You’re Being Watched

I’m not talking about being watched in a creeper Why-Are-They-Staring-At-Me? way.

I’m talking about a, Do-I-Want-This-Writer-For-A-Client? way.

Since I’m marketing guy by trade I’m fond of saying we market ourselves in every moment. What we wear, what we say, what we don’t say, our attitudes, all form a distinct impression in their minds of people about who we are.

But we market ourselves not only during the moments we’re in front of that dream agent, or dream publisher, we market ourselves when we don’t think they’re noticing us.

But they do notice us. We’re on their radar. Yes, they’re watching us.

A few years ago a friend of mine had released her agent and was looking for a new one. We were in a critique group together and she told those of us in the group about the agent at the top of her wish list.

When she finally called him she started the conversation by saying, “I’m not sure if you know who I am but—”

He responded, “I know exactly who you are. I’ve been watching you for three years. You come to conferences with passion to learn and ask great questions. I’ve skimmed your books and I enjoy your writing style. I can see you care about other people and from what others tell me, you are committed to making a difference with your writing. Yes, I’d love to talk about representing you.” (They did end up working together.)

My youngest son, Micah, just started his sophomore year of high school. The other day he introduced himself to the Vice Principal of the school. They had a nice conversation which ended with the V.P. telling Micah, “I’m really glad you took time to introduce yourself.”

I told Micah, “You just introduced yourself to the rest of the administrative staff as well.”

He asked what I meant. I told him most kids will never take the time to meet the Vice Principal unless they’re sitting his or her office for having just taken part in an, uh, undesirable activity. And I told him the faculty of any high school talk to each other about the good kids and the problem kids.

The world of publishing is no different. It’s a tiny industry. Did you know many agents have private e-mail loops where they kibitz about the industry—and that includes talking about writers? Did you know most editors know each other—and they talk about published authors and pre-published authors as well?

Yes, they know when you’ve been sleeping, they know when you’re awake—wait, now it is getting creepy, only Santa knows that stuff, but you understand my point.

You might be surprised to find out who already know yous. It might shock you to realize you’re being looked at right now. How you act. How you speak. How you treat others. How hard you work at the craft.

Because most publishers and agents aren’t just looking for great writing. They’re looking for great people as well.

Gotta go. I think someone across the room at Starbucks is staring at me.

(How have you seen this play out in your career or the career of a friend?)

James L. Rubart is the bestselling author of ROOMS, BOOK OF DAYS, and THE CHAIR. More at