Monday, June 27, 2022

I don't want to tell you about myself

Last week talked about author websites and I visitied some of yours.


Shah Kou commented

But, your recent posts make me uncomfortable. What if I don't want to show you (or anyone else) where I live? What if I don't want to Tweet, or blog? What if my own thoughts and my life is something I want to keep private. Not because I have anything sinister to hide, but because I am just a deeply private person. What would that mean to you if I wrote a compelling query, and had some solid sample pages?


You are conflating tweeting/blogging and talking about yourself.

They can be very separate things.

Talking about yourself is only an example of what to blog/tweet about because knowing something about a potential client is a plus for me. And connecting with writers as people is often a plus for readers.


But you don't have to talk about yourself at all. Or your dog or your cat or your pet dragon.

You don't have to let your wife kill you in Very Short Stories (a brilliant Twitter device created by John Frain)



What you have to have is a public presence of some sort.

Well, let me clarify: You don't have to.

But that choice makes you invisible, and  invisibility is a non-starter for most agents these days, because the author is an essential part of promotion. And the avenues for promotion are social media.

People buy books they've heard about.

Yes this is a shift in the paradigm.

It's akin to when movies when from silent to talkies.

When basketball went from a ground game to an air game.

When surfing went vertical.


As to your question: "What would that mean to you if I wrote a compelling query, and had some solid sample pages?" 

If I found you to be invisible, I might ask you about it.

If you tell me you don't want to have any social media presence at all, we're done.


There are a lot of authors with compelling queries and solid sample pages. 

A good book is only the start of the battle.

You can hit the hell out of a fastball, but Ya gotta bring more


E.M. Goldsmith said...

OMG! I love Frain's flash.

And a great blog post to greet me in the general despair of Monday morning. Now, I wish my pet dragon would let me take a picture of it. Can't really afford a new phone'll be pug pictures.

Steve Forti said...

Bah. Thinking back on my last submission. One agent spent a while with the full manuscript, and once she started reading, was asking to share my Twitter and Instagram. To which I had to say I don't have either. Seems like that may have been a contributing factor to not getting the deal. This place is my only social presence. (Although I remain ever humbled that if you search for my name on Twitter, you'll some fine sharkbait summoning Beetlejuice - err, referencing the contests.)
But hey, website now. So baby steps? Also, I clicked that link hoping that was exactly the clip. Spot on.

Kitty said...

I can’t think of a single book I’ve read because I heard about it.

I’ve bought a lot of books because I liked the book covers. Then I read the first page(s) and was hooked.
I never read anything by Michael Connelly until I saw his Bosch series advertised on Amazon Prime. Since then, I’ve read almost the entire Bosch series.
I never read anything by James Patterson until I saw him playing himself in the TV show “Castle.”
I had heard about Frank McCourt’s “Angela’s Ashes” for months, but I wasn’t compelled to buy it until I saw it in the bookstore. I would have passed it by had it not been for the book jacket. I picked it up and began to read, and I bought it before I had finished the first page. It cost $24 of my grocery money, so we ate spaghetti for the next couple of nights.

I am not swayed by book jacket blurbs, either, because I don’t read them. I used to and was left wondering if the blurb writer had actually read the book. Nor do I care if the book won an award.

Maybe agents want their writers to maintain some sort of social media, but I couldn’t care less. As far as I know, Sara Gran has no online presence other than her books listed on Amazon. I just ordered her 7th book.

P.S. Frain's flash is genius!

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

I'm still a fan of FB - I get a decent amount of interaction when I post about the sanctuary and my books, and I prefer it over twitter. Twitter looks and feels like chaos to me.

John Frain: HA!

PAH said...

Social media is already changing and, eventually, will die. Web3 will wipe out the current landscape and potentially some of the BIGS in the Big 4, tbh, as content creators get more and more control.

This is just publishing being 10-15 years behind everything else. What else is new?

Katja said...

I think we might have to accept that some sort of social media presence is necessary these days. We also have to accept that it's card payment only when it says card payments only, and that ebooks are really popular even if many people still like and want to feel and smell a paperback in their hands.

Can't ignore the world keeps turning and that we're riding cars, not horses, these days.

It is not very difficult to stay VERY private on social media, at least on Twitter where you can just post words and GIFs, unlike with Instagram where you always need a picture. But that picture doesn't have to be of you.

I ALWAYS make sure on social media that nobody knows where exactly I live. Have done it for 5 years now and nobody has found out.

For my website, I also carefully select what I want to reveal and what not.

Brittany said...

It's an unpopular opinion, but here goes: writing may be an art, but publishing, including getting published, is a business. You're asking people to put a lot of money and the labor of a lot of people into your product. Sending a query is telling people "Yes, I want to make writing my Job, with everything that entails."

