Monday, June 15, 2015
Publishing Is A Job, Not A Hobby
I do think that many authors out there started their writing career as a hobby. They found they enjoyed writing and were able to turn that fun, leisure activity into something that could make a career out of. That's great! But just because it is an activity that appears to be a "casual" career, does not mean that we do not approach this from a business perspective.
In all honesty, I have seen a huge decline in the professionalism of authors. This shows up in obviously their submissions they send to the agency (and I know editors see the same thing), but how they present themselves online, in discussion groups, on social media, and yes, even at conferences.
Authors seem to fail to realize this is a business. Although you might sit at home in your sweats, hair a mess and eating Doritos as you write, what you show to the world around you needs to be 100% professional. The way you act, the way you talk, the way you write and the way you dress needs to demonstrate that you see this as a business.
Let us consider a few of these examples:
Conferences are business gatherings to network, to learn new approaches, to discuss projects and so forth. This means you wear business attire. This can certainly be business casual in most cases, but it is business. Dressing in costume (this is for the fans, not the authors) is not appropriate. I don't care if you write Steampunk, you have to dump the goggles.
When you go to your pitch sessions with the editors and agents, this is not a casual activity. You go back to your hotel room, change into clothing suitable for a job interview. End of story!
Around the hallways at those conferences, you are to act and behave as a professional. In all honesty, you don't know who is standing around you or listening. I have been constantly amazed at how authors have talked negatively about editors and agents right out in public. And they do this without realizing other editors and agents are standing around them. Do you think we don't talk? Do you think we don't remember? Think again. That might be a reason for all of the rejections.
What about on social media? First of all, I have to say I always laugh at these people who scream about privacy rights on the Internet and then post everything about their friends, families and kids on the Internet. We have talked about this before, but you post it on the Internet, and I don't care if it is a "closed loop", things will get around. People do hear about what you said. It's those comments that turn into the rumors and the gossip. If you start whining and complaining your editors and agents will start to see you as someone difficult to work with. Your career might be pretty short.
Remember, if you are with an agency or with a publisher, you are representing them as well. As an agent, we are sticking our neck out there for you to get you those great deals, to get you the extra "stuff" in your contracts. When you go out and act unprofessionally, you just made us look like a complete fool.
Finally, there is the written communications between you and the editors and agents. I do a lot of critiques and the one thing I see over and over again is the lack of a basic understanding of the business letter format. If you don't learn it, don't expect a career. And understand this is not just about the format of the letter, but the language, the tone and the voice.
Last week, even Jessica Faust commented on an aspect of this on her blog talking about why agents don't respond back to authors and engage in a lengthy discussion on why they passed on a project. Too often, authors get that rejection letter and then drop all sense of professionalism and start whining, complaining and arguing. You might think you are just clarifying things we might have missed or are trying to be aggressive in business. What we see is someone who can't be a professional.
As I said earlier, we remember. We keep those emails. Here at Greyhaus, I keep a data base that goes back many years. When I type your name in, if you submitted in the past, I know who you are, what you wrote and what I thought. If you are not professional, you have been identified as such. Expect the same response you got on the first one.
Look, I don't care if you want to work with traditional side of publishing or you want to take the self-publishing approach, but please people, be professional about it. You are the face of a very large industry and you need to show people that authors are not freaks hiding out behind computers.