We all feel a little used sometimes.
For instance, since my parents divorced and remarried spouses who live in Florida and England (we live in Ohio) and are juggling two dogs, a cat, and a master's program, they assigned me to pet duty.
That means almost every single day between May 2019-April 2020, I will have to stay with the pets, care for them, and spend limited time out of the house because the dogs can't go more than four hours without having an accident.
I get it.
It's difficult to find a pet sitter for twelve months straight. Not to mention our cat and one of our dogs gets a UTI if any non-family member watches them for more than two days. Did we also mention they don't do well with travel, and one couldn't make the flight to Florida because he only has a few years of life left in him and didn't handle a drive fifteen minutes away well?
Why my parents picked such high maintenance animals, I cannot tell you. We love them . . . but man oh man, they can kill a social life.
Anyway, I understand they found a cheap and practical solution to the problem of who will watch these animals while they spend months in Florida or England. Me.
As much as I love my pets, this does make me feel used. After all, I rested in the Lowest Common Denominator slot, and would much rather the animals not be put down in exchange for more time outside of the house. Played against my empathetic side, I relented and agreed. I can watch them, and I will give 100 percent effort, but it does leave a bad taste in the mouth.
It just makes me feel like they see me more as Pet Help than a daughter.
What does this all have to do with LinkedIn?
I get a lot of requests on LinkedIn. Balancing 4,000+ connections that built in less than 12 months, I tried to be selective on who I picked and didn't.
Often an author or other industry professional will request me. As a fellow author, I understand the need to build a network, so I accept because they might need one more follower to make those numbers look impressive to a publisher. Or, maybe down the road, we can endorse each other for a book or offer advice to one another.
Two seconds later I receive a very long form letter that goes along the lines of:
"Hi! Thanks for connecting. I have 20 books on Amazon, and I need an agent to represent me. Here's a link. And an attachment. And another one. Tell me which one you want to represent. Let's make this happen!!"
Once I got as many as 22 messages in a row from one person who pitched me 22 of his books, without so much as a hello. We unconnected five seconds later.
I get it. People use LinkedIn to connect professionally.
But let's think of another example for why you might want to avoid this tactic.
Let's say you have a Facebook account and you often like to post pictures wearing sunglasses. You live in a sunny area. You see someone friend request you. Seeing they have 100+ or so mutual connections, and their profile checks all the boxes, you may shrug and accept them to build your following.
And let's say, five seconds after you accepted them, they start posting on all your pictures:
"Hey, girl! Love the sunglasses. I sell sunglasses at Shady Company. Buy some here (Link)."
About three of these comments in you would unfriend/block the person. Why? Because you don't know them all that well, and even if you did, you'd feel quite used because they only wanted to sell you sunglasses.
So why do we feel we can do the same when it comes to pitching books to agents on their social media accounts?
Back to the pet sitting
No one likes to feel used.
Sure, yes, we build our networks to possibly get reviewers, agents, beta readers, etc. down the road. And after striking up a conversation with someone, you may discover they would be a great fit for some need you need fulfilled, and you can ask politely and professionally for that.
I've had some of those conversations on LinkedIn. They thanked me for connecting, we chatted a little, and then they asked if I was open to submissions.
Feeling a little less used than usual, I gladly pointed them to my guidelines and read their submission with more care than others who just started pitching me right away.
Keep in mind, you only get one first impression with an agent. If they see you want to connect with them only to see what they can do for you, you will come off a lot like my parents when they held out the dog leashes for me. Even if you have a great pitch, they will look at your submission with the idea that you are not a professional since you pitched via unorthodox means.
If you need to pitch to an agent and can't find their guidelines, we will kindly point you in the right direction. Otherwise, try to find their websites first and start from there.