Remember those high school days when you were always worrying over your popularity even if you acted like you weren’t, when you were trying to define a workable identity for yourself: a jock, a cheerleader, a stoner, a loner, a straight arrow, a good citizen, a lover, a fighter, and the list goes on. Remember those days when you were trying to find a position from which you could become relevant to other people, those days when you wanted to find a way to have clout? Brace yourselves if you’re a writer: those days are back.
In the era of social media, if you’re on Twitter, Facebook, etc., you’re leaving a trail by which people can gauge your degree of online influence over others. In other words, we can now see how much sway we have. We can see how well our “platforms,” in the parlance of the times, are working. Trying to promote a new book? How many people are you reaching with your Tweets, for instance, and how many people are re-tweeting what you’ve tweeted? How many people are talking about you and your book? How broad is your reach? How much clout do you have? Now you can find out, and, if you can find out, so can agents, editors, and publishers.
I learned all this earlier in the week when my friend Debra Jasper, a social media expert who co-founded Mindset Digital, a company that helps people reach more clients, customers, etc., told me about Klout.com, and how to find out what my Klout score was. So I went to the web site and found out my Klout, on a scale of 1-100 (Justin Bieber has a Klout score of 100), was 1. Imagine that moment in high school when your friend says, “So, you coming to the party Saturday? You know, Gary Goldenboy’s party, the one everyone who is anyone will be at?” and you swallow and say, “What party?” That’s sort of how I felt when I found out my Klout score was 1. I didn’t even know whether this was something I should worry about; I only knew I felt excluded.
So I got to work. By listing a few areas of expertise on my Klout.com profile and then choosing some folks on Twitter that I felt were influential to me, I saw my score increase immediately to 33 and from there in just a few days to 52. How did this happen? I confess I have no idea. Furthermore, I still don’t know whether this is something I should keep paying attention to (will it affect my career?) or is it something I should sweep aside the way we all should have saved our energies worrying over our high school image and just got on with the business of living our lives and being true to ourselves.
The question is whether agents, editors, and publishers are starting to make decisions about which writers to represent or publish based on the online influence indicated by the data collected and analyzed by places like Klout.com. I went looking for answers, and here’s what I found, compliments of Meghan Ward’s blog, WRITERLAND. (I just decided to follow Meghan on Twitter, and I’ll most likely tweet a link to this information from her blog, setting into motion who knows what as far as both of our Klout scores.)
At any rate, here’s what a few agents and editors had to say:
Danielle Svetcov, literary agent with Levine Greenberg Literary Agency
“I’d never heard of Klout til you mentioned it. Now I will use it. This is how it always seems to work: Every time the Web gives us a new way to measure influence and sway in the marketplace, we have a new variable to factor into our picking and choosing. This can work in a writer’s favor if he/she is gifted in the influence and sway depts., and if the subject of the book (almost always non-fiction) is the area in which the writer has power and sway. If, however, the writer is simply gifted as a writer, and has terrible Klout, Twitter, Facebook scores, then those measurements may actually misdirect the gatekeepers (me, editors, etc). In short, Klout, Twitter, and Facebook can sometimes be very helpful for determining the potential audience of a book (and therefore an appropriate advance), but I’d be scared if they became the sole determiners of the future’s literary voices.
(Social media influence is coming into play in every genre. It’s become quite essential for selling non-fiction; it’s not so essential for fiction, but I’m sure if a fiction author had 20,000 Twitter followers, the writer’s agent wouldn’t fail to mention it in her submission letter to editors. Depends what kind of book it is. I wouldn’t usually do this for fiction, but for nonfiction where platform matters more, I would.)”
Michelle Brower, literary agent with Folio Literary Management.
“Honestly, this is the first time I’ve heard of a Klout score, so the answer would be, for me, “not at all”! I work with many fiction and narrative writers, where style and story are really my biggest criteria. I’ve found that social media can help spread the word about their books, but in and of itself doesn’t affect my client decisions.”
Daniela Rapp, Editor at St. Martin’s Press
“We do take authors’ social media platforms into very serious consideration, but as far as I know we don’t use an overall score to determine their “clout,” but rather look at their number of Twitter followers, Facebook fans, Web site hits or blog popularity. And in the end, no matter how high their score may be, if we don’t love the project, we won’t sign it up just because the author happens to be popular.”
Mollie Glick, literary agent with Foundry Literary + Media
“Depends what kind of book it is. I wouldn’t usually [look at Klout scores] for fiction, but for nonfiction where platform matters more, I would.”
In high school, I was never much of a joiner. I played basketball and wrote for the student newspaper. I performed in the junior class play, but I was never the sort who wanted to be a part of this clique or that one. So I’m amazed that I’m thinking about this topic of social media and online influence and the way it might come to bear on my life as a writer. The two worlds seem so opposite, but maybe they’re not. Maybe they’re both creative enterprises. I’d love to hear what others think, as I continue to think about the lay of the digital land and how it rubs up against the solitary time I spend in my writing room.