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Think like a pro and remember it’s a business

(This is a redux, mash-up, and an update of a couple of posts I did several years ago. I’m reviving them because of a trend I’ve been noticing–again–among writers. To be honest, it is also fueled by some recent current events. So, if it seems familiar, that’s why–ASG)

So treat it as one. Several years ago, I came across a FB post by someone I respect a great deal. He has one of the most unverifiable jobs there is in publishing. No, not reading the slush pile, although that is part of his job. He has taken it upon himself to do what so many publishers don’t do. He responds to those who send something in, letting them know whether or not their work has met the minimum threshold to be passed up the line for further consideration. Believe me, that is definitely more than a number of publishers–or agents– do. Too many simply never get back to you unless they are interested or unless you keep prodding until they finally tell you something.

What caught my eye with his post was how unprofessional someone had been in response to the editor’s email letting them know their story had not been passed up the line. Now, I know first-hand how badly it stings when you get a rejection. It’s like someone telling you your baby is ugly. But it happens and we have to accept it with grace and move on. Yes, we can kick and scream and curse in private but you do not send a note telling the editor how wrong they were. Nor do you tell them that the title has been published during the time the editor was considering it, especially if the editor has gotten back to you in less than half the time the FAQ says it normally takes.

And that is where this particular author screwed up. Not only did they send back an unprofessional note to the editor, insuring he will remember the author and not in a good way, but he went ahead and self-published the book without removing it first from consideration by the publishing house. That is two very big strikes and, in this case, the author doesn’t get a third strike before he’s out.

But this clueless author isn’t alone in behaving badly. Yet another author powered up his computer when he should have walked away from it. In this case, the writer submitted his work for consideration to an agent, said agent rejected it and then made the mistake of not remembering the work when she and the author met later for a face-to-face pitch session. Never mind that the agent probably receives thousands of submissions each year. Never mind the agent had been seeing other authors with other pitches that particular day. She obviously hadn’t read his earlier submission or she would have remembered it. How dare she!

So, instead of asking himself why he had just received rejection #319, this author decided it was a good idea to go onto his blog, name the agent and then proceed to try to shame her for her actions — or should I say inaction?

As I read his post, all I could think of was a situation some years ago where an author went on a tirade on his blog against his editor who had sent back edits he didn’t agree with. By the time his agent saw, or heard about, the post, it had gone viral. Yes, he finally took it down, but the damage had been done. I have a feeling that author is still trying to climb out of the hole he dug for himself.

In this instance, the author was so tied up with his own ego, he didn’t realize that he was shooting himself in the foot when it came to doing what he wanted — getting an agent. This time, the agent he was attacking took screen caps of his blog and then did her own post about what happened. That post has been picked up and is making the rounds of social media. The author now has the reputation of being, at worst, an online bully and, at best, someone who can’t control himself.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. If you are a writer, you have to treat your writing as your business. That means you have to be businesslike in your dealings with others in the industry, especially if you are trying to get them to buy your work or act as your agent. Ask yourself before writing that scathing blog or tweet or FB post if you would be doing this if the person in question was someone you had interviewed with for a mundane job (something not related to writing). Is it something you would want a perspective employer reading before your interview with them?

Remember, the internet is forever. Just because you take a post down, it doesn’t follow that the post hasn’t been memorialized elsewhere. So pull your head out of your ass and think before hitting the send button. Otherwise, don’t be surprised when you find you have just killed your chances , not only for a traditional publishing career but for a successful indie one as well. People have long memories and social media insures situations like the above aren’t soon forgotten.

More than that, you have to keep in mind that social media is a tool and, like all tools, it can be used against you. What you say can be twisted or taken out of context. So think carefully before hitting enter. Be professional when dealing with fans and others in the business. Be a pro–a business pro.

You need to sit back and consider what you just wrote as a blog post or FB status post or Tweet or whatever the social media platform of the day is called — before you hit the enter button. It means looking at the long term as well as the short term benefits of any action you are considering when it comes to your career. It also means doing what is best for you in this ever-changing field of ours.

