Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Getting Ready to Query? Clean up your social media.

Recent events have revealed that there are folks out there who will take a deep dive into everything you've ever posted online.

That's a problem if you've done anything crazy or stupid.
And it's a worse problem if you've forgotten about it.

Take the time NOW to look at everything you've posted on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
Look at it with a cold, mean-spirited eye.
Use your delete key as needed.

I used to only look for people who had belligerent opinions about agents and publishing.
Now, I'm looking for stuff that will get you (and by association, me) into hot water.
Sharks do not like hot water.

Any questions?


KMK said...

Exceedingly wise advice! The Professor always tells his students (aspiring journalists): if you do not want your grandmother reading it on the front page of the New York Times, do not post it online. My grandma was a pistol, so I have a little more leeway than most...but the point is made!

nightsmusic said...

While I agree wholeheartedly with this, there is one thing to remember. Once it's out on the interwebs, it's out there forever unfortunately. Something I believe people didn't think about for a long time. So while you can delete everything, and you should if it's stupid, if someone has a mind to dig hard enough, they can find almost every stupid thing, and we've all done stupid things.

PAH said...

I feel like there is a bigger conversation here...

Matt Adams said...

Janet's post today and other posts and incidents about this subject have pushed me to think it's time to abandon traditional publishing. It used to be what mattered is how well you put together words and stories. But now it's that, plus what you've said publicly or even what you considered privately. it's about who you are and what you believe, so that writers -- who exist to put their ideas and thoughts into the world -- now find themselves stymied and de facto silenced for stating opinions.

I know they aren't really silenced, and that being willing to state an opinion also means be willing to stand by it. But when someone as insightful as Janet Reid says she's not willing to get into trouble for a client's opinions and therefore is using that history as a screening tool, we have to wonder what the point of even bothering with gatekeepers at all? You're not just being judged by the quality of your work, but whether your opinions align with theirs. If any work -- or any writer -- is going to get excluded for what they believe (and being willing to state those beliefs) maybe it's time to rethink the paradigm. At least for me, anyway.

NLiu said...

I think I have some ideas, but I'd love more guidance on what exact "stuff" is going to get someone in hot water. There's so much drama on Twitter sometimes I'm afraid to post anything in case I unwittingly get my not-even-a-career-yet career destroyed. Someone even got into trouble for being happy they got a full request. That seemed... disproportionate. I don't think they named the agent (I can see why naming names would not be okay).

I would say I'll only ever post about kittens, but I don't have one (cruel allergies!)

And now I'm worrying about posting this!

Back, you trolls!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I hate to admit that I am thinking along the same lines as Matt Adams.

I considered abandoning social media altogether a couple of months ago as it has become so toxic and hardly the free exchange of ideas and opinions. Now, I use it mostly to follow what is going on with my beloved Liverpool FC and pretty much nothing else.

So many on social media seem to have adopted the "I am right about absolutely everything and if you disagree with me, you are a racist, homophobic, xenophobic, ass-hat who is evil and it would be ok to shoot you for the greater good." attitude.

I just want to be a writer. It is my first dream. It is my bucket list dream. I want people to read and enjoy my stories before I am dead and in the ground. I want traditional publishing to work, to be legitimate and an indication of the best work produced and not a rigid, propagandist machine. I am losing faith. I have no desire to self-publish because I am know my limits. How would I ever be able to do all the work to get that done in a way that is meaningful where people would actually read what I have written? Ugh. So frustrating. And yet...time is running short.

And I sure as Hell don't want anyone at all getting bullied because someone else said something online twenty years ago that the ridiculous "woke" culture of today objects to now. Opinions and hearts change. THEY DO. What was said twenty years or twenty days ago as a freaking opinion may no longer apply. Who the HELL ARE THESE PEOPLE TO JUDGE? Ok, I am getting really angry now. I am going away. said...

That's the reason some time ago I closed my Facebook account, my website, and my blog. Now I seldom post anything anywhere and never under my real name. Hopefully it was in time. If it were a matter of being called out for saying something stupid, it wouldn't be so bad. But now to express a contrary opinion, one risks being maligned, maybe even physically hurt. I can't help but be reminded of Martin Niemoller's comment..."when they came for the Jews...."

Oh, dear, here I've gone and expressed an opinion. God, forgive me for being a coward.

CynthiaMc said...

I often get teased about my spectacularly boring life, but there are times I am very grateful.

Matt Adams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt Adams said...

EM and Texas, I hear you.

