Did you know that a simple set of etiquettes could stand between you and your dream of becoming a professional writer? How you behave in public, talk to your fans, editors, and publishers, and what you post online makes a difference. So when you want to become a professional author, behave like one.
I’m sure you have heard the stories. Authors going crazy on Goodreads because somebody posted a bad review. Young writers stalking publishers because they didn’t reply to their email from last week. Famous bestselling authors flying high on drugs. There are tons of examples of writers behaving badly, but what about the To-Dos? Let’s dive into that.
When I first started writing, I would roll out of bed in my pj’s, sit at my desk and jot down whatever came to me. Hell, some days I didn’t even leave the bed. But as my work grew, so did I. And that’s when I got the best piece of advice somebody has ever given me. If you want others to take you seriously, you have to start by doing that yourself. Behave like a professional author, because if you treat writing like a hobby it will stay just that. But if you treat it like your profession, it will become just that. You don’t show up at the office in your pj’s, do you?
Personal presentation matters. No matter if you go to a book signing, a networking event, or picking up a loaf of bread. Refrain from getting drunk or high in public. Make sure you comb your hair, brush your teeth, and put on some deodorant. Leave those stained sweaters at home. By taking good care of yourself, you show others that you also take good care of your work. That is interesting for editors, publishers, and readers. Seriously, they do not bullshit when they tell you to dress for success.
Isn’t it ironic that we writers are masterful with words, but most of us falter in regular communication? I struggle with how to word an email to my publisher, if I should check in with them or not and how to thank a fan for their review. But I learned a lot along the way and picked up some advice here and there. With that knowledge, I’ve set some ground rules for myself:
Never assume! Seriously. Yes, it sucks that a publisher hasn’t replied to you when they say they would, but guess what? They have lives. Things happen! I once was frustrated at a publisher who didn’t get back after we hit off so well. But when I called her, it turned out she took care of her dying mother. Luckily I had rules number two and three, which saved my face.
Always stay respectful and friendly. It is not always easy not to jump to conclusions. Especially when you are nervous. That doesn’t mean you have to show it. Keep your anxiety to yourself and remain a decent human being when you reach out to somebody in your network. Trust me when I tell you, it’s never personal. Ever.
Give people time. You work in a very time-consuming industry. Deal with it. Things happen, priorities shift. People do forget. As a writer, you might only have to deal with your agent, editor, or publisher, but they deal with dozens of authors daily. So yes, sometimes you slip their mind. Give them time.
If you make appointments, you can ask for an update a week or so after the date has passed. If you send in your manuscript, count on several months to a year before hearing anything. And no, it does not help to reach out before the first six months have passed. That’s just how long it takes. Bite your tongue and practice some patience.
Presentation. Again, spend time on your presentation. What you say and how you say it, matters in how professional you come across. Help yourself. Install Grammarly on your computer, add a decent signature to your emails and refrain from becoming too personal with your business contacts. Yes… being a professional writer means business.
One of the most important things on your way to the top is to make the right connections. Networking at writer conferences and other events will help you with that. Just keep a few things in mind.
At a networking event, everybody is there to sell but nobody plans to buy. It’s that simple. So it helps to make meaningful connections without actually wanting something from a person. Introduce yourself with your first and last name, show interest by asking questions and see what you have to offer them instead.
Publishers have dozens of authors coming up to them at events, pitching their work and hoping to be the next discovery. It will benefit you more to see if the publisher you consider, is the right fit for you. Do their ideals match yours and how are they in their communication. When you do have a connection, you’ll see that the publisher inquires after your work themselves. Have your short elevator pitch ready for that and you are golden.
How you interact with people also plays a role in how professional you come across. Don’t just use your social media to spam people with advertising your next book. Or even worse, post that said advertising on other authors’ pages. That’s not cool. Just as it is not cool to ask people to remove bad reviews, trash them for them or even openly attack them. Just accept that you cannot write for everybody, and there is no need to do that either.
Instead, be thoughtful of what you put out there. Thank people who post reviews (yes, the bad ones as well). They took the time out of their day for you. They read your work and found it important enough to let you know how they felt about it. That’s worth something! Don’t explain or defend yourself. Ever. A person’s opinion is just that. Their opinion.
Now, go forth and behave like the professional author you are!