Category Archives: Twitter

Reaching out

For most of the time that I’ve been in publishing, I’ve found clients in one of four ways: the slush pile, referrals from clients, seeking out authors for ideas I’ve come up with, or convincing a person I’ve come across to write a book. I’ve long been reflexively skeptical of supposed innovations on the query system—everything I tried for a long time turned out to be a huge waste of time that generated no better results than just letting the slush come to my inbox.

But four or so years ago, I looked at my list and my slush pile and realized how heavily they both skewed toward a narrow range of voices. And as I looked for ways to fix this problem I listened to a lot of wise people (including the fine folks at We Need Diverse Books) on the perils of any system in which gatekeepers simply wait for things to come their way.  So now I try to actively participate in things happening outside my inbox, making sure that writers know that my door is open (and my list inclusive).

Authors looking for an agent have a lot of great opportunities now not just to seek an agent, but to reach out to the best possible fit for them and their work. Many wonderful agents participate in these new ways to find clients (and quite a lot of them were on the bandwagon before I got my head out of the sand). And for me, they’re a good way to proactively seek submissions from a diverse pool of authors so I can make sure that my client list supports a wide array of voices.

TwitterLogo_#55aceeTwitter pitch parties like Brenda Drake’s PitMad still involve authors querying agents, but it means I get to find those projects that seem like a good fit for my list and invite the authors to send their queries my way.  And resources like Manuscript Wish List, co-created by Jessica Sinsheimer and KK Hendin, allow me to highlight book concepts that I’d love to see, which gives me a chance to proactively seek a broader and more balanced list, both via the Twitter hashtag and their fantastic website (for which you can find my profile here).  And I’m really excited about the upcoming Twitter event #DVPit, which Beth Phelan created to “showcase pitches about and especially by marginalized voices.”  If you’re a writer from a marginalized community looking for an agent, I strongly encourage you to check out that link before Tuesday, because it looks like it’ll be a great event!

I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t overwhelmed by the sheer volume of emails in my Weekend Reading folder, many of which come from sources like the above. I look at my To Read list right now and tremble in fear. But I love knowing that the chances that I’ll find a gem that I have a vision for among those projects is far higher, since I’ve already done some of the work in getting authors who have written the kinds of books I’m looking for to reach my way.

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#snackbooks

From an early age, my father started training me in the art of noticing terrible, terrible puns. Like, truly awful. My mom was very good at tuning them out (and remains so) with a good roll of the eyes or shake of the head. I, on the other hand, started noticing them. And making them myself. So when I stumbled upon Tim Federle’s TEQUILA MOCKINGBIRD in McNally Jackson last summer, I laughed myself sick.

Luckily, I am not alone in my sick sense of humor. Yesterday, Barnes & Noble started a game on Twitter called #snackbooks, combining food and books (two of my favorite things!). They contributed “Wafflehouse-Five” and “A Guac to Remember.” They got a significant number of responses. Some of my favorites included:

Life of Pie

Munch Ado About Nothing

War and Peas

The Lion, the Witch, and the Warheads

As I Lay Frying

….there are also countless others, but go check out their Twitter page here to see some of the other contributions. (Some enthusiasts even designed covers!)

My personal contributions are:

The Sound and the Fry
Alice in Waffleland
Anne of Green Gobbles
Feast of Eden

What would some of your #snackbooks titles be? 

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My dearest, Angelica

11822302_1189555777737964_6537270592173409997_nAs you’ve likely gathered if you’ve spoken to me in the last month, I am obsessed with the musical Hamilton.  I haven’t even seen it yet (less than 4 weeks away now!), but I’ve been listening to the cast recording near constantly for weeks. There are a million small moments I adore, but the one that really sold Hamilton to the grammar pedant in me was when Angelica Schuyler inquires about the placement of a comma, hoping it’s an indication that her brother-in-law Alexander Hamilton is secretly as in love with her as she is with him. That Schuyler not only noticed Hamilton’s comma use (apparently this moment is drawn from a real letter where the reverse is true), but assumes it was a coded message of love is what pleases me most. I mean, sure, it would be a bad idea to have a secret affair with your sister’s husband or your wife’s sister, but that would be a grammar nerd love I could get behind.