So let’s start with the elephant in the room: social media. Almost every author and editor, publisher and agent, has a Facebook page. They Tweet and Reddit and whatever else is out there. Our feeds are filled with a number of political posts. Some are thoughtful and well reasoned. They look at the issues and the strengths and weaknesses of the issues. In short, they are the sort of posts where debate are encouraged and personal attacks aren’t tolerated. Then there are the ones where the pro in question starts out by condemning — or worse — anyone who doesn’t fall in line with their political or social beliefs. They ridicule those who don’t think the “right” way. They will instantly block or unfriend those who aren’t as liberal or conservative or whatever as they are.

I don’t know about you, but I enjoy discussing politics — and just about anything else — with people who are willing to discuss and debate the issues with me. I also remember those who dig their heels in the sand, put their fingers in their ears and try to shout me down. In other words, online behavior can and does impact my decision on what books I buy.

But it goes beyond political discussion or diatribe. It is behavior in general. As noted above, if a writer takes to social media to do a hatchet job on an agent or editor and doesn’t back up what they are saying, well, that author comes across as a prima donna and only does himself harm. When an agent or editor takes to social media and makes fun of an author, especially someone trying to break into the business, they are no better than the prima donna author. They go on my little list (that is getting longer with each month that passes) of folks I don’t necessarily want to do business with.

Then there are the authors — or anyone else, for that matter — who look at social media as their own private promotion train. You know the ones I’m talking about. Those authors or agents who Tweet constantly about their books. Every other Facebook post is about this book they have written or that book they are about to publish. They fill your feed with what are nothing but ads and, all too often, poorly written ones. I get the need to promote your work. Everyone in this business does. But there is a reason why folks love using their DVRs. They can fast-forward through the commercials and when you social media feed is little more than one ongoing infomercial, folks are going to do the FB version of  fast-forwarding. They will block your posts on their feed or unfriend you or both.

There is more when it comes to social media but it all basically comes down to this: If you were talking to someone face-to-face, would you say to them what you are about to post on social media? A second question you need to ask is if you would say it to them in a crowded room where everyone can and will hear you say it? Finally, ask yourself if you would say it in front of your mother or grandmother, priest or pastor, or how about your child? If you answered “no” to any of this, you might want to seriously consider whether you want to put it out on social media where the world can see it.

Always remember, your social media presence is the only interaction most of your fans and potential fans will ever have with you. This is your chance to win them over to your side, not alienate them because you are being a douche.

There’s something else to remember. Over the weekend, the MSM proved just how dangerous social media can be. There was a “confrontation”, and I use that term very loosely, between a Native American and a MAGA cap wearing, Catholic high school attending teen. Instantly, the optics on the piece were skewed because the media did not check to see if there were any other angles of video. It didn’t check to see what else might have been going on. Most of all, it didn’t see if there was an ounce of truth in the angle they were championing. Instead, they ran with with story that these white Catholic, Trump-loving boys had acted aggressively toward the Native American Vietnam vet.

Social media picked up the angle and ran with it. There were demands from such “celebrities” as Kathy Griffin, for the names and addresses of these kids. Yes, they were doxxed on Twitter. There have been death threats against them and their families.

But oops, guess what? Things weren’t exactly as they first appeared. Questions are now being raised about who the aggressor might have been. There’s video easily available to show others, who were outside the frame of the original video, doing their best to escalate the situation. But the media has only recently started backtracking on their narrative.

In the meantime, these teens have had their lives turned upside down. How many of them will find their college applications given extra scrutiny because of what happened? They did nothing wrong but social media and the MSM has done its best to make them into pariahs.

This is the danger of social media and why we have to think twice before hitting that enter button.

I guess what I’m saying is that, no matter whether you are looking at promoting your work or tackling current events on your social media accounts, approach it like you would anything else in business. Look at the strengths and weaknesses. Look at what will best serve your needs and help you reach your goals. Then go for it. Just remember that this is your profession and you need to always keep that in mind.

18 Comments
  1. Luke #

    Be polite.
    Be professional.
    And have a plan to kill everyone you meet?

    January 22, 2019
    • You forgot one more step. Have friends ready to help bury the bodies.