I mean, JR has said many, many times how important it is to have a social media presence when querying, because agents are going to look you up. But if that social media presence says the wrong things -- and what is "wrong" changes often and ambiguously -- then we're ruled out; we're supposed to have a social media presence that lets agents and editors know about us without really letting them know about us. If you've already got a following, you'll still get published -- hell, the following, as JR has said, can be a reason you get published (rack up those Twitter followers, people!) But to get the right following, you gotta say the right things. Look at Rowling -- she took a position (maybe not a perfect one but a reasonable one), she wrote a minor character in her latest book and now she's vilified for both because the work and the life can't be allowed to be separate anymore.

It's bad enough that sincere people suggest having sensitivity readers before you start querying, because you telling your story your way may offend some people. Now we're getting rid of our blogs and scouring our tweets and trying to remember all of our conversations for the same reason, afraid of the consequence of anything but silence (or vocal restatement of the popular stances for literate New Yorkers, since that's the epicenter of American publishing). So lots of kittens or echoing the acceptable things. One of JR's wonderful advice posts was "Be Brave." Now it's be brave, but about the right things and be careful when you're being brave. Or maybe not be so brave about that, but be brave about this.

Since the written word began (and maybe even before it) the world has counted on storytellers to say the contrary things, to look for other ways of seeing events. It was okay if you were a monster because your words were so much bigger than you. But that's not the case anymore. Your work is now judged on you, your beliefs and your life. I can't hep but believe the results will be anything but reductive.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Matt, all this nonsense will be reductive. We are flirting with a new Dark Ages. We even have a plague to go with it. Ain’t that grand? Only the rats and fleas are prettier and we can light our cities up. Sometimes with fireworks and burning buildings. Nothing says justice like broken windows and a dead shopkeeper.

What really, really sucks is we were warned so many times by the artists that came before us, even before the clock struck thirteen o’clock on a cold, April Day in 1949. I wish I was braver. The sicker I get, the more I want to start screaming, but hold it in. (Ok, failing miserably at this moment at keeping it in). There is so little time and I don’t wish to be squashed like a bug. I just want to tell my stories.

J.K. Rowling can stand the buzzing of the little, biting fleas of the cancel culture. I checked. Nine of her books remain on the best-sellers list between Harry Potter and her alter ego. She’s fine. Her voice will still carry over the cries of the eternally offended.

Most us don’t have that luxury. We are treading water just to keep our families fed, to keep breathing, to keep a roof over our heads, to pay for the medicines that keep us alive. We can’t afford to be cancelled, to have our lives destroyed because we dared to defy the mob. We would simply die and no one would mourn us or notice.

Adele said...

I have been sickened by seeing talented people's careers damaged or destroyed because one thing they said was seized and twisted and held up for the scorn of millions. I am sickened by the millions that don't hesitate to destroy the life of someone they would never think of physically harming.

Social media is just so new that our society still hasn't digested it. I don't know what the answer is but I don't think the answer is to stop speaking.

However, I think what Janet's getting at here is all those comments you made or pictures you posted when you were young, carefree, and unthinking. Go back and take a look and kill them if you can.

Julie Weathers said...

Nightmusic and Mattadams are correct.

I got rid of my official twitter account and went underground, but if someone digs deep enough they could find tweets from years ago even though I've deleted everything with my name on it. I post very innocuous stuff on facebook, mainly pictures of my family, funny crap, inspirational things and that very seldom. I avoid politics as much as possible. My blog is strictly business and yet I'm pretty sure a sh!t storm will arise sooner or later with a mob if I venture onto social media at all.

Agents want you to have a media presence and yet every other day you read stories about some author getting crucified by the media mob and the author having to bow down and beg forgiveness or pull their book and rewrite it. BS

I had a friend of fifteen years who regularly goes on rabid liberal rants. I ignore them because he's a talented writer, he's entitled to his opinion, and I don't have to respond to them. We were messing around with co-writing a fantasy since he was locked down and bored. It started as a lark, but the thing had some real bones to it and I thought we should get serious about it. I had other projects, but I always work on more than one thing.

Anyway, one day my son posts a meme with the saying, "What are people going to be offended by next and demand the name be changed, Brownies?" This was after the Aunt Jemima stupidity. M deleted our story. Blocked me on all social media and changed his facebook account so I couldn't follow him.

My blog will be my only media presence. Forgive me. I'm not dealing with nitwits. Kari Lynn's death was a wake up call to me. Life is too short to deal with the crap.

I'm tired. I'm done. I'll write my stories. I'm not dealing with idiots.

Brenda said...

The problem is that you give up. You start to believe you’ll never be published so who cares what you think.
And then there’s the twitter cesspool.
Thanks Janet. This is a good reminder.

Colin Smith said...