So naturally when I saw this Buzzfeed list of grammar tweets in PW Daily, I clicked on over. These people are using the internet for its true purpose: bonding with their fellow nerds. Grammar pedants of Twitter, I salute you!

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Once a book nerd, always a book nerd

Putzing around the internet this past week or so, I’ve noticed a listicle/Twitter trend (because I am very observant and astute) using the hashtag #growingup______ fill in the blank with whatever esoteric or widely recognized variable you’d like. Some of them were funny, especially when I could relate and others I just rolled my eyes because the jokes were either overplayed or just too universal to even be worth it.

I’ve been growing a little bored of the trope, but when I came across Buzzfeed’s compilation of #growingupabooknerd, how could I resist? I thought it would be tired and, yet again, eye-rolly, but there were things there that I didn’t even know I related to until I read them.

Even the URL name had me in (metaphorical) stitches: “just-one-more-chapter-then-i-should-go-to-bed.” How more appropriate can it get? I think my most overused line as a kid was “once I finish this chapter,” which I would slyly wait to say until I had just started a chapter. SO TRICKY, LITTLE RACHEL, SO TRICKY.

However, I think my favorite inclusion in this list #14, which is a level of stress I know so well and am more than a little relieved that others experience the same existential panic:

Anyway, it’s Friday afternoon and I’m in the mood for a little more lightheartedness and knowing chuckles. Add your #growingupabooknerd memory in the comments!

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#notagoodidea

As you all know, we’ve been pushing the whole build-your-platform-through-social-media idea pretty much relentlessly since grumpy cat memes and the Kardashians became a thing.  We’ve also suggested that understanding how social media works and knowing how to use it properly (for good, not evil) is essential.  We’ve seen how often it can backfire and how damaging the repercussions can be.

That was brought home to me this week by two separate “#Ask___” Twitter events.  First, E.L. James had to deal with responses that ranged from mildly sarcastic to outright insulting when she agreed to participate in an online chat to promote her latest iteration of 50 Shades.  Then, in a very different arena, presidential candidate Bobby Jindal’s #AskBobby hashtag elicited some pretty rude commentary about the Louisiana governor’s policies and even personal life and left a lot of people wondering if someone so clueless about how Twitter works could actually be a good president.

What’s amazing about both of these situations is that these are folks who should know better—or at least their handlers and p.r. people should.  The social media universe is mostly a Hobbesian place—all cynicism, righteous anger, and meanspiritedness—where moderation in opinions or dialogue is in very, very short supply.  And, those who are out there promoting themselves, their work, or a cause, need to figure out how not to fall victim to the pitchfork wielding mobs (metaphorically speaking, of course).  So authors need to beware.  In order to reap the benefits of an effective social media presence, you need to understand the potential pitfalls and be thoughtful about how to avoid them.  Like any tool, this one can help build or destroy.

What useful things have you learned from your experiences on social media?

 

The art of storytelling

The story matters. But so does the way you tell it. Just learn from this 23-year-old who has been writing a memoir on Instagram.

There are so many great things to love about this story. Sure, I appreciate the beautiful photos and well-written captions, but I admire the sheer ingenuity most of all. Fact: a new memoir is published every 38 minutes. Don’t fact-check me on that, just trust me. There are a lot of memoirs out there. Another fact: not many of them are written using the medium of a photograph social media platform, with carefully curated shots posted a year later, a completely different practice than the usual immediacy and spontaneity of picture posting.

Short stories and even entire novels have been written on Twitter too, but what technology gives, technology also takes away. Algorithms generate news stories and a scary amount of written content that you would never suspect. Don’t believe me? Then take this test.

The point is this: technology has changed everything and will continue to change everything, for better or worse. There are an unimaginable number of ways to spread stories now. Get creative and find a way that is uniquely you. Otherwise computer algorithms may as well write your story for you.

Also, I just wanted to include a quick update on one of my earlier blog posts. In March 2015, I posted a blog about censorship and China being named the guest of honor at BEA 2015. Want to see what that all amounted to? This was the result.

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Reading goals for 2015

The New Year is fast approaching—way too quickly if you ask me—and with a new year comes new goals!

