Thursday, August 19, 2010

Do We Impress You

Have any of your bloggers impressed you so much by their comments, or how they wrote them, it created a head slapping "I should represent this writer" moment, or conversely, "I should steer clear of this nut-case"?

I have learned on your website that content of the story is as important as the caliber of how it’s told. But, for those of us who realize the difficulties of the process, do our brilliant blogger comments impress you, in any way?

I think some of us try to behave and do everything right so we get to be on your good side, which means, we get to pass out and collect the homework and watch the rest of the class when you are out of the room. By the way, Tommy has a water balloon in his desk.

If you have covered this on your website I apologize for not digging deep enough or forgetting what it was you actually said. Okay, I’ll sit down now and shut up.

I liked this question because it touches on a conversation I frequently have with other agents, clients, and writers who read my blog. It first came up a few years ago when a client mentioned all the sucking up that goes on on my blog. Honestly, I had never seen it. I guess I took everything at face value. If a reader agreed with me or complimented what I said, I simply assumed they agreed or were complimentary. I suppose it’s sort of like learning that the cute boy in school likes you. Everyone else sees it, it seems obvious, all except to the girl he’s set his sights on. I’m afraid I’m still that girl who doesn’t really see it. I suppose there are those who think that agreeing with everything I say will warm my heart and make me want to represent you. It really won’t, just like disagreeing with what I say won’t make me not want to represent you.

In some ways, I see the blog as a separate aspect of my business from the actual acquiring, submitting, and selling of books, and in many ways it is. I suppose if BookEnds was a giant corporation I would work for two different departments. Blog Jessica would work for marketing, promotion, and, maybe, customer service. Agent Jessica would work in the agency department or maybe sales. Her job would be to represent authors and sell their books.

No comment has been so brilliant that I thought I’d love to represent that author. Meet the author maybe, but not represent. And the only comments that really turn me off so much that I know it’s an author I would never want to represent are usually posted anonymously by trolls. They are rarely intelligent or rational discussions. Usually they are attacks and nothing more. I tend to ignore them.

Behaving does not mean always doing everything right or agreeing with everything someone else says. Would any of you want an agent who only wanted to work with clients who nodded, smiled, and gritted their teeth? I don’t think so. Behaving means acting professionally and giving an honest opinion respectfully, even when it’s to disagree with the original post.



Hillsy said...

I'm trying to calculate how much I'd laugh if the comments section for this post remained empty. Would-be commenters were suddenly frozen, paranoid that any plattitudes or agreement would be construed as sucking up (therefore damaging their prospects as a writer) and ironically proving the questioners point in the first place.

I reckon it'd be about 20 decabels per square foot per second (DbFt/s?)

Lexi said...

Wow, Jessica, another amazing post! Thank you so much for this.

(Heh heh...)

Sally MacKenzie said...

LOL. This question and your answer for some reason struck me as illustrating the difference between writers and "normal" people. I like to think I'm a tad neurotic because I spend so much time imagining what's going on in my character's heads--and that carries over into worrying what's going on in real people's heads. Or maybe I'm neurotic and that's why I write.

MAGolla said...

Wow, Jessica! Pearls of wisdom simply roll off your tongue!

"What? On my nose? You're kidding? Argh, out, out damn brown spot!" *rubs at brown nose* :-)

Dr. Cheryl Carvajal said...

I don't know any blog I agree with 100% of the time... but unless I have something constructive to offer, I don't offer it.

Many of my favorite blogs are poetry, and poetry may very well be one of the most subjective types in blogworld... but if a poem resonates with me, I say so. If it doesn't, my not "getting it" does not make it invalid for others, so I don't post.

If I disagree with someone, I usually only partially do so... if we fundamentally disagree, that may very well be the last time I visit the blog.

Traci VW said...

Oh great, now I've got writer's block. Or is it writers block? Oh no, now she'll never take me serious. Or is it seriously? .... *ducks head under desk*

GĂ©nette Wood said...

