Sunday, September 06, 2009

Your invisibility cloak isn't working!

I was tweeting with one my twitter pals the other day and she made the comment:

"After reading some of the comments on querytracker it's like writers somehow assume it's magically shielded from agent eyes"

I was quite struck with that because for all my blather about "the internet is public" sometimes it's VERY hard to remember that.

I fall afoul of it myself. My rather ..ahem.. mordant and sarcastic sense of humor goes over well with clients who are used to me (I hope anyway!) but when I comment on their blogs I need to remember it's not just clients reading those pithy phrases. Their moms are too. Or their kids. Or their spouses. Or just their friends who don't know that "batshit crazy" is what passes for a compliment around here.

I was reminded of this again tonight when, in trolling around the internet, I came across this post about a talk Wendy Loggia, an editor at Delacorte gave at SCBWI about why manuscripts or books are rejected:

It's item #4 that made my hair stand on end:

The writer seems like a difficult person to work with. Wendy always Googles an author’s name before offering a contract. She says she may be prompted to change her mind about signing up an author if they share too much information in their blog, if they tend to blog a lot about how hard writing is, if they blog about being rejected many times, if they publicly bash a book she’s worked on, or if they bash a colleague in the business who is her friend
I keep a close eye on my client's blogs and tweets and Facebook pages, and your agent probably does as well. This is why.

Before you have an agent though, you're on your own, and remember, agents google too.

You're not invisible, no matter what the guy selling the cloak at Platform 9.5 said to you.


Laurel said...

I blogged about this!

Seriously, people seem to think that if no one can see you typing you are anonymous. Everything mean and vicious that is associated with your name, however, never goes away.

And the nude photos from the ill-planned weekend at the naturalist beach? Shudder.

Tana said...

Point well taken.

Kyler said...

It's Platform 9 and 3/4, Janet! I was there at King's Cross in London and tried to go through the wall, but it didn't work. (They must have it rigged for tourists, but what about real wizards, like me?)

Rissa Watkins said...

I try to be careful with my blog, website, tweets and facebook but never thought about comments on blogs.

Also, some forum posts are found via google.

The host of my writers forum (Accentuate Writers Forum)will occasionally remind people of that when they bash editors, agents or publishers in their posts.

Unknown said...

This only confirms my attitude to the internet. Never put your real name online, never set up an email address with your full real name in it, and when querying, use an email address that is set up and used solely for that purpose.

~Jamie said...

I made that twitter comment :)

It's hard though, it's like this fine line between being likable and real... and being professional.

For authors I think it's a little different than say--a banker. We have to sell ourselves to readers, kind of be our own character. If someone reads my tweets and finds them interesting, then maybe they would be more likely to buy my book, etc.

I often struggle with this part of the 'job'. I want to keep it pro, but at the same time I want to show people I'm a fun person. I would LOVE some more blog posts and suggestions that helped us know just how we should act. :)

Unknown said...

This is really good for a lot of people to remember! My computer guy says that face-to-face arguments may come and go but the internet is forever.


I think it was platform 9 3/4, right? *It's been so long since I read or watched any HP :)*

Anonymous said...

I keep meaning to put a Post-It note up next to my computer:


It's a concept that has saved me some anguish over the years.

Peter Cooper said...

platform 9.75?

I didn't buy it, anyway. I saw right through his spiel.

scaryazeri said...

I guess if you are a big enough writer that might be a scary posting to read.

If you are just dreaming about becoming a writer though, you probably ARE pretty invisible, however hard you try NOT to be. :)))

Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

Very good reminder! :)

Monkey Mama said...

I guess I can't blog about polishing my bananas.

Whirlochre said...

I've certainly fallen foul of blogging about the difficulties of writing — though not, I hope, too often, and not in a selfishly whingeing way.

Tackled thoughtfully, a blog post about the problems writers face can beilluminating.

But whatever it is we post, you're right — it's public — and we must all be wary of our emotional gusts (though 'batshit crazy' gets my vote).

Furious D said...

Sometimes when you enter my real name in Google, you get an Irish pub that happens to have the same name. You'd think that would be a plus among some agents.

Enter my Furious D "pen name" and you get my blog, which is as public as you can get, a Wikipedia article about a cartoon horse, and a gangsta rapper.

loveskidlit said...

Good reminder!

Lydia Sharp said...

Note to self: "batshit crazy" is a compliment.

This is an excellent post. Consider it linked.

Margaret Yang said...

"...share too much information on their blog."

I don't understand this because I thought that blogs were all about sharing.

However, I understand why an editor wouldn't want to work with someone who was negative all the time.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. It's easy to feel anonymous sitting on the couch with our laptop, certain that everyone gets our extrodinarily witty satire.

On the other hand (said my other personality)at a certain point shouldn't we stop living in fear and laugh at our mistakes? We can only hope we haven't offended anyone, or pray that if we have, they won't give us a public lashing, or that if they do they'll spell our name wrong.

Bill Cameron said...

You're sarcastic?

Sarah Laurenson said...

