We all know that the Internet is a great way to “get out there.” Get known. Put yourself in people’s sightlines in a new way. This can be intimidating, but it’s also inspiring. Shy people become less so online. Connections and friendships and business relationships are forged. More people know about you than ever before. But the kind of “shoot for the moon” attitude that social networking sometimes inspires also has a bad side. Sometimes people do things to get noticed that they wouldn’t ordinarily do, all because the Internet makes them feel bolder.
Here are some things that I absolutely hate when people do to me on social networking sites*. Just because I accept a friend request on my public agent profile (I have two Facebooks, one for Agent Me, the other for people I actually know from high school, etc.), just because it’s easy to find me and add me, that doesn’t mean you now have an open channel to do whatever. My colleagues at ABLA or other agencies may feel differently, but here are the social networking moves that I consider a faux pas:
Queries via Facebook and Twitter
Don’t do it. Just don’t do it. Don’t ever do it. Don’t ask me if I want to read your work via a Facebook or Twitter ping, either. Follow submission guidelines and get your work to an agent or editor the way everyone else does.
Obnoxious Wall Posting
I welcome posts to my profile thanking me for the add or talking about a conference where you just saw me speak or about a book I’ve represented or whatever, but leave it at that. Don’t post things to my wall about your book. The thinking is probably this: “Lots of people visit this person’s wall, so I can generate some extra traffic to my blog/ebook/whatever. It also looks like this person is endorsing my thing. That’s great!” I pick the things I endorse, whether for my Resources for Writers page or things I mention via social networking very carefully. I’ll either review something or retweet it. In fact, earlier this year, I retweeted a contest and it turns out the company running the contest was claiming rights ownership for things submitted, so I deleted my Tweet and didn’t recommend the contest anymore. I take whatever I mention seriously.
Don’t use an agent or editor’s page as a billboard for your stuff. Not only is it annoying, but I guarantee that any such posts to my page will get deleted, which takes time, which will only make it even more annoying. And forget about those quizzes or game invitations — we may be “friends” on Facebook but we’re not that kind of friends, and my real life friends know better than to waste their time (and mine) with that nonsense.
There are a few blunders in the invitation arena, too. Don’t invite me to Events unless I actually know you. No book signings if I’m not a real friend of yours, no virtual launch parties, no poetry slams or what have you.
No group invitations, either. There was this one writing group that I was invited to a few months ago. My name was added to this group without my knowledge or permission. Members of the group started posting their writing samples. I’m guessing a lot of agents and editors were added to this group because the leader thought it would be a great and creative way to get some work noticed. Since I don’t join groups, I had no idea that my mail settings for Facebook sent me an email every time someone posted. The day some random person added me to this writing group, I got over 200 emails from people posting. All for a group I didn’t want to be in. I was traveling that day, and couldn’t figure out how to leave the group from the Facebook app, so I had all this spam in my inbox and I was ready to kill someone.
The new thing people are doing is adding me as a co-worker. They click that they work as “Writer” or “In publishing” or whatever, and they mark us as working together. Then I have to go to my profile and say to ignore this work information. Please stop doing that. It started happening like two weeks ago, for some reason, and it’s maddening. I work alone at home and I know, for a fact, who my co-workers are. These people adding me as a peer on Facebook are not them.
Another abuse of the Internet is adding my email address to mailing lists and newsletters. I’ve had authors do this. They will add me to either their newsletter or add my email to another social networking site where they want to connect with me, and I get deluged in emails that I didn’t ask for. Do not sign anyone up for anything without their permission by using their email address. This should be common sense but you’d be surprised at how often it happens.
The bottom line is: there’s a right way and a wrong way to get attention. There’s also a right way and a wrong way to get your work noticed. Don’t try and catch my eye through tricks or overstepping your bounds on the Internet. Catch my attention with the strength of your work and through official channels. All of the scenarios I mention above annoy me. And when I’m grumpy, I focus my frustration on the source of the social networking error: you. You may be trying to expose me to the coolest event, newsletter, query, game of Angry Birds ever, but I am never going to notice it because I’m too busy thinking you’re rude. If you really have something wonderful to show me, just show me like a normal person, don’t resort to Internet gimmicks.
* I make it sound like this stuff is the bane of my existence but, really, it’s pretty low on the totem pole. I don’t sit around all day crying about people abusing my profile. There are bigger fish to fry. But I do want to get my point across here, so I invoke emotion a lot.