*DISCLAIMER* You’ve probably read about this topic a million times before, and if that’s the case, feel free to move on to a more original blog post. But if you stick around, I’ll do my darndest to entertain you. Also, this post is NOT just for authors – there’s something for you non-writers at the end!*
In reading this post by editor Alan Rinzler about how carefully editors and publishers research an author they’re thinking about signing on, something struck me. And I don’t mean the guitar picks my husband likes to throw at me to see if I’ll notice.
Not everyone knows this, I thought. Because if they did, then this writer wouldn’t have blogged about that topic, or this other writer wouldn’t be using that kind of language when he or she tweets.
So let’s go ahead and get this out of the way: If you query a book, and someone out there likes it – agent, editor, whatever – THEY WILL GOOGLE YOU. And any comments you’ve left on blog posts, any blog posts you’ve actually written, ANYTHING AT ALL containing your name, will pop up on their screen.
And then they will find you on Twitter.
And possibly also on Facebook.
And – Heaven forbid – MySpace.
And this is when you have to ask yourself one very important question: What will they find? And then you ask several follow-up questions, each with an increasing level of anxiety: Who will they think you are? Will their impression of you be accurate?
Let’s say Big Scary Editor does a Google search on you, and nothing comes up but roses and rainbows and he thinks you’re just lovely. LOVELY.
But then he takes a closer look at your blog, and you’ve only got, say, five followers. And you only post something, oh, once a month. And no one comments.
And he checks your Twitter account, and you’ve only got twelve followers there, none of whom you interact with on a regular basis.
Is this a terrible thing? No, not by any means, but it does raise a pinkish flag. (As opposed to a red flag, that is.) Because what your five blog followers, twelve Twitter followers, and lack of interaction are telling him is this:
You are not passionate enough or motivated enough about becoming a published author to network. You can’t market yourself. You don’t know how to get the word out about what you’re doing. Or, possibly, you’re just oblivious to the fact that you need to be building relationships with other writers and readers before your book is even finished.
Regardless of whether or not any of that is actually true, he’s going to think it’s true.
And what THAT says to Big Scary Editor is this: If they sign you on, you’re going to be a lot of work because you haven’t done any marketing for yourself. And then he communicates all this to the publicity department, who lets out a collective groan and waves their hands in a you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me kind of way.
More than likely, unless your book is the next Harry Potter and they know they can make it a bestseller in spite of the lack of groundwork you’ve laid, well… there’s sort of a chance they’ll pass on you.
Now, let’s go back for a minute to the way you present yourself online. You don’t need to be a Bland Betty who never has an opinion about anything and won’t crack a joke for fear of it being taken the wrong way, but you also need to watch what you say.
Are you a YA author who constantly drops the F-bomb in blog posts and Twitter?
Are you a children’s book writer whose words just drip with bitterness and condescension?
If this is what Big Scary Editor finds when he researches you, what do you think his reaction will be? Do you think he’ll say, “Oh, sure, she doesn’t have any social skills or a verbal filter, but she’ll be fine in interviews and book signings! She’ll represent my Big Scary Publishing House quite well!”
Yeah. Not so much.
So, to summarize:
- Watch what you say online. My rule of thumb is this: Would my grandmother be embarrassed to read what I’ve written, be it a blog comment or a Tweet or anything else? If the answer is yes, it gets deleted.
- Follow people’s blogs if you like them – don’t just lurk. Click “Follow” or “Join This Site” and make your picture show up.
- Comment on blog posts whenever possible. (This is the rule I break all the time!) People appreciate it, and it encourages more interaction.
So, Blog Readers, are you enjoying a certain writer’s blog, but haven’t made your presence known? Why don’t you? All you have to do is click “Join This Site” over on the sidebar.
And, although it sounds EXACTLY like we wannabe authors are “using” our blog followers to get editorial attention, I can assure you – and this is the honest truth – we’re really not. Sure, bigger numbers definitely helps us out, as I’ve already said. But we’re truly interested in people who are interested in the same things we are, and we want to see your faces. We want to know your names. We want to read your comments and get to know you better.
If we already know you in real life? We appreciate the support. It’s nice to see a familiar face in that little box every once in a while.
So if you’re reading a blog, loving it, but not “following” it officially, why don’t you fix that today? I guarantee the blogger will appreciate you for it – especially if they are an aspiring author!