This post was originally published in the December installment of my WITCHES & WONDERMENTS newsletter. To sign up for future newsletters, go here.

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Like just about everything writing related, there is a lot of bad advice out there on the internets about how to utilize social media as a writer/author. I’ve made meaningful connections on Twitter and even found my agent on there, so it can be a powerful tool for your career. It can also be a powerful tool for making a complete fool of yourself.

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Want to avoid making a huge mistake? Here are a few tips I’ve learned in my time on Twitter, I hope they’ll help you avoid being a butthead.

1. Follow, don’t stalk:

It’s painful to watch one person liking and replying to every last thing someone, who is clearly not their best friend, tweets. Twitter is made for interaction, yes, but there are also limits and boundaries. When you’re querying, it’s tempting to follow agents and try and decipher clues from their tweets about your MS (more on than later) but it’s also important to remember that A) You are not the only person querying them and B) hanging on an agents every word is not only not effective, it can get super annoying super fast.

Same goes for authors. I understand the impulse to tweet excitedly to and about your favs, but you should also be careful you’re not flooding their mentions everyday and becoming a nuisance.

Pay attention to how many times they interact with you. If you’re always tweeting someone and they never respond, scale it back. This could mean they’re busy and didn’t see your tweets or that they don’t want to respond to you, especially if you’ve tweeted them multiple times: take the hint and utilize your time and effort with someone who’s interested in interacting – but display the same respect for their boundaries as I mentioned before.

2. Don’t be Generic

This sounds meaner than it is, but what I’m really trying to say is unless you have something funny/meaningful/important to add to a conversation – you should probably stay out of it. When an agent tweets about yet another querying author being rude to them, you can be sure there will be at least five, “PEOPLE DO THAT?” comments from querying authors.

This comes off as desperate, because it is. We want to show agents WE would never do something like that, so we respond with manufactured shock, with a question that you already know the answer to. Yes people do it, that is why they are tweeting this. It sucks, but you don’t have to respond unless you have something that’s actually adding to the conversation. If your tweet is the same as ten other authors, you’re not adding anything but clutter.

This also applies to conversation on more sensitive topics like racism in publishing. I’ve seen authors who, likely trying to be good allies, reply about that one time an agent rejected them too because they wrote about an old woman and isn’t that just so ageist and when will our plight as women end? (yes I have seen this exact thing play out) in response to a black, brown or Asian writer expressing their frustration at the state of publishing. Not everything is about you, so it’s okay to like something and not respond or, even better, boost the voices of marginalized writers instead.

Lastly, there are the people who tweet things like “Just had coffee,” or “Just picked my kid up from school.” I am sure these are all thrilling events for you, but at least give us a gif, or something to make the tweet interesting. For example, “Just had coffee,” would be a lot more interesting if it read something like, “Just had coffee and I’m ready to tackle my day/revisions/not fall asleep at my desk.” Add a cute gif like this one:

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And your tweet will be fun, easier to relate to and not…pointless. Think of your tweets as a line in your book, unless it’s moving the plot forward (contributing to the conversation in some way) then cut it. That doesn’t mean every tweet has to be some deep, meaningful thing, trust me I tweet ridiculous things all the time, but it does have to serve a purpose, otherwise why did you tweet that particular thought as opposed to the 5 billion others floating around in your brain. Filter it out for us so we see the good stuff 🙂

3. Find Friends Who are on Your Level

I know the writing community can seem cliquey at times (& yep sometimes it is) but there’s a logical reason for this: Writers often come up together. Meaning, writers who become friends before they have agents/are published can sometimes form little circles and stick together. Usually this isn’t for any of the stuck up or exclusionary reasons we might suspect, but more like when you’re in school and have a graduating class. It’s just something that happens naturally because going through the querying process and going on sub are stressful experiences that lead to lots of crying together and bonding.

