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Stop Being A Jerk – A Writer's Guide to Not Sucking At Life

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Through my work, I get to meet so many wonderful people, and I get to learn so much from them. But every once in a while, I run into an author who is not just mean, but vicious. Many times, these authors believe in their work fiercely. They are supremely confident, which is important, since we have to deal with so much rejection in this career path. But I think many of you will agree with me when I say there is a difference between confidence and arrogance and unfortunately many of the authors who are unkind fall into the latter category. Here are a few reasons why it pays to be kind in our industry (and in life)!

You Are A Jerk

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Remember that game telephone when we were kids? Where you sat in a circle and passed on a message, and it became more and more garbled as it went through the chain of people? Well think of the publishing industry like that, except your actions are what people are passing down and they may or may not become more exaggerated as the game progresses. What began as, “she was pretty nice” at a party may end up as “she is AWESOME” at the next party and similarly, what started as “She is really hard to work with” one day can translate to “I rather not read anything by her, I hear she is difficult,” the next.

My point is that like any other industry or tight knit circle news travels fast, and you don’t want to ruin your reputation before your career has even begun. Let’s face it, big time authors can get away with more because they’ve already made it (not that this makes it okay at all) but you are most likely just starting out, you’re building your reputation, your name, your brand as an author. Do you want that brand to be “ugh him/her” ? or ” He/she is lovely” ? You never know who will be where later on in their career. That intern you yelled at my just be a literary agent in a few years, and she might just remember you when you submit to her. That’s not the position you want to put yourself in plus, don’t be mean damn it.

Eventually when you have readers, you will need to interact with them as well and there is nothing worse than an author roasting online (go check Goodreads if you don’t believe me). If you make it as a writer, as much work as you put into it, you are a big fat pile of nothing without your readers, so it’s important to cultivate your people skills and become less of a dickhole.

You Are a Know it All

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A big part of succeeding as an author is doing your research.  Researching for your story, researching for the submission process, researching the best drinks to mix when you get rejected. If you think you’ve got it all figured out, you might end up sending your query to Mr. Brown as Mrs. Brown by accident, and you also might neglect the fact that they don’t rep your genre or that they only take email queries and you just wasted your stamps. Research is also important when it comes to marketing. If you’re self-publishing, you should know what you’re paying for, look up reviews of the company you’re thinking of working with and really find out what it is they do before you spend a lot of money for something you don’t understand.

If you don’t take the time to follow submission guidelines, to become a part of the industry you want to be accepted into, then don’t get upset when all you get are rejections.  This also goes for writing you have the “next best seller” in your query, starting your manuscript with someone’s alarm clock  going off, or telling agents they have till Tuesday of next week to respond or you’re self publishing. Just. Don’t. Do. It.

You Are A Strong, Independent Writer, and you Don’t Need ANYBODY

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When someone publishes a book, there is a lot that goes into it. Obviously, writing it is the first step but if you think that’s the hardest part you might be deluding yourself. After writing (and revising a lot) comes editing, and cover design, and marketing until every vein in your body screams when it hears the word “marketing”.

When an author is traditionally published, there is a team of people working behind them to get this all accomplished (hopefully) but even then the author is expected to do marketing and promote their own book, you don’t get to sit back and watch everyone else work while you do nothing. Things don’t work much differently when you self-publish. All that stuff still needs to get done except you need to put that team together yourself (or be prepared to make it rain, and pay out of pocket). Anybody can write something and pop it on Amazon, it doesn’t make you special, and it doesn’t mean you’re going to sell anything either. It takes a lot of work, roll up your sleeves, lace up your boots, grab your Gatorade kind of work. So if you think for one second that you don’t need anybody’s help to make your book successful, you might’ve had too many drinks this morning. It takes the support of fellow writers, a solid marketing strategy, a lot of time, (and if you haven’t got that a lot of money, patience and persistence. Your book does not become a bestseller by virtue of you believing it will,  no matter how hard you wish upon that star, that’s just not enough. I think it’s understandable to be upset, disenchanted when things don’t work out in your favor but that doesn’t mean the solution is to say “TO HELL WITH EVERYONE.” You’re going to make mistakes along the way while finding what path works for you, but if you burn your bridges, it’ll be a lot harder to figure out.

You Are A Pest

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Whoever came up with the idea that if you’re persistent enough you will get what you want should be banned from coming up with more ideas. I’m serious. Not because persistence isn’t a good trait (or a necessary one if you’re a writer) but because people have misinterpreted persistence for PESTERING and complaining your way to success. I once had an author brag to me about getting something for free because she complained enough, even though the company had done nothing wrong in the first place, she went out of her way to badger my coworker, causing him weeks of stress and anxiety because she wanted to get her way. “I’m pretty proud of myself,” she said winking at me, “I just kept going at it till I got my way.” I’m sorry, but no. You want a service? Pay for it. If the company messes up and offers you something for free to make up for it, awesome. Should you complain anyway even though someone is doing their best to help you, just because you think you’ll get something out of it?

