Many writers, aspiring and published, are very active with social media- Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and fabulous forums. Despite the fact that we're all very aware of the fact that these sites make our comments, for the most part, public, we tend to get comfortable and start hitting that TMI line pretty quickly.
Ms. Reid linked to this post on notes from the SCBWI 2009 conference, where editor Wendy Loggia named "Seven Reasons Why Your Manuscript Gets Declined." Ms. Reid pointed out number four, causing my peanut butter chokage.
4. The writer seems like a difficult person to work with. Wendy always Googles an author’s name before offering a contract. She says she may be prompted to change her mind about signing up an author if they share too much information in their blog, if they tend to blog a lot about how hard writing is, if they blog about being rejected many times, if they publicly bash a book she’s worked on, or if they bash a colleague in the business who is her friend.
This is the second time in a week I've heard an agent/editor claim to Google a potential client before offering a contract. I'm pretty obsessed with social media- I have accounts with Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, and Reddit- I subscribe to a pretty hefty amount of blogs, and I'm active on a few forums. And I have to say, a few times a week I see professional writers- published or not, we all aspire to be professional- sharing thoughts or making comments that make me cringe.
This isn't Literary Big Brother. We should be able to say what we want, be ourselves, and not have it affect our career. We're humans; we do silly, stupid, off-the-wall things sometimes. But that doesn't mean the whole world needs to know about it.
It's the same for any profession. I'm a teacher. I've never posted anything on any of these places that I wouldn't want my students or their parents to see. If I want to share with a few people, I can share through email, or a phone call, or that long forgotten method: in person.
I don't want to sound like a fuddy-duddy (although just using the word pretty much makes me one). But agented or unagented, published or unpublished, I think writers should maintain some level of professionalism online. Humor, sarcasm, and sharing personal stories are great and a good way to develop a strong online presence, but watch out for that TMI line.
It's so easy to become comfortable with expressing yourself to the few people you know are reading your tweets, FB feeds, blogs, or forum posts. But what about those you don't know are reading?