So how do you “break in” to what seems like a super closed off circle of people chatting with one another? Make friends with authors who are on the same step as you. Interact with authors who are querying too, who are still revising, who are plotting out a new book because they had to shelve the old one. It can be a lot easier to relate to someone who is in the same place you are in your career, especially since the problems don’t end when you reach certain goals.

I’ve run into situations where some of my writer pals get angry at their more established friends for complaining about something like a slow submission process or issues with their cover. How can they complain about that when I don’t even have an agent! You might think. Or I’d be happy to just be published, they’re so ungrateful! But the truth is there are problems no matter where you are in the process and it’s hard to understand being frustrated over a badly timed cover reveal when you’ve been working on chapter seventeen for the past nine weeks. I get it. But remember that there will be pressures and problems in every phase of your publishing career. That doesn’t make those issues more established authors face better or worse, they’re just different.

This is not to say that you can’t make friends with established authors too, you totally can and you can learn a lot from them! But don’t think you have to be friends with JK Rowling to be part of the writing community. The community is what you make of it.

4. Don’t be Precious, Be humble

So, there is a big difference between interesting and special snowflake. Lots of new writers crash into the Twitter scene expecting to make an impact immedietly. They pitch agents at inappropriate times, tag people they don’t know on their blog posts over and over again, and have a general disregard for Twitter etiquette because they think rules don’t apply to them. They think they’re super special.

I know your mom probably told you you were special and she was likely right, but you’re also just one voice in a sea of voices that have already been talking for years before you arrived. Respect the space and read the room. Follow the example of other writers who are well regarded in the community, they usually have their own “brand” which really just amounts to their personality. Make sure your personality is not being misinterpreted as “annoying AF.”

This can apply to authors who have already achieved some level of success too. If you are constantly tweeting about how you got your agent and how, “YOU CAN DO IT TOO!” or how, “I’m so lucky!” your feed is gonna get real old, real fast. I can already guarantee you’re muted by at least twelve people. I’m probably one of them. It’s totally cool to help authors and tell your story, I do it all the time, but try not to come off as a humblebrag either. Publishing is a wild ride and that person you’re condescending to could lap you before you can say New York Times Bestseller.

5. Stop Thinking Everything is About You

I know it’s hard not to think things like:

“Omg this agent just followed me and I queried them last night that means they’re gonna sign me!”

or

“Omg this editor just liked my tweet about my dog and I am pretty sure this means they are going to buy my book!”

or

“Omg this agent just tweeted about a manuscript with a weak ending that they’re rejecting and I KNOW FOR A FACT IT’S ABOUT ME!”

I have done all of these things and more and trust me none of it leads anywhere good. You’re stressing yourself out for likely no good reason. The only news you should rely on as accurate, is the news you receive via your inbox. Don’t read into tweets, follows, likes or subtweets. Every time you feel the urge to, get off Twitter and go write for ten minutes, or take a walk. Seriously, it’s good training for the future because being on submission doesn’t make the temptation to read into things any easier.
6. Be Yourself. No, Really.

The big secret to success on social media really amounts to this generic piece of advice right here: be yourself. OH NO I BROKE MY OWN GENERIC RULE! Jk I made it funny with this sentence. It sounds simple because it is. Do you like video games? Tweet about them. Are you angry that they cast some ugly troll as one half of your OTP? Yell about it. Did you get a beautiful new lipstick that looks amazing on you? Snap a selfie and post it. Social media for authors isn’t about books and writing all the time, nobody wants to follow a book robot.

If you feel passionate about the things you’re tweeting, it will show. When someone treats Twitter like an awful task, that shows too. Have fun with your account, talk about the things you enjoy as well as writing and you’ll have a much easier time of building a platform.

7. Bonus Tip: Don’t tweet agents links to your book on Amazon.

When an agent tweets that they’re searching for a certain kind of book, they mean in their query inbox not an already self-published book. Responding to an agent with a link about how great your book is will not help you unless it’s already a run away bestseller and I’m guessing if you’re tweeting it at agents, it’s not. Similarly, you might want to hold off on tweeting at them about the book you plan on querying them with too. If they ask for something on twitter using the MSWL hashtag for example, mention that in your query but not on Twitter. It can work on very rare occasions but the truth is the only way to truly know if an agent wants your book is to query them.

