Thursday, August 6, 2015

Have We Forgotten That Publishing Is A Business?

We seem to be living in a world of casualness. Casual Friday has turned into non-stop casual and we are all doing it?

My wife and I were complaining about this recently when we saw this billboard outside of our gym. I don't remember what it was, but the guy on the ad was far from something you would want your daughter to bring home as a date. Unshaven (not that clean cut unshaven look either), trashy shirt, headphone just hanging around his neck, and staring at his cell phone. The issue was he was somehow marketing a professional project. Far from matching the idea.

  • My pastor no longer wears the traditional robes during church service (coming from the son of a Methodist minister, this doesn't work for me).
  • Guys don't wear suits anymore.
  • Women wear anything they have on "just to run to the store"
I think you get the idea. But unfortunately, this "casualness" is really extending into everything we do in business, and publishing seems to be no exception. I do believe, that this casualness is one of the elements creating such a huge population of writers with "garbage" we have to choose from as readers. I also believe it is this casualness which has led to the number of rejection letters we as editors and agents write, as well as some of the decline of new authors publishers take on.

Let's start with the submission process. Writers have seemed to fail to remember that the submission process is the same as applying for a job. Query letter = cover letter. Manuscript = Resume. Pitch = Job Interview. When we apply for a job, we don't just massively send our resumes out to anyone who happens to have an opening for any job. We apply to what we are qualified for and we send out material that demonstrates we know what we are doing and we are qualified. When we go to a job interview, we make sure we look good, we sound good and we come across as someone who can be trusted. We don't show up at an interview looking like we just left the gym and having the confidence of a wet noodle.

Let's talk about the products we put out there for the consumer. Again, it seems that many writers have failed to remember that the consumer drives the business. We want to put the best quality product out there. Think as someone buying a product. Do you buy a product that was just "thrown together just to be sold?" or do you buy something that is quality? And yet, the rise in all of these DIY publishing programs has increased the number of people tossing projects out there that really are not the best quality projects. Yes, I know there are also projects we see in traditional publishing that do this as well. The rationale one author used is "Well, even if I get negative publicity, I am at least getting my name out there." Really?

As authors, it is important to realize that it is not just the story you are selling, but the entire package and you are part of it.

So what do we need to fix? Here are a few things to consider:

  • Learn basic grammar and writing skills. This also includes business communications (letters, emails, and phone conversations).
  • Learn and understand the business. This is equivalent to "go to school and get a degree." Learn how to be a writer.
  • Learn how to "Dress of Success". Although we might giggle at that book, the premise behind it was right on the money.
  • Conferences need to promote professionalism.
  • When we market books, think of how to do so to "demonstrate" a quality project. 
Although the business of writing might first originate as a hobby done in your sweats at home, when we move to the professional side of things, we leave those sweats at home.

I know this might seem like a bit of a rant, but look at yourself and the things you are doing. What is the image you are sending out to others? Who knows? Maybe if an image transformation is what it would take to get those rejection letters to stop!

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