Friday, February 5, 2010

Conference Lesson #2: Polish Your Online Presence

In case you missed it, yesterday we talked about overcoming agent phobia, and today we're going to take that one step further and talk about something even more important: how to impress agents! (since that's the ultimate goal, right?)

And, of course, the number one way to do that is to have an awesome idea that's awesomely written and wows the agent with the sheer awesomeness of it. But even good manuscripts can sometimes get lost in the slush pile. So how do you stand out?

Amazingly enough--one major way is what I'm doing right now: Rambling! Blogging!

Every agent panel I attended and every agent I met had the same message: have as big of an online presence as you can. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook--whatever means you choose to accomplish your end--doesn't matter to them. But make sure you have something they can find when they google you.


Well, because once you're published--no matter how great your book is, or how amazing your agent is--at the end of the day, 75-85% of your marketing will be up to you. And before you call shenanigans about the injustice of that, stop and think about it. Who could possibly be MORE excited about your book than you? So really, who better to promote it to the masses?

So agents are looking at potential clients hoping to see some sense of marketing savvy. They are hugely--no, really--HUGELY impressed by writers with successful blogs. And when I say successful, that doesn't mean thousands of followers--though I'm sure that does impress them. Honestly, they were pretty impressed when I told them I had a little over 300 (thanks again guys--you made me look good!) and many of them said they were impressed by blogs with 100 followers. So you don't have to get down on yourself if you're not one of the big bloggers with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of followers. A modest following counts for way more than you realize.

But, sadly, there is more to it than just having a blog with little pictures in your sidebar. There is a way to blog badly--and blogging badly can be worse for your career than not blogging at all. So here's what they said they don't want to see:

-shameless self promotion
-huge excerpts from your WIPs

They gave detailed reasons for why they don't want to see those things...but I think it's fairly self explanatory, so I'll leave it at that and if you have any questions or want more information let me know in the comments or drop me an email. I'd rather use the rest of this post to focus on what's much more important: what they DO want to see!

They want to see enthusiasm--not just for your own project, but for writing, books, authors--anything that helps build up the publishing industry. Because, let's face it, we're all fighting to keep this industry alive. So if our blog posts get people to want to read books (or, even better, to want to BUY books)--well, everyone wins. Plus, what better way can you show them that you know how to market your own book than by marketing someone else's book?

They also want to see a sense of networking. Author interviews are a great way to do that, but if you're not quite sure how to arrange those, they also said they love guest blogs. Can you connect with another blogger and have them write a guest post? Can you provide a guest post for someone else? Remember, the blogosphere is a HUGE place, filled with tons of people fighting the same battle to get published as you are. Why not take advantage of that and find ways to team up? Shoot, even a blog war is a way of networking--though it's not for the faint of heart. (*shudders at the thought of Frankie's next dare*)

Basically, their biggest suggestion was to have fun with it. This is all part of our dream--so none of it should be torture (well...outlining will ALWAYS be torture for me--but that's beside the point.) And the more fun you have, the more interesting you'll seem, and the more interesting you seem, the more agents want to know about you. Trust me, if you have a great book and a fun, exciting web presence send them your query--they want to meet you.

And in case you don't believe me, I can give you a real life example. Of course Shiver is an amazing book and Maggie Stiefvater is an incredibly talented writer and I doubt she would've had any trouble finding an agent to rep her. But Laura Rennert told me at the conference that one of the big things that impressed her about Maggie's query was this sentence 

"My humorous art and writing blog is pretty well-read -- it had about 60,000 hits in 2007."
(And, in case you're curious, Maggie has her entire query posted on her blog if you want to check it out)

So it does work. They do pay attention. And the best part is--this is something we have complete control over. Nothing can stop us from building up our blogs as big as we want them to be. So with that in mind, I have a question: Is there anything--within reason--that you wish I did more of on my blog? Since I know some of you are evil (*coughs* Frankie *coughs* Simon *coughs*) I make no promises that I will oblige your requests. But I'm open to suggestions. And if nothing else, I'd love some feedback on how you think I'm doing. So if you have a second please, leave me a comment. I would love to read them.