I say this with love, stop being annoying and good luck!

This post was originally published in the October installment of my WITCHES & WONDERMENTS newsletter. To sign up for future newsletters, go here.

 

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What querying feels like sometimes

DVpit happened this week and a big high five to all the authors who put themselves out there and gave it a shot. I hope you got some likes! If you didn’t that’s really okay too (unless you were a jerk to me bc in that case 😊. ) But for the rest of you non-jerks, pitching contests are not the only path. Cold querying has worked for many more writers than contests have. But no matter which path you take, there’s one thing nobody should skip out on: researching agents.
I did a small thread on this on Twitter a few days ago, which got a lot of traction because of the idea that “No agent is better than a bad one.” That’s still true and although I know how hard it is to say no when you have an offer from anyone, signing to a questionable agent will only hurt and not help your career. Not only do you run the very high risk of not selling your book and having to shelve it, but you might also become distrustful of everyone in publishing, which is a hard thing to overcome. It sucks to work with someone who is not the right fit for you, and although this can also happen with a “good” agent, you should take every possible step to avoid it. How? I’m about to show you!

Step One: The Internet is Your Friend

There are a few websites I always recommend when it comes to researching agents.
Publisher’s Marketplace is the first, which lists agent/agency sales & ranks. It’s an incredibly useful tool if you’re trying to figure out if an agent has sales in your genre and to which houses. If any agent has multiple sales to the same house it can be also be an indication of strong relationships with editors. Publisher’s Marketplace is where I got my “Most Beyoncé List of YA-Agents” List from and I’m sharing it here for any of you who’d like to take a look! *Please note this list is based solely on PMP sales which I talk more about below
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Now, while all this information can be very helpful it’s also important to keep in mind what literary agent Saba Sulaiman of Talcott Notch expressed on Twitter: ” …not having a sales record ≠ being a schmagent…”
Saba went on to say that many established agents took years to get to where they are and that many newer agents are also sitting on book deals which they haven’t been able to announce yet. This is all so important to keep in mind and in my opinion, when faced with a lack of information for an individual agent, looking at what agency they’re with and what support they’ll have in turn, is a great way to gauge if these newer agents might be a good fit for you. Publisher’s Marketplace costs $25.00 a month and I would definitely recommend signing up for a month or two at minimum if you can afford it. You should also, always, check an agent’s agency website. This is where their submission guidelines, emails and sometimes updated wish-lists are posted.

Aside from Publisher’s Marketplace some of my favorite researching websites are:

Absolutewrite: A forum where authors can dish on agents, publishers and more.

Query Tracker: A fantastic resource for, you guessed it, keeping track of which agents you’ve queried and also see comments left by other querying writers.

Literary Rambles: Helpful interviews with kidlit agents, great for finding specific agent wants to include in your query letter!

Manuscript Wishlist: See what agents and editors are looking for!

Jim suggests questions to ask a prospective agent! : Once you have an offer, these questions from agent and legendary-beard-haver Jim McCarthy is the go-to list of questions to use for the call.

Step Two: Google It (aka Google is also on the internet and also your friend)

When an agent is considering signing a new author, many times they Google them. You should do the same for agents you are querying. Aside from the dedicated websites above, many authors blog about their experiences with signing to their agent and sometimes though not as often *gasp* horror stories. Doing an in-depth google search might help you find a helpful interview or information about prospective agents. Also, you wanna make sure they’re not a vampire. Or maybe you want to make sure they are. Listen, I’m not judging you. Edward Cullen would’ve made a great agent, he watched Bella sleep and everything! #Persistent

Step Three: Gossip!