Now I feel better. I wish other agents would post a statement like this and get rid of some of their brown nosers. I love reading blogs, but sometimes the comments are a little too sickly sweet.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Did I mention how much I enjoy your choice of typeface? And the colors. I absolutely LOVE your color scheme. Oh yes, I am a writer. How clever of you to notice. But then I've always admired that about you...

Justin Holley said...

For me, blogs and other e-groups are all about a sense of belonging, learning...and sometimes helping other writers. I wouldn't want an agent that took me on just because of my web presence. I want them to represent me because I can write a story that people will want to read.

Buffy Andrews said...

So “Pick me. Oh, pick me. Please, pick me!” isn’t going to work? LOL There was someone I saw who said their agent did find them via a Twitter chat, so I guess sometimes a writer’s voice might intrigue an agent or editor to check them out. But in the end, they have to deliver on the writing. Anyway, good post. I think that those of us in leadership positions can tell when someone is sucking up big time. Like you, I’d rather have someone be genuine. I always tell my reporters that if they disagree with my editing, let’s talk about it. Tell me why you feel the way you feel. I’ll always listen. Sometimes, I might say, “Ya know, you convinced me. We’ll do it your way.” While other times I might say, “I hear you. I understand what you’re saying. But here’s why I disagree and why you must change it.” In the end, we both want the same thing: for the writing to be the absolute best it can be. So don’t suck up. Reply intelligently with solid reasoning and don’t be afraid of standing up for what you believe in, even if that means standing alone. Gawd, what a long post. Sorry:)

Gabriela Lessa said...

Hum... I was going to agree, but that might sound like I'm sucking up. So I better disagree, right?
You're so wrong, Jessica. Everyone knows sucking up on blog comments is the most effective way to land an agent.
(Oh, damn. Now I'm worried she'll hate me... Should I add some swearing and post this anonymously?)

ryan field said...

I think people often mistake positive comments as sucking up. But most of the time they are what they are. Positive comments are left because the reader liked the blog post, or found it helpful in some way.

I would bet most of the people who follow this blog, or others like it, and leave positive comments are not doing it because they want representation. They are doing it because they like what they read.

And if this sounds like sucking up, too bad. I don't think I've ever queried bookends about anything and I doubt I ever will. But I do get good info here.

Kate Douglas said...

I was going to comment and then I read Sally MacKenzie's comment and figured what's the point.

What she said.

Kate said...

This is such a great question. I was just thinking about this the other day while reading comments on another agent blog. It seemed like everyone tried to be as witty as possible, left a sassy comment even though it didn't really contribute to the conversation. All the comments ran together, with only a handful of them jumping out at me as memorable. Another form of slush I guess.

And, I totally get it. For many of us, this is as close we'll ever get to having a relationship with an agent.

Wendy Tyler Ryan said...

I have to say that I, too, do a little selective skimming when going over the comments of a post. For me, if all I'm going to do is come in and say "fabulous post", why did I even bother? I have felt a little of the kissing up stench around here myself, as I have with many other agent's posts, but, to each his own. That's why I skim, I'm looking for the person with an actual opinion or pearl I can take away with me. Not that you don't write great posts, I just think that if they're great and someone thinks so, they should say why - or at least bring up another topic the post made them think about. That's my two cents and I'm stickin' to it.

Unknown said...

A positive blog post about positive blog comments. As someone who is naturally pessimistic and has to struggle for optimism, this approach is actually what keeps me coming back to your blog, and why I'll submit to you again. As soon as I finish the next book. Unless I find someone else first.

BUT! The point is, I appreciate your efforts to be positive in what can be a very negative industry. So, as ironic as it is to write this here: thank you.

Tara Maya said...

Does anyone (other than trolls) go onto a blog to tell the blogger, "I though your post sucked rocks?" Really, if I like a blog post, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll keep my mouth shut.

