One of the ideas that still seems to be common around the Internet these days is that agents who blog are somehow less serious, less committed to their jobs, or are too busy spending time on the Internet that they should otherwise be spending on their clients.
As someone who spent part of my time blogging about The Hills and other assorted reality television shows, I can see how charges of unseriousness may be appealing! One might even say, “Sweet, my answer is get out of my car.”
But for this first post of 2011, during a time when Facebook is fast becoming the biggest site on the entire Internet, venture capitalists are pouring money into social media startups, and every company on Earth is trying to figure out how to harness the power of social media, it’s just a tad strange to me that people are still denigrating the agents who are trying to use blogs, Facebook, and Twitter to further their own careers and their clients’ careers.
It sure seems like we’re witnessing a revolution in the way in which we connect with each other, including the way we hear about and discover books, and it behooves agents to stay abreast of those changes.
Now, to be sure, situations vary, and I’m not saying that all blogging/Tweeting agents are wholly created equal or that all uses of social media are uniformly positive. But social media is a powerful tool, and there are quite a few agents out there using it as a force for good.
Let’s examine some of the myths about blogging agents, and hopefully dispel them:
Myth: Only small-time agents blog.
Among the many agents who blog include Jane Dystel, blogging at the Dystel and Goderich blog. Among her clients are…… one President Obama. How about Betsy Lerner, agent for National Book Award winner Patti Smith? How about Kristin Nelson? Her numbers for 2010 weren’t too shabby. On Twitter you have Curtis Brown UK agent/managing director Jonnny Geller.
I could go on (and apologies to the ones I’m leaving off this cursory list — you are awesome too!)
There are blogging agents across the career spectrum, from the just-starting-out to the extremely well-established. Trying to paint all blogging agents with one brushstroke is going to inherently be inaccurate. There are agents of all stripes utilizing social media.
Myth: Real agents don’t have time to blog/Tweet/Facebook because they’re too busy
There is enough time in the day.
One of the inevitabilities of being an agent using social media is that your clients follow you and know rather precisely how much time you’re spending online. And if an agent were really spending too much time online instead of attending to their needs: their clients would know it. And they wouldn’t be happy.
In fact, the agents I know personally who utilize social media tend to be among the most passionate and ambitious about their work. These are the people who are working more than full time jobs and still trying to help out the unpublished and promote their clients’ work on top of that. They’re passionate enough to be blogging and Tweeting in addition to their jobs, not instead of their jobs.
But while there may well be agents out there who overdo it, social media needn’t consume one’s life and doesn’t have to take up too much time. While I was an agent I was spending about half an hour writing each post on this blog and another half hour or so reading comments. One hour a day. That’s a TV show. Or my daily time on the bus (during which I usually read comments). And even on top of that I would store up posts on the weekends in case things were crazy during the week.
There really is enough time in the day.
Myth: The fact that a few blogging agents have left publishing is proof that they were more serious about blogging than about publishing
This is the one that I’ve been occasionally roped into for whatever reason.
The truth is that a lot of people have left publishing in the last few years for a variety of reasons, just as a lot of people have decided to pursue a career in publishing in the last few years for a variety of reasons. Turnover is inevitable in any industry, particularly one in a period of transition. And I don’t think there’s any evidence to suggest that blogging agents are more likely to leave publishing than non-blogging agents. I certainly always always knew that being an agent came before blogging, and I took my job extremely seriously. My bosses, clients, and colleagues were reading my blog. If I wasn’t getting my job done because I was blogging, they all would have known it.
Myth: There is one right way to be an agent
Every agent plays to their own personal strengths. Some agents are fabulously well-connected, with ties to elite social circles and are able to hobnob with all the right people. Some agents are gossip hounds, knowing everything about everyone and making it their business to have all the best and latest information. Some agents are mega-readers, and have read every writer on the planet and scour the small presses and lit journals for talent. Some agents have ties to MFA programs and use those connections to find up-and-comers.
Some agents are good at social media, and use that to their advantage to find new clients and cast a wide net.
There is no one right or wrong way to be an agent, and in any competitive industry it pays to utilize your own strengths. Everyone has to find the strategy that works for them, and saying that this or that strategy is unserious or doesn’t work is foolhardy.
But really all you need to know about agents and social media is this: it works. Authors are able to get a preview of an agent’s style and see if they’d like to work with them, agents using social media are casting a wider net and finding the authors they want to represent, and authors using social media are more educated about the business, better connected, and better able to make good decisions about their career.
Facility in social media is a new competitive advantage, and the ones who are good at it are reaping the benefits.