I have never before made reading one of my resolutions for the new year. Reading has always been such a huge part of my life that I never really felt it was necessary. It would be like resolving to drink more water or take more showers. But ever since I’ve started taking on clients of my own and representing more and more authors, I’ve found that I’ve had less and less time to read books by authors who aren’t my clients. So for 2015 I will make a very moderate reading goal: I will read one book every two weeks, in addition to the massive amounts of reading that comes with the territory of being a literary agent.

And then, I came across this thoughtful post about resolving to read less on Book Riot via Twitter. (I’m new to Twitter, by the way, so excuse this shameless plug: mike_hoogland.)

Now I’m certainly not at the point of “oversaturation” that Jeremy describes, but he makes a very compelling point. Reading should make you better informed, wiser, and possibly even funnier or more empathetic, so a better-informed, wiser, funnier, more empathetic person-turned-hermit is counterintuitive. I don’t think reading 24 books next year will lead to such a life either, but I’m wondering if there are people out there who have hit this reading tipping point.

Are you one of them? What are your reading goals? I’d like to know. Sound off in the comments.

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Writer’s block

I’ve been bad. About blogging. I haven’t blogged in quite some time. I don’t want to say how long, because it’s embarrassing, even to me. I could blame computer woes–it’s been fun! Or the fact that I’ve been really busy with work work. I could pretend I’ve made up for it by being very active on Twitter, but you’d find me out. So what gives?
I would blame writer’s block, but it’s not something I believe in. Because the truth is, it’s not that I can’t write about things. It’s that I don’t want to write about things. Call it a crisis of confidence if you will, but I can’t imagine there’s anything left to blog  about that either 1) I haven’t already blogged about or 2) someone hasn’t said better than I ever could.
I’ve been feeling pretty overwhelmed lately, but not by work–busy though that has been. I’m feeling overwhelmed by the constant stream of information: the RSS feeds, the news, TV, texts, movies, IMs, music, Twitter. It’s a cacophony, and I’ve been feeling especially mindful of my part in it. Am I just adding to the noise? Does what I say actually benefit anyone or add to their existence/knowledge/growth? Am I listening and learning? Why am I blogging and tweeting? Am I carrying on a meaningful conversation?
I’m not sure I have the answers. Sometimes I feel like I’m talking into the wind, and there’s no point in that. Other times, I feel like I’m making a real human connection, and I cherish the contacts I’ve made through social media (many of whom are now people I know in real life).
I hope my quietness or silence isn’t misinterpreted. I want to connect. I want to learn. I want to grow. But I also want to make sure that what I’m putting out there isn’t just for the sake of putting something out there. Bear with me?

Why buy?

For all the time we spend talking about marketing and social media and discoverability, we don’t necessarily have much more than gut instinct to go on.  X works, Y doesn’t, prevailing wisdom says, but do we really even know?  The one thing we’re all confident of is that word of mouth is effective, probably so much more so than everything else.  But every once in a while, I like to stop and think about why I’ve chosen to read something.

The other day a client of mine got a not-yet-revealable blurb that made think, “Huh.  I think I’d actually buy a book with that blurb on it.”  Which underscores just how little they impact my choices.  I think I once bought a book because an intern recommended it to me and it had a blurb by an author I love, but blurbs alone don’t do it for me.  I still think they’re incredibly valuable for a million other reasons (the blurber might mention the book later, it helps to grab the attention of people along the chain between editorial and the customer, lends credibility, etc.).  But I don’t typically buy because of them.

I do buy books because of Twitter.  Usually it’s a critical mass question.  If everyone in publishing is reading something, I buy it (and eventually read it, though I’ll admit not always speedily).  Gone Girl; The Fault in Our Stars; Code Name Verity; and Where’d You Go, Bernadette? all made it to my house on the strength of the wisdom of the masses/fear of being left out.  Occasionally, one tweet reveals a book so perfect for me that I’ll rush out to get it, like My Beloved Brontosaurus, which I came across in a tweet from its editor Amanda Moon (@amsciam).  By title alone I knew it was for me.  My favorite dinosaur is still the Brontosaurus, and Pluto’s my favorite planet, and no lousy scientists with their knowledge are going to change that.  I not only bought it, I pre-ordered it (which I never do out of a combination of cheapness and impatience), and ordered one for a dino-obsessed friend’s upcoming birthday.

