Tuesday, July 26, 2011

. Avoid Being A High Maintenance Writer

All right, us writers have a hard row to hoe. 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 some good?

You need to cultivate good relations, dredge up some patience from the bottom of your soul and put on a good public face.  That doesn't mean you have to be a doormat, but here's some friendly advice to help you find that middle ground that's so important. 

So let's think.  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! Read on 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. Even a day or two will glean you points in your favor.
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 (no matter what you  may think on that subject) 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 and with 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 shrill. 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. Allow the other party to speak and don't cut them off.  It'll get you a lot further and it'll get you a reputation that won't include having secretaries tell you the person you want to talk to isn't in.

Move away from the phone. Just because you have one and your editor has one 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 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 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 the 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. 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. This is your career we’re talking about here. Don’t self-sabotage.


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