Back when I was working as a literary agent, Writer’s Digest published an article I wrote on thinking like an agent. Though I’m an acquisitions editor now, not an agent, these pointers are all still true. I wanted to update them and share them with you.
What I wrote then:
5. Be yourself – but not in a scary way.
Writers are being asked to bear more of the promotional burden for their books. Who better to reach out to readers than the one who cares most? But in your effort to be part of a larger community by blogging, taking part in forums, Twittering, etc., make sure you come across as someone your own mother wouldn’t mind knowing.
I’m involved in a certain amount of social media, and there are writers I’ve come across that I would never in this lifetime represent just because of the way they present themselves. Some of these people are successful writers but I’m so turned off by their online personas that I wouldn’t want to work with them. I’m sure they’re not aware of the impression they’re creating, but they’re doing themselves more harm than good.
As much as people want to think social media is or can be like hanging out at the corner coffee shop, it isn’t. You may be sending messages you don’t intend to send – so think about what you write before you write it, and consider all the potential audiences who may see it (not just your friends from college but a potential agent or editor or reader).
By the same token, if you follow agents and editors in their social media efforts, you’ll find out a lot about them – and you’ll probably decide that some of them are not people you would want to work with, either. I’ve definitely felt that way after seeing what some of my fellow agents say about writers on their blogs or Tweets. This one cuts both ways.
What I say now:
Still true. Before you spend three hours online blasting your agent, your editor, your critique partner, and your cover designer, consider that not only are those people aware of what you’re doing but it doesn’t solve any problems. You need to connect with those people directly to solve problems. Passive-aggressive behavior is juvenile at best and destructive to your career at worst.
And it’s not something that makes a writer appealing to a reader, either; some years ago a NYT bestselling author who shall remain nameless had a public tantrum about her publisher. I have never been inclined to buy that author’s books in all the years since. It left that bad a taste in my mouth.