Monday, 11 May 2009

Editors Use Google Too

Writers work very hard on their books and if they don't want to waste all that effort, it is essential that they present them in the best way possible. This means they must follow all available submission guidelines to the letter, and be courteous in all subsequent correspondence with the people they’ve submitted to: but there's more to consider than just that.

One of the first things that an editor or agent will do now, on the rare occasion that a thoughtful, well-written and appropriate submission ends up on their desk, is to run a quick internet search for the writer’s name.

This reveals a lot about the writer’s work: most publications and competition placements from the last decade or so should appear somewhere or other.

It also reveals a lot about the writer. Especially if they belong to writers’ message boards where the posts are open for all to see.

If their posts routinely contain careless errors or sloppy grammar, or are hectoring or bullying in nature, lacking in logic, or wildly misinformed, how do you think the agent or editor is going to respond?


Dan Holloway said...

A very timely reminder, Jane. The odd typo in a hastily-posted comment I could forgive. But the almost routine rudeness of many people who post regularly amazes me. My single most common piece of advice to writers is be courteous and helpful. Always.

I can't think of many industries more "people-oriented" than this. There are more good writers out there than agents who have the resources to represent them (I believe). If I were an agent with on slot on my list and three or four talented authors who'd submitted, why on earth would I choose to represent the one whose behaviour online demonstrates them to be anything from tedious to boorish, when I could arrange a coffee to discuss things with someone who seems intelligent, helpful, witty, and polite? These attributes don't take more time than hectoring or rudeness - they take less, in fact, because it's all about what we carefully choose NOT to say.

Richie D said...


Yes, that's one way to approach this hurdle. The other is to concoct a user name that allows you the freedom to be as hectoring and rude as you wish without fear of being traced.

On that note, so long suckers!

William of Baskerville

*checks username*

Oh crap.

Sarah J. MacManus said...

I admit to being quite aware of posts, comments and remarks associated with my name. Also, as an editor on a literary journal, I have been known to do internet searches on submitting authors. No, I don't look for grammar and spelling errors, but I do check to make sure their credentials are legit. If I were looking at a long-term project, you'd be sure I'd shy away from working with someone with a bad temper, abusive language, or history of diva behavior.

Eric said...

Good post. It really boils down to acting the same way online as you would in person. If you wouldn't say something rude or speak unintelligently to someone in person, why do it online?

Maggie Dana said...


I imagine you already know, but Scott Pack has a great post about self-published covers on today's blog.


Stephanie said...

Very interesting! You can learn a lot about a person by how they react to posts on message boards!!

I almost always fix typos on posts (and blog comments!), but sometimes I do leave the occasional semi-colon that was supposed to be an apostrophe...for some reason I always hit that key!! And also I...for some reason, I have issues with capitalizing it.

Jean said...

And now I'm getting neurotic about the possibility of being mistaken for one of the other people with the same name as me who come up when I google my name.

Jane Smith said...

Jean, I can sympathise.

I don't think that the odd typo is anywhere near as off-putting as an overly-bullish online personality, though: editing can be difficult enough to get through as it is: if you have to fight at every corner, it's impossible.

As Fawn suggested, checking that people really HAVE published where they say they have is much easier now than it was a decade ago: if an editor finds out that a writer has not only embroidered the truth a little but has exaggerated to a horrible degree, then the trust that has to exist between them has gone. It would be the writing in front of that editor that impressed him or her, and not the string of credentials which accompanied it; but the elaboration in those credentials could well lead to a rejection.

(And Maggie, yes--Scott Pack's post is excellent, isn't it? Sally Zigmond had already pointed me towards it, and I laughed as I read it.)

Nicola Morgan said...

EXCELLENT post. For me, it would be not so much the typos/text-abbreviation, but a) rudeness b) weirdness c) stupid arguments an d) inappropriate vitriol.

Someone made the point about people sharing same name, though - I am a bit paranoid about this as there is another Nicola Morgan who is a children's author (in the US). Luckily she wins awards, so I don't mind being mistaken for her (!) but I often find myself introduced as the author of Louis and the Night Sky, which is hers ... so imagine if SHE was rude, weird or inappropriately vitriolic! I hope editors and others etc will check before assuming someone with same name and profession is the same person.

Paige Jeffrey said...

Just for fun, I googled my own name - several other people came up, including a TV personality named "Bruce Paige" (my name being Paige Bruce). However, the first entry was me, but it was a positive one - my school announcing that I'd been hired in radio, hehe.

I think it's probably a good occasional exercise to google yourself and see what pops up. If you don't like what you see, then something needs to change before someone else does the same, yes?

K M Kelly said...

A wise reminder Jane. It is so easy to forget that anything you post online is there for the world to read.

Donna Hosie said...

I agree with Eric. Act online as you would in the flesh.

Nicola Slade said...

When I google my own name (shallow, vain, duh!!) I come up with another Nicola Slade who is a music journalist. I've probably had the name longer than she has though!

catdownunder said...

A young friend of mine has just read this Jane and then she looked at me and said, "It's a reminder to keep your paws clean." !

Sally Zigmond said...

Believe it or not, there is another Sally Zigmond out there. She is a highly eminent and well-regarded American Professor of Biology. We have exchanged emails and got on very well. She has even read some of my fiction that's appeared online and has said lovely things about it. Unfortunately I can't reciprocate because what she writes and publishes is way above my head, even with my grade 1 O-level biology!

There's a lot of very old stuff about me out there, but none of it, as far as I can see, is contentious. Phew.

none said...

A couple of years ago, someone came onto a friend's messageboard and started claiming to have been published in F&SF. Unfortunately for them, F&SF have an online record of every author they've published. When we asked this person what pseudonym they'd used, they went strangely quiet!

BrigidsBlest said...

Heh, yeah. When I Google my name, I find either a very young mainstream actress...or a less well-known porn star.

Sad, really.