I have some thoughts. They may not be good thoughts. Or even useful thoughts. But I'll throw them out there and see what happens. :)

Bottom line, the publishing industry is a business. A quick check on Amazon shows that all of J.K. Rowling books (including the latest "controversial" Cormoran Strike book) are still in publication and still for sale. Donald Trump's THE ART OF THE DEAL is also still in print and for sale. Indeed, as much as people in entertainment seem to hate Mr. Trump, I can almost guarantee that if he wrote his memoirs, someone would publish them. Why? Because they would make a lot of money off of them. This is not a criticism. From what I can tell, you have to almost literally be Hitler to not be published if a publisher can make a dime or two off of you... and even MEIN KAMPF is still in print.

That, by the way, is not a criticism. Just an observation, and one that makes sense given that most people in publishing like to eat, pay their bills, and buy nice things.

The problem, then, may not be with publishers so much as with the loud voices of cancel culture. Some of whom, sadly, make their living as literary agents--the people who open the doors to the big publishers. But even then... how many agents would hand-on-heart say they would NEVER represent a "racist homophobic bigot" like Trump... but actually would and just not talk about it, because, to be honest, 15% of the sales of his book would buy a lot of adult beverages? My point? It's easy to run with the radicals on Twitter, but when it comes down to making a living... let's just say, it's enough to be SEEN to be saying the right things.

I hasten to emphasize, I'm talking about SOME literary agents. Certainly not all.

What does that mean for us, the writers who just want to do our thing, get our words out into the world, and not have to worry about our opinions, convictions, and beliefs ruining our chances of getting a foot in the door? I'm slowly becoming convinced that, as much as I would like to have a published novel on the shelf before the Lord calls me home, it's more important to be comfortable in my own skin and live as the person I am, rather than the person social media, cancel culture, or anyone else would prefer me to be. In other words, what does it profit a person if they gain the publishing deal, but lose their soul?

And you know, I think there's actually a "silent majority" out there that respects that kind of integrity, and might buy your book regardless of your past--or present. :)

As I said, just some thoughts off the top of my head.

Lennon Faris said...

Cancel culture definitely seems like shooting a mosquito with a cannon. In the wise words of the agent from Men in Black: "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it."

But, if I got upset about an agent judging my social media, I'd be a huge hypocrite. I've marked several agents off my query list because of things they posted on Twitter. Not because I'm offended by their existence, but because I figure we want to change the world in different ways.

NLiu said...

Hi Colin, thanks for the comforting thoughts. I can see publishers want to make money more than pretty much anything. However, I have one quibble. The people you mentioned are already (in)famous. People are interested in them, and hence will still buy their stuff no matter what mess they get into on social media. Hence the strong incentive to publish. This is *not* the case for unknown debut authors - and it seems to be debut authors who are most likely to get “cancelled” right now.

I do agree, I don't want to lose my soul over this! So I'm going to carry on being who I am. But I still feel it's best not to cause offense unless it's somehow necessary; not out of fear of trolls but out of love. I can't really comprehend what other people have been through. I shouldn't be blasé about adding to their misery. (Okay, I'm also worried about trolls, I admit it.)

MA Hudson said...

I reckon most people reading this blog will be absolutely fine with their social media feeds. Writers, by need, have to be empathetic souls and as everyone here is seeking to improve their writing, they're probably all self-aware enough to consider how their thoughts and actions impact other people.
People like JK Rowling seem to attract savage attacks BECAUSE they are so hugely successful. Us mortals could only wish for that sort of scrutiny, LOL.

Colin Smith said...

Hi, NLiu! Agreed--we don't need to add to the obnoxious in the world. And there is a way to balance being yourself with not going out of your way to cause offense or be insensitive. That's what we should aim for.

To your point about newbie authors, I would go back to Matt Adams' original comment about abandoning traditional publishing. This is, thankfully, always an option for us if the cancel culture crowd come to tear us down. If our beliefs, politics, or past make us untouchable by agents and the big publishing houses, there are still options. And, I believe, there's a "silent majority" who are willing to read a good story, even if the author has been banished from Twitter. :)

Craig F said...

Twitter has always seemed to be inherently tribal, maybe even a pack mentality, like getting three or four pit bulls together.

It seems to have turned into a way of copping an attitude and spreading it like, well, a virus. It became a political voice instead of a social voice.

A lot of the blogs I was considering emulating have gone fallow. It might be more of a drag to see a blog or website that has not been posted on since the Christmas last than to not see one at all.

I begin to wonder if not having any of these things might be a relief to an agent, like finding a unicorn.

Matt Adams said...

If an agent responded to your query with a “I like your pages but I can’t take you on because you said X on Twitter and because of that I don’t think we can get this book published,” that would be one thing. As JR always says, what agents want are things they can sell. But they don’t do that. They hit you with a form R or a NRMN, even if they looked you up and that was the reason, they’re going to do the easiest thing.

