So it was that this morning, Agent X was popping up rather frequently on my timeline (yep, I checked: 24 tweets so far today). I was tickled by this tweet (turning the sentences around for better readability):
RT @[AnotherTweeter] Can you twitterbully me please? I like the attention. [Agent X's reply starts here] I hate you and everything you represent. And [a particular suburb]. And you smell.
How amusing, I thought. Agent X has made a name for herself by being forthright and rather offhand with everyone, and is usually quite fun to read. So I tweeted:
@AgentX now why didn't I think of asking you to twitterbully me? What a concept.
I have tweeted AgentX maybe half a dozen times in the past few months, and she has often replied cordially. So I was surprised to receive this DM:
Just fuck off.
Ah... um... was this twitterbullying? Was it meant in jest? Agent X is in London, where she has worked for several years with a well-established literary agency. As a Brit, I'm well aware that, as a race, we're a lot more likely to resort to Anglo-Saxon terms than the clean-mouthed Midwesterners I hang out with here. So I decided to go for the light-hearted reply, to see if this was all part of the game:
@AgentX Oh that feels so good.
Agent X's reply was:
Um... right... ok!
My initial doubts were confirmed. She had meant it. No jest involved.
No, I have no intention of attempting to dent Agent X's reputation just because she was having a bad day, or perhaps had one martini too many at one of those fabled lunches that you hear of but nobody you know ever actually seems to get invited to. So no identities will be revealed. I'm trying to make a point here.
This isn't the first time this has happened. A few months back I tweeted an appreciative response to a funny remark made by a New York agent who heads up her own agency, and is also a prolific tweeter. The reply, although not as rude as Agent X's, was a definite you're-the-dust-under-my-feet putdown.
Here's the thing. I know that for every literary agent, there are thousands of wannabe writers who stalk them day and night. I know we may seem like a nuisance at times. I've seen how embittered some writers become when publication eludes them, and how they love to vent when given the tiniest opportunity.
But someday, perhaps, you may want to enter into a business relationship with me. And before I sign on the dotted line, I will pull all of your tweets and blog posts for the last six months and go through them carefully. I will subscribe to your Facebook page. I will go to the blogs and Twitter accounts of the authors you represent and look carefully to see how happy they are with you. I will check your reputation on every available watchdog site, and if I get the chance I will talk to some of the authors you represent. Because if I ever commit myself to the hard work of writing a book every few months for you, handling the marketing of said book where necessary, and handing you 15 percent of my profits, I will behave as professionally as I know how. And I expect you to do the same.
I've already learned, over two years of watching agents, that there are one or two (however successful and adulated by the lit community) that I would rather not work with. I have also found some agents to be consummate professionals, to the point where research would not be necessary. I would put my trust in them because I have found them to be trustworthy with their professional lives.
So please, please, if there are any agents reading this, think before you tweet. If you like to be a little loose-tongued in your Twitter life, get separate professional and private accounts. (And long convos with your authors should be moved to DM, seriously.)
Anyone else had this experience? Am I wrong? I'd love to know.