Thursday, April 29, 2010

Are all authors stalkers, or is it just me?

I am a stalker.

I’m not ashamed to admit this because I justify it in my mind as a legitimate career tool.

Years ago when I was agent hunting, I wasn’t content with the short bios on agent websites and at agentquery.com. No, no – clearly if I could just determine an agent’s favorite ice cream flavor, I’d know for sure if we were a good match.

This was in the days before Twitter, and I’m a little ashamed to recall the fervor with which I gathered these shreds of information, googling for articles and blog posts and baby registries and poring over them like they contained all the secrets to writing success.

There’s no way I’d claim that helped me get my amazing agent. But I will say it provided a satisfying diversion during a nerve-wracking process that can make even the toughest author feel helpless.

My stalker tendencies didn’t abate once I had the agent. Instead, I turned my attention to googling the names of editors who had my work. By the time Deb Werksman at Sourcebooks offered my three-book deal, I feel fairly certain I had read every online article that included her name (including several written in Swahili).

Even with the agent and a book deal, I haven’t shaken the stalker habit. Now, I’ve turned my attention to my own website and blog. I use Google Analytics on both, and the amount of information available to me is a little staggering.

For instance, there’s clearly a value in knowing that five people from Minnesota visited my website yesterday.

Or that in the last month, people have accessed my blog by googling such useful phrases as “pythagoras had a pet,” “tawna sexy pictures,” and “what’s in your fridge for cooking.”

In all seriousness, the web stats can be fascinating. Three months ago, I knew when an editor visited my website because it was not only the sole hit I had from New York, but the sole hit I had all week.

Now, I’m flabbergasted to see that on any given day, 250 strangers visit my blog to see me blather about the hole in my jeans.

I won’t claim there’s an intrinsic value for authors in seeking out every shred of information you can find about an agent or an editor or your potential readers.

But being an author at any stage sometimes feels like stumbling along the highway with your hands over your eyes. Any peek you can sneak between your fingers feels delightfully empowering – even if it’s not particularly enlightening.

Are you a stalker? If you aren’t ashamed to admit it, tell me about it in the comments.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go figure out why my blog is suddenly so popular in Libya.

39 comments :

Angela said...

Total stalker, when I have time. I love Google Analytics, and Google Alerts. They are total stalk-a-rific tools.

Adrien-Luc Sanders said...

...wow. And I thought I was bad, with how I feel following agents and editors on Twitter. It always makes me feel like a peeping Tom, hovering outside their virtual windows and occasionally poking my head over the sill to snatch a glimpse of their daily lives. I only Google them if I plan to query them, though--although I will admit I devour gossipy discussions about them like it's the latest trash rag. You can often find good information buried in all that mess, mainly about whether or not the agent's a good fit for you.

Or, y'know, their shoe size when you decide to woo them with Jimmy Choos.

Elisabeth Black said...

Maybe a little bit? Not really. I look old boyfriends up on facebook. Then I get grouchy when I find them. I'm going to check out google analytics. I want to be stalky like you. ;)

Karla Nellenbach said...

Hi! My name is Karla and I'm a stalker. Yes, I am. I started my Twitter account just for the sole purpose of keeping tabs on the agents who had requested fulls from me, and now, I stalk polydactyl cat owners who live in Oregon and have fake car sex with their husbands while wearing crotchless jeans. Oh, look! I think I see the restraining order in my mailbox now. **sigh** I guess I'll just go back to spying on the neighbor I'm certain has bodies chopped up in his freezer.

kellybreakey said...

I only stalk people who claim to love Clams over Chocolate. We are really trying to convert them to our way of thinking. (And I don't care if they are called RAZOR clams...it's just wrong!)

PS Patty would agree with me.

Misty said...

Are you kidding? I'm such a stalker I have cards. I wanna find those right connections,- where we can laugh AND make a little money selling kidneys on the black market. Well, at least manuscripts with kidney deals. Stalking's a big part of seeking out those right connections. Along with night vision goggles. Wait- did I just write that out loud?

Lynne Kelly Hoenig said...

I might have asked Jerry Spinelli if I could live under his porch like a raccoon.

Emmaserene said...

