Monday, June 20, 2011

Q & A 186

Say you intend to publish under your initials. You are told, repeatedly, to query under your real name and worry about your pen name when you have an agent offering. So you query with your full name and list your website, which is your initials plus last name (dot) com. It appears that no agent is actually visiting your blog (counter), even the ones who have asked for fulls. You assume they are Googling your full name and finding nothing. All the agents scream, "Have a web presence so we can Google you. Because we WILL Google you." So you have a blog and a twitter account with followers, but the agent doesn't know it. ("Ted Smith writing as T.K. Smith" seems to raise the pen name issue that is "unwise" to raise this early.) Any suggestions?

There seem to be a few misconceptions here. First, the main reason to have a web presence is not so agents can Google you. It's so your fans can Google you, contact you, pretend they're your friend, become obsessed with you, threaten your life, etc. Also, so you can spend hours of every day blogging, tweeting, and refining said website instead of writing.

Second, the fact that your counter remains at zero doesn't necessarily mean agents are Googling your full name instead of going to the url of your website, which
you provided. It could mean they're not Googling you period, possibly because they have no interest in your web presence until they've decided they want to represent you.

Third, I've always heard that the main reason to query under your real name is because that's the name the massive checks your agent will be sending you will be made out to, and unless you have a bank account under the name Laura Dupont Danziger, which you don't, because Laura Dupont Danziger has no social security number, you want those checks made out to the much more boring Abby Crum, who actually exists. However, if your name is Ted Smith, and your initials are T.K., your bank will happily cash checks made out to T.K. Smith or Ted Smith or Teddy Smith or Theodore Smith or any other version of your name, as long as you endorse the check the same way it's written and produce a picture ID. So the way I see it, you're worrying about nothing. You can tell your agent you go by TK, and never inform her that your real name is Ted if you consider Ted a bit embarrassing (which it is, especially if you write manly adventure novels).


Anonymous said...

But don't agents google you to see if you have a following?

I attended a conference where a (reputable) agent says she reads your submission (at the pages stage, not the query stage) and then "cyber stalks you" to see if you have a presence and a following.

Evil Editor said...

Even if she has determined that she has no interest in representing you? Doesn't sound reputable to me.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's the agents who want to know you have some fans first? I think that's what the agent meant--that if she likes your novel she will hunt all over the internet to find out if you have a presence and what it is, before offering representation. (she doesn't waste time on this just based on the query letter).

I'm just wondering how you address that if your blog/website isn't under your name (that you query with). Like what if you blogged under "Mississippi Writer." Lots of people blog under a different identity. Look at all the screen names here. So you could have a following, and blog entries that show your writing/personality, but googling your name won't yield any of that.

I think you're saying that if you provide the link to your blog that's good enough, right?

Sorry for all the follow ups, not trying to be arugmentative!

Evil Editor said...

If she thinks she can sell your novel but refuses to take you on solely because you don't have enough fans, she's an idiot. Just my opinion.

If you tell her where your web presence is, and she looks for it elsewhere, she's an idiot.

But if she's the agent you want anyway, I suggest declaring your website to be, and your name to be R.K. Smith. If she still can't find you, and therefor rejects you, well, you tried your best.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

My web presence, my email, my everything writing-related (except the short stories I had pubbed back in the day) are all under Phoenix Sullivan, which is about as far from my real name as you can get. Even the initials don't match up.

I send queries, etc, through my Phoenix email. I sign off "Real Name (w/a Phoenix Sullivan)". w/a is industry standard for "writing as".

In the headers of my mss, I list my last name as "Sullivan". In the contact info on the title page, I put my real name followed by "(w/a Phoenix Sullivan)". Under the title of the work, I put "by Phoenix Sullivan".

I rarely mention my older short story sales, but when I do, I simply say "published by DAW (w/a "Real Name)".

Most contracts I've signed have a place for a penname if you have one and a place for your real name.

When agents/editors have addressed me back, I'd say about 50% of them write "Dear Real" and 50% write "Dear Phoenix".

And, of COURSE, I include the url to my website so I can be found easily. What I'm more concerned about is whether the agent/editor will click on those other "Phoenix Sullivan's" on Facebook, etc, and think they're ME when they're not.

(Yay, EE is back in the house! Where did you vacate to this year? Catching some rays in Afghanistan?)

Anonymous said...

I am always puzzled by this question. Every contract that I sign for publication has a line that says "Author will be credited as ____" and lets the author specify whatever pseudonym they wish to use.

Anonymous said...


Thanks, EE.

Landra said...

Thanks Evil and Phoenix for the wonderful enlightenment! You have answered one of the many questions I had from the get go, but could not find answers for.

This calls for a link post!

P.S. Evil, as Phoenix queried, I am also curious of this vacation spot.

Anonymous said...

Phoenix, in other words you're disclosing your use of a pen name up front. I guess that would be easier--then they would google the pen name which has the blog and twitter, but do you think it raises any questions in their mind at the query stage about WHY you are pen naming it??

150 said...

do you think it raises any questions in their mind at the query stage about WHY you are pen naming it??

