Tuesday, July 22, 2014

question: how important is a querier's social media to an agent?

My question is: I am working on completing my first MS (YA fiction). I currently don't have a presence on social media. Should I start socializing electronically in anticipation of building a platform? How important is a social media presence to an agent when deciding whether to represent a new author?
You don't need platform for a novel.

Sure, it's nice if you have 10,000 friends and people are hanging on your every word, but generally that's going to happen AFTER you write Divergent, not before.

And the idea that you're "busy" on Facebook and Twitter when you're not writing is a terrible trap.  It's a trap beause you need, nay REQUIRE, fallow time. By fallow time I mean time when you're not doing anything.  Not tweeting, not reading, not driving the kids to school. Time when you're staring into space.

Sometimes this manifests as writers block and sometimes it manifests as "oh my god I can't get started" but what ever it is, you need it.  Your brain works in strange ways when it's working on writing a novel.  Not all writing is tapping the keyboard.  A lot of it is thinking. A lot of it is just dreaming.

It's one of the reasons I always advise buying a museum membership when you take up novel writing. Walking through the galleries, just looking, not thinking, not analyzing, just looking and seeing, juices up your creative spark.

So lay off the social media for now. Learn to be the very best writer you can. Once you start querying, it's time enough to make friends.  


french sojourn said...

Such perfectly timed advice. I am on that same razor blade as we speak. (or Write)

I find tending the vines almost as mentally unplugging as skim-coating drywall. (Seriously)

Thanks for the post.
Cheers Hank.

Unknown said...

My recommendation is to start your media presence once your first draft is written. As it sits in your bottom drawer, fermenting, start your blog, or Pinterest, or whatever interests you. Stephen King suggests leaving the book alone for at least a month before starting your rewrites. Use that time to get people interested in you.

And work on your query letter. And research agents. And check informative blog sites daily. And comment, Oh, and say 'hi' to the family once in a while.

Colin Smith said...

Yes! I can say that with much zeal and enthusiasm because that "thinking" stage is where I am right now. I've made a few tentative starts on a new project, but for the most part I'm letting a couple of ideas percolate in my head. One of them will brew quicker than the others, and that's the one I'll go with. That doesn't mean I'll have a well-constructed plot, or that I can just sit at the keyboard for a day or two and take dictation from my brain. What it usually means is that one idea becomes so strong and sufficiently developed that I can write the query for it. That then will form the basic structure from which I will write the novel.

I wonder, too, if the nature of your social media presence depends upon your target audience. It seems to me, many YA writers gravitate toward Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, and Instagram--maybe because that's where their audience is? I haven't done a lot of research on this, but I wonder if writers of adult novels (as in grown-up, not *ahem* *nudge-nudge-wink-wink-say-no-more*) do much more than a website, a newsletter, and maybe a blog?

Christine said...

Great advice, thank you! One less thing to worry about!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Fallow time. Thank you! I often feel guilty when I daydream or stare into space.

I now work part-time in my other career but I assure colleagues I'm "busy" writing the other half of my work week. I wonder if they assume I'm putting out 10,000 words/day! hah! Try 500-2,000 depending on the day.

Taking fallow time (or reflection time) is an anti-cultural message that is severely underrated and, IMHO, much needed in today's world.

Unknown said...

I heard an great quote the other day (don't recall the source).

"A writer never really goes on vacation, they're either writing, or thinking about writing."

And I find this to be very true.

Were I to recommend a place to dip one's social toe, I'd say Twitter. You can stalk ... err follow your target agents and authors you admire and get a feeling for the current flow out in the publishing world, all for a reasonable investment of your time.

And you can daydream while you do it.

Elizabeth Lynd said...

My son spends a lot of time wandering around our backyard thinking. Later, when we walk the dog, I get a glimpse of where his mind has gone. A writer to be, and maybe a solver of one of the world's sticky problems.

Christine Finlayson said...

Timely advice--thank you! I've been feeling mighty unproductive following a 40K month in June. But July has meant thinking, debating, and processing time--and the book is stronger because of it.

To those people who believe writers are not working unless we're sitting at a desk, I can now quote you: "Your brain works in strange ways when it's working on writing a novel. Not all writing is tapping the keyboard. A lot of it is thinking. A lot of it is just dreaming." :)

Thanks for some much-needed inspiration this morning!

Craig F said...

Is that the fallow time that comes as you find the particular word or phrase that will transform your next paragraph and show your wit and insight or the other fallow time?

The fallow time that comes when you get to where you planned to write that word of phrase in and realize that it is no longer part of your lexicon?

Jane said...

Fallow time is so important! I can't remember who it was, but one writer referred to this as "refilling the creative well" and I've found that it's absolutely necessary. After pushing on a project for weeks, I really need a few days to take walks, watch movies, play music, play with the dog... and let the brain refill.

