Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Save the Snark (and the Hate)

by R.C. Lewis

I've been on Twitter for a few years now, almost exclusively for the writing/publishing side of my life. If you've been around the Write Angle for a while, you know several of us are big fans of Twitter as part of a writer's social media package. Jemi Fraser recently did three different posts on great Twitter hashtags for writers, and Calista Taylor laid out the basics in Twitter 101.

You can get amazing things from Twitter—camaraderie of other writers, news on industry trends and events, and insider tips straight from agents and editors. Amidst all that, you also get what people are eating for lunch, who's coming down with a cold, and complaints about weather/mass transit/utility companies/anything else that can be annoying. Part and parcel.

Here's a small subset of the tweets out there—writers snarking at those industry insiders, especially agents.

They come in several forms, but the underlying sentiment always seems the same. Agents are evil, money-grubbing, elitist jerks. They only want crap from celebrities anyway. They won't take a chance on anyone new.

Now, hang on.

There's nothing wrong with going it alone, whether by self-publishing or working with publishers who take unagented submissions. Many writers find that's the right course for them. For others, the efforts of querying and securing representation are worth it.

Whichever course we choose to take (or maybe both!), why sling hate at the other?

By and large, agents work hard. They often hold down other jobs to pay the bills, essentially working for free on the hope that the books they believe in will sell. I certainly couldn't do what my agent does (fair enough, since I'm pretty sure she couldn't teach my math classes, either).

I imagine there are some agents who are jerks. After all, you can find a jerk or two in just about any group of people. And yes, we have the right to be ourselves and say what we want.

But what possible good comes from being rude (and even at times downright hateful) toward anyone in an industry we hope to be considered professionals in?

No matter what the industry is doing, and no matter our course within it, behaving like a professional will always be in fashion. The same goes for more than agents—editors, fellow authors, and readers deserve it, too.

There's plenty to be gained by developing a reputation of respect.

R.C. Lewis teaches math by day and writes YA fiction by every other time. Her YA sci-fi novel Stitching Snow will be published by Disney-Hyperion in Summer 2014. Meanwhile, you can find her at Crossing the Helix and on Twitter (@RC_Lewis).


JeffO said...

I'm not a part of the twitterverse, so I don't get to see how bad it is there, but I do see that sort of sentiment pop up from time-to-time in blog posts, blog comments, and forums. I'm guessing a lot of the snark isn't from people who've decided to go it alone, but that most of it is coming from people who are trying-and failing-to get an agent. But I'm with you on this, no need to go off half-cocked and spew venom.

Jane Steen said...

I agree. I'm self-published therefore no agent, but I have no interest in slinging mud at the profession of agent as a whole. If agents are no longer of use to authors they will eventually disappear; but I suspect that they will continue to thrive, albeit perhaps with a modified job description, because having someone with an insider perspective on publishing and contacts in the book world can benefit most authors--even the self-published--at some point in their careers.

And I'm with you in believing that the majority of agents work hard for their living and are genuinely committed to bringing good books to market. Many of them are writers themselves. It's pretty arrogant of writers to dismiss a whole category of publishing professionals as useless without, I suspect, much knowledge of them as individuals.

I wonder, indeed, how many of the naysayers have never met a real live agent in person? Several agents I've met are on my Facebook feed and the glimpses they provide into their lives are fascinating and often hilarious. I value their existence even if we never enter into a professional relationship.

Sophie Perinot said...

I always tell my kids -- with respect to comments in the virtual world -- "If you wouldn't say it to someone's face then you have no business posting it on-line." This isn't just about professionalism, it is about the golden rule.

Darke Conteur said...

They don't understand that their actions and words live forever. Sure, they may be going it on their own, but that doesn't give them the right to be so spiteful.

~Charity~ said...

With today's technology and social media platforms, I don't understand how people can think they'll get away with such sentiments. They're shooting themselves in the foot. It's unprofessional, and it's uncalled for.

Jemi Fraser said...

Totally agree! Being polite, thoughtful and respectful is so important in all aspects of our lives :)

Arlee Bird said...

It's never a good plan to set out to make enemies or isolate ourselves from potential helping hands. We never know who will be holding the ladder for us when we're ready to climb to the next level. Best to be civil and professional to everyone.

A Faraway View

petemorin said...

Fair warning -

I was talking to my agent the other day. We are waiting for a response from Thomas & Mercer's #1 editor. She says that he is not only reading the ms, but also looking at the Amazon reviews of Small Fish, my twitter feed and my FB pages.

What's the old line? Think it, don't speak it.