Dangerous Liasons in Social Networking

“Hush, hush. Keep it down now, voices carry!”
Voices Carry sung by Aimee Mann

This is an interesting time for those of us trying to market our work. We have the internet, and all the “free” networking that comes with it. But I would like to extend a word of caution to my fellow authors. As fun as social networks can be, they are a dangerous outlet of frustration and hurt feelings if not taken seriously.

Writer Beware wrote a similar article yesterday about authors who fail to think before hitting the submit button, which is setting a precedence. A precedence that makes us authors look like we’re a bit insane, overly sensitive, and a bit whiny, if you ask me.

So what is there to do about this phenomenon? There are a couple of things we can do to make sure we don’t fall into the same trap of having our friends spam a blog that gave us a negative review, or using Twitter as our campaign to cold-call a journalist.

If you’re upset, write out your feelings, sure. You’re an author. It’s what you do.

But don’t post your upset email, blog comment, tweet, etc, until the next day. This will give you time to calm down to make sure you actually want to put yourself out there as potentially crazy.

Have someone else read the review.

Make sure you’re not flying off the handle by having an objective friend read the review and tell you what they think of it. Maybe it isn’t as bad as you thought. Maybe it’s worse than you thought. But you have to understand that this is the price you pay for having your work published. Do you know how many people would kill just to have their name on the spine of a book? You’re lucky someone read you and cared enough to review it!

Do not, under any circumstances, post the phone number and/or address of the reviewer so your loyal friends/family/fans can harass them.

Bad author. Bad.

Realize that reviews are subjective.

It’s all about personal taste, and as an author you knew, hopefully, when writing your book that not everyone would like it. You’re allowed to be upset about it, but try to be graceful, too.

Treat it as a learning experience.

If you’re that concerned about the review, send the reviewer a letter asking what would have improved the work for them. If they give valid suggestions, then great. If not, then leave them behind.

As someone who has been hurt by an errant tweet, I can tell you that it is very difficult to do these things when you’re upset. It’s difficult to resist the urge to rush to the defense. It hurts when people submit hurtful comments online without thinking. It hurts more when they’re obviously submitting hurtful things on purpose. My advice? The best thing to do is to walk away. Do not stoop to “their level,” whatever that level may be, as it makes you look petty.

How many of you have had a bad review, and what did you do? Have you ever seen an online author melt-down?

31 Questions when Choosing an Agent

Agents, it seems, are the way to break into the traditional publishing field for authors. But how do you find an agent? More importantly, once you find an agent, how do you know they are a good one? This is not a decision for the faint of heart, as Susan Kearney points out at Plot Monkeys.

The biggest thing to keep in mind when looking for an agent, and once you get that agent, is that your agent is NOT your friend. You have a business relationship and it is their duty to do their best to sell your book.

Also remember that the agent is your voice to big name publishers. If you have a bad agent, this might damage your ability to break into the market. So don’t be afraid to terminate the contract if you and your agent can’t conduct business in a professional manner.

For more information on disreputable agents, add Writer Beware! to your RSS feeds, as well as look up your potential agents in their archives.

If you want an inside look to the life of an agent, agent blogs are the way to go. See BookEnds, Nathan Bransford, Jennifer Jackson from the Donald Maass Agency, Rachel Vater from Folio Literary Management, Nephele Tempest from the Knight Agency, and the snarkives of Miss Snark. At least…these are the ones I read.

Here are Susan Kearney’s list of questions that should be answered to help determine whether your potential agent will make a good business partner for your writing goals.

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Writing an Amazing Fiction Query

First off, what is a query? A query is the first letter you will ever send to a prospective agent or publisher. Keep in mind that most publishers won’t look at your query unless you have an agent. Some small presses, as well. This is your one opportunity to represent yourself and your work as sparkling, new, interesting, and basically worth their attention. So how do you do that? Once again, The Writer (July 2006) pulls through with a great article by Jordan E. Rosenfeld. Once again, I will pull the main points.

First off, please understand that agents and publishers are constantly inundated with queries from hopeful writers convinced their work is the new Great American Story/Novel. Oftentimes, they are wrong. Maybe they queried the wrong agent/publisher. Did you do any research? Did you look at the type of writers they represent? The style of the works? Did you read their submission rules? You must do this sort of research before you even think of querying someone, or else you have shot yourself in the foot before you even mailed the query.So. Now onto the actual writing of the query, now that we know exactly who we are querying, and what sort of writing/writers they represent. Everything must fit on one page, so the information msut be succinct, yet engaging and complete. Therefore, keep your introduction down to a few sentences. Always address the query to the specific agent, and make sure the name is spelled correctly. There is nothing worse than receiving a letter addressing “To Whom it May Concern:” not only does it show you haven’t done your research, it tells the agent you actually don’t care enough to do things properly. How many letters have you kept that said “To Whom it May Concern:” rather than your name? Now that we have that covered, it would be nice to give a short explanation why you chose this agency, and keep it to one sentence, preferably the first one in the query. Explain you are “seeking representation for your book and list the approximate word count.” Round that word count number up. No one is impressed by a 112,347 word count. Say it is approximately 113,000 words. If you got the name of the agent from a “respectable writer or friend, use the name.” It helps to know why you not only picked that agency, but also why you picked that specific agent.

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