In our digital age of ebooks, digital text, and yes, hybrid books, it becomes all the more imperative to develop an online presence to go along with query submissions. And yes, even us reluctant to get on the social media band wagon may need to bite the bullet and give Twitter a try (no matter how vapid it seems). More often, agents are developing an online presence, which you can use to see the kinds of submissions they're accepting, as well as submission instructions (or if they've stopped accepting for the time being, like this agent).
Let me clarify--social media avenues require discernment. One should not start a blog, join Twitter or Facebook just because it's the "cool" thing to do. Those who do generally tire of the game quickly, finding such means of communication to be a time-suck. And they usually are, unless they're used correctly.
In the theme of working smarter, not harder, consider what social networks have to offer you. Here's what I've learned so far in my experience:
1. Use Facebook and Twitter to find literary agents (try to avoid LinkedIn if you can).
A lot of literary agents have a Facebook presence. Go find them. This will help you keep in tune with what they're doing and what they deem important. Following an agent on Twitter can also be helpful. My experience with LinkedIn was pretty negative--when I joined, they "spammed" all the people in my address list, trying to get them to join LinkedIn too. I called them and asked them to shut the notifications off. As yet, I haven't gotten any benefits or connections by being a member of LinkedIn, but perhaps others have.
2. Create RSS feeds to agents you're interested in querying.
A great blog, Literary Rambles, features a weekly agent spotlight, and links to online presences, if applicable. I've created RSS feeds to three different agents using this method. For those unfamiliar with how to get RSS feeds, see instructions here. Note: many RSS readers are already built into internet browsers. Mozilla Firefox's reader has worked best for me so far.
3. If you want to try blogging, link to author and agent blogs, and follow good blogging practices.
Your blog should:
a) Be updated at least twice a week (I'm trying to get better about this one)
b) Contain content that others can use
c) Link to author and agent blogs through a blogroll
4. Design a website to showcase your writing (including previously published works).
This step is the most daunting, but it's also the most necessary. If you're unfamiliar with web design, I suggest the following book to help you get started. Also, research your hosting site--some charge only about $25 a year. When you query agents, you can refer them to your website, and it indicates that you're serious about marketing yourself as a writer.
I know what some of you must be thinking: all of this will take away from time spent writing. Yes, it will. But you can write and build a platform at the same time. It's just a matter of carving out the time for both.
-The Writer Librarian