Advice, Agent, Tips, Writing

Watch your digital mouth!

Have you given any thought to the digital footprint you leave? If you hope to be—or already are—a published author, you should. I follow several agents on Twitter. Most of them are quite candid there, and some regularly share tips for aspiring authors. Several times, I’ve seen the admonishment to be careful what you write online because agents, editors, and publishers all know how to Google your name or username. Have you tried that? You might be surprised to find how much of what you’ve written in posts, comments, and tweets is available to anyone who considers doing business with you. And never forget that publishing is a business.

Assume an agent has received interesting query letters from each of the following writer types. Their sample pages show them to be equally good writers, so the agent does some background research to see how these three present themselves online (blogs, websites, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

  • Writer A:  openly admits they work only when the mood/muse strikes them; believes they know it all; thinks the rules don’t apply to them; criticizes other writers, agents, editors, publishers, and reviewers
  • Writer B:  displays no faith in their work; complains constantly about the stress of writing;  declares they would never be able to handle promoting their work to the public
  • Writer C:  reveals they work on their craft as often as possible; is willing to learn; has a pleasant demeanor; appears supportive and respectful of others in the business

Which of those writers will the agent likely offer to represent? How would that agent categorize you after an internet search? Yes, we’ve all probably made some of Writer A’s and Writer B’s mistakes at one time or another, but how do you consistently present yourself online?

Another group to consider is your readers, present or potential, who just might search for more information about you. I suppose it depends on what you write, but do you really want your readers to know about the time you got wasted and danced naked in the street? And if you accompanied said revelation with photos or a video, you might want to consider writing under a pseudonym.

Don’t forget: the internet is infinite and eternal.

21 thoughts on “Watch your digital mouth!”

  1. This makes perfect sense, and I also wonder where the line is between revealing yourself to your readers and keeping everything tidy for agents. It’s the revealing that brings people close and keeps them interested, which also can lead to sales if something is published.

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    1. Obviously, I don’t hide my personality on this blog. I only try to tone it down in some respects. 🙂

      As for agents, they’re people too, and if I exhibited a totally different personality than my real one to land an agent, it would be exhausting to keep that up. Sooner or later, the real me would be revealed anyway.

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  2. Love the post and the comments thus far. Yes, we all need this reminder. And, like Candice, I try to be especially cognizant of this even when I comment.

    I’ve thought about writing book reviews on my blog, but I don’t feel comfortable critiquing another writer’s work. I read another blogger’s perspective on reviews, and I like her vein of thought: she only writes about the things she admires in the work.

    Sure, we all need a critic, but that might best be reserved for an intimate critique group (and not online).

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    1. I agree, Christi, in private I might tell someone why I didn’t like a book, but not publically. I know that any book I criticized would be someone elses favorite … and vice versa. More than once this year, I’ve read/heard someone trash a book I loved. And I’ve checked out a book someone raved about and didn’t care for it at all. We must try to keep this in mind when we’re published! 🙂

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  3. Hello Linda. Sorry I’m late but I promised a writer friend that I’d read her exposé of the publishing industry. Then she wanted some constructive criticism. Well, you know me, always ready to put my extensive professional experience at the disposal of others. It took me quite a while to convince her that “Scumbags and Parasites” was probably not the best title she could have chosen. “Have you ever met an agent?” I asked her. “Some of them are really very nice.” Of course, I don’t know. But I imagine they are, don’t you? Then I showed her my well-thumbed copy of “Tools for Writers” to support the many helpful corrections I’d made to her manuscript. To my horror she never realised you could actually buy books to help you improve your craft. “Oh yes!” I told her. “I’ve written some of the best ones myself!” Naturally I let her have them at a discount. I’ve always thought the recommended retail price for “How to Plagiarize” was a bit optimistic and, to be honest, sales of “Painless Punctuation” and “Awesome Adjectives” have been a bit flat lately. Brilliant blog by the way. Love it!

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    1. Joseph, I do believe I’ve taken you too seriously in the past. Thank you for brightening my day. I’m clearing a shelf for your top-notch how-to write books. 🙂

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