My Facebook Life

Wendy Lawton

Blogger: Wendy Lawton

If you sent me an email this week you got an out-of-office message. In fact, if you called or wrote anytime since May 27th you’ve probably received out-of-office messages more often than not.

Today I’m at our trade show—ICRS, The International Christian Retail Show— in Orlando. (Rabbit trail: Why do they pick the hottest places for summer trade shows and conventions?)

I wonder sometimes what my clients think when I’m so often out of the office. Since I tend to pick out one or two fun snapshots to post on Facebook—like a group of industry professionals having a cup of tea under a shady tree, or a picture of a meeting held in box seats at a baseball stadium, one might get the impression that the life of an agent is mostly fun and games. As I tell friends, there’s our Facebook Life and then there’s reality.

Your agent’s best work is done on the road. Trust me, if every time you called you found your agent in the office, he’s not doing his job. Face-to-face meetings with editors, publishers and industry professionals are one of the most important parts of our job. Some will argue that with the rise of online communication, it can all be done from our home locations. I couldn’t disagree more. Our value is in the relationships we’ve developed.

It’s when we’re sitting down over lunch that we can best pitch our clients and their work. If we are going to change anything about the royalty structure of ebooks, it’s going to be done by visiting every publisher and sitting down, face-to-face. (One of our missions for 2012.)

It can be grueling work. At a trade show we may have twelve different appointments along with breakfast and dinner meetings— all in the same day. But nothing is more important to our job. When you ask us about trends or what we are seeing for the future, that information is gleaned on the road.

So when you see the fun photos on Facebook of a bunch of agents and editors sipping cool drinks under a palm tree in Orlando, you can smile. You know the rest of the story.

I may not be able to join in the conversation much today but I’d love to hear your take on your own Facebook Life vs. real life. Do you always cook like that photo of a gorgeous plate of food you posted? Is that smiling toddler in the tutu as perfect a child as she seems? Does that picture of you and your spouse on the sand under a stunning sunset really represent your day-to-day relationship?

If we only posted photos that represented real life, mine today would show me schlepping a heavy briefcase full of presentations over miles of trade show aisles and hotel hospitality suites, running to get to the next meeting on time.




34 Responses

Leave a Reply

  1. I only post photos that won’t land me in jail, here or anywhere else. Wait, not that I *have* photos that would land me in jail. No. Nononono, NO.



    I try to keep my Facebook page a “no shame zone” because my kids see it and would pass out if their mom did more than, well, anyway.
    I also have alot of family far away that could easily report any suspicious activity to my dad. Specifically my big brother. He’d toss me under the bus just for fun. There is an ongoing discussion of one of us being adopted from a Soviet Experimental Farm. Need I say more? Yes, he was a stand up comedian, why do you ask?

    I think the reason these conventions are held in hot zones is because the rates are cheaper when no tourist worth their carry-on would dare go near Orlando in July.
    But who I am to speak? I’m going to Arizona in July. What a nutjob!

    And dear Wendy, as long as your caption on the “umbrella drink ith fruit punch AT a table” says “taking a well needed break, haven’t eaten in 17 hours” instead of “Wendy doing flamenco ON the table”, you are good to go. Unless Janet’s up there too. Then there is NO WAY I’m querying you girls.

  2. I’ve absolutely thought about this before! So much of what we see on Facebook is only part of the story. MOST people won’t post things that put them in a negative light, and yet we all have things in our life that are do just that. I don’t complain about work on my Facebook page, but there are days when I want to double over and cry from frustration. I don’t post when hubby and I fight…but we do (thankfully just the normal stuff, but still!). But anyone seeing my posts probably thinks we have the perfect life, perfect marriage.

    And we have to remember that’s what we’re seeing with anyone else too.

    Thanks for the glimpse into an agent’s life and why traveling is so important to it!

  3. Jeanne T says:

    I love “there’s our Facebook Life and then there’s reality.” So true! I think photos share one moment in our lives, not the big picture, so to speak. Yes, they convey messages, but they don’t convey the complete truth. 🙂

    I hope your time at ICRS isn’t tooooo breath-stealingly hot. If you have a moment to sip a cup of tea under a tree, then you deserve it. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing this aspect of an agent’s life. It’s good to know that an agent shouldn’t always be behind a desk–good insight. 🙂

    Today, my “photos” include toting kids to swim lessons, a doctor’s appointment, hopefully some time revising my WIP and time with family tonight. Exciting, not to most, but fulfilling to this wife, mom and writer. 🙂

  4. Wendy, Thanks for the reminder. I think we have to compare much of the day-to-day work of an agent to that of an umpire. You work hard, and without you things wouldn’t go as smoothly, but if no one notices, you’ve probably done your job really well.
    Proud to be part of the B&S family, represented by an agent who works hard.

  5. Yikes! My real life right now would show me still in my pjs with bed hair. But that’s because I write/editfrom the time I get up until my four-year-old gets up. Which today was almost ten. I can shower and get beautiful after that. 🙂 And take photos then.

