Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Am I More Important Than Twitter?

Q: As a potential client am I more important than an agent's twitter account? Should I be?

I'm talking about agents who've requested partials or fulls. I've got a ms with an agent right now. She said I'd get a response in X number of weeks. It's been way more than that. I've sent a polite heads up and still have no response. Yet this agent is on twitter. A lot. Sometimes every fifteen minutes, all day long. At this point even if she loved the book, I'd be skeptical of her work ethic.

I know social media is fun and relieves stress, but if I have something I've got to do, I turn off social media and do it, because work comes first. Am I wrong to place this bias on a potential agent?


Thanks for asking this question, because I think it’s an important issue for all of us, not just agents. All of us have some sort of digital life or, frankly, should. Whether we blog, Facebook, or Tweet, it’s important that we embrace this new world in some way. That being said, as someone with a very public digital life, I’ve often wondered how my clients or potential clients interpret what I’m doing.

Here’s the thing: No matter what I tell you about how little time it takes to Tweet or how I handle my digital life, you’re all going to interpret it in your own way. I’m not convinced that Tweeting is the problem with the agent who hasn’t gotten back to you. Many agents work from their homes or in very quiet offices with only one or two other people. That means that the time many office workers spend in what I call water cooler conversation is done publicly through Twitter or another forum. That being said, if you feel that this agent’s Twitter habits will infringe on the time she should be spending with you, then you’ll probably always feel that and it’s not a good fit.

One thing to keep in mind is that how an agent works with her clients can be very different from time she gives to submissions. For me, clients always come first, and if there’s any reason why submissions don’t get read it’s because I’m caught up in what my clients are sending me, not Twitter. Another thing to consider is that each of us has a very different working style. Every single client I have has a different writing process, just as all agents have a different working process, so while it’s important for you to turn off the computer and social networking to get work done, some use it as a way to step away, think through things, clear our heads, and then go back to what we were doing.

It’s a tricky thing, navigating social networking and keeping a public digital life while trying to build a career, but what I can tell you is that what you see publicly is never a complete picture. If that were the case, based on my Tweets and my blog you would think I do nothing else but read queries.

Jessica

33 comments:

wry wryter said...

Our perceptions regarding what we see often have nothing to do with the truth.
Does that matter?
Yes.
The author has made up his/her mind and is skeptical; not a good fit, move on.

You can't explain away doubt, it always seems to creep its way back in when things don't go as expected.

Simon Hay Soul Healer said...

Good question and answer. If I'm on the computer writing I'll tweet to clear my head and it actually improves productivity. I guess an agent will do the same. I agree that if you have this perception you should move on.

vkodass said...

You should use www.socialkik.com to buy Twitter followers ... we purchased 10,000 Twitter followers from them and we're quite satisfied with the results. It was the best marketing and adverting expense that we spent to date. Sales are going through the roof simply because we have a 10K audience on Twitter.

Victoria said...

I've never thought of my occasional checking of Facebook as what you said, a way of stepping away and thinking about things, but I think it's true!

My mind is working on a problem, and I need a moment, I read a blog and comment (ahem) or check Facebook and update.

Lorenda said...

I agree. To all of it. I tend to be a person who needs extended periods of absolute silence to really keep my brain focused. My husband is the exact opposite. He needs TV, radio, or people buzzing in the background and short but frequent breaks. Both of us are productive people.

But. . . I'd never be able to work with him and he'd never be able to work with me. Neither is wrong, we're just not a good fit for "desk work". So if he was a potential agent, I might love him to death, but I'd never pick him to be mine.

I think this is one of the things that should be taken into account when choosing an agent. It's all about the fit.

steeleweed said...

I don't use Twitter and doubt I ever will. Tried it for a time and found here is no one I want to follow that closely am not looking for followers at that level - it strikes me a trivial form of communication, ill-suited for serious thinking.

I do use FB for family/friends and logon daily - probably spend 30 minutes a day. I have a separate professional account and logon when I have something to push - sometimes 1-2 hours/day but usually just 1/2 hour to read and respond to posts.

I have noticed that some FB users are on almost continuously and they are always people with a lot of free time on their hands.

Social Networking is not really different from the water cooler. Some folks do a lot of socializing and some folks work.

Anonymous said...

This was my question, thank you so much the thoughtful answer. I do appreciate it.

Today (its been a few weeks since I emailed you this question and months after I was supposed to have an answer) I still have no response. However, I do know tons more about this agent -- where she went for dinner, who went with her, what they ate and talked about, the clothing item she's purchased and why, what she's eating for lunch, how her eighty-five agent friends feel about what she's eating for lunch, how she spent her Labor Day weekend, what movie she recently saw and how she feels about that, what music she's listening to and what she'll listen to next, and on and on. Unfortunately, I haven't learned anything more about her views on the pub industry, books, editors or anything publishing related, which, ironically, was the only reason I looked her up on Twitter to begin with...