I wouldn't expect it to. There are dozens of reasons to use a pen name and only a few of them are at all nefarious.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Anon, I think you're worrying yourself over details that don't matter much at this stage. If you've got a pseudonym because you've published in the past and your sales sucked or because you're a prison convict, that'll come out in the wash once you sign the contract with your real name. Any other reason and no one's really going to care. Why should they?

I've always like Agent Jessica Faust's posts on the subject as she advises authors to simply query under the name they want to be published under, especially if they're building a following with that name.

Using Pseudonyms
Revealing Your True Identity (follow-up)

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Also, Anon, I'm sure your next concern is whether using a pen name in your query will hurt your chances for requests. For my latest sub, I've had 7 agent requests for partials, 8 agent requests for fulls and 1 publisher request for a full. I don't think my request rate is being affected by my use of a pen name.

Krista said...

One thing the comments imply but do not say straight out: it sounds like you are worried that agents are not offering you representation because they can't find your web presence.

I assure you, that is not the reason.

Whirlochre said...

How bizarre. It's only just occurred to me that my pseudonym and my real name don't match up as far as agent stalking is concerned AND that I don't always make the link in queries.

Xenith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BuffySquirrel said...

No visits? Not even google bots? Are you sure your blog is on the real internet?

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Phoenix. That was my worry. That they'd think if I can't stand behind it, why should they.

Thanks for the snippy comment, Krista. I'm just at the beginning stage of querying and a agent who has my full is the one that I heard say she cyber stalks you, so I was afraid that yes, it would affect my chances with her if she couldn't find me. She seems to care a lot about a web presence. It actually does seem to affect her decision, your assurances aside.

150 said...

Whirlochre - found you on Twitter though! *follows*

BuffySquirrel said...

The only influence your web presence would have on an agent's decision would be to make her decide NOT to represent you, not TO represent you. In other words, they're looking to see if you're crazy, or get into lots of flame wars, or are hostile to the industry, or belittle other writers in the belief this will enhance your own status, or attack agents/editors who've rejected you, or write revenge reviews, etc etc etc.

batgirl said...

For whatever it might be worth as data points - my agent asked me if I had a website and blog, but only when we had The Phone Call, and it wouldn't have been a deal-breaker as far as I know. Sounding crazy and obnoxious on the phone, that would probably have been a deal-breaker.

I'm using my initials for writing, because otherwise google turns up dozens of DC Comics fansites before ever getting to poor me.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Ah, Barbara, I can't even imagine what a search engine optimization nightmare your real name is up against. Oh my. :o)

BuffySquirrel said...

Of course, the big killer is, have you ever dissed any of the agent's other clients?

no-bull-steve said...

Just my 2 cents...I have an agent. I've worked with my agent extensively. I went with my agent from a big agency to her own agency. My good writing friend has an agent (her second). Agents DO NOT CARE about your web presence or your social network. Period.

I live in the same city as my agent. We email. We talk on the phone. Once a year or so we get together in person. She does NOT have time to surf the internet to see if people she can represent. Right or wrong, it's all about the pages (not necessarily just the quality but the sale-ability) of the novel.

PUBLISHERS don't even bother to research who they're getting in business with most of the time...which in my opinion is why the industry is in such dire straights...but that's a story for a different time. Don't worry about your website etc (although building a following can't hurt).

Keep writing and submitting.

"Also, so you can spend hours of every day blogging, tweeting, and refining said website instead of writing."


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Steve. That was helpful. I think maybe this one agent just really wants that web presence ahead of time (she thinks it makes you look like a professional) but it's good to know that not everyone cares that much. I can see if it was a non-fiction platform thing, but with a novel, and once she had my full, this started to make me panic. As you can probably tell. :)

Anonymous said...

Okay, this is NOT the agent I was talking about, but apparently it's not that uncommon of a view (from Guide to Literary Agents, interview with Deidre Knight (not prereqs but important):

GLA: If you were to Google a prospective client, what are three things you’d like to pop up in your search right away? (What should all new writers be doing?)

DK: First off, anyone who submits to me should know that I automatically Google them. And I’m not embarrassed to admit that because I think that everyone who queries me should have already typed my name into some sort of search engine. Researching who you want to work with is important for both the aspiring author and agent.
As an agent, the top three things I want to see are a polished website, an articulate (hopefully well-trafficked) blog, active Twitter presence, ditto FB account. So, that’s really four, but I think Twitter and Facebook go hand in hand.
These are not prerequisites for finding representation, but they do give me sense that a potential client has some sort of web savvy. That’s super important because we’ll be utilizing a wide range of social media tools for branding and promotion. Not only that, but prospective editors are looking for the exact same thing

Evil Editor said...

The question asked was not whether agents Google clients. It was Is the agent I sent to failing to find my website because she's Googling my real name instead of my pen name. The author has a website.

As for Dierdre Knight, isn't she one of the agents who turned down Harry Potter because J.K. Rowling didn't have a Twitter account?

batgirl said...

So should all of us minions do a regular round of each other's blogs & post appreciative comments & mutual log-rolling, to impresss hypothetical agents?

I am _SO_ behind on this. Sorry everyone.

But I ain't goin' on twitter. Not for nobody.

BuffySquirrel said...

It's not exactly rocket science to put both your real name and your pen name on your website. You don't have to make it visible, just put it in the places where the google bots trawl.