It’s not a matter of getting cancelled. It’s a matter of being discarded for having an opinion they (or the industry’s gatekeepers) don’t agree with. And then you have smart, kind, caring and decent people like QOTKU telling us to be quiet, scour our past and keep those opinions to ourselves. I find that very sad.

ADGraves said...

When I got closer to my querying stage, I decided I would write under a pen name especially since my full name is 16 letters in length.
I made an account on Instagram and Twitter with my pen name. I also put all my personal pages on private. I can’t look back all the way to 2013 so private was the best option.

AJ Blythe said...

My insta feed is mostly nature and art. My tweets are seldom or forwarding my insta and blog. My blog is me rambling about not very much. I'm on FB just for the Reider group, although I recently branched out to another temporary writing group. My only presence in all of this is under my pen name. I don't exist anywhere under my real name. So for this reason, knowing it is the writer me, I've kept it very professional.

I know I have absolutely nothing to worry about in the social media world.

KDJames said...

I'm not sure what prompted this post (this time), but I won't be taking this advice.

I know for a fact I've done crazy shit, probably even stupid shit, on the interwebs. Over the dozen-plus years I've been writing blog posts, I've offered scathing criticism of publishers for some of their more egregious attempts at "assisted self-publishing" that sought to take advantage of naive writers. Excoriated agents who deceptively stated their desire to raise commission rates from 15 to 20% was a mere 5% increase, rather than the 33% it was. I've written harshly (and liked and RT'd others' content) about what some people consider to be "politics" but is more accurately described as civics and ethics.

I'm sure there's more out there, on various topics. This is who I am. And I will do it again. Without hesitation or remorse. I'm not malicious, but I am blunt and tactless and as honest as I know how to be. No one who takes me on, in any capacity, will be surprised by what they get.

I don't understand this current opinion that writers -- who are arguably among the most intelligent, highly-educated, well-read, articulate people in our society -- should shut the hell up about topics that matter to them, to all of us. I don't care whether you're liberal or conservative, we need to hear all voices and opinions. It is dangerous to silence us by trying to shame us. Any of us. Informed debate and civil discussion of our differences is imperative. It's our responsibility to observe and consider and counter all of it. With respect for those differences.

The pendulum of popular belief swings widely over time. It makes more extreme swings during certain, more stressful, times than during others. It is never stagnant or still and neither should be our voices. Fear of bullying public opinion is a hideous and shame-filled way to endure your days.

Any agent or publisher who shies away from this stance is more than welcome to look elsewhere for writers to represent. I am living my remaining life and speaking my hard won truth with no regrets.

french sojourn said...

Well put KDJames.

Leslie said...

Lots of thoughtful and insightful comments.

But as someone who's had the Twitter mobs come after me (for what normal people would consider mostly noncontroversial, or at least non-offensive, stuff), I am hesitant to share anything anymore. Even the most innocuous, unrelated to politics/news subjects will get distorted and trashed.

Back in the first week of June, one woman actually tweeted/tagged my publisher three times because she was offended that I was unhappy that my building was almost firebombed one night (and nearly set on fire the next). Fortunately, I heard nothing from the publisher. But this woman uses an obviously fake name and cartoon avatar. It took some doing, but I now know who she is, where she lives, and where she works, in case she comes after me again.

While I appreciate respectful disagreement (and have made some online pals out of people who initially were ideological opponents), I made the decision back in June to just block anyone who argues with me while using a fake name.

But yeah, keep in mind that even seemingly innocuous comments and opinions can and will be distorted and used against you.

And before I end this lengthy comment, I'll just point out that as agents can judge us by our online presence, we can do the same with them. (And as someone who's had the pleasure of meeting JR a few times, I have tons of respect for and think the world of her.) Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of agents are decent, reasonable people.

But there are a few who showed their "Mean Girl" colors a few months ago. One, in particular, appears to be a crap-stirrer and revels in outing and taking down people who don't live up to her standards of acceptable political and social views. Obviously, I'd never say anything publicly about her, but I have a few friends who are serious about writing and I would quietly discourage them from querying her. Mostly because she has repeatedly shown a nasty, cruel streak in her desire to incinerate the careers of those who don't share her ideals

April Mack said...

Wait, wait, wait. AJ Blythe, there's a FB group just for "Reiders"? Please tell me more! I tried searching for it but couldn't find it.

AJ Blythe said...

April, it's called The Writers' Room.

ryan field said...

So you're telling people to self-censor. I see your point, given the JK Rowling debacle with regard to her transphobia, and the vituperative Don Winslow Tweets, but there has to be a civil, happy medium somewhere. You can't just never take a stand on anything. And I do self-censor all the time. But I'm not always ifs and buts and candy and nuts at Christmastime.

April Mack said...

AJ Blythe Thank you!