When I started thinking about that time as *part of the job* of being a writer, I stopped feeling guilty about it!

Ardenwolfe said...

Excellent advice, and very true.

Adele said...

"Fallow time" - Thanks for the expression. I was using "lying on the sofa like a slug" but that doesn't have nearly the cachet of fallow time.

Anonymous said...

"By fallow time I mean time when you're not doing anything. Not tweeting, not reading, not driving the kids to school."

YES. Divine words if I've ever heard any. Some of us just need permission. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I love that "permission" for fallow time too! Bliss. Here's a bit of mine...every day about 5'ish, I grab a cold beer, get my little dog and we drift around the yard. He chases squirrels, birds, etc and I watch, while drifting, and thinking, and sipping, and thinking.

Anyhoo, I blog, and tweet, but writing or drifting comes first.

Michael Seese said...

Wha.... No, honey, I was WRITING. Great American Novel... Best sell...


Jenz said...

Walking/biking/jogging is another great way to get that thinking time in. Especially if you have access to good trails or parks.

Ryan Neely said...

I laugh every time I see this kind of question and response. Not because I think anyone is ignorant or "should know better," but because of how ingrained in our culture social media is becoming.

I attended a major university and majored in creative writing, and we spent an entire semester discussing the importance of building and crafting a social media platform . . . for us, the students, the wannabe writers. And I spent that entire semester banging my head against my desk, and beating it against the instructors, knowing full well that the importance of actually WRITING THE BOOK should come before any of that other garbage.

Sure, social media and a writer's platform is important for marketing, but what's there to market if there is no book. The way these instructors preached about needing to "be out there" and "be in contact" with even potential readers, you'd think having a blog, a Facebook, a Twitter, a Google+, a LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, Tinder, Grinder, and any of the other thousands of social media outlets was more important to writing the book.

How can we not be bogged down by the distractions of social media if we're told that we must not only have these things, but keep them active with new content, and different content from each other? How can we possibly get that book written, send out those queries, and everything else necessary for the book to be published if we are that worried about updating our Goodreads account?

Social media is great to have, but not at the expense of writing that bestseller.

Unknown said...

I love this advice!

BlancheDuBois said...

I agree, Ryan. This is putting the cart before the horse if you're "still working on completing" your novel, yet worried about social media. Until that novel is complete, all the social media connections in the world don't amount to a hill of beans, and just delay the completion of the work.

I suspect this heavy social media focus for novelists is an addiction, a long draft of the cool-aid, a distraction , and a procrastination strategy all in one. It puts me in mind of a wonderful post I read "You do not need Neil Gaiman's Gazebo". If you haven't read it, Google it. A fine--and brief--read, bound to get you back on solid ground after being sucked into a social media sinkhole.

Social media certainly has its place in marketing. But you need to have something to market first.

That said, Janet's advice about fallow time is solid, too. Without room to daydream, I'd never have started, let alone finished my manuscript. And I find that too much of the dreck I see on social media can infiltrate my daydreams and turn them into nightmares. I wouldn't want it to turn my writing into that, either.

You are what you eat, as they say.

(For example, I had a diverse group of metaphors for breakfast this morning. It's hard to stop with just one, though I know I should)

Ilex said...

@ Ryan Neely:

When I was querying, I skipped any agents who demanded an existing social media presence and a "platform," partly for the reasons you point out (platform on *what* if I don't actually have a novel out there?), and partly because I want to publish under a pseudonym and keep my personal life somewhat separate from my writer life.

IF my novel is accepted by a publisher, I will consider starting a blog. But like many writers, I work at a full-time day job, and my spare time (i.e. writing time) is pretty limited already. I really worry about how much time and mental energy a blog might take away from working on my next novels.

Plus, I think having a blog was a bigger deal ten years ago, when not that many writers did that yet. Now that pretty much every writer has a blog and a Facebook page and a Twitter account, are those things really a selling point? I can't possibly follow the social media of every writer I like to read. And honestly, in most cases, I care more about the books. If I love a writer's blog but can't stand their novels, I'm not going to be buying the books or recommending them. And yes, there are some writers whose blogs I love and books I'm really not into. It's a sad conundrum.

Wendy Qualls said...

When you get to the querying stage, I *highly* suggest getting onto Twitter for the networking. Follow the agents you query - then by the time you actually get some interest and (if you win the lottery) an offer, you've got a better idea about how those agents would be to work with. Some only tweet "congrats to my client for their new book out" promo material, some bicker with each other, some send out links to great writing advice, and some post anything and everything in their day. If you get to be "online friends" with other writers, that can really help too - the Twitter hashtag #1k1h is great for making friends with other authors! (The idea is you tweet #1k1h with the intention of writing a thousand words in the next hour. Find someone else with the same intention, and then poke each other an hour later to get some accountability. I've made several good writer friends this way!)

Unknown said...