Blog Suicide

Being too candid on your blog about the happenings in your professional life can have serious personal and financial consequences…which is why I don’t talk much about my current projects (beyond blatant self-promotion). The anecdotes, rants, and observations that I post here are not about people I’m working with today or might work with in the future, much to the relief of my wife, my writing partner and my two agents, all of whom keep a close eye on my blogging.

I have seen too many people I know commit blog suicide by trashing their current employers or co-workers  (studios, networks, producers, editors, publishers, etc) or by revealing a little too much about their own insecurities, ambivalence or creative difficulties regarding whatever projects they are working on.

But you don’t need a blog to get in trouble. You can commit the same sort of career suicide by saying the wrong thing in an interview with a print or broadcast reporter (I’ve learned that lesson, to a smaller degree, the hard way myself on too many occasions).

Today, novelist Jayne Ann Krentz’s literary agent Steve Axelrod tackles this subject in an interesting post on his client’s blog. His post is titled "Why Smart Agents Don’t Blog." Here are some excerpts:

About two
months ago Jayne kindly invited me to contribute to this blog (“Just
something short from an agent’s perspective….”)—and, though I quickly
agreed, I’ve been dragging my feet ever since […]

But every
time I’d start to think about which great story to start with, I would
think of Dave Wirtschafter—and I’d come to a dead halt.

the president of the William Morris Agency, didn’t blog, but about a
year ago, he let himself be interviewed for a long, candid profile in
the New Yorker. It made for great reading—it was the real deal—but his
candor is widely believed to have cost the agency at least two major
stars, Halle Berry and Sarah Michelle Geller, as well as a major
director, etc.

A few months
after the New Yorker profile ran, W Magazine interviewed the
now-retired Sue Mengers (“Hollywood’s first superagent”) and she has
some choice words for Wirtschafter (“Dave Something—Schmuck, I
think….”) but then she goes on to say something I thought was pretty
perceptive: “It’s very tempting for an agent to give interviews. We
want a little credit, so it’s hard to say no. But you should.”

I’m starting to believe that what’s true for agents granting interviews
is doubly true for agents blogging. Agents should just say No.

10 thoughts on “Blog Suicide”

  1. As for the agent thing, I agree with the guy. And every agent I’ve ever discussed this with says the same thing.
    It’s funny to me that there is still a large number of folks out there who think Miss Snark is an actual agent – she/he is not. It only takes a little digging to learn the identities of “anonymous” bloggers.
    As for me, though some have speculated I ended my blog because of “employment pressures” I can swear on my kids that I did not. I ended it for the reasons I stated.
    Lee and one other person know I had a brief moment last winter where my blog actually did become an issue with a production entity I was involved with. But it was resolved fairly quickly.
    I will say though, that in my effort to do the “Anatomy of a pilot” thing, I was forced (by my own concerns) on a couple of occasions to go back and edit my posts. I even completely deleted one after reading it and realizing that I had posted while still being way too emotional about a particular incident.
    That’s something that should be tattooed on bloggers’ foreheads – “Don’t post emotion”

  2. There’s a related phenomenon that I’m starting to see more and more, and that is authors writing or saying things that hurt their public image or otherwise do damage to their reputation and career. (I’m speaking of the public-facing side of their career, rather than the business side which you addressed.)
    The most common troublespots are authors writing blogs, authors making comments on other people’s blogs, and authors making public appearances at conferences.
    There’s something to be said for speaking your mind or behaving however you wish — but at what price? It’s essential that any author keep in mind that the things you say and do have an effect on how people view you, and, consequently, whether or not they want to buy your books.
    If you want to be a pundit, free spirit, or just a drunken lout, that’s great. But it might come at the cost of being a successful author.

  3. One thing that always surprises me is how certain crime authors express their political beliefs in such an arrogant, obnoxious manner on their blogs. These are authors whose actual novels have very little political content in them.
    You have every right to your political opinions, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to express them so stridently, unless you firmly believe that most of your readers share your political beliefs. And in most cases, they probably don’t.

  4. But has anyone actually been hurt by what they said (with the exception of Dave Wirtschafter)? I mean, Sandra Scoppetone (sorry for the misspelling) and Paul Guyot don’t seem to have faced any retaliation…

  5. Please share the wisdom: if Miss Snark is not an agent, what is he/she? What role if any does he/she have in publishing?

  6. Andrea there have been a few blogs that have disapeared because of the damage they have done to their authors. There was a TV writer who was talking about all the trouble she was having with the network getting her pilot into a series. I wish I could remember the name of it but it’s gone anyways. All you would find if you searched for it is old links to a page that sells phone cards.
    There has been a definate fallout, but the victims have erased the evidence.

  7. Then again (and this is not a dig in any way, shape or form at the good Mr. Goldberg), the worst thing for a writer is to have a boring blog. You know, like when they talk about how they just took the dog for a walk and how they’ve switched to decaf, and yawn… I read those and there’s no way I’m ever going to pick up one of their books.

  8. There’s a lot to think about here. What is “too out there”? and “too political”? I, too, have deleted posts – quickly – when I thought I went over the line. Opinions are fine, but strident isn’t. And I’ve stopped myself several times when I start to write about my career, although I’m more candid about my struggles and triumphs in the writing of a book.
    But I don’t want to write: “Went shopping today. I bought some broccoli and couldn’t resist a nice pecan pie for dessert.”
    Starting today, though, I’m going to use this rule of thumb: if I think my agent will disapprove, I won’t write it. I need that outside influence (even it it’s only in my head) to govern what I blog.
    I agree with David. In fiction, it’s important to be pulled into the world you’re reading, without thinking of the author. Maybe blogs (some? most? all?) are making that harder for readers to make that leap–I don’t know.
    This requires some thoughtfulness–something you don’t find in the majority of blogs, and I’m putting myself in that number.

  9. Has it come to a point where society has become so politically correct that people have lost the right to express themselves. Granted, there are plenty of people out there that just spew garbage or want to vent.
    Are there people out there that have walked into work and harmed co-workers or just snapped in public because they’ve repressed thoughts and feeling they could have expressed?…even if was just to bitch about an individual.
    I don’t condone defaming someone to the point of hardship, but lets face it…each of us is not going to be loved by everyone.


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