I recently read an interview with an agent in regards to googling potential clients before offering representation. She said that if she couldn't find the person (blog, twitter, facebook etc) in a google search that it was an automatic no to representation. Do authors really need an author platform at the querying stage? Is this a common position? What about when you use your maiden name for your day job and married name for writing (or vice versa)? What about common names where the person who comes up in a search isn't you?
Oh I love it when my colleagues demonstrate themselves to be idiots! More good clients for MEEEEEE!
Here's a list of the clients who had no, and I mean ZERO, electronic presence when I signed them:
Stephanie Jaye Evans
If I was feeling particularly snide, I'd post copies of their books covers.
If an agent insists on a public presence before signing a novelist, the ONLY thing that does is limit his/her pool of prospective clients.
It doesn't hurt you at all because you don't want an agent who clearly doesn't understand that novelists should be known for their work, not the fact they want to be writers.
Which is not to say that public presence is a bad thing, it's not; but it's not a requirement. Anyone who says it is is speaks only for him/herself, not all the rest of us looking around for delicious new clients.
Now, if we are talking NON-FICTION, that is a different question entirely. Public presence is enormously helpful in a non-fiction book proposal but it is a very subjective measure, depending on the kind of book proposed, and the amount of time between querying an agent and submitting to publishers.
The truth is all agents have ways to separate "gonna read" from "not gonna read." I like it when my competition picks a way that has nothing to do with the quality of the work because I am a competitive beast and I think that's a short-sighted standard.
Is there anything you can do about this? No
Is there anything you SHOULD do about this? No.
What should you do: focus on what you can control. Write a great book about something I want to read.
I know so many people out there who would love to read this, and feel a little better about not scrambling to get on every social network to talk about their pencil shavings. ;)
Alex Hurst, fantasy author in Japan, participating in Blogging A-Z April Challenge.
I absolutely agree. I squeeze my writing in between a day job and parenting two active kids. When I have a spare hour here or there, I'm going to prioritize my WIP, not updating my blog. The writing has to come first.
I'm curious to know whether the agent in question represents popular nonfiction. As you say, that's a genre in which authors really need platforms. Without saying what s/he represents, it's hard to know if they're just being an idiot.
I agree that a social media presence should not be necessary, and there is no one more pathetic (in my mind) than the aspiring author who begs for followers and posts repetitive tweets promoting something he or she has written. However, I recently had a very eye-opening experience when I Googled myself under my first and last names only (the name under which I was writing and that on my web site, FB and Twitter) -- eye-opening to the point at which I immediately took steps to change my name everywhere on the web. Any aspiring author should Google his or her name to see what appears on Google and other search engines. The other point I would make regarding this is that some social media posts can be helpful, and that forcing one's self to write regularly on a blog or web site is good practice for other writing.
I've always wondered about this. My name isn't terribly common, but there are by my count at least six others that I know of with my exact name. How do these agents sort that all out? Or do they think I'm some kind of super-doer living all over the globe at once? :)
Thank you for this very encouraging post. At this point, I definitely need to spend the time I have on the WIP not on social media.
Oh. My. I haven't Googled my name in a while. Just did. The good news is my blog is the first thing that came up on my Google search. The bad news is the first picture in the "Images Of Donna Everhart" is a mug shot of another Donna Everhart who was arrested. She's one bad lookin' chick.
Here is another tidbit...I clicked on Images For Donna Everhart - and ALL the pictures I've taken and posted on my blog, or stored in my media library for the blog are shown along with images from all other Donna Everhart's of the world, I suppose.
Anyway, I do have online presence and only tackled that b/c I'd read somewhere this would be necessary at some point - if/when published. I've enjoyed doing the blog, enjoyed getting followers, but some days I wish I didn't feel obligated to post just b/c it's "due."
Donna.....I googled your name and saw your other 22 friends on the mugshot posting. Hey congrats on the acquittal.
