracts you might find on databases at your local library such as ProQuest or ERIC. With data bases, you still have to go to the full article to get the real information.

The second group of websites out there that present potential problems for writers are those that offer the chance to upload your writing and get critiques.

Hey, we all need feedback. We all want critiques of our work. We all want our writing to improve. But here is the problem with these sites. You as a writer have absolutely no idea of the credentials or the educational level of the people telling you all these fine pieces of wisdom. Sure this is someone who is talking to you about your writing, but does this person have any clue as to what is required to get a book to the published level? Are they even writing in a field you are writing in?

I have received a lot of submissions that tell me "all of the readers on XYZ.Com have provided great feedback and all believe my story is fantastic." That's great, but are they editors? Are they agents? Are they knowledgable about publishing? You really don't know.

The last group are the bulletin boards. Now don't get me wrong here. I think online groups like this are great for getting some pieces of information, but I have to warn you, take everything with a grain of salt. Using this as a resource for determining what people know about a publisher or agent can be dangerous. Far too often, the only people who post anything are disgruntled writers who have their underwear in a bunch.

The key is, use your brain! Think and make your own decisions. When it comes to getting critiques, find someone who knows. Don't just be satisfied with anything you happen to stumble across on the internet.



  1. Great advice, Mr. Greyhaus. :) The first piece of information I picked up from your blog was to always check the websites before I query anyone. It's useful in double checking those site that consolodate massive amount of information. Although real helpful, they are sometimes inacurate.

  2. This is great information. It makes me think that it's probably useful to think of looking for an agent in the same way you look for a job. You can just send your resume via sites like yahoo or career builder, but I got all of my interviews from going to the actual company website and following their in-house application instructions.

    I am the type to always think I haven't researched enough, so it's a good reminder to hear that going through many sources to get the right information is actually helpful. Thanks!

  3. This is fantastic advice! While the 'net can seem like a great place to pool knowledge, you are 100% correct in cautioning writers to think before they dive in thinking it all is a magic answer waiting to happen. Just like in the old paper days when you'd need to research a publisher or agent, the ebook age still requires researching just who the person on the other end of the line is.

  4. Thank you for the warning!

    I just went to Norwescon 34 and met some fabulous authors (who are published) and one thing they warned me about was putting more than 30% of your manuscript online for others to see. Sure, you might get feedback, but they told me that is considered 'published' so not to exceed that percentage. Do you know if this is true?

    Thanks! :-)

  5. Alaina,

    Not sure on that 30% rule. I don't think the comment is referring to the idea of "critique" groups such as many of these sites have. I think the idea deals with people who are always posting their stories on their websites. That would be published.
    For most of the critique groups, you log in and that is the only way you can have access to the other projects.
    Just a thought on that one.