Oh yeah, I stalk: a super-successful-decades-in-the-biz agent asked for a "revise and re-submit" on one of my novels. She keeps a low internet profile, so not only do I google her name daily to make sure no one has written an obituary on her, I had to resist the urge to send her a Happy Anniversary card. (But if I didn't stalk, I wouldn't have discovered she recently switched agencies! If she was trying to ditch me, it didn't work. Not yet. Not that I know of.)

Theresa Milstein said...

I love that you've gone from stalking an agent to stalking yourself.

I've never used Google Analytics. I'm going to check it out.

Lindsay said...

I'm obviously no author, but there are MANY blogs I read everyday. Most of them belong to people I have never met - and probably will never meet, but I love them!

L. T. Host said...

I'm a stalker too! Though not so much for agents I want to query as for agents I find interesting and helpful. Which I sometimes therefore also want to query, but that's beyond the point-- I follow them for the info they share and because I like that they take the time to do so.

I stalk other pre-pubbed and pubbed authors because you guys are so dang hilarious, and I like the insight into the process. I like cheering you guys on as you get your covers, and then your ARCs, etc., and sharing in the joy of those moments. Plus, when I like an author, I'll buy their book and tell EVERYONE. So it's really a win-win, me stalking you. You know. In case you needed a good reason from the other side.

Candyland said...

You saw mine today. I'm obviously a stalker by the way I crouch below the window to see Tiny Tank across the street. Online? Oh yeah. I have to know about the people I query and whatnot. And ice cream flavors are a good indicator of a successful agent/author relationship...

Harley May said...

I'm not a stalker what are you wearing?

Linda G. said...

I'm sure I don't know WHAT you're talking about. What is this "stalking"?

Oh, wait...is it anything like my "extreme research"? ;)

Cynthia Reese said...

Tee-hee! I remember your complete freak-out over that NYC hit on your website!

And yes, ahem, I'll admit stalkeristic tendencies, but only in the nicest possible way!

I still remember one of my most embarrassing moments: on the eHarl forums, I confessed to "stalking" the editor I would soon be pitching, and I commented upon finding a pix of her and how pretty and together she was and that now I was going to have to go and pluck my eyebrows because HERS were soo elegant looking.

A few minutes later, another writer (a pubbed author) posted how the editor lurked on the forums and was sure to be tickled over the compliments to her eyebrows.

The floor did NOT open up and swallow me. Not even when I begged. :-0

Jody Hedlund said...

Funny! Thanks for a laugh this afternoon! I can't imagine the obsession I'll have with Amazon ranking stats and that sort of thing once my book is out in the fall. I shudder!

Morgan Ives said...

I pay absolutely no attention to the ratio of Canadians that visit my blog, nor spend any time wondering who would visit me from Ireland. Nope.

Tawna Fenske said...

Angela, ah, yes! I love Google Alerts, too!

Adrien-Luc, I'm actually kinda glad Twitter didn't exist back when I queried agents. I shudder to think how much more stalker-esque I would have been.

Elizabeth, I do enjoy stalking exes, both mine and my husband's. Is that wrong to admit publicly? The internet just makes it too easy.

Karla, you are more than welcome to stalk me! In fact, I encourage it.

kellybreaky, for the record, I don't actually like regular clams at all. But razor clams? Those are the nectar of the gods, really.

Misty, gotta get me some of those night-vision goggles!

Lynne Kelly, your comment made me snort!

Emmaserene, the agency switch is a good example of why not all agent-stalking is bad. The anniversary card might be though :)

Theresa, BEST LINE EVER! "I love that you've gone from stalking an agent to stalking yourself." Never thought of it quite like that!

Lindsay, am I included among the loved? Say yes, or I will kidnap your dog.

L.T. Host, if you like following authors to find out about processes, there's a big surprise in store for you tomorrow. Check back in the morning :)

Candyland, totally! Pretty sure my client/agent relationship with Michelle would not be as solid if she didn't like chocolate raspberry truffle ice cream. (Er, you do, right?!)

Harley May, I'm wearing jeans with a hole in the crotch. Or maybe I'll have to get a webcam like yours so you can see for yourself :)

Linda G, "extreme research," I like that. Sounds so much nicer than stalking.