I laughed out loud...then I googled my name and saw a picture of me that looked like Hemingway on meth. A picture I posted temporarily on a writing page that I thought was abandoned.
Good lesson here...if you can wipe all the not so flattering images, it would be wise.
Donna only six more months of probation...good for you. Stay strong, and stay clean. Cheers Hank
I always thought that attitude seemed short-sighted, but what do I know? Glad to know it's not a real rule. Like the pesky "proofreading your query letter" and "not visibly stalking the agents" rules.
Kidding. I'm sure there are good reasons for those rules.
@frenchsojourn - LOL! Oh Lordy. I'm trying to keep it real, keepin' clean. Jail food's not so bad - really. I could use a shower - or, maybe not.
To check on my social media standing I looked me up on google and found I had been arrested and booked and am presently in jail in Galveston. It's good to know. I was wondering why supper tasted distinctly of bread and water last night.
Hahahaha... I Google myself all the time just to know if my platform has expanded beyond my three by three front stoop. I've gained a milometer or two over the last couple of years, probably has something to do with 600 words a week and my propensity to expound on the ludicrous aspects of gray hair and grandchildren.
Google me with one N and my husband's cousin shows up. HIS platform is the size of...think huge Giant Muskellunge and Lake Superior. Google me with two Ns, with my maiden name or without, and like I have often said, I'm a minnow in a mud puddle.
Hey, I added a third N and clicked on some pics. Yup, I'm there but who the hell are these people?
Ahh, when the "worry brain" takes over. When I start to fret about externalities like this, I disconnect from the internet and write. Then go for a walk. Then write some more. The internet and its conflicting advice doesn't come back until my head is on straight again.
But I am glad to see that this is another case of "the writing is all that matters". I have a web presence for my non-fiction, but absolutely nothing for my fiction. I'm glad to hear that I shouldn't worry about that.
This is good to hear. I have personal reasons for wishing to severely limit any online presence under my real name and fully intend to use a pen name if I ever do get published.
I suppose I could blog under an alias and send the link with any query letter but I'd still prefer to spend that time and energy on one of my WIPs, or on querying something already done.
LOL want to have real fun with google? Set up alerts for your name. I've died and been arrested for all sorts of stuff.
I think an agent googling an author does have some pitfalls. I'm one of those with an extremely common name. Last time I checked, my blog did finally end up on page 2 when using my real name. However my net presence in general can be googled 10 years back... if you know how to google ME.
I've used the same handle since the early '00's. I knew then that my name would be a problem online, so I made myself an identity that is distinct. It's my website url, it's used on almost every site where a pseudonym is allowed (though I almost always put my real name in the details).
The problem is that how and when would you give that sort of information? I personally don't think my history with digital art, list of social networks, yelp reviews, abandoned blogspot blog, myspace account, etc, is something that needs to be revealed how to find at the query stage, but if an agent does plan to google me they probably want to weed out the me's that aren't ME.
I happen to share a name with a celebrity actress in the British Isles. If an agent looked me up she would fine images of a gorgeous woman about 15 years younger than me. Can't see how this would hurt me in the short term. . .
Love to surf this blog while procrastinating my editing. Thank you Janet!
Oh, thank goodness! I do understand the importance of an author platform after there is a book out. Heck, I google authors all the time to find out what else they've written and when their next book is coming out. But, the thought that I would have to have a platform at the query stage was a bit overwhelming. Thank goodness that appears to just be a standard for that agent and not an industry "rule."
Whether we like it or not, many agents do look to see if an author they're interested in can be found on the net. Here's an article from The Write Life: What Does A Literary Agent Want To See When They Google You
This is so encouraging to hear! I just found your blog this past week and it's been a really great read for me. I appreciate the time you take to share an insider's look into an agent's world - it's really helpful for novice writers like me, thank you!
On your list, Mr Gorby just didn't have any electronical presence, he even managed to disappear completely from the 'Net.
And still you signed him.
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