Thursday, November 13, 2008

Question of Social Networking

There are five questions in the series that Miss Expatria submitted. We will post the questions and answers one at a time here. Here’s the second in the series.

Question: How much has online social networking changed the way you do business, both in your dealings with potential clients and with the industry as a whole? Do you think this phenomenon will force the process to evolve over time?

Answer: Social networking per se, hasn’t affected the way I personally do business. The structure of how writers contact agents would have to be redefined and changed before much effect would be noticed. Most agents don’t solicit business, at least not in a conventional sense. Size, location and reputation have more bearing on who we are than anything else. Unfortunately, more emphasis these days placed on location than anything else as novice writers believe that being located in or close to NYC gives agents opportunities those of us outside the city don’t have. However, if an agent is known, has a track record for being able to find books editors want to publish, and is easy to work with, location means little in this business.

Social networking does a great job in giving potential clients a view of who we really are and in that respect networking has helped let those seeking agents know who we REALLY are. My current approach is to be out there more as a person rather than as an agent. Agents have gotten such a bad rap because of a few bad apples that if an agent looks to be too solicitous, danger alarms go off. With all the horror stories floating around on the internet about scammers, it’s no wonder writers are cautious. However, most agents actually like people, especially purple ones with orange stripes.

Because of the nature of the querying process, a literary agent, many times, is the first and possibly the only contact with publishing a new writer experiences. And because of the very nature of the query process, this experience might be very discouraging. Most writers experience rejection early on at the hands of a frustrated agent who, to keep up with his or her massive query load, will usually send a cold, canned rejection letter to all writers while muttering under his breath—“Dumb Ass!” Social networking does help remove some of social stigma caused by this frustrating experience. Writer and agents, know that we aren’t who each of us perceive the other to be so networking allows us to show our real, hopefully not to scary, faces to the public and gives us the opportunity to help each other en mass rather than one at a time, which we don’t often have the time, energy, or the opportunity to do.


Anonymous said...

Your answer was not what I expected, but actually fits with the reason I like when agents use social networking.

I follow a lot of literary agents' blogs and Twitters because a year ago, when I decided my own book was ready enough to send out on its query way, the research I did on agents in general made me so intimidated to approach the agents I was interested in, that I froze when writing a query letter. The agents I wanted to approach do not have an online presence, sadly; but being able to see that you and other agents are normal people who lead normal lives has taken a lot of the terrifying aspects out of the equation for me. And for that, I thank you!

Josephine Damian said...

Have you been turned off to a writer you might have considered representing because of something they put on their myspace/blog/twitter?

Or is it the project that has to grab your attention, and therefore you don't have to necessarily approve of/agree with/ or even like the client?

BTW, glad to see you're blogging again!

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Thanks for this comment, Josephine.

I personally haven't turned off by what I've seen on any of the social networking sites. I have, however, been angered by what I've read on some writer's blogs and on one very popular writer's board in particular. The irony is that those who post on blogs or boards think their true identities are secret, but it doesn't take much detective work to figure out who they actually are.

I normally don't go beyond my personal set of criteria when offering representation. Yes, I'm sure that my personal world view differs from that of some of my clients, however, being a very broadminded person, I overlook these small differences.

But if a person broadcasts their dislike for literary agents and my industry in general and they telegraph their feelings to the world, then that would very much impact my selection process. I am a middle-person and being in that position, I don't have the last word in what gets or does not get published. The internet is an open book and if a writer antagonizes others in the industry beside me, he or she lessens his or her chances that I can achieve success. If that's the case, I would have no choice but to either not offer representation or, if something like this happened and one of my clients were involved, it might even warrant dropping that client.

Josephine Damian said...

Thanks for answering my question on online behavior.

Bad behavior can also apply to agents. I was at an agent luncheon and the (big name) agent told a roomful of people that their famous (megaselling) client was a "bitch." Up till that point I would have loved to have that agent represent me, but if they trash-talk any client publicly like that, let alone a hugely successful client, then they are not the agent for me!

Anonymous said...

I think the question was referring to writers' social networking sites, as in, if they have a huge network of contacts online, maybe clamoring for the next (self- or small-house published) book, does that make a difference to large houses and or top-tier agents?