I find Twitter really useful. Keeping track of publishing news was the reason I finally succumbed and joined it! I guess the closest we can do to a centralised MSWL is just to search the hashtag. Other than that, it’s the slow business of googling each agent for recent interviews as well as their agency page.
I’m like Ath – I don’t really notice who ‘follows back’, but I hadn’t noticed a male-excluding tone, although yes, there is a recent focus on women supporting women in an industry where there’s still a gender gap, so to speak. There’s also more signal boosting for under-rep authors too – non-white, non-straight etc. Which I love because it helps me find authors who possibly aren’t being promoted as hard as they could be.
I also follow a lot of political, journalism, ethics and science people too, where the trolling is definitely worse than in the literary twittersphere!
@alanr interesting comments re agent diversity – yeah there definitely seems to be more early-ish career women agents than male, not sure why that is. Although that evens out further up the seniority, I think. Perhaps submission opportunities are skewed because the younger agents are more likely to be actively building their lists, whereas the more senior agents are possibly not. But also, and this is something that bothers me – yeah there really is a bias towards upper-ish middle class London based white agents (and authors, of course) isn’t there? There was some survey done last year about the proportion of agents that went to comprehensive school and the results were … intimidating for someone who *did* go to one! There do seem to be more schemes appearing to support less well off people getting into publishing, which has got to be a good thing.