As someone who used to license first serial (periodical excerpt) rights for the agency, I always wondered how well magazine coverage translated to sales.  The trouble is the newspaper or magazine wants something that works in its own right.  But recently I read what was either an excerpt or an article referencing The Age of Edison, and I was really intrigued.  When I spotted the book at B&N the next day, I grabbed it.  Conveniently, it turned out to be my book club book for DGLM’s next book club meeting.

I do sometimes read the books that hit all the best of lists at year end, but I will admit that it’s an imperfect source for me.  It brings books to my attention, but I judge them with a critical eye before deciding whether to buy.  I’ll be reading Just Kids this weekend, which I kind of sort of thought about buying when everyone was talking it up, but never did till it became the selection for my book club.  Likewise, Beautiful Ruins abounded on the lists in December, but I didn’t read that till my book club decided I had to.

Incidentally, I adore the cover of Beautiful Ruins.  It called to me from everywhere.  But I resisted buying it because it didn’t sound like a book I’d like so much as it looked like a book I’d like.  So I’ll pick a book up for its cover, but it’s not a guarantee that I’ll actually take it home.  Until I had to, I just didn’t.  And for what it’s worth, I thought it was wonderful and well worth the read.

Word of mouth is really hit or miss for me.  It depends entirely on the mouth.  And there are recommendations I’ll take from someone and others I’ll disregard, if I think it’s clear the book doesn’t fall in the center of the Venn diagram of our tastes.  I have definitely at times chosen not to read something, based on who I know who loves it.

So I guess in the end I’m much more about critical mass than anything else.  Given enough reasons, I’ll pick something up, even if I’ve previously decided not to read it.  Why do you buy?  What works for you, and what decidedly doesn’t?

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“She seemed to realize that she’d lost her right to knock.”

Were you with us on Twitter this past Tuesday, when Jim and I chatted with a bunch of folks about the first half of Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park?  As promised, we want to take the conversation to the blog as well, for those who couldn’t make it.  If you want to read it without the SPOILERS you might find below, why not give it a read in the next two weeks, then come back and check out part one’s conversation here, and join us on May 14th at 6 p.m. EST on Twitter (#EandPdglm)?

I’d say the subject that most dominated our discussion was the 1980s setting.  Jim and I both felt that though we love how it plays out in the book, it might have given us some pause as agents considering the book in the slush pile: as Jim asked, “Do kids care about the 80s?”  Fortunately, we had some researchers in the chat to uncover the answer for us.  Anecdotal evidence from Susanna Donato (@SusannaDonato) and DGLM client Brian Bliss (@brainbliss) suggests that teens didn’t mind the choice, might even have been intrigued by it, but would not have cared about the music referenced, which is the source of much of the bond between the two characters.  I was perplexed when Bryan reported that his teen creative writing students wouldn’t have bothered to look up the bands on Park’s mixtapes, until I realized that I didn’t bother to look up the comics that take up an equal amount of the narrative, if not more.  Of course, I’ve heard of them, but it doesn’t mean I fully understand the context.  In the end, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything.

After all, that moment where Park first realizes Eleanor is reading his comics along with him and stops to let her catch up has plenty of impact no matter what.  That was one of Kellie Lovegrove (@k_love671)’s favorite parts of the book.  Other favorite moments in the first half included: the very end of the first half, which made Susanna’s heart race.  She also loved when Park asked his grandmother for batteries for his birthday so he could give them to Eleanor.  Jim swooned over “You look like a protagonist…You look like a person who wins in the end.”  And for me, the line referenced in the title of this blog entry, which I loved so much I ran across the room to get a post-it to flag it.

So if you couldn’t make it, tell me, what was YOUR favorite part?  And what did you think of the time period?  Do you have the same sense of dread about whatever Richie reveal is coming our way in the second half?

On May 14th at 6 p.m. EST, Jim (@JimMcCarthy528) and I (@LaurenAbramo) will reconvene at #EandPdglm to talk with everyone about the rest of the book.  If you haven’t gotten started yet, please jump on in!  It’s a pretty quick, short, wonderful read.  (Though Jim and I were rooting for a contrarian to come along and mix it up—are you that person?  Come tell us why!)  I can’t wait to find out how the rest of the book will unravel.

And in case you want to catch up so you can join us next time, here’s a handy dandy widget with all the good stuff to come out of our chat under the #EandPdglm hashtag: