It’s a fact that for better or worse, we all create an online presence that leaves its little footprints all over the internet. So anyone can google our name and check out our latest attempts to sober up a small beagle or commenting on the latest in bellybutton ring fashion.
Laying the foundation – perception
If you dangle your modifier, you can be sure that someone will see it. The concern is how you will be perceived by those little footprints – especially if you’re trying to impress someone, like an agent, or editor, or those within the literary community.
So to carry that thought a wee bit further, do you think your latest foray into blasting someone a new orifice on a public board will be met with concern and derision if you’re trying to become a formidable presence that commands respect?
Are you given to public temper tantrums and carrying out public vendettas? I’ve been knocking around writers sites for many years and have seen more than my fair share of unhinged posts that made me wince and think, “ooo, that’s going to bite them on the bum at some point.”
And it always does.
I google potential authors because I want to know who I’m dealing with in order to avoid potential trouble downstream. Maybe a manuscript looks really great and the author’s platform is fabo. But if I see where the author yelled at an interviewer [happened, pinky swear], or behaved horribly in some other public forum, then I’m going to run in the opposite direction because if they’ve done it once or thrice, chances are they’ll do it again. On my dime. Who needs the aggravation? I’m in this game to sell books, not play referee.
So the end result is that I’ll keep on walking.
It goes both ways
But this whole footprint/online presence is a two-way street. Has the agent or editor you’re thinking of querying behaved in an unprofessional manner? If so, you have to consider whether they’re a loose cannon. Editing can be interesting enough without having an editor whose verbs don’t completely conjugate, or an agent who takes a private problem to a public forum, or screams at an editor.
You need to consider very carefully about working with anyone who wages public wars over what should be a private matter. I’ve seen too many instances where the self-induced feeding frenzy causes pain and suspicion for those who become embroiled in those wars. The fallout is a destroyed reputation.
If that happens to be your agent or editor, then you have to ask yourself whether it’ll affect your career. I have agents who are on my ignore list because of their behavior. And I’m far from the only one who does this. You have to hope that isn’t your agent.
I’ve seen pints of blood spilled when new publishers are asked very simple, basic publishing questions and rather than answer the questions – because, gee, that’s what authors do – they go on the defensive and start name-calling. Ouch. I’ve seen cases where people felt their reputation was being questioned, and they fired back with heavy weaponry, taking no prisoners.
This kind of behavior accomplishes two things; inciting a feeding frenzy and making that person look like a bitter fool with lousy people skills.
I’m not saying that there aren’t plenty cases where real problems arise and need to be dealt with immediately, but it’s in everyone’s best interest to maintain a professional decorum. Ours is a business based on reputation and results. The most powerful words are, “whee doggies, we gotta get us another print run!” – which has zip to do with this post – and “Hey, what have you heard?”
Beyond “what have you heard?” is what have you seen on the internet? What kind of footprints has that agent/editor/author left? No one can afford to tarnish their reputation because where there’s smoke, there’s fire – and it must be put out immediately. And that’s where your delivery system comes into play. How you handle yourself under tough times is what makes you graceful and classy.
If someone has said something about you on a blog or a writer’s board that you feel damages your reputation, then you need to deal with the situation posthaste by remaining calm and polite. If you come out with your Uzis on full auto and colorful metaphors blazing your trail, guess what the result will be? You’ll be laughed at, derided, and ignored. Those who are in a position to fix things could be petty and small, and decide that it’s more fun to dig in their heels and deny you your day in court. Believe me, not everyone behaves like the lovely, classy Victoria Strauss.
So what have you accomplished? Your ultimate goal is to fix a problem, so you need to review your delivery system. It’s very hard to turn one’s back on someone who has approached you in a polite manner, as in, “Say, old chap, I see that you have listed my company incorrectly. Can we talk about this and fix it? Do you have any questions for me? How can I help?”
Hello! Who’s going to say “bugger off” with that approach. Even my old battle axe of an English prof in college wilted under that kind of approach. She was a horrible little woman who smelled like mothballs and graded papers in a manner that confounded us. I could have very easily incited a minor uprising among my fellow students just to exact my pound of flesh out of her after she gave me, and most of the class, a bogus grade. But what would I gain by taking my fight to a public arena? More than likely, Ms. Battle Axe would have happily failed me and enjoyed every second of writing an F next to my name. Instead, I took her for coffee and simply talked to her about my confusion over her grading and my desire to excel in her class. In the end, the old bat gave me an A.
So yes, definitely protect yourself and reputation. But keep it private. Keep it polite. Keep it calm.
Anonymity is fleeting
How many of us have seen blogs that were supposedly anonymous? Oh yah, baby, we can say anything with impunity because no one knows who we are. We can sandbag agents or editors and call them vile names [hello Rejection Queen] and not worry about walking down the street and expecting a flying tomato aimed at our heads.
Read my lips: anonymity is fleeting. Someone always knows who you are and if you get too out of hand, they will be all too happy to out you. Then what? Your writing career is o-ver. Some people take absolute delight in hunting down and exposing anonymous posters who exhibit all the class of a drunk wildebeest. Make sure you’re not one of them.
In this day and age where everything we say and do is held up for public scrutiny, it behooves all of us to make sure the footprints we leave mirror the reputation we’d like to have. If you treat people with respect – even if you’re grinding your teeth down to a nub – it’ll come back to you ten-fold.
But if you’re an ass, that won’t be missed by many either. Pinky swear.