      January 22, 2019
    • I’ve been asked how many good friends I have. Very few, because I define good friend as “if they call at 0300 and ask me to come to a location with a vehicle, tarps, rope, and/or bail money, I’ll phone in sick to work and go without asking questions.” I’ve got a lot of folks I enjoy spending time with, but very few good friends.

      January 22, 2019
  2. It seems to me that a business internet/social media presence should be business only. A separate personal presence (maybe restricted access) is where you can have your political discussions, etc. Your comments may still come back to haunt you, but at least people browsing your business aren’t exposed to it.

    January 22, 2019
    • Oh, very definitely this. I do my political stuff on one set of blogs – the writer blog and the Tiny Bidness and personal FB – that’s for the bland, every day matters, and I do not cross those lines.
      I haven’t yet been the object of a social media meltdown, nor do I want to be. I can only think that I internalized the public affairs and military broadcasting standard of what you can and should say in public. Or as one of my early station managers advised, “If you have to stop and think about if you should say something on air … then you had best not say it.”

      January 22, 2019
    • snelson134 #

      The problem is that Facebook is using its’ algorithms to try and determine all the accounts that are “yours” and then tell people “Oh, you follow Cedar? Well she’s connected with Tiny Publisher, and also has author pages for Fir, Pine, and Oak.” My employer had each employee create a Facebook account 10 years ago. I never posted anything to it, but lately Facebook has been pushing for me to link my business and personal accounts. The account names are different, and I NEVER mention who I work for anywhere.

      January 24, 2019
  3. Zsuzsa #

    The major problem I see here is the fact that not every thought that goes through your head needs to be verbalized–much less posted on the internet and made immortal. I completely understand the way most of these “badly behaving authors” feel: if I had sent in a proposal to an agent, had it rejected, and then when I talked to her, she didn’t remember it, I too would wonder if she’d ever bothered to read the original proposal or if she’d just half-skimmed it and sent a form rejection. But I wouldn’t say it, not aloud to strangers certainly. If I were an editor, I could easily imagine that mocking the stuff that came through the slush pile would be a big part of how I got through my day. But I would mock it to myself, or MAYBE my husband and friends. Not to the world.

    Feeling these things is natural; saying them is stupid. By censoring yourself online, you aren’t being “inauthentic,” you’re being polite and civilized.

    January 22, 2019
    • How many people have been tripped up by the “reply all” default on business e-mail?

      After learning from someone else’s horrible mistake, I made a rule that if an e-mail or other communication generated strong negative emotions of some kind, I logged off. At least half an hour had to pass before I logged back in to answer or deal with the matter. That has saved me lots and lots of grief thus far.

      January 22, 2019
    • “Unfiltered thought process” is what goes into a diary if it has to go anywhere. Out of the system, onto the page. I am inclined to think that if one would not put it into a diary in case someone found it. One should not put it on Social media.

      January 23, 2019
  4. Christopher M Chupik #

    “This is the danger of social media and why we have to think twice before hitting that enter button.”

    But the time for rage is NOW! NOW, before you think! Thinking is White Privilege Supremacy! RAGE!

    January 22, 2019
  5. Evenstar #

    The older I get the more I dislike social media. My current writing ambitions don’t rise past fanfiction but I wouldn’t want a huge social media presence as an author.

    January 22, 2019
  6. 23 skidoo

    January 22, 2019
  7. TRX #

    > Just because you take a post down, it doesn’t follow that the post hasn’t been memorialized elsewhere. So pull your head out of your ass and think before hitting the send button.

    The part that amazes me about all this, is that so frequently the people involved have been online their entire lives, or at the very least all their adult life. How the internet works should be as obvious as brething to them. Yet many operate at a “you must be kidding” level of cluelessness…

    January 22, 2019
    • Mary #

      It’s not like people haven’t always done things that are rash because of their high possible cost, which is ignored for its low likelihood.

      January 22, 2019
  8. Rejections hurt. “Rewrite this this way, because that’s how I’d do it if I wrote the book” also hurt when you have to pay attention to them. I reached the point with one work that I could not open e-mail from the editor without reaching for antacids. We ended up parting ways on friendly terms and the manuscript remains unpublished, but at least I can see the file without my pulse and blood-pressure spiking.

    January 22, 2019

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