QueryTracker Blog

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Monday, April 25, 2011

The Road to Publication: Beware the Public Diary

The secret diary: Most of us, especially women, had them as teens. We expressed our hopes, fears, problems and crushes in writing for various reasons. We railed against our arch enemy. In some ways it was therapeutic. Sometimes the therapy came from the knowledge that we had a special secret journal of our personal life that we could choose to share (if we wished) or hide from the *gasp* authority figures in our lives.

Some keep diaries even as adults.

Now, I've never been a diary keeper. In fact, it never made sense to me at all. I tried as a teen because my best friend was the diary queen. She would hide her diary carefully from her family or "accidentally" leave it open to a page to indirectly pass on information. She could control how, when, and to what degree the information was disseminated because she had physical control of the diary itself.

Enter the electronic age and the blog.

As writers, we know we need to have a web presence. We are told that by other writers, agents and editors. But there is a difference in a web presence and a beneficial web presence. "Make yourself Googlable," agents tell us. Okay. Done. I start a blog. It's free, it's easy, and heck, it's even fun sometimes.

Many writers use their blogs to journal their road to publication. Any of us who are walking on the sharp rocks of that road barefooted know it is a hell of a tough journey. Our bloody footprints prove it.

Here is the point of my post: Do not use your writer's blog as a private diary.

I pop onto aspiring writers' blogs all the time and large percentage of them are devoted to whining, complaining and lamenting the unfairness of the business.

Okay, Mary. It's my personal blog. I can write whatever I wish in any tone I wish.

Darn right. But writers need to be aware of the potential pitfalls.

Why do we blog? I think that is the first question to be asked. Specifically, What is the purpose of this particular blog? Who is the audience right now? Who will be reading it in the future?

My diary-loving friend would tell me how when she was famous, she was going to publish her diaries for lots of money. Again, she was physically controlling the information in that diary hidden in the bottom of her closet under her box of summer camp photographs.

In blogging, we lose control of the information the minute we hit "publish." There is a reason the button says that. "Publish" means to make known generally, and boy, do we. So many times on Twitter I've seen people say something like, "How to alienate the children's publishing industry," or "How to never get published," followed by a link to the post of a writer who has lost control on her/his blog and gone off on a career-impacting rant.

Yes, we can set the permissions on our blog to a very narrow audience, rendering it private, but if we, as writers, are using the blog to increase our web presence or establish platform, that is not practical.

Keep the nastiness private. I have a crit partners who have endured endless rants about the difficulty of this business along with my insecurities all laid out for examination. I would never put these tirades up on my writer's blog. But to remain stable, most of us need to vent occasionally.

My advice is to never write anything on your writer's blog you do not want read by your agent, publisher, spouse, child or fan. If your career takes off, your unpleasant post could be more wide-read than you ever intended. Think long-range.

Do not give tallies of the number of queries sent/rejected/accepted. This never works as planned. If I'm an agent and you have queried me, I might google your name if I like the letter or pages. What if I go to your site and see you have received zillions of rejections and very few requests? Naturally, it's up for interpretation, but it might backfire.

What if you have ranted about how unfair and crappy a certain agent was with her form rejection? I work for a different agency, but we share office space (this is common) and talk every day. I like her. So much for the full request I was going to send you.

There is nothing wrong with opening your diary about the hardships of publication as long as you keep in mind the person you least want to read it probably will. Don't rant and don't give out your rejection count. I know of several cases where agents have told writers they requested material based on their sites or online presence (I'm one). I also am aware of a couple of cases in which an agent said that she found the presentation of the writer's blog offensive and unprofessional and were not going to pursue representation for that reason.

Now, I don't mean you have to be serious and stuffy and only blog about writing. Your website can handle that part. Quite the contrary. A blog is where you let your personality show. I'm not much of a blogger by anyone's standards. I blog mostly about writing and my road to publication, but on the rare occasion when I post, I try to make it fun for myself. The posts where I am "me" are the ones that get the most hits. I've blogged about singing out loud in a Waffle House and getting caught at the country club in my pajamas. It lets my online friends get to know me as a woman and not just as a writer. It doesn't mean I don't get discouraged and have posts that reflect that, I just refrain from ranting, venting or giving out information that will come back to bite me someday (My ever-tolerant crit group receives the full force of all of that).

