Writerly Faux-Pas

The way a writer presents himself has a great deal to do with how well he does in his profession. Image is important, and the physical distance that often exists between authors and their publishers (and readers) is no excuse for poor behavior. Unfortunately, it’s a trap far too many writers fall into.

One part of the business every writer has to cope with is the rejection letter. Regardless of how politely the letters are worded, they always carry a sting. There are many authors, particularly those new to the business who have yet to earn a thick skin, who have shot themselves in the foot by protesting the rejection and/or personally attacking the editor. Lashing out will do nothing to change the editor’s mind about that novel or short story, but it will bring about two unpleasant consequences. The first is that there will be virtually no chance of any of that author’s work finding a place in that publication. Ever. The second is that the editor who was just pissed off may very well end up mentioning the writer to someone else in the business. Editors, like writers, tend to talk to one another, and black listing can happen.

An issue similar to the rejection letter is the bad review. Be it from a blog or an Amazon customer, there is no excuse for criticizing a reader for his or her opinion. These types of exchanges not only make the writer seem ungrateful to someone who spent time and/or hard-earned money to at least give his work a chance, but childish for not accepting the fact that not everyone will like the books. And even if the points mentioned in the review are pure foolishness, what good would it do to start an argument with someone who probably won’t be able (or willing) to grasp your points?

Other writers make themselves look bad by ducking payment to cover artists and editors. Expenses for indie writers can run high, but any contracts made for services need to be honored. Money owed should always be paid promptly upon completion of a job. This is both the ethical, professional thing to do, and it helps establish a good working relationship with an artist or editor who can be useful on future projects.

Finally, there is the issue of inter-writer relations. Contacts in the industry are vital. Yet, some writers make a point of attacking their peers. The reason for these conflicts usually stems from jealousy. Writing is a tough business, and it can be hard for some people to see other authors doing well while their own work isn’t selling. Nonetheless, it is always far better to keep one’s feelings on these matters to himself. At best, the opinion will be written off as sour grapes. At worst, it can result in a slew of one-star reviews if a well-known author’s fanbase is upset. Just look at the recent debacle regarding J.K. Rowling’s critic at The Huffington Post for a good example.

So, in closing, treat writing like any other profession. Be civil in your interactions and show appreciation where it’s warranted. Because we’re all in this business together, folks, and there’s a lot of people on the strands of that web. And who wants to continuously bump into enemies when there are allies to be had?

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