Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Don't Be a High Maintenance Writer

Us writers have a hard row to hoe. We deal with a lot of rejection and frustration, creative angst and our own fears. We want to  make a great impression on editors, publishers, readers, but we don't want to be run over or taken advantage of.

So how do we determine where the lines are drawn? How to think about furthering our careers, being frank and forthright without alienating the exact person who can do us the greatest good?

You sold a book. Congratulations! But your advance check hasn’t arrived and you just want to scream…don’t.

Your publishing company has dragged you through the wringer and you want to blast the whole company with an acidic email…oh, please don’t!

Gather your patience and thoughtfulness.  Polish up your professional demeanor and read below and find tips to help smooth your path.

If you want to be loved by editors and publishers one of the best ways is to meet your deadline early. Don’t rush to the point of screwing things up, but shock and surprise your editors by getting your work in ahead of schedule.  You can do this with a bit of planning. It brings joy to their hearts and frankly will curry a bit of favor.  They'll think kind thoughts when your name  is mentioned.

Another help is for you  is to find a way to balance your finances without being on a hair-trigger awaiting a check. Hounding an editor or agent for your missing check won’t get it to you any faster and you come across as desperate. Worse, you may be perceived as unprofessional. Naturally if it has gone past the date expected, inquire, but do so briefly, a simple inquiry, not a condemnation, and do it with a professional air. Nagging and pestering are no-nos.

Work on your voice. Speak aloud in the privacy of a closed room if you need to, but listen to yourself. Don’t let your words come across in a high-pitched scream or whine or in a rushed jumble of panicked words. Imbue your voice with confidence (not arrogance). Keep your voice in the lower ranges and speak in a friendly, measured manner, not a staccato babble.

Move away from the phone.  Just because you have one and your editor does as well doesn't mean you have to use it.  Don't call unless you've already got clearance or a request. The best way to communicate is a quick email.  It's easier to dash a few words back to you and it can be handled as they have time, thus being less intrusive.  And, if it's a question or a matter your editor can't handle, he or she can forward the request to the proper person.

And about that email. If you’re really pissed off about something, slow down and think. Draft your letter on a word document, not the email. Then save it and let it percolate. Don’t send it until it reads the way you intend it to and you’ve cooled down. Emails, as I think we’ve all learned, can take on a terrible life of their own. Don’t let it happen to you (again?).

Be old fashioned. Write thank you notes. Yep, you’ll truly endear yourself to your agent, editors and everyone in the business if you take a moment to write a thank you note when it’s appropriate. Don’t think “oh, they know I appreciated it”. Well, they probably do, and after all it’s a business too. BUT, doesn’t everyone like to be thanked when they go out of their way, go a little beyond the call of duty, or just do an everyday fine job?  Take a moment, write that note.  Oh, and be specific about what you're thanking them for so it comes across as genuine as you are.

Do your own research. Editors are busy. Don’t go bugging them for things you can find on your own. Check out magazines you want to write for, read them, study the masthead for your contact.  Really prowl the website for info. If it’s a book  your pedaling check out publishers and their guidelines. Just knowing the writer’s guidelines will make an editor want to smile and shake your hand. You would not believe how many queries and submissions they receive that are totally inappropriate to their publications.

Those are the suggestions for the day. Interwoven through them all is, be professional, be civil and be patient even when it’s terribly hard to do so. If you lose it, pester or maybe yell and scream you'll probably get less help than you hope for, in fact, I'll guarantee it. Don't forget, publishers, editors and agents deal with their own frustration, irritation and disappointments just like you do.

This is your career we’re talking about here. Don’t self-sabotage.

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