I blame it on the ability to post as anonymous. People seem to think they can say what they like and not have any consequences.

I had an editor request a full from me after she asked me to make certain changes. I could tell she was watching my reaction to her critique. I'm sure it played a part in her request.

Jan Cline said...

Wow, this is an eye opener. thanks for the reminder that our words sometimes have a shelf life that goes far beyond our original intent.

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

I adore your sense of humor - probably because it parallels mine. Being born in Brooklyn, sarcasm is in the DNA.

As far as my blog and twitter are concerned, I never feel "anonymous." I suppose my years of performing my music make me feel I'm forever in the spotlight. Or maybe it's birth order - firstborns always feel unjustifiably deserving.

I love using my blog to encourage writers and to discuss the magic and discipline involved in the creative process. Every now and than I'll do a "personal" post, but I try to keep those upbeat and interesting as well. My marketing background and love of all things funny, informs everything I write publicly.

And I've never posted my thoughts on agents on Querytracker. But I sure as heck read them!

Anonymous said...

The only part of that that makes me raise my eyebrows is "if they blog a lot about how hard writing is." Because literally every single author I know, and every blog I follow, has some talk about craft and the fact that it IS damned hard.

I think it's ridiculous to expect that the person, when in the morass of revisions or the middle of the book, won't bemoan how much they want to be finished or how hard it is to drag along. I don't think I'd actually want to work with an editor who didn't want me to discuss the process on my blog. That's why most people read author-blogs; new authors getting inspiration on their own process or just validation that they aren't crazy and everybody hates their own work sometimes.

I would be pretty disappointed if people like Elizabeth Bear stopped writing about their process, and things like finding the plot of your mystery about 3/4 of the way through, only to have to rewrite the beginning.

Jennifer said...

I'm always aware that others can read my posts and comments. It's all about being professional, which some people seem to forget...sad, really. But at least they make it easy for potential agents to make the decision. :) Great post.

SundaySoup said...

Maybe it's for all the reasons that Debra lists (first born, was an actress so I'm used to the spotlight, background in marketing), but I basically have two ground rules and they're easy for me to follow. I don't even have to think about them. Don't blog/comment about the business side of my writing career and if I can't say something nice, I don't say it. I avoid anonymous comments because generally, if I have something anonymous to say, it probably shouldn't be said. Aside from the fact that mean things could come back to haunt me, do we truly need any more mean things out there? Who am I to diss a book that someone put their heart and soul into just because I don't like it? I recently stopped following someone on Twitter because they were tweeting EVERY agent rejection and every agent request. I just wanted to say, "Agents are reading this! Keep this to yourself!" and it made me so uncomfortable for him. I know writers get excited about the business side, or a book just pisses them off because it's so bad or whatever, but talk to your mom, spouse, best friend. Please!

MAGolla said...

I think I had this drilled into my head when moonrat visited my blog and commented one day.
I follow a lot of blogs, including your blog, and never really thought much about it . . . until moonie commented on my 'A Berrying We Will Go' blog when my daughter and I picked blackberries this last June.

Sometimes I forget this lesson and need reminders--Thanks Janet!

Nancy Coffelt said...

I think if a writer just follows your
"Rules For Writers" on the right hand side of your page for their own blog, everything in the entire world will be hunky dory.

Shaun Hutchinson said...

Don't you feel that maybe reason number four might be a little bit of a high school mentality? Refusing a manuscript because so and so didn't like your friend's book? I understand the need to maintain a certain level of decorum, but how can we foster an honest discussion about books if we can't talk about the books we hated alongside the ones we loved?

BJ said...

The key to dealing with people on the internet is the same as for dealing with people in real life: if you act out of respect and honesty, there will be nothing to hold against you.

Part of the problem, I think, is that other people on the Internet are often not seen as real people, just as other drivers often aren't. Those aren't just words and cars you're responding to-- they're people. Real people with feelings, hopes, beliefs, tragedies, and lives.

There's a very interesting search site where you can put in a name, and it pulls up all sorts of things associated with that name, including blogs, tweets, comments, and websites. It can be a real eye-opener:

Now, let's be careful out there.

Anna C. Morrison said...

This is a great reminder, and I did learn the hard way that anyone can find me. This includes my mom, ex-boyfriends, and a whole lot of unsavory people. I never give out my physical location, and I always keep things positive. Well, unless I bake the world's worst cake, and that's just funny, anyway. But it's good to know that agents and publishers google us, and to be reminded to keep it all positive and somewhat ambiguous, so thanks!

Andrew Rosenberg said...

This actually happened to me to some extent the other day. A publisher tweeted "pitch me" so I sent him my 140 char pitch. He replied (to paraphrase), "I read your blog and it says you have some issues with your story. Try again when you're ready."
So in response I made this post: "What NOT to blog about as a writer"

I don't think posting details of my Writer's Journey should be held against me. I think it helps me and other writers in our struggle.
I mean, we're all about exposing human drama.
But I agree if the blog is too negative, I wonder what that means about working with that person going forward.

Patience-please said...

Witty, constructive sarcasm can be a great teaching tool.

