Friday, January 21, 2011

Why Not to Announce Requests/Rejections on Twitter or Facebook

Last Friday, I posted Three Topics Writers Should Avoid on Social Networks. The response surprised me--it must have hit a nerve! Thank you to everyone who chimed in with an opinion.

After reading through the comments, I realized the topic wasn't quite finished. Katie Ganshert mentioned, "I think, if handled in the right way, numbers 1 and 2 could work."

Sarah Forgrave also made a good point. "I did a blog post after getting a rejection, but I waited about a month (after I'd processed it) and kept it anonymous and positive, focusing on how it represented a graduation of sorts for me and how it gave me feedback to make my story better. I actually sent the link to the rejector, and they had nice things to say about it."

Let's take another look at #1 and #2: posting that we've submitted or been rejected.

Posting on our blog: I think it is appropriate to blog about being out on submission or being rejected if it hasn't been dashed off as a hasty confessional. I appreciate reading about other writers' struggles, and I share my own too. But as writers intent on getting published, we need to remember how this is coming across not just to our readers but to any agent or editor who might stop by.

Posting on Facebook or Twitter: I do not think it's appropriate to confess on Facebook (unless it's a personal account) or Twitter that we're on submission or we've been rejected.

I do have reasons. It's tricky enough sending queries, why give any agent or editor a reason to question their decision? J. N. Duncan said it well. "You don't really want to be telling the world, and agents who might be looking, that your query has just suffered its 87th rejection."

But what if you aren't mentioning agent names or the number of rejections? Is it okay to post about it then? Let's look at a fictional scenario.

In 2008, aspiring author Susie joins FB and Twitter and sends out her first batch of queries. She never mentions particular agents or editors--she's following the rules--and we can assume her posts are padded with plenty of non-request/rejection related tweets. But if we tallied up only the tweets relating to requests/rejections, here is what the list would look like.

Posted to Facebook and Twitter:
03/14/08 "Just got my first rejection. Crying buckets."
04/05/08 "Another rejection. These stink."
05/08/08 "Someone wants my book!! Hallelujah!"
05/15/08 "Another request! Woo-hoo!"
06/29/08 "Rejected again. No biggie. Getting easier."
11/04/08 "Just hit send on 5 more queries. Crossing fingers!"
01/12/09 "2 requests for partials!!"
03/07/09 "Sent another round of queries."
08/14/09 "Another request!"
08/16/09 "Three rejections today. Drowning in chocolate."
01/05/10 "It should be illegal to reject someone the first week of the new year."
01/13/10 "Back to querying. Ten out today."
02/14/10 "Request for full!"
02/28/10 "Request for partial!"
04/27/10 "Just wasn't what they were looking for."
08/13/10 "Depressed, a rejection arrived in my in-box this morning."
09/23/10 "Querying again. Sent ten out this morning."
09/27/10 "Rejection. Rejection."
10/01/10 "Just got a request on a query I'd sent out two months ago!"

You can see where this is going. If you're a writer, you're reading through this and maybe thinking, "Oh, yeah. I get this. I can totally relate." You may even become good friends with Susie, because she's transparent and a little funny.

But what if you're one of the ten agents she queried on 01/13/10? What if in the query, Susie didn't mention it was a simultaneous submission? The agent just found out. How excited is Ms. Agent going to be to find this piece of information out on Twitter?

Let's go a step further--let's say a different agent, Mr. Agent had requested one of Susie's books in 2008, saw some talent, passed on the project, but decided to "follow" her on Twitter or Facebook? Mr. Agent knows Susie hasn't queried him since 2008, but sees Susie hasn't been shy sending queries to every other agent. If Mr. Agent gets a query in 2011, will he be more likely to want to work with Susie or dismiss her?

Or what if an agent who requested Susie's full in 2009 is still considering it? This agent can see Susie is getting rejected over and over. Is this going to make the agent more likely or less likely to offer representation?

Now let's assume an avid reader, John, reads these posts on Susie's social networks. Most non-writers have no idea how competitive the publishing industry is. They don't know most writers do not get published with their first book. They don't even know it's difficult to get an agent, or that if you're lucky enough to get one, you still might not get published for two years. What do you think John would think if he reads these posts? Boy, Susie must not be very good.

Writers who are trying to build a platform will include many different people on their social networks. Some will be agents, editors and other writers. Some will be published authors, random strangers, and family members. Maybe it's unfair that someone will think we aren't very good because we're being honest about our rejections, but that's the price of social networks--we're "friends" with people who really don't know anything about us except what we post.

