Saturday, February 19, 2011

what were you thinking?

So, you join twitter, and you're all aflutter with How.Many.People you can talk with! Or if you can't talk with them, you can talk to them, or about them.  It's all the same right? With/to/about? Heck, just tweet something to @SharkForBrains, and you'll have the attention of the shark herself.

Wheeeeee! Good times!

So what do you do?

You write a blog post about your rejections.

"I'm working hard, but oh man, I got rejections, and I can't figure out what they mean"

Then you tweet a link to the post to the agent who rejected you.

@SharkForBrains Hey, I mention you in my blogpost here:  www.don'tdothisI'

Then you write a blog post about the fact you're waiting for a reply from an agent.

"I'm still waiting, it's so hard to wait, I know she's busy, I'm just so excited; it's hard to wait"

And tweet that to the agent you're waiting to hear from.

@SharkForBrain, Hey, I mention you in my blogpost here: www.NoIreallywasn'tkiddingwhenIsaiddon'

And just to make sure EVERYONE in the entire world sees it, you tweet it to a couple other people as well.

@SharkForBrainsDeputy @SharkForBrainsTrainsandAutomobiles @RemorasAreUs  Hey, I posted some stuff mentioning you here at www.thirdtimeisnotacharmandI'mstillnotkiddingdon'

what the heck are you thinking here?

I'm very perplexed.

This is wrong on every single level.

If you're a writer at the query stage:

1. Keep your query process OFF YOUR BLOG.

2.  Don't call attention to your rejections.

3. Don't post something on your blog about waiting for  an answer  particularly if the wait time is well within the posted guidelines.

Of course we see the tweets.
Of course we click on our names. (once)
Of course we read that blog post. (once)

It doesn't do you a damn bit of good of course, because all we see is someone who seems to be complaining.  At length. And then, if you ever tweet to us again, there's no incentive to click. Your blog post wasn't funny; it wasn't charming; it didn't entice me to come back again, or to to subscribe in my google reader. 

You may not think it's complaining; you might think you're "just talking about the process."  Please trust me on this: it looks like complaining from where I sit.  And honest to godiva, I'm not parsing out each sentence in your post. I'm looking at the first three, skimming the rest, and thinking "egad."  Essentially, I'm getting a quick first impression. And that quick first impression is not good.

Why are you doing this?

There is a place for writerly angst. It's NOT ever a public place.  Disagree with me if you care to about whether that's fair, but this blog post isn't about fair.  It's about how to not shoot yourself in the foot.

Save your ammo for the 1-star reviewers on Amazon. 


readingkidsbooks said...

Well said, as usual.

Jeanne said...

Y'ever notice how, when you're at a party or work or something, and you're gossiping or complaining loudly about someone, that someone always seems to walk up to your group in the next minute, and everyone falls into a hushed silence, wondering if the focus of the gossip heard what you said?

Yeah. Teh Internets is like that, too. Has nobody figured out yet, posts are like ghosts, they come back to haunt you? (Yes, you may quote me on that.)

Ms. Shark, you're absolutely right.

Trisha said...

Oh this is awkward. I am wincing! hehe

Unknown said...

I'd pay good money to see the face of the one who prompted this post as he/she discovers it.

Krista D. Ball said...

Too funny, I blogged about this very topic today. I had to write it, then edit out all of the swearing :)

After you become a NYTimes best seller and are richer than God (or at least James Pattison), go ahead and blog about your rejections to your heart's content. Until then, oh just hush up.

Tatum Flynn said...

Oh my gosh I burst out laughing when I got to the kitten :)


First, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that writers actually do this. But I am.

Second, writers really need to think of themselves as business people. I'm thinking that, whatever this tweeting writer's day job is, she's probably not tweeting in a similar fashion when one of her co-workers doesn't behave the way she prefers. Or when her boss (or worse, a client) doesn't respond as quickly as she'd like.

Then again, I'm the naive one, right? She probably learned this from her co-worker or boss.

Anonymous said...

Twitter is a shiny toy.

I must resist becoming so enthusiastic I draw all over it with crayons, take it with me on the bus, and eventually sellotape a Roman Candle to the back and blow it up.

Creepy Query Girl said...

eh, I'm up and down with this one. My blog is 'Creepy Query Girl' so OFCOURSE I'm going to mention the process from time to time. It's what people come to me for, especially writers just starting out and waiting to query. I try and keep it real, but it IS rare that I mention what's going on with me personally. Or I'll do it on the sly. When my readers see a 'Ten Sucky Things' post, they know I've gotten rejections or 'Learn to Knit' posts, they know I'm waiting on an agent. Where I think it's important to share to a point to let people know they aren't alone in this and release the stress, tension, excitement that builds up and pops out so easily in this process, I would NEVER EVER mention an agent by name let alone tweet about them. If the agent who rejected me sees my sucky post or the one who has my submission sees I'm distracting myself by contemplating crossing the desert, mashing wheat into flour, or learning japenese, and can't take the humor for what it is, oh well! It's who I am and how I deal.

stupidgirl45 said...