Sometimes, I'll disagree -- politely, I hope. Occasionally, I'll strive for humor, which may or may not work. Generally, I try not to comment while drunk. Hijinks never ensue, but embarrassment is forever.

It's always hard to say something you know the other person does not want to hear. In fact, recently I read a post by another author that I thought was in poor taste, and I'm wracking my brains as to whether I should say so, and how to do so tactfully, or whether I should just maintain polite silence. (I'm open to suggestions! How do you deal with the urge to say to someone, not just, "You were wrong," but "That was a bad idea." ????)

Anonymous said...

Good question...awesome answer.

thlp, thlp, thlp....that's the sound of me sucking up. J/K ;-)

Scooter Carlyle said...

I'm still learning the ropes of this publishing thing, so I frequently have nothing to say because I don't know my ass from a hole in the ground, figuratively speaking.

As for brown-nosing, there is nothing I could say that would be more effective than a jar of my three-day spice pickles! If only Jessica would open packages from strangers...ce la vie. :-)

Sarah J. MacManus said...

Well, at least the brown-noses on Nathan's site are a lot worse. ;)

Lorenda said...

"Well, at least the brown-noses on Nathan's site are a lot worse."

Faun - this cracked me up. I think they should pick a day and have a contest on who has the most postive comments!

Mira said...

Several months ago, when I was going to different agent sites expressing my concerns about the industry, I was told over and over that I was trashing my career. I was told that by agents and professionals both on-line (I could copy the posts) and through private e-mails.

Other times, I saw several posts telling writers to be extremely careful never to say anything negative about the industry, or they would be blacklisted. Anctedotal stories: "So and so editor went to someone's site, and saw a negative comment, and decided not to sign them."

Stories about how agents and editors scanned the web for clients. You posted that very thing here just a few weeks ago, Jessica.

I am very glad to see a post encouraging authors to be more honest. That's great and it may show that the culture is changing. I am very happy about that.

But if there is 'brown-nosing' on the web, I believe it has absolutely been reinforced and enouraged - almost required - by many industry professionals.

So, please let's give our colleagues and ourselves a break. Everyone is just doing the best they can in a difficult industry.

Also, Ryan Field is right. It is always hard to tell from the outside whether someone is being sincere or not. I go to Nathan's and I think the absolute world of him and I'm very outspoken about that on his site. It's not brown-nosing. It's just how I feel.

So, Faun, I felt misunderstood by your comment, and felt hurt by it.

Sheila Cull said...

I also liked the question, think your response was great and couldn't agree with you more. Just kidding.

Seriously, I'm glad it's not a way you would represent a writer; then I don't have to edit my blog/thoughts.

Sarah J. MacManus said...

Awww - Mira - it was just a little joke and your natural enthusiasm is so obviously sincere.

In fact, I know you frequent both blogs and I was hoping you would not think I was referring to you.

So, please don't be hurt - I know who much you love writing and how much you truly appreciate all the info on the agent blogs.

Are we square?

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mira said...

Fawn, absolutely! That was really nice of you.

Actually, I'm so full of praise for Nathan that sometimes it's alittle embarrassing. So I kind of did think you were talking about me.

But I'm really glad you weren't, and I glad we talked about this. Thank you! :)

Anonymous said...

I read your blog, but not your fans comments. To call them sucking is an understatement.

Tara Maya said...

Actually, the only comments section of an agents blog which sometimes bothers me -- and I am not thinking of anyone in particular, nor blaming the agent -- is over at Query Shark. Now, I love that blog and have learned a lot from it, but sometimes, in the comments, I feel that the commenters sort of gang up on the querier, trying to point out everything that's wrong with it. And it's perfectly possible it's their honest opinions, but I don't like this sort of mob mentality, ganging up on someone. I think it misses the point of what Query Shark is trying to do, which is offer CONSTRUCTIVE criticism, not just an opportunity to point and laugh.

