Ahhh, social media…love it? hate it? Social media elicits a full range of emotions! Here’s Margaret Aitken’s positive approach and how she found her agent on Twitter. Congratulations to Margaret on her debut picture book OLD FRIENDS!
Margaret is offering a GIVEAWAY of a picture book critique. If you’d like to enter, just leave a note in the comments below.
Congratulations to Carmela McCain Simmons – winner of a critique from Megan Hoyt from last week’s post!
Finding my Agent on Twitter + Social Media Tips
by Margaret Aitken
Like many writers, I have a love/hate relationship with social media. On the one hand, social media is an evil villain that eats up our day until we realize it’s dark outside, the kids are starving, the dog’s bladder is about to explode, and we haven’t written a single word.
But on the other hand, social media is a helpful hero who introduces us to fellow writers, provides learning opportunities, and reminds us that although the writing path is tough, we’re not alone. But is the Twitter time-warp worth it? It’s a question I grapple with a lot.
In 2020, I was fortunate enough to connect with my agent through Twitter. Hopefully, by sharing my story and the tips at the end, I can help you consider your own social media use and ensure it doesn’t veer over to the dark side.
So, let’s go back to the care-free days of January 2020. The pandemic hadn’t hit the headlines—in the U.S. at least—and most of us had never heard of a certain crown-shaped virus that was about to change the world.
I had been writing with the goal of publication since January 2019 and was fully immersed in the Kidlit community online. One day, I was scrolling through Twitter when I noticed Brian Gehrlein of Picture Book Spotlight had posted an interview with writer, Kaitlyn Sanchez.
In her interview, Kaitlyn mentioned that she had started an internship at Olswanger Literary Agency. As part of the feature, Kaitlyn was giving away two picture book critiques. Noticing it was the last day to enter the giveaway, I tweeted my entry and got on with my day—which, living in the Northeast of the U.S., inevitably involved snow.
A few days later, I was thrilled to find out I had won a critique from Kaitlyn—hooray! So, I sent off my picture book manuscript about a prim and proper seagull and got back to shoveling the driveway.
To my surprise—and delight—a few days later, Kaitlyn replied to say that she loved my seagull story. She suggested ways to strengthen it and asked me to send her the revision when it was ready. As writers know, getting positive feedback from a publishing insider feels like a kid getting a full-size candy bar at Halloween—it’s huge!
As a new agent, Kaitlyn wasn’t taking on clients at that stage, but she encouraged me to query her when she opened up in the spring.
Over the winter, Kaitlyn and I kept in touch online. Then, In March 2020, as the world was closing down, Kaitlyn emailed me out of the blue and asked if I would like to send her more manuscripts. I had several stories polished and ready, so I chose my strongest five and hit the send button.
My emotions were all over the place as I read the news headlines and waited for Kaitlyn’s response. Then later that day, an email popped into my inbox. Kaitlyn had enjoyed reading my work and asked if I could share my phone number. That evening she called to offer representation, and I excitedly accepted. The world was imploding, and I was officially agented! It was, to quote Mr.Dickens, ‘the best of times, it was the worst of times…’
A few months later, Kaitlyn sold my debut picture book, OLD FRIENDS, to Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan.
So, just like all memorable characters, social media isn’t all good OR all bad. By using it intentionally, social media can bring a sense of community, open opportunities, and even bring some light relief as you take a break from tackling a tricky plot hole.
Here are some tips that have helped me keep my social media use in check:
- Turn off ALL notifications
It can be hard to resist finding out who notifications are from, and before you know it, you’ve spent half your afternoon searching for the perfect giraffe gif. This tip has been revolutionary for me. If you can’t stop checking apps, try taking social media off your phone and restricting social media use to your laptop.
- Have a social Media routine
Try to only check in at specific times e.g. in the morning, at lunchtime, or in the evening. There is NOTHING on social media that cannot wait for a few hours.
- Follow accounts that regularly have contests/giveaways
For example, @PBChat, @PBParty, @KaitlynLeannSanchez.
- Engage in a genuine way
The Kidlit community is welcoming and encouraging. Be sure to cheer others on; they will do the same for you.
- Be brave and enter!
There are so many amazing Kidlit competitions online. Push your insecurities to the back of your mind and enter. You never know; you might end up meeting your future agent on Twitter like I did.
Don’t forget to leave a comment below if you’d like to enter the giveaway for a picture book critique from Margaret Aitken. (winner announced 7/1/22)
[July 1 follow up to this post: the winner of the PB Critique from Margaret Aitken is Karen Rafeedie. Congrats, Karen!]