Thanks for bearing with me as we took a more in-depth look at this topic. As before, this is my opinion. I appreciate you having your own opinion, even if it doesn't match mine.

Have a terrific weekend!

35 comments:

  1. I can understand why it hit a nerve because lots of writers do share that information and receive wonderful support from their peers. But I fall on your side of the issue. I never post when I'm querying or rejections or requests. I don't feel social media is the place for it - unless you're announcing The Call! Or the deal!

    At the same time, it doesn't bother me when writers share that info and I rush to support them.

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  2. Thanks for the shout-out. :)

    Interesting thoughts. And you know what? I realized that my actions agree with you. That rejection that I blogged about? I didn't make a peep about it on Facebook or Twitter (well, I wasn't on Twitter at the time), but you get the idea. :) There's definitely a place for everything, and I think you have valid points here.

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  3. Excellent post! I agree with your perspective on this. As a publisher, if I am considering a manuscript, I do visit and read many posts and comments on the author's blog. You would probably not be surprised to hear that query letters often contain info on other publishers who have rejected the material, or what the author did not like about their previous publisher (if they were published already). I would absolutely be turned off knowing a manuscript had received rejections by many agents and editors.

    Having said all that, last year I rec'd a ms. from Madeline Sharples. I didn't feel, as the ms. was, that it was right for Lucky Press. I really wanted to love it, but it just wasn't there yet. After rejecting it, I went to the author's blog and saw that she'd posted about "receiving the dreaded rejection letter." I then looked at other posts on her blog, contacted her and we started a conversation about how her book might be revised to be more appropriate for our press. She went to work, engaged other professionals to give feedback, resubmitted the ms. and.... LP will publish "Leaving the Hall Light On" on Mother's Day this year. So, in this case, her writing about it DID result in my looking closer, but I probably would have continued that conversation with her anyway. I sensed that she had a really good book, it just needed refined a bit. And, I'm happy to say the final version was wonderful, exactly what I hoped it would be, and I'm happy that I gave this author's work a closer look.

    I think it is always better to be careful and prudent and if you want to be published to look at everything "out there" as if you were a publisher. Publishers want authors who can not only write but present a consistent message that is a good fit for their press. They do not want to cringe, as I have a few times, at an author's postings on Facebook. We all know it is hard to find an agent and difficult to sell a book, whether you are an author, a publisher or a bookstore. It is a difficult business, not a hobby. If a writer wants to be published, she must treat it as if she is starting a business and the product is the writer and her work.

    For instance, you would not want to buy a computer that "none of the 50 retail stores contacted would carry" or a restaurant "that no food critics would visit." So, just keep that in mind. Sorry this is so long, Jill. But I DO appreciate your post and have saved it to my Delicious under "publishing" and "writing."

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  4. I'm usually pretty hush hush about things. This is likely because I'm spending all my time overanalyzing said content in letter or responses to invest time writing about it to others. ;)

    ~ Wendy

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  5. Good Morning!

    Laura: I agree--writers are so supportive. The problem, though, is it's easy to forget our social networks aren't exclusively other writers. If they were, I wouldn't have written this post!

    Sarah: Absolutely. There is a time and a social media outlet for our announcements. We have to be discerning where and how we announce our news.

    Lucky Press: Wow, I really appreciate you stopping by and sharing your opinion as a publisher. I found it fascinating, and I'm sure my readers will also. The biggest thing I'm taking away from your comment is that publishing insiders DO check an author's online presence out. Great advice, here. Thank you!

    Wendy: Overanalyze? You? Me? I would never...oh, wait. That's why I wrote this post! Ha!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  6. This was VERY interesting to read. You make good points. Living out loud on social networks can be tricky.

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  7. Good points, Jill. I'll be querying soon, and I'm not even sure I'll be posting that on my blog or Twitter. I did a year ago to just a handful of agents and posted it, then two agents told me to change my chapter book to a middle grade so I stopped querying altogether and totally changed the book. I'm not sure I want to share too much now that I'll be querying that book!

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  8. You know, I think this is tricky...you want to put the right message out there, get input from others, process things, do things the right way, and then with all the social media, make sure you don't contradict yourself accidentally...! So much to keep track of.

