The Existential Horror of Making an Author Website

There’s nothing more existential than a writer building a website for themselves. It’s even more challenging than writing a book in a way. Hell, it’s even harder than writing the back copy of a book, because you’re the literal back copy up there on the screen.

There are debates on whether a writer even really needs a website. If you have a substantial following on another platform it’s not as necessary, but it’s good to have your own territory that’s not dependent on social media. A place where you can showcase your unfiltered brand to fans/future fans, agents, and editors.

What is about setting up a website that gets me feeling all Satre-like? It’s not just writing a bio and posting pics of yourself—it’s a vibe you need to get across. It’s information I’m finding I'm not good at sharing visually. It feels like I’m 5-minute speed dating on a bad hair day.

Why am I even starting a website again? Is this worth the money, time, and frustration?

It was worth it in 2011. Damn…that was ten years ago…writing this article is getting me all worked up…

Anyway, 2011 was a rough year. It was no 2020, but it was arduous for me, being a young writer who lacked confidence. I was unpublished and had a novel I had worked on for years that wasn’t going to be published anytime soon. I didn’t want to do another draft and I didn’t have a new book to write, but I still wanted to connect with readers without having to worry about the panic-inducing prospect of rejection. Damn, looking back on that mindset I see how young writers are kind of fucked with this attitude.

Yet, the desire to write was still there, I just needed a place to do it. I needed a territory where I could try things. After failing to publish my depressing literary novel, I wanted to write funny, satirical pieces about topical subjects.

...the tragedy of the internet—and maybe life in general—is people can only connect to certain parts of you at a time.

So I started The Passion of The Christoph WordPress site (RIP) and just wrote what was interesting to me. I wrote a piece about being a non-religious Tebow fan and found something of a voice in that piece. I found my territory. If I had an idea I’d write it, edit it, and post the piece on the site. My first book, The Passion of The Christoph, was basically collection of all the pieces I wrote from 2011 to 2013.

Readers began interacting with pieces, and I built a little bit of a fanbase. The big mistake I made was switching over from a WordPress site to a real professional website. The fan interaction I had built with blogging ended cold, and I was left with a lame-ass looking website to promote the book. The book did okay and won me my only literary award to date, but the raw punk energy of the WordPress site was never recaptured.

I tried to make a new website a few years later to make me look more YA friendly, but I was also writing horror, bizarro, and poetry. It really threw me off because I didn’t want to market myself to just one genre. I wanted to show all my sides and bring them all together in a way that worked and made sense.

Unfortunately, I never figured out a way to pull of that magic trick. I tried to fix the old website, but by 2017 I was putting all my focus into CLASH Books and our accompanying site. I started a band again, The Dionysus Effect, and I let my GoDaddy site from 2013 die.

It’s now 2021, and here I am once again trying to set up a personal website, going through that same anxiety about trying to be seen as I want to be seen, digitally. I feel like people can see only a few sides of you through a digital lens. That’s the dilemma. I want to be fully seen and connect, but the tragedy of the internet—and maybe life in general—is people can only connect to certain parts of you at a time. 

Being on the internet is a necessary evil and so is having a website. I’m pretty disenchanted with social media at this point—it’s morphed into something that should have been about connection but feeds and thrives on conflict. The algorithm fans the flames of paranoia and keeps people in bubbles, leading to further division instead of connection. I do enjoy running the CLASH Books Twitter (I don’t use Facebook as much lately), but I don’t want those sites to be the only places people can find me online. A website where I can have a fun blog feels like the best solution to living in the digital world.

So I am trying again to get some website magic going, and damn it’s a production to set up a website. I was hoping to have it all set to coincide with this column, so I could share the link at the bottom and y’all could click on it, but it’s still only halfway done. I need to take more photos because the website template I picked features a very visual landing page. I am trying to incorporate my band stuff as well. All this takes time. My wife, who is a superhero is helping me, but there is only so much time each week. My goal is to have it done by the end of the month, but that goal could extend to Valentine’s Day at this point.   

If there is a good note to end on, it’s that I at least know what I am about now. I know what I want to communicate with people digitally. I feel good and even excited about wanting to blog again. I have already written 5 pieces, so I have content for the website whenever the hell it is ready. I am learning to balance the big 3: band, publishing, and writing. The website exists to show those things and my connection to the work, and how it all comes together for me creatively. So keep a lookout for (some German dude took coming soon, I fucking hope…

Get the Passion of the Christoph at Amazon or CLASH Books

Christoph Paul

Column by Christoph Paul

Christoph Paul is the Managing Editor and owner of CLASH Books, who have published over 60 books and have been covered by NPR, Poets & Writers, Rolling Stone, Believer Magazine, Oprah Magazine, The Observer, Fangoria, and Publisher's Weekly. The press has had books translated into Spanish, French, and Italian. He has been editing books in almost every genre for over a decade. As an author, he won a humor award and had viral cult success under a pen name. He is the lead singer and bass player of the rock band The Dionysus Effect, who have received positive reviews in Loudwire, EARMILK, and Red Rock Magazine. He sometimes writes songs about the books he publishes because even artists are inspired by their day jobs. Follow him on Twitter @christophpaul_ @clashbooks @dionysuseffect.

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