Monday, September 24, 2012

If You Are A Published Author, You Are A Public Figure - Watch What You Say In Public

Last week, unless you were living in a cage, you probably saw the comments Republican Candidate, Mitt Romney got in trouble with during a private dinner. Following that comment, the media couldn't get enough of arguing whether or not privacy was dead and whether or not the things you say in private can be held against you. I bring this up today, not to discuss politics, but to look at this from a publishing perspective.

I have heard far too many authors make the comment, "the only thing that matters is that manuscript." They use this comment when it comes to pitches, queries and synopsis writing. While this is certainly a key element in the whole process of things, the author is still a BIG player in this game. Not from the standpoint of being the one who crafts the novel, but now, that author is a public figure. Once you decide to make that jump from "hobby" or "first time writer" to being a professional writer, you have now made yourself a public figure.

When I talk about making that jump, I am not simply talking about the authors who have sold, I am also talking about  those authors who are starting to pitch to editors and agents. We are talking about everything. Now you are in the public eye and everything you do and say will matter.

I am going to start with the obvious here. The Internet, although it is a powerful tool for creation, it also a powerful tool for ruining a career. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter and so forth are locations where what you say and how you act could certainly ruin your career. Websites too that you might create will play a role. Although I don't do this very often, I do know of many of my colleagues who do browse the websites of potential new clients.. You might just want to stop and ask yourself what that says about who you are. Is this someone readers will want to respect, regardless of the book quality?

What about conferences? Editors, agents and readers are around you all of the time, and yes, they have their eyes and ears on you. I know I mentioned this before but it is worth repeating. I was at the RT Conference in Florida a couple of years ago. I was at the Kensington Book Signing and as I was enjoying the light snacks and talking to authors, I over-heard an author going on and on about how she was looking for her next agent. Apparently, this would be her 4th if I remember right. As she talked, everything about the agents was supposedly trouble. What was terrible about this was the fact that she used the names of the agents (who I should add are all respectable and still doing amazing things). Did she know who else was listening in? No, it is not a matter of listening to private conversations here, she was pretty loud about it. And yes, she did pitch to me later... Hmmmm, what do you think?

Published authors are not immune either. The way you present yourself at conferences can either be a real plus or a real negative.It is interesting there is also a direct correlation between this behavior and book signings. If you cast a negative light around the conference, the odds are that no one is going to line up. Let me give you some very positive people who always have lines. These are amazing ladies and need to be applauded!
  • Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  • Brenda Novak
  • Cherry Adair
  • Jade Lee
These women are always there for people and always smiling and happy.

Although your writing is a private affair, being a published author makes you a very public figure.

1 comment:

  1. I've heard lots of advice about having a web presence prior to submitting. But maybe presenting oneself as a blank slate is not such a bad idea after all? To an agent's perspective, is a blank slate too much work or a potential benefit (if the writer is malleable enough)?