As you all know, I’m a huge fan of Twitter. It’s a fantastic platform for me to connect and interact with people who share my interests, let writers know what kind of stories I’d like to find in my inbox, and post a few writing and query tips. I have a bunch of wonderful followers, and I’m so grateful for all the tweets, love, and pictures of Zac Efron they all share with me on a daily basis. Every now and then when I check my “connect” tab, however, a groan escapes my mouth. Because there it is… one of my Twitter pet peeves… black on white.
I know the tweeters in question don’t mean anything by it, that they’re all lovely people and that it’s just thoughtlessness, but I can’t help it. The moment I read a tweet that makes it onto my Twitter pet peeve list, I judge you. I don’t want to… but I do. So many things come into play when I read a submission. The quality of the manuscript, obviously. But also how you present yourself -- in your query, but also on Twitter and/ or your website. And if you give me any reason to hesitate, be annoyed by you, or doubt your sanity, it’s bad news…
So here it is... my Top 5 of things that make my agent skin crawl on Twitter:
1) Twitter pitches outside of an “official” Twitter pitch party. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, I do like me a good Twitter pitch party. They’re hectic, crazy, and oh so awesome. Twitter pitches that aren’t part of a pitch party, however? Not so much. When there’s an official Twitter event, it’s up to me whether I want to join in or not. Depending on my schedule that day, I can pop in and out, or I can join in the evening (my time) when I’m all relaxed and comfortable on my sofa and I don’t have anything else to do except from reading your pitches. I’m prepared and focused. I’m in the right mindset for a 140-character pitch. When there isn’t such an event, there’s no guarantee I’ll take much notice of your pitch to be honest. Like most of you, I check Twitter at the most random times. When I’m in a queue, on a bus, while waiting for a friend at a café, or while talking on the phone. Do you really want to waste your (more or less) carefully crafted pitch on my less than ideal attention span? Surely not. Imagine I see your pitch and don’t like it. How do you want me to react? Ignore it? Send you a public “no thanks”? That seems far from ideal. If I ignored it, you’d always wonder if I’ve actually seen it. If I sent a public rejection, you probably wouldn’t be happy either. Right? Now imagine I see your pitch and like it. Do you want me to favourite it? Or send you a tweet saying “yes, please submit”? What if every writer out there expected that? Would I have to spend even more time on pitches and submissions? As you can see, Twitter pitches are problematic. I’m always open to submissions, I’m very vocal about my likes and dislikes… a traditional submission (according to the sub guidelines on my website) has a far better chance of a) getting the attention it deserves, b) me reading an actual sample, not just a quick pitch, and c) me perhaps telling you why it’s not for me. An uninvited Twitter pitch makes it far too easy for me to discard it without a second thought. Don’t do that to yourself. There’s a reason we have submission guidelines and submission inboxes… use them.
2) Let me do your research for you. “How do I submit to you?”, “What genres do you represent?”, “Do you accept submission from authors outside Germany/Europe?” Happens. All. The. Time. And let me tell you... these questions show me that you’re lazy. The link to my website is in my Twitter bio and my submission guidelines on said website explain absolutely everything you need to know about submitting to me. One look at my client list will also show you that, yes, I do accept queries from US authors. I’m always happy to answer questions if something is unclear, but please don’t make me answer the same questions over and over and over again. You’re a writer, I assume you can read (or have a text-to-speech device if your vision is impaired) – prove it, read my submission guidelines before spamming me with questions you can easily answer yourself.
3) Question my wish list. Whenever I tweet about genres or stories I’d like to find in my inbox (using hashtags like agentwishlist or MSWL), I do that to help you and myself. These wish lists, however, are not – I repeat: NOT – exclusive. They don’t mean that I don’t want to see anything else. They are merely suggestions. Suggestions to help you if you have a story like that and don’t know where to send it. Or to help you understand my likes or dislikes. Sometimes they’re random thoughts that pop into my head, and I’m all “oooh, I’d love to see THAT”. If you have a manuscript that fits into one of the genres I represent, you can always query me, whether it’s on my current wish list. There really is no need to keep tweeting me “but how about this?” or “how about that?” When I write I’d like to see an awesome psychological thriller, there is no need to ask “but what about a YA romance?” All you need to consider is this: Do I represent [your genre]? No = do not submit. Yes = feel free to submit. It really is as simple as that. (Yay!)
4) Intentionally misinterpret my wish list. This seems to be a favourite pastime of a lot of writers on Twitter. I tweet that I’d like to see “non-traditional family structures”, you query me with a dragon family. I tweet about wanting to see a REALISTIC psychological thriller featuring a stalker, you send me a vampire story about a demon that’s a stalker (or something). I tweet that I’m not a huuuuge fan of fantasy, but it’s okay as long as it’s set in the real world… you write that I’m desperate to find a great fantasy story. Spot the mistake? Let me tell you, this is ever so slightly frustrating. It’s okay if you want to send me your material even if it’s not on my current (non-exclusive) wish list. You don’t need to twist and bend my words until they fit your story.
5) Vague questions. “Are you interested in seeing a novel set in London?”; “How about commercial Women’s Fiction about two sisters?”; “Are you interested in a political thriller?”; “How about a Middle Grade novel about a boy?” I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know! These tweets don’t tell me anything about your book. There are probably 7 million possible premises for political thrillers, and 89 million stories that could be a Middle Grade novel about a boy. How am I supposed to know if I’m interested? As mentioned before (several times), if I represent your genre, query away. It’ll be much easier for me to tell you if I’m interested once I’ve read your query with all necessary information plus your sample pages.
As always, I hope you know that I’m not writing these things to be evil or mean. I’m just trying to make you understand where I, as an agent, am coming from. I see some of those things so often, that I can feel my patience dwindle away at times. And I hate when that happens because it stops me from tweeting about happy things (cake, rainbow, and kittens) and acknowledging that 97% of you are absolutely awesome. So please don’t stop interacting with me on Twitter. I love your tweets, I seriously do. Unless you do one of the things I mentioned above. Then stop. Go back to start, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Instead, eat cake, look at a picture of Zac Efron, and try again.
P.S. Once you're done staring at Monsieur Eye Candy, I'd love to hear about your Twitter pet peeves. Comment away.