Great post!!! Why would anyone do this? The mind boggles (and I speak as someone who used to work for 2 major british publishing houses)
Also loving the cute pictures - am assuming you like cuteoverload right?!
PS If I mention you in my blog + tweet it at you, it's cause I'm telling people to check out query shark + its general awesomeness.

Simon Hay said...

I feel embarrassed for this person that they didn't have the common sense to be patient and quiet. Rejection should never be taken personally. It's all business at the query stage. Though it is strange that something everyone is going through can't be talked about in a sensible way.

Diana said...

I'm guessing these tweets came from @sheetforbrains...

Quinny said...

Excellent. People forget that the internet is a public forum and anyone can find anything you have ever said. It's the modern world and your CV means one thing, but googling you is something else entirely!

I was always told that you don't say anything at work that you wouldn't say to your manager. Likewise, don't blog anything that you wouldn't want your manager to see either...!

Maria Zannini said...

Re: Save your ammo for the 1-star reviewers on Amazon.

And not even then.

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

Timely advice. I was just contemplating a post on the query process at

I'll blog about a really inspiring author I saw giving writing workshops for pre-teens instead Steve Swinburne. He was terrific.

Thanks for keeping my foot out of my mouth!

Gretchen said...

Getting your blog post rejected, that's harsh. Understandable but Harsh.

lora96 said...

Long ago I blogged about my failure at the query process. My novel wasn't revised. My query sucked. I did everything wrong and then whined about it. That isn't charming? Ah, I see that now.

Twitter scares me. It's another something I can screw up publicly. I am so not ready to tweet.

Anonymous said...

Are you even serious?

Michael G-G said...

Complaining on a blog? Good Lord, Sir, and fellow well met, I leave all that for the patient ears of my saintly wife. Never a word shall my blog readers hear of my own trials and tribulations. That is, if I had any.

Instead, this week my blog is all about par-taying and winning swag in my 1st anniversary blog party. Rowdy writerly conversations can just about be heard above the din. Neighboring blogs are on the point of calling the police.

So much more fulfilling than an angst-filled query whinge, if I say so myself.

arsenio ball said...

I would just like to let you know that it's the pictures that really, truly make this post.

I hope you tweeted this blog post at the person in question. "Hey! I mentioned you on my blog today! SEE HOW YOU LIKE IT."

David said...


I've never met you, but there's something very attractive about this post. (Hold on! Not being creepy!)

What I mean is the humor is so funny. I imagine a woman who drinks gin and smokes Virgina Slims while looking out her window at the cityscape--she's constantly pestered by the beeps and twits of her modern day appliance.

Kinda like a Salinger girl.

This is why I read this blog, because it is consitently funny. And if I never get to NY, then this is the closest I will come to the attitude. (Perfectly bottled and wrapped for my consumption.)

Great post, said...

Kung-fu kitty px is priceless! Tks.

Jennifer S. Wilkov - Your Book Is Your Hook! said...

Great post, Janet! Amen.

Tara Tyler said...

Too bad the annoying example got this much attention, @squeakywheel? Skin is too thin these days!

Josin L. McQuein said...

It's even worse when said blog posts go viral Rejection Queen style and the Publish America book you've been trying to pass off to your friends and family as published through a commercial press (with photoshop-altered cover)gets outed.

Lynn(e) Schmidt said... i have a question about this blog. i understand not to bitch about the specific people you've been rejected from (that's tacky), but my blog is called TheSubmissionProcess...which includes submitting to agents and getting rejected.
I have two posts, one about being rejected in under 20 minutes, and one about keeping my head in the game and "having heart" this a no no, as well?

Giles Hash said...

I agree!

I've mentioned rejections before, but never in a whiny manner. I never tag agents on twitter, but if they drop by my blog, they won't find any mention of any agencies. The only reason I ever mention rejections is if I've received enough to convince me that I need to rewrite my query. And I ALWAYS make a point to to insist that I'm not giving up.

I understand how the business works, and I'm working with the system. So I point out how hard I'M working without blaming agents. After all, I'm still learning, and agents know the business better than I do. I trust their expertise. And I certainly don't want them to remember me unless I impress them. If I'm rejected, I want to be forgotten by the end of the day. Complaining makes that very difficult. :D

Anne R. Allen said...

I wish there were a required-reading manual for Twitter and Blogger. So many newbies make ridiculous mistakes that I'm sure embarrass their older, wiser selves. I see someone trying to make friends by playing the "ain't it awful" game--which might work in the school cafeteria, but not here.

Sigh. She's going to be so sad when she figures out what she's done.

And Katie--we all love your creepy query humor. No specific agents are ever dissed, so I can't imagine people would object. It's not as if you're Tweeting @Sharkipotamus! Come read how stepping in dog poo in brand new Jimmy Choos isn't as bad as your rejections! You let us play "ain't it awful" in a controlled environment.

David said...

It seems that part of the problem is that too many people are confusing a blog for a diary.

There's personal and then there's personal. And for many of us, that line dusted over way too long ago.

Get your toes out and draw a quick line again. If you blog about your failure, then you are only a successful blogger. Not a successful writer.