I suppose this is also just me: I would rather read a lot of people saying nice things, even if some are insincere, than a lot of people saying cruel things, even if they are sincere.

Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind, but a lot more often, you have to be kind to be kind.

Tara Maya said...

Sorry, one more thing.

It is not just this industry. I know of a person who was not hired at a company because of something she had posted online, that frankly, had nothing whatsoever to do with the job. Your online comments, blog, persona, tweets, pics, everything, has a huge impact on your professional prospects, and it doesn't matter what field.

Victoria Kerrigan said...

Actually, I think the fear of being lumped in with a pack of sycophants is why I sometimes don't post. Especially at Nathan's.

What you see there a lot that I find very frustrating is a lot of comments to the effect of: 'oh man Dan Brown/Stephanie Myer/JK Rowling is a terrible writer.'

Nathan posts his opinion; 'All bestselling writers are valuable to understand and appreciate etc'.

And then, the comments section turns into a love fest for said bestselling authors. *sigh*

I don't care if they agree or disagree, so long as they don't change their minds to please the blogger.

I wish people would be more confident being themselves and less worried about the impression they're making... at least when they are honest and true to themselves, they have the convictions to make an impression.

Oh, and one other thought. Sometimes it feels like there's a bunch of people in the comments just talking to themselves. I love it when writers engage with other writers within the comments section. Or, even better, when the blogger does.

I'm convinced the success of some of the blogs can be attributed to the blogger interacting within his/her readers.

jjdebenedictis said...

Back when I noticed I was wasting problematic amounts of time on the internet, I decided cut down by only leaving comments when I felt I had something of substance to say.

I do still occasionally leave "Great post!" comments, but those are rare now (and always well deserved.)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Okay class... if I were a man I'd man what do I do, woman up?

That was my question and I'm so glad it was answered in such a decisive way.
I have been trolling, this site, Nathan and Reids for only the last few months so the process is new to me and I am gratified that we are able to speak our minds without career ending consequences because some random agent got ticked off.

JJbenedictis and I had quite a time a few days ago regarding, I call it slush-vile. (Loved the vanilla ice cream with maple syrup by the way.)
Disagreement is a good thing, besides...a brown nose does not match my pretty blond hair and blue eyes, oh it's gray now and I wear bifocals. conclusion, teacher picked me 'cause she likes me best.
Neener, neener, neener...sticking my tongue out.

Anna Banks said...

Whew! I'm glad we got this out in the open because I hate your blog. I only read it every day and twice on Mondays to confirm how much I hate it. :)

Unknown said...

What is this? Insult commenter's day. The client who made this most regrettable observation to her agent was way out of line and really needs to shut the fuck up in the future.

My pet peeve? People making sweeping judgments which influences the way other people think, and not in a good way.

Why on earth would anyone, including every single commenter on this blog, look for the bad, before seeing the good? And for the love of God, why denigrate Mr. Bransford's commenters to make a point that ends up sounding both petty and small-minded, and yes, childish.

"Gee, Mrytle, my boobs are bigger than yours. Ha. Ha.

"Well, Rhoda, mine are prettier."

"Well, gals, I can beat that. I don't have any."

What the hell does brown nose mean anyway? You know how some very smart writer's make a concerted effort to learn a new word everyday? Well, I make it a point to unlearn perjorative terms everyday. Brown nose goes on my list thanks to this blog.

Personally, I'm thankful for everyone who takes the time to comment on a blog. I do learn something whether or not I agree with the substance of the comment.

What I don't do is waste valuable writing time worrying about whether a particular commenter is brown nosing, because, frankly, I don't give a flying fuck. This is not a competition and the comment section of an agent's blog is not an audition for their attention.

They've made it very clear as to what's going to get their attention. A good book. How many times do they have to say that? To infinity and beyond? That won't work. They'll be dead.

So, yo writer's. Concentrate on making your book the best it can be; be open to other people's opinions without labeling them as brown nosers, or making other judgmental asides. This kind of pettiness will sink your book, because it will come out in your voice and in your writing.