It's true that perception isn't always reality. I get that. I do. But without being given a response on your ms, sometimes perception is all you've got to go on. To each his own, though. :)

Piedmont Writer said...

Twittering makes me think of talking to my mother on the phone -- she's there, but not, listening to me, but watching Alex Trebek on Jeapardy at the same time. It irks me.

Fawn Neun said...

As long as my agent, or potential agent, is twittering and f-booking to schmooze potential acquistions editors, I don't care how much twittering they do. ;)

In all seriousness, publishing seems to be a very social and somewhat incestuous business. There are different cliques and circles, but it's part of the business and staying social is how things get done. In fact, it's the best reason to HAVE an agent, because writers aren't usually all that social, and they need to have that one bubbly, outgoing friend to get them into the 'good' parties.

Kate Douglas said...

I try to maintain a presence on both Twitter and Facebook and tell myself it's for promotion, but the honest truth of the matter is, it's often my only social contact with anyone outside my office for days on end.

Like your water cooler conversations, Jessica, it's become an important part of my writing process--a chance to step away from the WIP and get a fresh perspective on things. And yes, checking out blogs is another aspect of the same need to recharge the batteries.

For those of us who work from home, there is never a time when we're totally NOT working. I don't think that's a healthy life for anyone, to be constantly involved in the book, though that's often the way it feels. Thank goodness for a few moments away throughout the day! And while it may look as if that's all we do, it's merely a small fraction of the time I actually spend writing.

Rosemary said...

Anon 9:44,
Your question is a good one, and I think a lot of us understand your frustration. However, I think it's a mistake to assume that this particular agent is spending all her time tweeting when she "should" be reading your pages. Personally, I need a quiet place to read, and I wouldn't do that with a desk full of paper work in front of me--I need to be curled up in my favorite chair. It may be that she reads partials and fulls during evening or weekend hours, which I suspect is the case with lots of agents.

While I understand that the wait is deadly (wait til your work is out with editors!) you don't know what her To Do list looks like, nor her desk, nor her To Be Read pile. My suggestion--stop reading her Twitter page! Trust me, you'll feel a lot better.

ryan field said...

I can't help but wonder if this person doesn't really know much about twitter or social networks. It takes all of two seconds to post on twitter. How much time does that take away from work?

Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm an actual client of an agent to whom I'm a great deal less important than social media.

Anonymous said...

If I had an agent who spent all day on Twitter, I'd fire her.

Anonymous said...

Ten, twenty posts a day on Twitter do not take a couple minutes. It means the person is spending hours reading other tweets. And frankly, it's unprofessional to go on and on about cupcakes and shoe sales all day in an agent/editor forum where potential clients have access.

I think the poster is voicing the frustration of a lot of writers: If you can't get to the queries within a reasonable period of time, then be closed to queries. If you can't read a requested manuscript in a reasonable period of time, don't request the manuscript.

Professionalism goes both ways.

Anonymous said...

ryan -- it's not "just" twitter, though the twitter entries are staggering.

Anon at 11:56 -- yes! those are my feelings exactly.

I've previoulsy suffered with an agent who, despite having a glowing social presence (twitter, blogs, contests, facebook, answering a well-known writer's site Q and A column, panels, conferences, etc, etc...) rarely followed up on subs and would take 4/5 months to sub a finished ms. I've been gobsmacked before, reading her "agent advice" (on her blog) on dealing with an AWOL agent, knowing she was AWOL for a lot of my time with her.

At some point, you have to look beyond the "personality" someone has created online and face what they're actually doing/not doing for your career. I just don't want to be stuck in that situation again (image over substance), hence my question. If you haven't been there, you might not understand.

Thanks everyone! :)

Elena said...

I think it was a great question as I've often thought the same thing...how can an agent be taken seriously when they complain how busy they are and have no time to read queries, etc. yet spend all day tweeting? I don't hold it against them, I just know I wouldn't want them to represent me. The best thing I've gotten out of Twitter is that after reading so many useless tweets I've weeded down my potential agent list.

Dan said...

As a writer, it really helps not to seem like an awful person. That's true with regard to editors or agents who might be considering working with you. It's true with regard to readers who might be considering spending money and investing time to see what's in your head.

Submission, whether to agents or to editors, is emotionally taxing, and it will make you a little neurotic, even if you are a balanced person. But try very hard not to be a jerk. There are other things going on in these people's lives besides your manuscript. That's true even if you are a client.

You need to understand what demands on an agent's time and attention are reasonable. It is not reasonable to ask somebody to set aside everything in their life to pay attention to you immediately. If you respect your agent and recognize that their time is valuable, they will like you better and work harder for you. It's good to have confidence in your work, but expecting extraordinary special treatment, especially prior to signing with the agent, marks you as difficult and potentially crazy.