Hope you enjoyed and have a great weekend everyone!
And stop by on Monday, for my next contest--an awesome signed picture book this time!


  1. Excellent post full of great advice!

  2. Well, I've got that part down at least ;)

  3. I have gotten so much conflicting words about whether to include a blog in a query before--but I think the best advice came from a junior agent at an agency whom I asked directly--should I include my blog in my query. Her advice was: definitely, if it has 4-digit subscribers (as in, 1,000+). Anything less, and *just* the blog wasn't good enough. BUT if you couch it the right way, it IS. For example, in my query, I said that my blog has three hundred subscribers and a network of authors, book bloggers, and readers who communicate regularly about writing and reading in the YA genre. At that point, I think it was the network--not the subscribers--that was the real pull.

  4. You give some really good advice. I love the part about guest bloggers. I should try that.


  5. I talked to my video guy last night and Webcams for Writers is almost finished. I'm coming for you!!! The next dare will be here sooner than you think!

    Also my word verification is garefist--garefist is the action of daring a blogger. Like OMG I'm going to garefist her tonight. Or oh no she din't just garefist me. :-)

  6. Great post. And thank you so much for sharing what you've learned. :-)

  7. I've heard the same advice about blogging, the hard part is in implementing it all. I've only just gotten into looking for guest bloggers and author interviews; I have a feeling it will take me a little bit longer to get the ball rolling. I think another important tidbit is to have a professional looking blog. You don't want it to look like you just put it together. You also don't want it to look like every blog out there. You do a great job at this :)

  8. YES!!!! I found out that authors are essentially their own publicists, and I hired one of my friends to build me a real, professional website. It's awesome that you are spreading the word about this because I don't think people know, and it really irks me when I can't find an author website or blog... I want to get to know these people! Great post, Shannon. Bravo.

  9. Love this! this is wonderful advice. As a reader of blogs I do find myself drawn to the author blog that has a personal touch, especially for an up and coming writer or new author. Connecting with their characters is important but having faith in the person behind the characters is even more important to me.
    So glad to hear all about the conference!!

  10. Thanks Shannon - this is great advice.

  11. Oh, no you di-int! Here I was going to leave some complimentary note, but then you went all *cough*Simonisevil*cough* on me, so now? Well, darlin'. Let's just see, shall we? Hmm...

    I'd like to see more:
    1. Vlogs
    2. Pencil skirts (natch)
    3. Music... and why it moves you.
    4. Dancing bears
    5. Shannon's writer-diet tips.
    6. Yoga
    7. Showing us your passion for writing.
    8. 5" heels.


    Oh, and...

    9. Panegyrics to Simon's awesomeness once a week.

  12. Another great post, girl! Lots of info to think about. I'm bookmarking this one. :-)

  13. Another excellent post, Shannon! Thanks for sharing.

  14. You give such wonderful advice!! I have been away from reading blogs for the last bit and it's so nice to get back into it and see this post. Good to know that I'm well on my way (sortof) to being published! LOL. :)

    Have an Extraordinary Day!

  15. Your advice is so good
    Much better than food
    And your hair looks great, too
    Good hair days are so few
    Can you tell today is Friday?
    I really want a holiday
    But I'll settle for wishing
    You some happy weekending

    Reasons 487 why "award-winning poet" is not in my immediate future

  16. Thanks for the wonderful suggestions! Very helpful!

  17. Nisa: Why thank you my dear.

    Lenore: See? you're more than halfway there. ;)

    Beth: I know--I'm still deciding if I should mention anything about my blog in my query. I like your suggestion, because it sells it better. But I kinda like Maggie's approach, using the hit count--since I do get a pretty high count each day, and it is adding up. But I don't know. The main point is to be google-able. That's what they all said. Have a blog so they can google it and check it out.

    Ann: Aw, thanks. I'm glad you like. And let me know how that works out--I actually haven't tried that yet either.

    Frankie: LOL and Oh Noes! #remembertheredwellies

    Lost Wanderer: You are most welcome and I'm glad you enjoyed.

    Tiana Lei: Aw, thanks. And's hard to get the ball rolling (I'm still trying to really get it going) but with patience and hard work I'm sure we can get it done.

