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…
Rather than maintaining a separate blog for personal details, you could always friends-lock posts you want to keep within a smaller circle. It does mean making separate posts, something that sometimes feels like a great deal of effort, but it is there as an option.
I want to thank you for the professional aspects of your blog. I haven’t gotten as far as finishing a novel yet, much less sending one out to be seen by unfamiliar faces, but I greatly enjoy reading about the business.
I realize, of course, that this type of journal offers the ability to have private posting. Part of it is actually the time issue. And part of it is my realization, or perhaps suspicion is a better word, that I would not be comfortable after the experience of that letter in putting any of those things on the internet where they would sit. I have heard there are sites out there that can cache private posts. And I worry for the day when someone changes the software and suddenly everything locked is public. Even if only until they change it back. Perhaps I’m being overly paranoid, but I just feel better doing it this way. It allows me to focus on what this journal evolved to become – a way to have an interchange on agenting, which does, after all, occupy much of my time. Besides, my friends know where to find me. And a lot of them just comment on the agent stuff anyway.
Thanks for posting here and for your participation. 🙂
A good rule of thumb is to never put anything on the Internet you wouldn’t be okay with becoming public. Friendslock can be defeated, and it’s just not worth the pain.
So you’re saying I’m not paranoid and they really are out to get me?
Yes. Yes, they are. You should strike first.
Not paranoid – just careful. And if you do try posting of locked entries, that’s really the key word. I’ve heard of those sites that archive friendslocked posts, as well, but from what I’ve been able to gather is that they generally require someone on your friends list to whom the post is unlocked. If a friend of yours signs up for an archiving service like that, they essentially give access to the system to read anything they can read.
So what you would need to do is be careful to choose friends who don’t subscribe to archiving services. 🙂
You might set up a few different groups of friends to display certain things, and save the most sensitive posts for the select few you trust.
For example, I have a gamer friend filter for when I’m spouting about gamer stuff. I have two subfilters that hold my local gaming friends, and my non-local gaming friends, as the latter are not likely to be involved in any of my face-to-face games. That way I can ask for suggestions or query the out-of-towners about an issue I had with a recent game without alerting my players.
Of course, then you have to keep track of your filters, but it’s not too hard once they’re in place.
Friendslock can also be defeated by social engineering. I don’t put anything on the Internet that couldn’t be read by anyone.
Friendslock – and custom friends groups – are your friends 😉
It takes the hassle out of keeping seperate blogs and allows you to let only your personal friends, or only your clients see certain entries. Or only yourself – I *love* private mode for weblinks that will otherwise get lost in my non-existent filing system.
Your blog is one of the most widely-publicised agent blogs, and for good reason – it’s interesting, informative, and good fun.
Such is the price of fame…
Oh yes, I agree. It is a nice, nice blog and fun to read, and I do so not because I want an agent (in other words–not stalking you), just because it is informative and I love the book recommendations (needless to say). I enjoy Casacorona’s blog for the horses, not because she is an editor. I love her horse posts, and con adventures, and always feel so comfortable about commenting there on everything from ice cream to AZ getting rain while we in Texas remain parched. It is, again, nice. Nice nice nice. I’d hate to see that ruined by the scary ones out there. That being said, I filter my lj constantly, because I *do* have a stalker and I’ve been pushed to the point of wanting to leave lj altogether because of her, but I am stubborn. This is my space to write and be myself and I’m going to keep doing it.
I don’t put truly private information in my blog, but I do “friendslock” everything that’s not part of my public persona.
At least 90% of my public posts are about writing. My friendslocked posts have links, memes, movie reviews, etc.
I suppose it would be shocking if I knew how many people looked at my blog…and I’m not famous in any way. But i do lock most of the entries.
I do have a quick question, and if this isn’t the best place to ask, please forgive and ignore:
If I query an agent who doesn’t always respond, how long should I wait before querying with a new project?
That’s always such a hard question to answer. If it were me, I’d see what they listed for public response time (our is up to 3 weeks from receipt) and then add a couple of weeks for good measure (particularly during the summer and the holiday vacation times). There are all sorts of reasons for delays. I was trying to respond to queries earlier this week after being offline for several days and discovered that I can no longer send emails to anyone with a comcast.net address. I’ve no idea why. This is one of the reasons I’m less fond of e-queries. I also had that annoying thing happen where you respond and the person asks you to jump through hoops to become an authorized sender and you wonder why they didn’t authorize you *before* they solicited?! I’m also still getting an extraordinary amount of queries being sent to our old snailmail address (we moved last October). Which means of course that they take an extra week or so to move through the NYC system. I wonder how long the post office will continue to forward those…