    I think you're right, we need to establish our own "protocol" and do what works for us. Good series, thanks. :)

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  9. I really enjoyed this in-depth look this topic. I love the support we get from one another as writers as we struggle through the process. But we need to be careful as we don't always know who is reading everything we tweet and Facebook! Thanks for the insight:)

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  10. Very interesting post! And loved Lucky Press' take.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  11. Thanks for educating me Jill. I'm still "new" to Twitter so learning protocol is appreciated.

    You made some valid points, I don't really want a potential agent to know how many times I've been rejected!

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  12. You've done a great job exploring an important topic, Jill. Thanks!

    I try to remember that what I share online can be seen by anyone. At one point during my submission process someone from a city that's home to a publishing company visited my site. If that was an editor looking to see how I present myself in cyberspace, I like to think s/he didn't find anything that would paint me in a bad light. (Of course, anyone checking up on me couldn't help but notice I have a wee bit of an addiction problem when it comes to Taco Bell.)

    Another thing to remember is that our blog comments can show up when someone performs a Google search for our name, so while we may feel a sense of intimacy while leaving messages in a blogger's comment trail, we're still putting our words out there where they can be seen by anyone.

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  13. I liked Sarah's take on blogging about rejection, keeping it anonymous re the rejector and focusing on the positives of the experience (which are usually there if we let it simmer awhile.)

    I agree, Twitter and FB are NOT the places to whine.

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  14. Great post, Jill. And a cool story from Lucky Press!!

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  15. K. Harrinton: I just love your profile picture--every time I see it, it makes me smile! And thank you!

    Kelly: It's nice to share submissions and rejections with friends--either through e-mail/dm's or phone. We don't have to keep everything to ourselves, just ask ourselves who should see it. Good luck querying!

    Karen L: I think people want to see our personalities online. I'm pretty open, but only with things that won't hurt my image.

    Kara: Too true! Wise words.

    Janet: Thank you, and Lucky Press' insight is priceless!

    Tamika: You do Twitter well, and that's because you're genuine. :)

    Keli: Your taco bell addiction is endearing and relatable! And you bring up another great point--tweets show up in Google searches sometimes. Yikes!

    Erica: I do too. Thoughtful posts about our struggles are always appreciated--rants are not. :)

    Paul: Thanks, and I agree!

    Thank you so much for stopping by!

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  16. You explore each scenario well. I think there's a fine line between being transparent and protecting ourselves.

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  17. Great insight, Jill. I think I'm with you on this one. We have to at least be careful with this information.

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  18. Sage advice I intend to follow. I think sometimes we do forget just who might be following our twitter or Facebook accounts. Thank you!

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  19. Jill:
    You bring up some very good points. I agree we should be very careful about 'talking shop' with those who don't really understand the process of getting into print.

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  20. I wish there were a "virtual worry tree" where we could attach our rejection emails, query woes, critique group debacles, test-reader mishaps, and all those other things that aren't good to talk about in polite company.

    We would tie them onto this worry tree, click submit, and they'd be there for a few days until the wind blew them away! No twitter/blog/comments history, and no google cache, just ... ah, closure.

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  21. Yeah, I'm one of those that tends to be on the quieter side when it comes to this kind of stuff. I share the truly ups and downs with a close few. But I agree with your thoughts here, Jill!

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  22. Have you seen this blogpost that's been tweeted around today? http://literaticat.blogspot.com/2011/01/when-to-keep-your-trap-shut-almost.html

    You should check it out. It backs you up 100%

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  23. Have you seen this blogpost that's been tweeted around today? http://literaticat.blogspot.com/2011/01/when-to-keep-your-trap-shut-almost.html

    You should check it out. It backs you up 100%

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  24. I'm thinking less is more in the long run. That's what DM's are for. :O)

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  25. oh, looking at these comments I guess you did hit a soft spot. Interesting. You know, recently I was checking my statcounter stats and saw that my pub house spent over an hour on my blog. I don't know who or why but was hoping that everything was professional. I wrote many, many of those posts way before I was even agented. Our dreams will come true and we need to make sure we are careful leading up to that point.

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  27. This is such great advice, Jill. The thing about social media is that it's SO easy just to dash off such information, without really thinking through the consquences and implications. If people think about how it might be perceived by those very people they're trying to impress, they might not be so hasty.

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  28. I agree--you don't want potential editors or agents seeing a multiplicity of rejections. Even if they like your current project, they might think, "Wow, I'm the ONLY one who likes this, so it probably wouldn't sell."