One last parting bit of advice from someone who needs advice herself: Refrain from mentioning anyone by name in a negative light. Most folks are aware of this, but I'm a total technotard and found this out a year into my writing career *blush*: There is a thing called "Google Alert." If a person has it on their name (as I do now for both myself and my book title), she will receive an alert every time her name is published online. I get dozens of alerts a day, most of them not about me, but some are. Agents/writers/editors use these. Your private diary can now broadcast with pinpoint accuracy to the people you are talking about.

Be yourself on your blog, but remain professional. Use care. Be aware of the image you want to project and keep in mind that every person with a computer holds the key to your private diary.

Have a fantastic week.



Sierra Gardner said...

I agree - I always cringe when I read content on other blogs that I'm sure the blogger will regret later. There is a fine line between sharing who you are so people feel connected and sharing too much.

Anonymous said...

Oh no...no, no, no. No diaries here.

I will post on the frustration factor from time to time, but I try to buffer it with offering tips to overcome the frustration.

David P. King said...

Excellent, excellent post, Mary. I've tried to be fun and professional with my blog since the beginning, but there is some well thought out advice here that I needed to read. Thank you for this.

Stina said...

Great post, Mary. I love reading on writers' blogs about how many rejections and requests they've received as they query agents. Great inspiration for me . . . not so great if an agent checks out their blog.

I recently blogged about something that very few people knew about me. I did it to prove a point, but I thought long and hard before I posted it because I wasn't sure how people would take the news. Fortunately, the blogging community is very supportive.:D

Mary Mary said...

This is great information for any writer to have. With the technology of today, too many people write any and everything that comes to mind. I've heard of all these pitfalls before (and see them more often than I want to), and that is why I stick to a format that mainly draws others to my blog for informative purposes. I write very little about my personal life and I most definitely never say anything about my detailed experience with the road to publishing. Thanks!

Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks for this post! I've been looking at a lot of newbie blogs recently and I've seen some of those cringe-making things.

Other stuff that doesn't work in a professional blog:

1) affirmations. "I'm going to get an agent by next Tuesday and be on the top of the NYT bestseller list by the 4th of July."

2) Christmas letter-type family news. "My gorgeous daughter just won fourth place in the Miss Broccoli pageant, and my adorable doggie went to the vet's without biting anybody, and my fantastic husband got a promotion and we're all going to Disneyland in June.

Ooooh. I think I feel this week's blogpost coming on...

G. B. Miller said...

My blog is by no means a "professional" blog but it's been keeping me occupied since May 2008.

I originally started it to sharing my observations and witticisms about a myriad of things, including writing.

Over the years, I have shared everything related to writing that I have experienced with my readers, some of which are writers.

I have gotten great advice and had fantastic discussions on all kinds of things related to writing, and for the past year, I've shared my trials and tribulations with writing a book. From the seed of the idea down to getting people's thoughts and opinions on particular plot ideas, its been a great learning experience for me.

And yes, I am one of those people who are posting about the amount of queries and rejections I'm getting, and at the same time, I'm also getting good advice about the process, since I'm doing the querying thing for the first time since 2006.

I think that blogging has been a fantastic tool that has helped me improve a myriad of issues with my writing.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Jack LaBloom said...

Oh my. What have I done?

I would like to set the record straight. All that stuff I wrote about Ms. Prettywell, the Editor-in-Chief of Rosebud Romance, on my blog was meant to be in jest.

Although I truly believe my romance novel SIR TRUCKALOT AND THE OBESE MAIDEN is exactly the kind of romance women love to read, I’ll be the first to admit Ms. Prettywell may had a few valid points in her critique of my novel.

Mary Lindsey / Marissa Clarke said...

lol, Jack! Thanks for the comments, everybody.

Eric W. Trant said...

I am adding this to my MUST READ section of my blog.

I learned this, fortunately, when posting anonymously.

Don't rant. Don't criticize. Don't talk POLITICS (which you either didn't mention, or I missed).

Sure, you can be funny and mention embarrassing stuff -- I do -- but try to keep it personable, and directed at yourself and not others.

This goes not only for your blog, but your COMMENTS on other blog sites!

- Eric