Cynthia, oh I've had plenty of NYC web hit freakouts. Funny thing is, my publisher is actually based in Chicago! Love your story about the editor's eyebrows.

Jody, oh no! I hadn't even considered Amazon ranking stats. And reviews? Wow. This is going to be a full-time stalking job.

Morgan, don't those international hits pique your curiosity? I kind of enjoy them!

Thanks for reading, guys!
Tawna

Patty said...

*Patty nods head in furious agreement with Kelly. Chocolate should be a food group!*

Okay, I'll tell you the truth... I just started on Twitter a few months ago because my job pretty much forced me into it.

One lunch hour, I was Googling for query letter help, found Janet Reid's Query Shark site, and read a post in which she practically fell to her knees in supplication at a query submitted from some twenty-something gas station attendant (who shall remain nameless). I clicked through some links and found him on Twitter.

He is one of the very first people I began following for fiction rather than technical writing reasons, just to see what would happen next. (Did he sign with her? Is the book being published? I was on the edge of my seat!) I used his query as my model. I read everything he posts, but alas, he rarely deigns to speak to the likes of me.

From following him, I found Elisabeth Black, whose tweets and blog posts are like chocolate for my soul. (And you know how much I love chocolate!). And then, to the hilarious antics of Sean Ferrell and Jeffrey Somers. (What Google voice debacle will we read today? And will Jeff wear pants?)

From this core group, I've expanded my stalking - er, I mean following to a whole bunch of you writerly types and then branched out to following various agents. Yes, I'm following every link, devouring everything you post, taking notes like it's the freakin' SATs in the hopes that I may one day feel like your peer instead of your apprentice.

As for you, Miss Tawna, I was out sick two days last week and took a day off this week. Your tweets were the ones I looked for first because you never fail to make me LOL when I'm supposed to be writing software instructions.

Thank God for Twitter!

LR said...

I only stalk writers with crotch-holes and rainbow stockings.

danicaavet said...

Oh yes, Tawna. I freely admit I have a stalker habit. Before my first conference, I Googled the two editors I was pitching to nearly every day in the hopes I'd find something out about them. I discovered that one of them dressed as a zombie in a movie or something. That didn't really help for the pitch, but I at least knew he was into. At least the internet is somewhat anonymous...and we're not staking out anyone's houses.

Sean Ferrell said...

I am absolutely a stalker. For instance: I know how those holes really got in your jeans.

Jade said...

My name is Jade and I'm a stalker.

When I finish a cool book, the first thing I do is google the author and then stalk them until I reach a point where I can probably recite their biographies, writing history and anything else I can get my hands on. That's no weird, is it?

Xuxana said...

So, I'm not the only one. Well, that's a relief. Although, I'm not quite sure the more stalkers the merrier.

KLM said...

Really, Tawna, you're just running some kind of group therapy session here. Except no one has any intention of reforming his/her stalking habit. So we're in for a long night of "Yeah, me, too" and a lot of nodding and exchanging stalking tips. Well, I suppose someone should start singing Kumbaya. Anyone have a guitar?

Jan Markley said...

I talk about how and why I'm such a great literary stalker on my blog. In fact, I believe the three keys to getting published are rewriting, persistence and stalking! Those three elements are highlighted in my 'how I got published story'. I recently profiled a writer friend Jocossa of the Earrings who is stalking the God of Agents and taking stalking to a whole new level. Check it out if you get a chance.

Christi Goddard said...

I'm a stalker and a lurker. I read stuff, comment on occasion, follow people who will never speak to me in return, read Twitter comments of people who ignore me... yup, that's me. I tell myself that maybe -someday- if I ever get published, they might respond to me because somehow I've gone from nobody to somebody. I love that you're not like that.

Tawna Fenske said...

Patty, it's like six-degrees of Kevin Bacon, isn't it?! (I, too, remember the Dan Krokos query on Query Shark. Loved it!) Be sure to check back tomorrow, Sean Ferrell is one of the authors participating in a special blogfest on writing processes!

LR, lucky for me, I have both!

danicaavet, you never know when that zombie detail might come in handy in casual conversation!

Sean, uh-oh. Should I be expecting photographic blackmail?

