Bullet Wisdom

I am an Active Duty Officer in the US Army. I am a Husband, father, writer, hunter, gamer, and SOLDIER. This blog is a forum for my many hobbies as well as my random musings.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Social Network Agent Stalking

What is agent stalking? When does one cross the between just-a-guy-on-a-social network to full-blown Internet stalker? When one of my followers sent me a note addressing that very question, I took a knee. (Psst--that's military-talk for taking a moment to think things over). I think first I need to define what I consider Agent Stalking. This isn't calling the dude/ette in there office day after checking on the status of your query letter. This type of annoyance is more subtle, and offspring of modern technology and popular social networking tools.

I'm a huge fan of Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat. A good buddy of mine at the Command & General Staff College turned me on to Friedman's wisdom a couple years ago and I've been a true believer ever since. Maybe too much so.

Friedman says that a convergence of technology and events allowed India, China, and so many other countries to become part of the global supply chain for services and manufacturing, creating an explosion of middle classes wealth across the globe. To take it another step, this "flattening" continued with social networking to make it possible for people to connect with each other like never before, breaking down social and economic barriers faster than common sense could keep up.

There used to be barriers in the publishing world. Agents used to use snail-mail to receive manuscripts and queries (some still do, tree killers). The only time you saw them is when they either chose to see you or you were lucky enough to catch one at a convention. Publishers were more scarce, making use of agents to keep the legions of aspiring authors at bay.

Enter Email. Enter Facebook. Enter Twitter. Enter my pipe dream to become a repped and published writer. Enter way too easy access to virtually anyone on the net. You have just increased your ability to make a jackass of yourself a thousand fold.

A lot of literary agents are on Twitter and I follow more than a few of them. They offer amazing advice on how or how not to break into the publishing industry. They also present quite a bit of personal information.

Like the rest of us, they want a good cup of coffee. They're looking forward to seeing their team in the big game. They make snarky comments about current events and pop culture. They rave about a cool movie, or lament spending money on a bad one. This is where they become human. And this is where, if you're not careful, I think you can get in trouble for crossing a line.

A couple of the agents I follow are very entertaining. Occasionally, I find myself shooting them a funny comment (at least I think it's funny, maybe debatable), well, because that's who I am. I apply the Golden Rule when interacting with others. I don't send anyone a note I wouldn't want sent to me, and for the most part, I think it works.

But make no mistake about it, these individuals are still the keepers of the kingdom, and they should be respected accordingly. In the Army, we have rules against fraternization, preventing lower ranks from over-socializing with those higher. We're military, we have our reasons. I joke and poke fun at my boss all the time, but I do it respectfully. I apply this logic to when I trade comments with agents and editors.

One of the comments I was sent was something along the lines of, 'You're brave sending a comment to agent so-and-so.' I think it's okay to interact with these folks. They're human, like us, and God forbid you go out there and make a friend or two. I would caution against becoming too friendly with anyone you plan to query. There's some potential for disappointment and frustration when expectations aren't met. I have no plans to query either of the agents as I don't think their client list is compatible with my current work.

Now, back to the original question. When does interaction become stalking? I'd define that as a whole lot of unsolicited content that is either disrespectful, creepy or undesired (take your pick). Tough call there. I think if you shoot them one comment a month or less you're okay. But if you fire off about twenty in a week. And they're not your Follower?


You should probably take a knee.


Falcata Times said...

As usual, an open and honest look at a tricky situation. One that you might want to take a look at is the author who gets into an online running war with a reviewer who doesn't like thier work.

I've seen it happen a few times and whilst it can be entertaining for the bystanders it can cause a lot of ill feeling and make an author look like an idiot.

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