    Anne: Wow--such high praise! *blushes* I'm so glad you enjoyed. :)

    Southern Princess: Courtney!!!! {Hugs}} I've missed you! So glad to have you back!!!!! And aw, thanks. Glad you enjoyed the post.

    Kristi: Aw, thanks!

    Simon: *Dies laughing* I'll see what I can do... I don't do yoga (SOOO not flexible) and I can't vlog until I land an agent, but I'm going to make it my goal to find ways to slip some of this in. But I'm kinda curious about your obsession with pencil skirts and 5 inch heels (and will 4 inch stilettos count--cause that's the best I can do...)

    Shannon: Aw, thanks. *tear* I love when people bookmark my posts.

    Tere: Why thank you my dear. *blushes*

    InspiredDreamer: Aw, I'm so glad you enjoyed. Thanks so much! And yes, you are definitely on your way!

    Sarah: Okay, that just made my day. I think I want more comments in verse--they are the awesome!

    Natalie: Aw, thanks. I'm so glad they made sense. :)

  18. My blog only has 55 followers, but none of them are related to me, so I consider that a win.

    So you say it's not good to have WiP excerpts at all? Or just really lengthy ones? How lengthy is lengthy?

  19. Mariah: That is a win! Especially if they're loyal and some of them leave comments to show that your posts are getting read. Plus, the longer you blog, the more your followers go up. ;)

    As far as WIP excerpts--they were mixed on this. Some said none at all. Some said short scattered ones. The main reason was that you can kinda shoot yourself in the foot. If you post a whole chapter or a really long scene and 55 people read it and only 4 take the time to tell you they enjoyed it, can kinda look like a dud--even though it's not. Plus, if you post too much of your WIP it can seem "self published"--which they don't like at all. But in like a blog fest, where a lot of people will be hopping around reading, leaving comments, complimenting you--especially if it's a short scene--they didn't think there would be a problem. Personally I still prefer not to post anything, just because I'm a tad protective of my ideas--plus I realize it's probably going to go through some big changes once I have an agent and an editor working with me, so it seems silly to post something that will likely be very different when its actually published. But that's just me. Does that answer your question, cause I can talk more if it doesn't.

  20. Fabulous post with great information. I love your blog - you're funny, entertaining, and it's easy to read. I look forward to your posts - so whatever you're doing, you're doing it well - keep it up :o)

    Thanks for sharing!

  21. Great post today! One of the best I've read about online promotion! So thank you! :D

  22. Great advice! It's nice of you to share :)

  23. So, I'm new to the blogging world. I may or may not have been living on the moon for the past few years, but whatever. Your blog today is the exact reason that I decided to start one up. My first blog was this week.

    Do you have any advice on how to get your blog to your status? (I have a measly 7 followers at the moment. Pathetic...I know.)

    Since I'm so new at this, any help would be greatly appreciated. And, if you feel so inclined, stop by my blog and check it out. I'll be adding you to my list of those who I blog stalk and become a faithful follower. :)

  24. Erica: Aw. *Blushes* You're too kind. Really!

    Jemi: Glad you liked. I hope it's helpful.

    Tiffany: First of all, welcome. The blogging world is a crazy, confusing place (I'm still getting the hang of it myself--I've only been at it since August) but there are some GREAT people here. As far as tips, I think a lot of it is what you're doing right now. Visit other blogs. Leave comments. Click their follow button so they see your smiling face amongst their followers, and a lot of them will follow back. The added bonus to that is that you get to read some amazing blogs--there is SO much talent out there. Hope that helps and hopping over to your blog to check it out! ;)

  25. Longer version: I have been blogging for several years, but this is the first blog I've devoted (more or less) to the topic of writing. It's still a personal blog in the sense that I share my trials and tribulations and my Oh-My-God fears of going forward with the Writing Thing.

    But your post has pointed out some very important reminders which will help me focus more on my goals and what I want my blog to be, as well as the long term effects of having my blog on the web-waves.

    Thanks so much for the perspective.

    Short version: Love your blog. I will be back.

    Thank you!!!

  26. Your response definitely helped. Thanks!


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