Jade, I do the same thing with authors I adore. Want me to list all of Jennifer Crusie's dogs?

Xuxana, there's something quite joyful about belonging to a merry band of stalkers.

KLM, if anything, the stalker habit becomes more intense the longer you do it. Pass me that guitar.

Jan, I will be sure to check out that blog!

Christi, I might have to wash your mouth out with soap for the whole somebody/nobody thing. Instead, I'm ordering you to go back and read my blog post from last Friday :)

Thanks for reading, guys!
Tawna

Shain Brown said...

I'm curious, have you ever called your husband by the wrong name?

Marybeth Poppins said...

I may or may not be a fellow stalker...and I refuse to admit how I found this link!

LOVE THIS POST!!!

Janelle said...

I so totally stalk you!!! ;o) But only 'cause you're amazing and a pleasure to stalk!!

I know what Cristi means, though... There are some people (like you) that will respond and carry on a twittersation and others, well... *crickets*

When I'm pubbed, I wanna be just like you!!! ;o) (seriously though, I love pubbed authors like you!!!)

And not just 'cause you also love #oregonresearch...

Tawna Fenske said...

Shain, uh...do you mean that in a "have you ever said the wrong guy's name in bed?" sorta way? Because that's the sort of conversation I'd have with a group of girlfriends over three bottles of wine, and I've gotta say, I'm not drinking wine and my girlfriends aren't here. Or do you mean have I ever called him Pythagoras to his face? I do that all the time, mostly on purpose. Or do you mean have I ever accidentally used his real name on the blog or Twitter? Nope, never. Not so far anyway :)

Marybeth, stalkers of the world unite!

Janelle, I am here for your stalking pleasure! As for the whole line between published and unpublished authors thing...as I've already mentioned (and will continue to shout about long after I'm a bestseller someday!) that's bullshit. I'm happy to tweet-chat with anyone who talks to me, and I love these little conversations in the blog comment trail.

Thanks for reading, guys!
Tawna

Claire Dawn said...

You've just created a monster. Google analytics in full effect. (I kinda wonder if I come up as Japan- ip address- or Barbados)

My word verification is balsest-- wonder if that means biggest balls :)

tammygallant.com said...

Proof of my stalker tendencies:

Me: Guess what Tawna just said?

Hubs: Tawna? That's one of your "internet friend" isn't it (yes, he used air quotes"

Me: You're just jealous that I have more friends than you!

Hubs: *mumbling under his breath* at least my friends are real

Patrick Alan said...

That was me googling "Tawna Sexy Pictures".

“what’s in your fridge for cooking” was also me, but I was using it as a euphamism.

But I'm not a stalker.

India Drummond said...

Ahh... a kindred spirit! I'm a total tart for stats!

Oh, and when I visit your blog it shows me as London, even though I'm in Scotland. I don't know why (Probably something to do with my ISP), but there ya go. Just so you know it's me!

Patty said...

Can we have like... t-shirts made, or something? Writing is stalking?

Nah...

Hm. Maybe we need a twitter contest for best slogan.

Where's Sean Ferrell??

Tawna Fenske said...

Claire Dawn, isn't Google Analytics great? Not sure which you show up as...I've had hits from both Japan and Barbados lately.

tammygallant.com, yeah, I've been doing this a lot lately myself. I've had a few weeks where I haven't left the house for four days, and I'll start telling my husband about conversations I've had with people. He gets very confused.

Patrick, funny thing is, I'm pretty sure I know exactly who DID google for the sexy pics. I once challenged Dan Krokos to find online photos from a bikini contest I once entered (uh, yeah, different from the ski one). He failed, but I'm betting that was one of the searches he tried.

India, interesting about the London/Scotland thing. I'll have to visit both just to check it out!

Patty, we should propose this over at romanceyardsale.com (the place I got my writing/drinking t-shirt). I'm sure they could come up with something!

Tawna

Jayne said...

Hello Tawna. I came over via Nicole's lovely blog 'One Significant Moment at a Time', and I am so glad I did as this post made me giggle at the end of a long Friday. I do exactly the same thing - I use statcounter, but didn't think of using google analytics... what a good idea! Bwhahaha... I will find out who comes to my blog looking for 'slippy wellies' (very popular, apparently).