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  29. The first thing I do when I get a query from an author is google them. Mainly to see if they have a social media platform-- it's a hard sell without one. I don't think authors should discuss their submissions, their agents, their publishers, unless it's positive on-line or unless they're burning a bridge they never expect to cross again. This is a good topic. I think we get lulled into thinking Twitter or FB is some small intimate thing with friends, but I teach technical communication part-time at the Univ. of WA and anything you put out there in electronic format is there FOREVER for anyone to find. That's something to consider.

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  30. This is interesting to me. When I made my announcement for representation I decided to trace through my writing journey. The first thing my husband said was don't do it. He said it highlighted too many failures and it would make me look bad. (I'm actually posting on this in the future). And maybe he was right, but after everything was said and done I received SO many emails from writers that said our stories were so similar and that seeing me achieve representation gave them hope to hang on. I totally get what your saying about announcing everything as you go. I think in my case, it proves that yes both good and bad writers get rejections. We all make mistakes and learn from them and if you hang tuff and polish your work you could get somewhere.

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  31. Katie: A very fine line! But I also believe that we can make mistakes and rebound. None of the bloggers I follow have posted any career killing tweets or blog posts because they're all genuine, kind people.

    Ralene: Absolutely, go in with eyes wide open, right?

    Marcy: It's easy to get lulled into a false sense of intimacy!

    Quiet Spirit: Yes, and most non-writers don't understand that what we are going through is normal for the industry.

    Tamara: Welcome! And I love your idea! It could be the next Facebook, right? :)

    Heather: You're very smart. :)

    Lisa G: Wow, I checked it out and learned a few new things. Fascinating. Thanks for sharing this.

    Diane: Yes! That's what DM's are for!

    Tess: Anxiety!! It's clammy-palm time thinking publishers are reading everything on our sites. I'm so glad you shared this--thank you!

    Talli: I agree. We just don't think it through sometimes.

    Georgiana: Yeah, what you said is sad, but true.

    Bob: Okay, first of all, this is a big thrill having you stop by! Thank you for reading this and commenting. "I don't think authors should discuss their submissions, their agents, their publishers, unless it's positive on-line or unless they're burning a bridge they never expect to cross again," is exactly how I feel and I will be sharing your quote with my readers in a future post. Again, thank you!

    T. Anne: Your blog post was thoughtful, funny, and helpful to writers. It in no way hurt your image because you wrote it AFTER you got the call.

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  32. It doesn't surprise me that you hit a nerve. What we post and blog about is really about personal preference and while I think you raised many good points I could argue with most of them. I personally never post about rejections because I am actively querying and don't want other agents with this information. BUT I honestly don't think an agent is going to reject an author based on how many rejections they have had. ALL agents know that writers are in a really tough market place competing for relatively few agents. And I would also add that MOST agents understand that writers are sending out more than one query.

    As for the fictional agent who followed Susie. Well, I doubt he remembers when she queried him, let alone cares that she's had previous rejections or being actively querying a book. A good book is a GOOD book. And there is always an agent willing to take on fantastic books. So, when that agent discovers something they love no amount of previous agent rejections is going to stop them from offering to represent. That is just my opinion of course, but it makes sense to me.

    I do however plan to fess up and tell all when and if I get an offer of representation. I plan to tell how long I queried and how many times I was rejected and nearly gave up. I plan to tell that it hurt and the road was longer than I thought. And I plan to encourage others to keep at it. BUT all that will come after the call. And that's just personal preference :)

    Great discussion. Thanks for bringing this up.

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  33. I'm with you 100% on this, Jill. It's foolish to assume that anything posted *anywhere* online will reach only its targeted audience. Ask many politicians what comes back to haunt.

    One author who has balanced the sharing of her journey with diplomacy is Jody Hedlund. She's done a good job of blogging with honesty about the hurdles and rewards without baring the kind of details that might have damaged her opportunities.

    I liked Jennifer Laughran's take on the topic last week, too: "When to Keep Your Trap Shut. Almost Always" - http://bit.ly/hE2nGj . I think it's good advice. If there's a compulsion to share private details, keep them in personal e-mails, DMs and phone calls with special friends.

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  34. You brought up a lot of stuff I didn't even think of. Definitely something I will be keeping in mind when I go on submission one day. :)

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  35. Tabitha: Great points, but the publishing industry is a very small world, and you'd be surprised what gets remembered. And you'll fess up on your blog--where it's appropriate! Can't wait to read about it!

    Carol: Jody is an amazing example of an author who does social media right. Great example!

    Icy Roses: Can't wait until that day comes!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

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