Okay so maybe not gossip per say but word of mouth is a crucial step in the agent research process. Why? Because as I said above, horror stories aren’t often shared out in the open. There is always a fear of stepping on toes or retaliation against your career (especially for marginalized authors) so often times the most useful information is the one shared in private settings. Reach out to former clients if you can, join private Facebook groups (like this one I set up specifically for people of color!) and reach out to other writers who have been around longer in the community. It’s likely someone you reach out to either has information or knows someone who does. The writer grapevine is essential and you should definitely take advantage of it.

Step Four: Listen.

Steps one through three don’t matter if you don’t listen to the warning signs. If you have a bad gut feeling, if you’re getting bad information from multiple writers, if you aren’t happy with multiple aspects of a prospective agents profile and career, it’s better for everyone involved that you not query or sign with them. As I said in the opening, no agent is better than a bad one, and although it takes incredible self restraint to say no to a lone offer it won’t be the last time you’re forced to wait in publishing and you should consider it practice for the future. You should also consider it an investment, in yourself. In your writing and the time you put in to finish your book. Don’t put all the hard work and time into the hands of someone who doesn’t appreciate it as much as you do. Do not sell yourself short & good luck in the query trenches! I’ll be rooting for you.

Most authors get their agents through the slush pile. That is, sending their query to an agent’s email inbox and standing out among the thousands of other writers in there. But there are other ways….

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This little tweet here got me my literary agents. I posted it on Twitter last April during #DVpit, a Twitter event created to showcase works about and especially by marginalized voices. By May I was signed to Fuse Literary. Sounds easy, but remember this came after years of writing, revising, crying and a few months of querying. #DVpit has more specific rules but there are other contests such as #Pitmad that are open to everyone.

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During these events you will pitch your book using the indicated # for the specific contest and then identifiers like #YA (for young adult) or #UF for urban fantasy. Usually you can only tweet one pitch per hour, then wait for an agent or editor to fav your pitch and send them your query and sometimes opening pages depending on their submission guidelines. This is useful because many times agents read requested materials from these events first and it allows agents to find YOU instead of the other way around. A full list of rules and mechanics for each event is posted on their respective websites.

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While Twitter pitch contests like #DVpit & #Pitmad aren’t replacements for traditional querying, they can definitely help you bypass the line all while improving your book pitching skills.

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I would also like to point out that the agents/editors and publishers participating during #Pitmad aren’t curated so PLEASE make sure to do your research before you submit to them! I have a story on what happens to you when you don’t and it’s not pretty.

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If you’re planning on participating in #DVpit or any of the other contests out there please check out my video! I gathered a collection of tips from authors and agents on pitching via Twitter events that will be super helpful for any querying writers. Make sure to like and subscribe to my channel for more videos & if you have any questions about these events leave me a comment on YouTube and I’ll do my best to answer it! Good luck!

 

MONDAYS:
#MuseMon hosted by (ME!) @Claribel_Ortega
With a new music inspired theme each week, my own writer event #MuseMon is a great way to kick off the week.

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#LoveLines hosted by @ellekarmawrites @AmandaKWrites
Share your lines about love and relationships from any genre! Optional themes posted each week.

 

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TUESDAY:
#2BitTues hosted by @AngDonofrio

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WEDNESDAY:
#1lineWed hosted by @RWAKissofDeath

Pictures are not required but sometimes add a nice touch.
Pictures are not required but sometimes add a nice touch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THURSDAY:

#ThruLineThurs hosted by @Madd_Fictional and @GurlKnoesSciFi

#Thurds hosted by @iamfunkhauser

FRIDAY:
#FictFri hosted by @Gracie_DeLunac
#FP hosted by @LoonyMoonyLara and @AdeleSGray, you can also follow @FridayPhrases
#FriDare hosted by @micascotti

SATURDAY:
#SlapDashSat hosted by @Madd_Fictional – No rules for this event!

SUNDAY:
#SunWIP hosted by @JudyLMohr