Building a social media platform isn't about spilling your sucky day. It's about enticing people to read you. Position yourself to be read, not to be pitied.

ryan field said...

"Save your ammo for the 1-star reviewers on Amazon."

I agree with all of the post except this review thing. If you want to shoot yourself in both feet, go after any reviewer, on amazon, a blog, or anywhere else. They eat writers who do this for breakfast.

Orlando said...

Had to lol out loud, this was so funny.

Marsha Sigman said...

Desperation is never pretty, even when you only have 140 characters to express it in.

Maybe I should stop tweeting Damon from Vampire Diaries.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

To the twit...

Pinch index finger and thumb together...spread wide and form an L and place it in the middle of your forhead. suits you.

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

I love when you blog about puppies and kitties. (I mean, a real person couldn't possibly have done these things, right?)

Lynne Matson said...

Wow. This post was mind-boggling. Not the post itself (that was well-said and full of explanatory pictures) but the fact that you had to write it at all.

Complaining tends to repel people, not attract them. For all writers trying to get published, why in the world would you want to set yourself up as an unhappy camper -- or worse, a difficult one-- from the get-go? Eek.
(With an e, no parens. No blog either. Maybe I'll have one once I'm published, then again, maybe I'll just write books. Either way, until then, I'm staying mum.)

Lynne Matson said...

Just re-read my comment and thought it sounded a little snarky at the end-- which was totally unintentional.(That's what happens when you comment at midnight.)

Blogs are awesome, and serve a purpose. I read them, follow them and am slightly in awe of them-- especially those by authors (including aspiring ones). I'm in awe of the time it takes to blog on a regularly basis AND have something worthwhile to say. I'm not there yet, and may never be. For now, I'm content to listen and read. (Which is what I should have done last night).
That's all I meant. No disrespect to any bloggers, esp writer/bloggers. Mainly I wanted to be an example of exactly how easy it is to stick your foot in your mouth in a public forum.

See? If your mouth stays closed, you can't possibly put your foot in it.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

I came here via Verla Kay's message board and because how writers present themselves on their blogs is a particular pet peeve for me. A lot of time bloggers howl about being "honest" and "transparent" when really it means that the content should've been shared over a latte with a girlfriend and not in a place that google will cache for the rest of your life. If you wouldn't share the story with an agent or editor over said latte, don't post it. And if it's about failure, OMG make it funny.

This of course, is from someone who posted their early foul query letters -- after I'd hit the NYT list a few times. Irony beats informative every time.

Jan Markley said...

Great post. Good advice (and reminder) and love the cat and dog pics! I just blogged about my latest adventure in publishing; my publisher going out of business. But I kept it inspirational for the reader.

Natalie Zaman said...

LOVE--and well said. Marsha--a tweet to Damon is NEVER wasted!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

To M who did not understand my's an 'L' formed by your fingers, placed in the middle of your forehead.
It denotes 'loser'.
I guess you never saw the movie Shrek. I've walked many a brisk mile on a treadmill to the theme music of that movie.

Doppelgänger said...

I like the first cat.

Anonymous said...

Holy cow. I am bookmarking this so I can DM a link to it every time I see somebody tripping perilously close to the edge of this cliff. And I see it way too often. Thank you, thank you.

Mary Witzl said...

Good, useful post, great parting shot, and how I love that dog and cat slugging it out!

Being polite costs you nothing. And whining is part of what writing groups are for.

Anonymous said...

Discretion is the hallmark of a professional regardless of the area of endeavor. This personality probably doesn't bode well for the art of story telling either as they would most like give the plot away on the third page of a three hundred page manuscript.

LupLun said...

LOL Bitch-slapping pussy. ^_^

I agree with the sentiment, but you can't throw that shit at the 1-star reviews, either. That just gets you a rep for egotism. Clever writers counter by posting 5-star reviews under multiple false identities. ~_^

Akila @ The Road Forks said...

A few years ago, when I was practicing law, I received a resume from a law student who sought to be accepted into our firm: a high-class, prestigious establishment in our city, where we represented some of the top companies in the world. At the bottom of his resume, he had included a link to his blog, and the top post on that blog (which I, of course, clicked on) involved urinating into a gallon jar because he was too drunk to search for the bathroom in his friend's apartment. I wanted to shake that poor fool by his shoulders and teach him some discretion.

My rule of thumb: I never write anything on the Internet (FB, Twitter, or my blog) that could (1) kill my chances at a job interview and/or (2) embarrass me if my 80-year old conservative Indian grandmother read it. And the same should absolutely go in the publishing world. I hope fervently that this happened to you only once.

Kristie Cook said...

I blogged about this a couple weeks ago ( and a couple people were surprised that agents and editors actually know how to use Google to research a writer. Um...yes. They also know how to spell M-O-R-O-N and hit the rejection button.

Seriously, blogs are marketing tools, whether we like it or not. It doesn't matter if you're published, either. Agents and editors take a look at your blog if they're interested to get a feel for who you are. Once your book is bought, the media review your blog for background and material.

If you put it out there, expect it to be read!