Readers are damn smart people!

Erin Kane Spock said...

You're shoes are smelly and I don't agree with anything you just said.

Anyway, you already rejected my query, so I guess sucking up wouldn't matter. lol

Bo Hansen said...

Thanks for this post, Jessica. It's a topic that needs "thinking about in daylight," since most of the time the suck-up factor is either accepted by most of us as an inevitable dark-side reality, or feverishly denied by any of us who may be actively doing the sucking up, of course. In the same neighborhood of things we may not often say aloud, I wonder how many writers worry when they discover that they have busily blogging and/or tweeting agents? Do clients ever wonder if those finely worded posts and tweets some agents engage in with such zeal are getting more attention than the work of representation? Thanks again.

Kristin Laughtin said...

I imagine a certain amount of sucking up is inevitable on any blog where the blogger is perceived as being in a position of power over the readers--and that's the case here, since most of your readers are aspiring writers, and you're an agent who could theoretically help them get published. But sometimes a positive comment or an agreement is just that. You don't represent the genre I write, so I have no reason to suck up to you. I just find your posts educational and comment accordingly when I have something to say.

Unknown said...

You know, one thing that makes me quite angry is to leave a positive comment and then be labeled as "kissing up."

Hello. I don't waste my time kissing up. I don't have to.

Folks, if you disagree with me, fine. But don't make the assumption that my remarks aren't honest or reflect a lack of integrity in pursuit of representation. Otherwise I'm going to be tempted to make the assumption that you are cynical, disillusioned, eating sour grapes, or something equally unflattering.

None of which might be true. But neither is the idea that everyone with a positive comment is looking out for #1. Granted, there will always be "teacher's pets." What you might like to remember is that some of us actually enjoy school.

Alicia Benedict said...

Well, it seems everyone beat me to joke of it all with their overtly praise-ful comments :).

I'm glad it was brought up though so it's not lingering there like those awkward elementary school crushes; all clumsy and subtle :).

It's interesting to see that you, in some semi-conscious way, compartmentalize.

I can understand as you don't want the day job to bleed over but I agree also (as having had professional sites where people commented me about the work or with interesting jewels via comment) that usually it leads at most to an interest in who they are but not usually an automatic urge to want to work with them. Still, I guess in any business, you never know. Just the right amount of pithy might change your mind :).


J. Nelson Leith said...

I think the client, agents, and writers who have made this observation are spot on, and it's not only lit agent blogs that suffer... read the comment threads at a few business theory and self-improvement blogs (particularly anything touching on "positive thinking") and you'd wonder if you hadn't stumbled into some sort of Stepford reality.

Most of the time, however, this sort of yeah-saying is innocuous, like polite karaoke applause. It only becomes problematic when commenters deluge the blogger with uncritical praise for some statement of professional policy or method which may or may not need reviewed, reformed, or outright revoked.

How many potential job applicants are going to have the candor/cojones to tell a potential interviewer that the way they judge job applicants doesn't make sense, particularly when (as we are repeatedly warned!) anyone can read everything we've ever posted on the Internet?

Even so, professionals who stay on their toes and remain skeptically introspective about the way they do business should be able to easily brush aside the misleading evidence of suck-up affirmation.

Anonymous said...

This was by far the most insightful, entertaining, beyond perfect blog I have every read in my entire life. Your words flowed like a river brings life to a dessert... OK maybe not but I laughed some and have seen the sucking up to try and get attention. I like people who are real and down to earth. Unfortunately you can't read someone's body and facial expressions when they post a comment.

Daniel L Carter
Author of The Unwanted Trilogy

John said...

I frequent a number of agent blogs and my skeptical side sees many of the positive comments as possible brown-nosing attempts.

But then again, I see that on FB and just about any place where there's a community.

BTW, Mira, I usually find your posts funny on Nathan's blog. Chin up, gal!