I was having a chat with a friend who knows me in person and as a blogger and she asked why I’m so cagey about my identity. After all, that personal stuff I used to write about it now quite far in the past.
There are three reasons why I keep my anonymity:
One, just because it was in the past doesn’t mean it’s not still personal. Therefore, if I start blogging again about personal stuff I don’t have to worry about who’s looking over my digital shoulder.
Two, I can be as rude and honest about the publishing industry as I like. As me, the agent, I have to be polite, and nice, and placate arseholes. Online, you get the truth, which is far more useful to everyone involved. I can vent and the bloggy readers get a real glimpse into publishing.
Three, I keep a low profile in person. My online account is a different name from my real life (birth certificate/passport name) and my agent name is different than those two. My online name is the nickname all my friends have called me since I was a kid, and my grandmother’s maiden name as my surname. I started the blog just after she passed, and I was able to do my internship because of an inheritance she left me. So I set up my online accounts in her honour. Yeah, kind of stupid, but I was kind of stupid four years ago when I started my blog. (Holy shit. Has it been four years? Crikey!)
I use a different name as an agent for a bunch of reasons:
1) A lot of writers are lunatics and I don’t want them knowing where I live. I learned my lesson in Glasgow.
2) The agency is not advertising the fact we are in Dundee. As much as the area has to offer, it’s not yet London. For a host of reasons, it’s best to keep everything down South. Plus, we wouldn’t move permanently to Scotland until after the referendum in September. In fact, if the YES campaign wins, we will likely, officially, remain south of the border. So if you looked up my agent name, I’d be listed as a London agent.
3) Following on from (2), a lot of people don’t know I’m in Scotland. So I can go to readings, public events, and I don’t get hassled. Believe me, as soon as people find out you’re an agent they start shoving crappy poorly written manuscripts in your face. Plus, as a pleb I know all the gossip and I can scout talent on the down low.
Dundee is a small city, and there are clicks. In fact, because I am not part of these literary clicks (which can get very nasty) and no one wants me to be in their little group (I’m just a random face in the crowd to them, and not an agent) I know who’s naughty and who’s nice. And actually, it does make a difference when I’m scouting for talent.
For example, I know an agent in Edinburgh who decided that the agenting life wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, so he decided to get out of the game. Rather than leaving his clients hanging without and agent, he passed them around to other agents to see if we wanted to pick them up. He passed a manuscript across my desk by a client of his who had a novel published with low to moderate success, and he hoped I’d pick her up for a second novel. However, I know this person from the literary scene and she is a nasty piece of work. She sabotages other writers, only befriends people who she thinks can help her career, and bad-mouths those who can’t. I wouldn’t have known the true nature of this woman if I hadn’t remained incognito in Dundee. Of course, I didn’t pick her up, and from what I hear she’s still without an agent or publisher for her second book.
So, the moral is. Be nice. It will get you far in life.