    Wendy, I too have wondered why these conventions are in summer hot spots. Here in lovely eastern Kansas, we’ve been hotter than Phoenix and Florida and, well, the day it was 118, hotter than all of the US. So maybe next year ICRS is in KC? 🙂 That would only make sense, of course.

    As hard as you all work, you need some downtime. Don’t we all? So I think writers understand the “fun” photos you share with the world. Hope you guys get some good rest and relaxation.

    • Jeanne T says:

      I was just in your neck of the woods. We missed the heat on both ends. 🙂 Hope you’re managing it okay!

      • We’re you here for the All-Star game? It was unreal how the temperatures dropped that Monday and Tuesday, then picked right back up on Wednesday. I told someone later that I had no idea God was a fan of the All-Star game.

  6. Mary Curry says:

    Interesting timing on this post, Wendy.

    Yesterday there was a post on FB that said something like “If we didn’t want to know what you ate for breakfast before FB, we still don’t want to know.”
    A friend of mine replied –
    Unless you have a recipe to share and a great picture of it.

    I think that’s an interesting summary of FB usage – only the interesting things that will entertain others.

    Your FB posts tend to be exactly that. You provide fascinating glimpses of the interesting aspects of agenting (with great photos) or your life, but skip the mundane “I ate a bowl of cereal” posts.

    Does that make sense?

    I also think that sometimes our online personas are “the best of us” or the “person we want to be”.

  7. Wendy,

    I do a really lousy job with my FB page. As an aspiring writer, I know I shouldn’t say that but it’s true. I do reasonably well with Twitter, but FB and I just aren’t friends. So I can’t really comment on the topic except to say thanks for the commitment the agency has made to try to effect change by talking with every publisher about e-book royalties. Can it all be done over the internet? In my opinion, no. There is something about face-to-face communication that I don’t think can be replaced or replicated by technology.

    Know that you and the other agents are in my prayers as you work at the conference.

  8. Yikes! My real life on Facebook? No way! It took twenty pictures, five locations and a choice of the one set in shadow to finally choose my FB picture. Otherwise, you’d find me make-up-less (eek!), sloppy bun and yoga pants … on a good day!
    Believe me, Wendy, I know you’re hoofin’ it out there and though I do not yet have an agent, I appreciate the work you guys do. That way, I don’t have to wear pantyhose and shoes that pinch my toes. Slippers suit me just fine :o).

  9. Lisa says:

    Thank you for the insights! I have no doubt that the work is long and difficult. You have to hold a special love for people and making a difference, which is greatly shown in your agency.

    I wrote an article on my blog not so long ago, entitled Am I un-pin-able? It’s so true we have to consider that the world can now untag, photoshop and generally create the way we desire to be perceived. Some of my best writings, conversations, and friendships have embodied “Keeping it real”.

  10. I guess I never thought those pictures made it look like your job was all fun and games. I just thought it looked like you really enjoy your job, and that’s a quality I would definitely want in an agent.

    Like everyone else, I carefully monitor what goes out on my blog and FB pages. Not only for image control, but also because my readers and friends have enough negativity and real life of their own. They don’t need mine as well.

    Good topic, and a good reminder that we’re all human. One leg at a time and all that….

    • Meghan – this is how I feel, too. I love seeing when people enjoy their jobs and work passionately within those jobs. A good quality, for sure.

      I also second your statement about limiting the (sometimes abundant) outpouring of negativity in the world. Before I post something to social media (especially Twitter and Pinterest, since those are the two I’m most active on), I think about whether it would encourage or teach someone or not. If it’s not helping in some capacity, it might be better off unsaid. Thinking before I post is a little unrealistic because I do have time to *think* before I write (rather than having much less time to think in real-time conversation), but doing so also helps me renew my mind to thinking about the effect of my words on others.

  11. Sarah Thomas says:

    I love that you’re willing to go out and build those relationships. I’m in fundraising and there are two secrets to this game. 1) People give to people. 2) People give because they’re asked. Both of those are relationship-based. Sounds like publishing is just the same. Thanks for schlepping.

  12. I love this post. I never could understand why some people complain about agents on twitter or facebook or at conferences. This is what agents should be doing. You don’t want an agent from the dark ages who doesn’t know how to communicate today.

    Even my friends who have horror stories about the agents who never answer emails–not for weeks and even months on end–don’t say that the agents were on twitter or facebook. The agents who don’t ever answer are more likely to be the ones with no web presence.

    That’s my unscientific guess based on the personal experiences of my friends.

  13. Amanda Dykes says:

    Wendy~ thanks for this post! Yet another reason to be thankful for you. Praying for you ladies as you navigate the glorious madness!

  14. I never post photos of my kids or grandkids or mention things going on in my private life on Facebook or anywhere else on the net. Maybe I’m paranoid, but there are lots of weirdoes out there. And I seldom ask people to read my own books because I don’t want to come across as an irritating sales person. Put I do offer information that might be helpful to others and hope some of them will check out my website.

