August 25th, 2006

books

blogging and public information

Interesting. I've just had an apology from someone who read yesterday's entry and thought that the creepy letter I referred to had been theirs. Let me assure them again (as I just did in email) that it was not the case. This is one of the downsides of keeping names and details private when blogging about incidents of this nature.

The letter I have in mind is from months (perhaps even more than a year) ago and included personal details from entries which no longer appear on this blog. When I began writing here it was to keep in touch with some friends and clients. Without my quite realizing it had happened, my readership broadened to include quite a number of people who are otherwise strangers. Nearly all of these people treat me and mine with respect and have fostered an environment where I can freely discuss my work. It's become an outlet of sorts for me as well as a valuable way to keep in touch with and be a part of the writing community.

However, when this letter came, it crossed the line. It was extensive, perhaps even exhaustive, in gleaning information from my entries about myself and my family. And I suddenly realized how public this site had become. It did make me feel rather self-conscious about what I wrote and aware that I had a personal space I found the need to keep separate. The downside is that I don't have time to maintain a second personal blog (though I do have my irregular cooking blog), so my friends have had to get their non-agent news in dribs and drabs. Such is the price of unexpected notoriety.

I know of at least one other writer who has taken their blog to a private mode because of similar issues. Agents are so used to working behind the scenes that I suppose it just never occurred to me this would happen when this blossomed into a more public location. When I started this blog, almost three years ago, I'm not sure if there were any other agents doing the same, so there was no reference point for such a thing. Of late, I have even seen panels at conventions in which authors discuss how best to use blogs to their advantage in building a connection with readers. I know that I and other agents read blogs by many authors and what they say does have an effect. If someone makes negative remarks about an editor or agent or client, it's bound to eventually make it through the mill. Mind you, I mean bad, nasty things here -- not constructive criticism or discussion. I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion. The internet has certainly become the go-to location for that!

Back in the day, when I first filled out Jeff Herman's guide one of the questions asked what you would be doing if you weren't an agent. My answer was that I'd be at home reading fiction anyway and enjoying chocolate chip cookies (made from scratch, of course). The number of chocolate chip cookie recipes I received in queries was impressive. As I said to the person who emailed me, including details such as books by my clients you may have enjoyed, or other relevant references is certainly fine and may personalize the letter enough for it to stand out from the myriad. The writing is always the deciding factor, though.

I have no intention of asking people not to comment on what I write. Or barring anyone from positively participating in conversations that spring up here (trolls are certainly not welcome). Anyone can friend me (though I only read a select number of blogs myself -- again with the time limitations). Everything I now include on this blog I am aware has become part of the blogosphere. This kind of communication fosters a level of familiarity that is both seductive and misleading. All it made me realize was that I actually did have a private life that was not for public consumption and that I needed to be responsible for making that so. I do not want to offend anyone with this endeavor. And I do want to offer some personal insight into my work for authors as well as continue this valuable conversation with writers and readers and other industry colleagues. Play on.

This has been a public service announcement.

Meanwhile, back at HQ, while not writing this entry, I have been spending most of my morning on exciting paperwork (ugh, accounting) and on actually thrilling marketing (I love getting manuscripts out the door to editors). I have yet to begin my RTB column. I want to say thank you to everyone who offered grist for the mill yesterday. Oddly, my column seems to have ended up being a rather sideways emotive response to the question of trends and following them. It is entirely possible that I will come back and address that issue more directly in this space once the article has been turned in. So, stay tuned, true believers...
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