And... I honestly think a lot of people querying haven't really thought that statement through. Writing is their hobby and their passion, and they might like the idea of making it their profession but they haven't grappled with the reality of that: deadlines, tasks you don't enjoy, having to make changes to please those with the purse strings, becoming a minor public figure, and more.

To be clear, it's perfectly fine not to want any of that! I'm pretty good at both baking and singing and enjoy both of them thoroughly, but I have absolutely no desire to get a job in a cake shop or drop everything to hit the audition circuit. I think a lot of the people putting themselves through the wringer of querying are doing so only because they presume that's what naturally comes next when you finish writing something, and would be much happier looking for the writing equivalents of bringing treats to the office or joining a community choir.

(And I'm not talking about self-publishing, which would be like opening your own bakery! I'm talking about things like Wattpad, Tumblr, the original fiction tag on Archive of our Own, personal websites, local writing groups, etc. If you just want to get your work in front of people who will appreciate it, there are lots of ways to do that.)

Colin Smith said...

I was going to say something like what Brittany said, but she said it (very well, too), so I don't have to.

I would only add: it's a mistake to look at the experiences of writers even 10 years ago, who could remain relatively obscure and get book deals, and assume you can do the same now. The world has changed that quickly. Maybe it'll change again in the future--most probably. But if you're trying to get published NOW, this is the world you have to deal with.

From what I understand, self-publishing doesn't really get you off the hook either, not if you want to sell a lot of books. In fact, I'd suggest you have to put yourself out even more because you don't have a marketing team to help you.

I would encourage those who are on the shy side to not run from this challenge but to embrace it. Figure out ways you can protect your privacy while still connecting with potential readers. Perhaps use a pseudonym, or use your social media accounts to talk about writing, books you love, and share some freebie fiction. Be creative! 😀

John Davis Frain said...

This was like coming home from work and seeing your doppelganger sitting on the front porch. Waiting for Julie Weathers' two old ladies to come out and sip lemonade. (Mine would likely be spiked with ethylene glycol, but that's a story for another time. Say, midnight tonight.)

I follow and read a number of people on twitter who I know nothing about: name, location, even gender. You can do the same for your website if you like. Just share whatever you're comfortable sharing.

I remember when Richard Bachmann (Stephen King pseudonym) first came out with a couple novels, he still had an author photo on the back jacket flap, but it was a messy desk and nobody sitting in the chair. You could make that a trademark if you wanted.

Kitty said...

To be clear... I wrote my comments to explain how I choose the books I buy. So when I said I couldn't care less about a writer's online presence, I meant that I don't care if they have one or not.

NLiu said...

This is the reason I'm still on Twitter even though every time I go there, I remember why so many people have closed their accounts.

And Flash!Frain - what fun! Ha!

mythical one-eyed peace officer said...

Writing creative nonfiction is an avocation I much enjoy. I have had some success if one considers having several nonfiction stories published here and there, sometimes getting paid two or three figures, success. But writing is for my own enjoyment and while I would love to see a collection of my nonfiction stories in a bookstore if that requires a social presence I say to myself, "Screw that, not happening." I shall continue to write for fun.

Karen McCoy said...

Loving Flash Frain. Also loving the reference to Major League. I've seen that movie so many times I pretty much wore out the VHS I had.

Karen McCoy said...

Also to add to what Brittany said--I saw in an article recently that someone compared query letters to sales pomotions that someone would see in their inbox. Really helped me get persepective, and understand why it might be hard to stand out in the crowd, so to speak...

Shah Kou said...

Thank you so much for responding.

I am tech savvy and would be very comfortable creating a website and going gangbusters on social media if I were to get a publishing deal. And, I'm more than happy to talk about the work. But I would feel a little silly (and conceited) presenting samples of said work and my opinions on other people's writing as a yet unpublished writer.

That said, your response was very helpful (and makes complete sense).

Time for me to grow a pair and a backbone, I think.

Thanks again. Much appreciated.

Shah Kou said...

Also, it's occurred to me that I may not have been clear about my insecurities about "opening up" online. If I were to land a publishing deal, I understand that I would have to sacrifice privacy and anonymity to achieve success. And that would be fine with me. Authors must self-promote. I understand that. When authors engage with potential readers on social media and present as accessible and real, it's a marketing plus.
To be clear, I was only talking about the period before landing a publishing deal...when you're simply querying. Because, let's face it, very few aspiring writers achieve their dream of being traditionally published. And if I don't achieve that, I would certainly prefer it I could be as anonymous as possible.
But, as you have all said: times they are a changing. And what I would prefer, is not what I must do.