  15. My life on FB is…edited. Ha. Yes, it’s real and it’s me (true life,) but I do leave out the political parts, the husband part (he SPECIFICALLY requested I don’t talk about him…) and if I’m home or not. I don’t talk about when I’m “down” and discouraged, or the mean things happening to me, if I can help it. Like you, we don’t always have time, either, to share the dirty details of sweat–unless, of course, my electricity or AC is out….

    Anyway, if your clients do not know how hard you work, then they’re not paying attention! 🙂 But I know you have super clients and they are so appreciative of you (because I know some of them.)

    And an agent who travels to discuss my business would be such a giant blessing! Stay cool in Orlando! 🙂

    Fun post.

  16. A few weeks ago, I posted a note on my Facebook account that said, “How does an anti-social person use a social network?” That’s pretty much how I feel about it. I don’t ppost a lot of personal stuff. As for photos, I don’t post many of those either. I sure as heck wouldn’t want people to see how little control I have over here. 🙂

  17. Lol, There is no way on this hot earth I would post only true to life photos! That’s the beauty (or bane) of the Internet. You can post what you want to portray. So yes, even though I caught the biggest and fattest bass (my son and hubby were so jealous), you *won’t* find it on my Facebook page. Because I *look* like I’d been fishing all day. And we all know that means, well, not so nice! 😉
    Stay cool and take plenty of refreshments in that heat, Wendy. You’re desperately needed and great at your job!

  18. Tianna Clore says:

    What a great blog today, Wendy!

    If I were to post photos on FB of my real life today, you would see a flustered woman in the DMV, trying to keep my one year old from crying and stop kicking his shoes off, as I was texting my husband with a great idea for the new novel I started writing (so that I didn’t forget it), while silently cursing him for not registering his new toy himself 🙂

    While this scene may have been entertaining to those in the DMV, I would not want my friends and family to have photographic evidence that some days, I just do not have it together at all (even though they already know this)! As my husband says, FB is this alternate universe where everyone is perfect and all kids are happy. We all know that this isn’t true but it would be interesting if everyone posted pics of their real life… children unrolling the toilet paper roll across the house, dinner boiling over on the stove, the dog stealing snacks from kids, or the dog peeing on the carpet! Now everyone knows what it looks like it my house some days 🙂

    Hope you have a fun, safe, and productive trip 🙂

  19. With 6 conferences behind me and several research trips, I can honestly say I post pics that I hope will capture peoples’ attention. I think they’d rather see:
    – me relaxing with their favourite author than seeing me taking notes in a classroom where they can’t see the author
    – pics of a handsome Mountie rather than a pic of me flaking out after following the handsome Mountie around for several hours.

    As to what you said about being out on the road vs staying home and using online communication… it’s the same difference as looking at maps and Google Earth instead of going to the location and seeing the landscape for yourself. Both are doable, but one gets better results.

    Safe journey to the whole B&S team.

  20. Darby Kern says:

    I just try to find pics that make me look less than 300 pounds. As you may see, I’m not succeeding.

    We’re praying for safe travel and wisdom for you all. oh, and have some fun too.

  21. Peter DeHaan says:

    I’ve not warmed up to the new Facebook layout, so my postings have gone from minimal to less than minimal. And since I’m a word guy, I don’t post pictures, but my wife more than makes up for my short-fall — and that’s occasionally a point of contention between us.

    (By the way, at 4 PM today, said it was 76 in Orlando and 100 where I live in Michigan!)

  22. Michelle Lim says:

    I’m with you, Wendy! Online encounters can never truly replace the power of personal touch. If they could, we would only have online sermons and online doctor visits. Although these things are helpful today, sometimes we still want the minister to pray over us and the doctor to swab our throat or set a bone. I’m not very likely to buy car without test driving it, or select an outfit without trying it on (Been there, done that. BAD IDEA!)

    As a client it is so exciting to hear that our work is pitched face to face. That the passion you have for our stories can come to life while an editor is listening.

    Fabulous Post!

  23. I love that you and the other Bookie agents love us enough to be road warriors on our behalf. Please know how very much you are appreciated!

  24. Facebook is a world of staged reality attempting to appear a’ la natural when in truth, it is complete unreality, unless someone is losing control for the masses.

    It’s good for quotes, recipes, carefully screened pictures, writer announcements, and casual banter.

    I work at my computer in a relaxing pair of leggings, over my swimsuit so I will remember to go swim laps at noon and exercise my sendentary legs. Who wants to see that? I certainly don’t want to share that unsightly view of me with the outside world.

    I prefer the interpersonal old-fashion ways of communicating ~ hand written cards, telephone calls, and lunch or tea for two or more. Silly me. But I do man that fb site and author page.

    I enjoy the fb photos of B&S sipping tea under trees and working in sunny Florida or wintery mountains. Your smiling faces remind me to pray for you, thank God for His provision, and remind me how hard you are out there working for me as one of your clients ~ so I in turn will keep up the pace here on the homefront and have something of value to give to you upon your safe return. 🙂

  25. This post just makes me appreciate you that much more. FWIW, I’ve enjoyed the photos you’ve posted, and love seeing you doing what you do best.