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The Consequence of TMI

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Flipping through my Google reader a few minutes ago, I came across this post by super-agent Janet Reid and promptly choked on my PB&J sandwich.

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 But agented or unagented, published or unpublished, I think writers should maintain some level of professionalism online.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?

Michelle Schusterman

Michelle writes books for kids, screenplays for a tv/film production company, and music for anyone who'd buy a "groove matters" bumper sticker. She lives in New York City with her husband (and band mate) and their chocolate lab (who is more of a vocalist). She is the author of middle grade series I Heart Band - 2014, and The Kat Sinclair Files - 2015 (both from Grosset).

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6 comments:

  1. OMG, I JUST did a post on this for TWFT. My agent found my blog, and reads it, and my editor has my Twitter. So yeah. You have to be careful what you say. It isn't really THAT hard. Just think of hte golden rule.

    If you can't type anything nice, don't type anything at all.

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  2. Great post. (Love the invisibility cloak at platform 9.5 in Janet's blog haha).
    I agree with Kody about the golden rule. It's great to have places like a blog or forums for venting, goofing, and just hanging out, but you have to remember everything you say is public.

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  3. Kody! *waves*

    The golden rule is definitely a good one to abide by.

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  4. LOVE this post, Michelle. And it makes total sense--who wants to work with someone who can't censor themselves at least a little, or who is whining constantly all over the whole internet?

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  5. Words of wisdom, Michelle. Great post! We are more connected than ever before and it's a great thing, but with that fun comes the responsibility to be professional.

    I like your golden rule, Kody!

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  6. I like Kody's rule except in the case of people like Dick Cheney, who deserve every ambush type attack they get.

    Michelle: oh so true. We tend to grow overly comfortable in our little internet spaces and forget that unless we're on private mode lockdown, our every word is utterly public.

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Item Reviewed: The Consequence of TMI Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Michelle Schusterman