Also, keep in mind that prospective clients are an agent's lowest priority. Waiting a month to six weeks for an answer on a full is considered fast turnaround; two months is industry standard. Agents won't move you to the front-burner unless there is a time-sensitive issue like another offer on the table.

Anonymous said...

Dan, I think several of the people commenting here are, like me, not potential clients but current clients of agents. We may be awful people, but we probably aren't.

I hope and assume that my agent has a life. But my agent also has a job. And this isn't a matter, for me and others, of the agent not dropping everything to deal with us but of the agent missing deadlines while blogging, meetupping and twitting.

Anonymous said...

It's a really good question. First, you can't really judge an agent by how quickly they get to your submission. It's only an indicator of how hungry they are for new clients.

What does matter is that there are two kinds of agents when it comes to social media and both have their pros and cons. The upside of one who does spend time blogging or tweeting is that they can provide some nice publicity for your book.

wry wryter said...

anon, 9:44
Easy for me to say move on.
If I were you I probably hang on as well.
Even though you know so much about that agent, you don't know everything. Maybe hanging on to the 'don't know' is the thing.

Lisa Renee Jones said...

There are agents and editors I follow because they talk about their jobs and are insightful. I love hearing about new projects and what excites them.

Many answer questions on twitter and help people as well. To say that -- across the board -- someone is wasting time if they are on twitter or Facebook or whatever -- is unfair to the ones who really use the social media as an outlet to help others, and even cheer on and promote their clients and authors. I also think its important to remember that people work their day and have off hours and weekends in many jobs. But editors and agents tend to work very long hours and don't even get to read until weekends -- which means they get no weekend. If they want to pop onto twitter -- so what. They work hard and long. If they want to talk about personal stuff -- they deserve the break. How else will book continue to inspire them?

Also, staying entertaining on twitter keeps people around so you have influence to get them to look at books and so on.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts, exactly, to all the Anons! I've considered querying quite a few "popular" agents but after reading their tweets on Twitter, just said forget it! OMG why don't these people go work in an actual office if they're so bored and starved for "real" people interaction. In fact, I refuse to query ANY agent who's on Twitter more than once a day or so...and doubt they'd care one bit cuz they're way too busy tweeting. Guess they'd rather waste time comparing notes about cats and restaurants and mocking queries...Their loss!

Lauren said...

I tweet a lot. I also wrote 4 thousand words today. So really, it seems a silly assumption from someone who has no real idea what anyone does those other billion and a half characters a day. We don't know each others' work processes, we just know ours. My own agent, for instance, often reads requested material in her bed in the evenings when she's not in her office.

People occupy social media in different ways. I said *people* on purpose because agents and editors are people. People who like cupcakes or shoes, people who like crocheting or model airplanes. People tend to talk about things they like. In the midst of all that, quite often, you'll find those opinions about publishing, but because people are more than their jobs, they're going to talk about other things. That's why it's SOCIAL media and not your website.

However, if said chatter bugs you, it's really quite easy to unfollow someone. Just a quick click of a button and it's done.

One last thing - an editor who requested material from my agent sat on that manuscript for over two years (we pulled it later). It had nothing to do with twitter or anything but that editor's work ethic, which did not match my expectations so we pulled the book. You'll fit with some and not with all. Oh and you'll wait. A lot. And then you'll wait some more. Think of this as your training wheels because publishing is all about waiting.

Shiloh Walker said...

If I had an agent who spent all day on Twitter, I'd fire her.

LMAO. I was just skimming and wasn't going to comment until I saw this...

Um...if my agent was on twitter all day but was still selling my books? I couldn't care less.

If I'm feeling neglected as a client, then I'd re-evaluate, but just because she tweets a lot doesn't mean she's neglecting her job.

I know plenty of people who tweet a lot-me, for example-and don't neglect their jobs. I tweet like mad and still manage to get my deadlines met, my kids fed, to school, etc, etc, etc.

Now I can understand why the writer who wrote BE feels frustrated, but just because the agent is on twitter doesn't mean the agent is neglecting her job. I'm often doing twitter while I'm doing five other things-multi-tasking-many of us are good at it. And as it's already been mentioned, twitter is a very good way to clear the head and refocus.

Anonymous said...

Shiloh,

"...Um...if my agent was on twitter all day but was still selling my books? I couldn't care less..."

The whole point of the question is that the agent ISN'T doing her job. When an agent says they'll get back to you about your ms by such and such a week and then it's six, eight, nine weeks past that with no word, even when a heads up email has been sent AND YET they're on twitter every fifteen minutes, then yeah, they're either confusing themselves with a fifteen year-old girl, have no concept of follow through, or are on twitter so much they forgot how to work without an instant cheering section praising them because they ate a tuna sandwich for lunch.