Mean-spirited, condescending barbs chucked at vulnerable folks, in order to make the 'chucker' sound important ... not so much.

I have only witnessed the former from you, Ms. Reid, never the latter.

Anonymous said...
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Melinda Szymanik said...

This post gave me the chills.

Sandra Cormier said...

I agree that writers should conduct themselves with decorum while online.

However, when faced with discussions about their work outside the usual review circles, they should be allowed to defend themselves.

When authors respond by going on the offensive, they might be doing more harm than good. They should take a step back and think about the consequences of their actions. Accusations and name-calling will only bite them in the you-know-what.

It's difficult to stand back and allow unwarranted abuse, but a certain amount of restraint goes a long way.

Sara J. Henry said...

If you have a Google ID, you can go back and erase Comments you've left on Blogspot blogs - but by then they may be replicated elsewhere.

Personally, I don't blog about rejection or writing struggles and try to keep negativism to a minimum, and seldom use other people's real names, unless I'm pushing their books (no, my Chicago-area pal is not really named Pinecone).

You never know who will read your blog - when some friends were attending Squaw Valley Writers Conference their roommate quoted me to them - as Sara in Vermont, that is (she had no idea they knew me). I'd posted a guide to getting the most out of that conference. (They got a big laugh out of it.)

Your web presence is your giant calling card, viewable by all. I've seen things posted by various bloggers (often in Comments) that would give me great doubt about ever working with them.

Terri Coop said...

I'm actually in federal court in an intellectual property lawsuit and I gained jurisdiction over the interloper by using crap she had posted on her website.

In this same lawsuit, I've also had to endure cross-examination over crapola my husband put in an email.

I was investigated by the legal ethics board in my state (and exonerated BTW) stemming from emails I had sent.

The internet lives forever and do not ever forget it for a minute.

Now I hope Janet doesn't hold all the things I've said about Publish America at Absolute Write against me when I query her . . .


Daisy Bateman said...

Just had a lesson along these lines when I learned this weekend that, unbeknownst to me, an aunt has been reading my blog for some time now. Fortunately, there's nothing there to make that a problem, but it did drive home the lesson of "never put anything on the internet you wouldn't want anyone to read."

Liesl Shurtliff said...

I feel like I am conscious and careful about this, but what about book reviews online such as goodreads? Do we have to say nice things about every book just in case an agent might read them? I don't feel like I'm mean but I'm always upfront and clear about what I didn't like in a book. It might not be the same for everyone, but I hope an agent wouldn't pass on a contract just because I gave a book they worked on two stars instead of five.

J. R. Tomlin said...

It might be hard to win a suit against authors for telling the truth though. I have yet to see a vicious remark posted on querytracker.

Scott said...

My invisible cloak is defective? Dang!

I never post anonymous comments. If I'm going to make a comment, people are going to know it's me.

I try to treat people like I want to be treated: respectfully and with a good dose of snarkiness every now and then.

Is writing hard? Heck, yeah, sometimes it's the hardest thing I do. Other days, when the words are flowing, the ideas piling on top of each other . . . not so much.

I don't think there's a person out there in the Multiverse that doesn't complain about their job at some point in time. I have one of the best jobs in the world - casual dress, close at 3 on Fridays, Noon if it's a holiday Friday, great benefits, great people - and yet there are days when the stress gets to me and I, somewhat, dislike my job. Luckily, I can look across the room at my boss, vent for a moment, and everything's back to Mary Poppins spoonful of sugar bliss. : )

Now, talking bad about an agent because they rejected your brilliant manuscript? Not smart, not smart at all. There are a gazillion writers sending in a gazillion queries, to the few, the proud, the agents of the world. Rejection happens. Disappointment happens. Life goes on. Agent 1,213 just wasn't the right agent, but I have confidence in my work and my ability as a writer . . . and I'll keep trying. I won't bash an agent, because that agent who rejected me just wasn't the right agent for me.

Ooops, sorry for the long comment.


Scott Bryan said...

Good advice! I'm sure we all fear what we've typed. It's best to keep everything fair and true. Don't insult, try to stay positive and think first before you type.

Karen said...

It's becoming an increasingly pervasive problem with the Internet; the lack of a face in front of you (or millions of faces) creates a feeling of security like no other. I think the Gen Y and Milleniums are often learning this lesson the hard way since they've been able to live the bulk of their lives with Internet access. Whereas, most Gen Xers and older are more cautious. Not that anyone is immune. I find people who are very open in life also tend to be open on the Internet.

I have to respectfully disagree with the notion that one of the previous commenters made regarding not putting your real name out there. Personally, I have nothing to hide. I have blogged and posted on Twitter about products/companies in cases where I had poor service, but when(if) they make things right, I give equal time to the resolution. If you have nothing to hide and you are thoughtful and respectful in how you use the Internet, there is no need to hide behind a pseudonym.

I've heard many give the advice that you should not post something on the Internet that you wouldn't say face-to-face with some or many. In other words, don't lose your inhibitions just because you're staring at a computer screen! That is the best advice I've ever heard!