Sunday, October 23, 2011

Let's Talk About Writer Etiquette...

I'm not the nicest person in the world.  In fact, there are times that I'm one of the most foul-tempered people on the face of the earth.  But there's one thing I always am.


Never underestimate the Pavlovian tutorial that is growing up in the South.  I still say yes ma'am, no sir, thank you and please to anyone that might conceivably be my elder.  I hold doors open for people.  I moderate my language around people I don't know well. It's just ingrained in me. That courtesy is necessary for success in the publishing industry.

For example--last year one of my editors came to me with a problem author.  At first I couldn't understand what the problem was. Then I opened the manuscript.  If the writer disagreed with the editorial change or suggestion, he left snide, nasty, rude comments in the margins. I mean REALLY rude comments.  This author had a bachelor in the 1880s American West living in a 'pioneer' cabin with running water AND a sofa. So because it was that editor's first book with us, I took over the edits, letting the author know that his ability to go through the editing process like a mature adult was the thread upon which the publication of his book hung. 

Guess who didn't stay with us when we moved the imprint to Musa?

Writers should inherently understand the power of the written word.  After all, words are the tools we use daily.  And yet, every time I see an author behaving like an asshat online--bashing their agent or their publisher, whining about their edits, or worse--responding rudely to a legitimate review or critique--that author's name goes onto my mental "Do NOT Publish" list.  You know--I can't remember my phone number half the time--but I sure as heck remember the name of an asshat writer.

So think carefully before you hit 'send'.  Make absolutely certain that what you say can't come back and bite you.  The best response to a vicious review? None.  Tweet about your cat or your word count or your favorite football team, but don't be stupid enough to bash your publisher or editor or agent in public.  Take that energy and funnel it into something productive.  

My trick for that?  I create a character in my WIP that's mentally tagged as whoever has pissed me off.  Then, I kill them in the most cruel, vicious, disgusting fashion my fertile and evil little brain can cook up.  Then, when I see that asshat anywhere else online, I can just smile quietly and move on. "Thank you" and "Please" and "I appreciate it" will get you a heck of a lot further in any business.  Employ those words and the intentions behind them frequently.

Trust me when I say that--if you're on one publisher's DNP list, you're probably on quite a lot of them. It's never a good thing when the only thing between a writer and success is the writer.


Marian Perera said...

I sent a copy of my book to a popular online review site once and got back a vicious review - the reviewer called me a "dirty old pervert".

So on my LiveJournal (which isn't under my name or linked to from my website or blog), I quoted that and responded, "Excuse me, I am not old."

It was cathartic, it was as private as possible and it got me a sale to someone who did enjoy the book. But on the whole, a nasty review deserves obscurity rather than notoriety. And the Internet is forever.

Celina Summers said...

Precisely. At Musa, we have an authors loop where our authors can gather in safety to discuss things of this nature. Nice and private--as it should be. Otherwise, any response to a review that's negative should be no response, or a generic 'thank you.'

It's hard. I know it's hard. Sometimes you really want to kick someone in the teeth who just doesn't get it. But if you respond, the person who gets kicked in the teeth?

Is you.