As someone else said a few posts up. Professionalism should go both ways.

Shelli Stevens said...

Just like authors, agents/editors put themselves out there to get more exposure and possibly more clients. Or just to have a social outlet. I don't see a problem with this. If they want to tweet about life as well, go for it. It's fun to see an agent/editor 'humanized'. Takes away the fear and God like status some authors give them. I actually prefer a social network savvy agent. Someone who's on top of the trends and times.

But the bottom line is look at the agent and how he/she's selling. Is he making sales? Are the agent's current authors happy? If so, what's the problem. Publishing always is and most likely always will be a slow industry. Like they always say...hurry up and wait.

Anonymous said...

Obviously the clients aren't happy cuz they're being ignored by these agents who put Twitter above their work. It's called PROCRASTINATION--and there's already too much of it in this slow as hell, time-sucking biz. Writers don't need to waste any more time on these ADD agents when they can go directly to editors and publishers who hopefully have better time-management skills.

Patrick said...

"The whole point of the question is that the agent ISN'T doing her job. "

Actually, to read and find new clients in a timely fashion is NOT an agent's job. At least, not their primary.

An agent's job is to represent and sell their existing clients. When they have time in their schedule and a need for new clients, they read submissions.

It may well be the agent gave the 'x number of weeks' with the best of intentions, but is now caught up in other things. It could be that the agent has read the full MS and has concerns and is on the fence on whether to give detailed feedback or just flat reject.

Lack of response to follow ups can be concerning, but really, if this MS is with one agent, it should be with many more. Then when you follow up, it will be because when one does read and offer representation you can contact the others and let them know they now have a very limited time to decide or have lost the opportunity - IN A PROFESSIONAL MANNER. As in, thank them for any time they DID spend with your MS.


Or, you know, worry about someone's time on Twitter. :)

Ariana Richards said...

Wow, so many opinions on both sides of the fence.

Online social networking or not, it all comes down (in this case) to one thing that's a consistent need in any industry: setting realistic expectations, and communication (outside of online status updates). If you say you'll get back to me in X amount of days (weeks, months, years), please do. If you can't, please let me know why you can't. If you don't, and I ask when you can, please provide a new timeline.

I'm far less anxious about hearing back from the person who has said they won't get back to me until February of 2011 than the person who said they would get back to me in August of 2010...and it's October. The why doesn't matter so much to me as just knowing what to expect and being able to trust the timeframe I've been given.

Shiloh Walker said...

"The whole point of the question is that the agent ISN'T doing her job. "

Actually, to read and find new clients in a timely fashion is NOT an agent's job. At least, not their primary.


Patrick said it much better than I could-the agent's primary job would be her current clients.

Now, it's always nice if agents follow through when they say they will, but life happens. If the agent NORMALLY reads queries at home versus at the office some agents prefer to?

Eh, sorry-agents aren't going to change their schedule to suit potential clients.

However, some people have already mentioned this writer is always going to have doubts, and I agree. I doubt it will be a good fit.

But...no matter where you go? Be prepared to wait. And wait. And wait more.

Publishing/writing is all about waiting. We live 18-24-36 months in the future. Books I'm writing now? I wont' hear back from my editors on them for 6-12 months. Readers won't see them for 12-24 months, or longer.

You will wait. A lot.

Anonymous said...

I think that the fact that the Agent is on Tw, which represents a very transparent accounting of time you think she should be using to get back to you, only serves to exacerbate the circumstances. I think you are already annoyed with someone who gave you a time estimate, has drastically overshot that estimate, and who has ignored your e-mails to ask for a revised estimate. The fact that in the interim you have self-flagellated by following on Tw so that you think you know what she is doing every 15 minutes is only serving to make things worse. Your due diligence phase about her should be over; now I think you feel more like a cheated-on spouse.

Clearly you are not a good fit for one another. This is the fault of neither party. This person likely will annoy you throughout your entire relationship, because you have differing ideas of responsiveness and what you perceive as her attenuated work ethic (she may work 18 hour days and all of that tweeting is really subterfuge to look like less of a geek ). It has always been my experience that if someone doesn't feel right during the wooing phase, it only goes downhill after the wedding. YMMV. I'd break up. Not over lunch on Tw, but I'd have that ms elsewhere. You need to feel comfortable; I recognise that generally the writer has zero power in these relationships, but you do have a little, and someone else will likely be a better person with whom to partner for your manuscript.

@latta

Bekki Lynn said...

Something, I think should be a consideration is that maybe the agent isn't always the one posting the Tweets. If she has a staff, they could be popping on at different times to do the posting. This is what goes on where I work with facebook posts for the restaurant.