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And I wish she were the only person who did this, but the customer-is-always-right-brigade is strong within the author community, and they seem to pay their bills this way, cutting corners by torturing the people they employ for help. I am not saying that you shouldn’t get the services you pay for and be happy with them, of course you should be, but you should know what you’re paying for ahead of time and don’t employ sneaky tactics to get discounts, especially from smaller author services companies who have your best interest at heart.

Another pestering disguised as persistence staple is spam. Spamming on Twitter, spammy emails, FB spam messages – none of these are okay. I am not going to review your book because of a blind FB message to fifty people, or retweet something for you because you tagged me and asked me to when we never talk otherwise. Reaching out to people on social media only when you need them is the opposite of how you should be running your social media.

You Ruin it for Everybody Else

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Speaking of social media, how about those authors who sell their books using the #MSWL or #PITMAD tags, awesome right? Not really. Twitter events like #MSWL (where agents and editors tweet what they’d like to see in their inbox) have certain rules. One of those rules is to not self promote your already published books using those tags. Some people simply don’t know what the tag is, see everyone else using it, and jump on the bandwagon, some people do it on purpose.

I can understand not knowing the rules involved in an event, and getting excited at the prospect of pitching and just going for it. But what of the people who are told the rules and get upset? This happened at the last Twitter event, where after nicely informing someone of the guidelines, they proceeded to rant about how horrible the event was and how lucky they were they didn’t need or want an agent. That’s okay, but some people do, so don’t ruin it for the rest of us by being a whiny baby.

Try and research what a tag is for before you use it, and if it’s not for you, instead of bashing it why not support your fellow authors who are participating? You know like, thinking of someone else for a change? Remember that?

You Are Self – Centered

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During an online pitch contest last year, one self-published author was on the event tag, calling authors participating in the event stupid, and saying that agents were useless. This author said he was really successful with his own books, and was supporting his family on the money he made. 250x150px-7343acfb_tumblr_m2zvpncQmk1r22lig

I think it’s great that he was doing well for himself, and had found success in self-publishing but I don’t think that gives him the right to turn around and tell people who are trying to go the traditional route that they were wasting their time. This author had over ten books out, which means he’s been at it for quite some time and as anyone in self-publishing knows having many titles out is a good way to gain a loyal readership. It bothered me because he wasn’t acknowledging that work, just his success and more than that belittling those who had chosen a different path from his. It also sounded to me that he didn’t fully grasp how agents worked. It’s unfair, and really just stupid, to say agents do nothing for authors. Can you be successful without an agent? Yep. Can you be successful with an agent? Yep again. Everybody’s journey in publishing is different, and just because something worked for YOU and other things didn’t doesn’t mean it’s your job to call anyone who dares take a different approach than you laughable. I think it’s much more conducive to share your personal experience in a respectful and insightful way, too often I come across posts blasting “evil” publishers or “horrible” self-published authors. Really, everyone needs to grow up. There is good and bad in both camps, and belonging to one over another  doesn’t dictate or guarantee your destiny. Remember that. You also never know what path you will want to go down in the future, but you might not have that choice if you burn your bridges. The indie author community is extremely supportive, but  if you have a history of disparaging them, they might not be as open to promoting you. Alternatively, the traditional publishing world is a small one. If you go on an epic rant against all things traditional, expect everyone to remember that when you decide you want to submit to people in the future.

I was badly burned by a small “publishing company” last year, but I this was MY experience, it doesn’t mean that it will happen to everyone from here on out into infinity. That’s just silly.

So before you began preaching on the evils of xyz online, maybe look at it from a different angle, and talk about how your approach worked for YOUR book, the one time it did. Because guess what? it might not work out the same way next time, and you my friend have already taken sides.

You Give the Rest of Us a Bad Name

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Every time an author goes rouge, the rest of us suffer. “This is why authors can’t interact with reviewers,” said every blogger after a certain author may or may not have stalked a reviewer online last year, “authors are fucking crazy,” says my friend sometimes. But you know what? For every one bitchy author out there, there are thousands who are lovely, who are kind, appreciative, humble, hardworking and diligent. It’s encouraging to see authors supporting one another online, and although those few mean ones can get under my skin, really they are the minority.

To the authors who do their research, who don’t get mad when nicely reminded of the rules, and who understand that not everyone needs to follow the same path as they do, I salute you, I high five you, I LOVE you.

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Young adult fantasy author.

2 thoughts on “Stop Being A Jerk – A Writer's Guide to Not Sucking At Life

  1. Ha! I have to say, I see a lot of the same arrogance in the photography world. Especially from pre-digital photographers that think newbies have “ruined the business.” Some people are just jerks and, unfortunately, the jerks usually stand out and give all the soft-spoken nice people in our field a bad name just because they are out there being a jerk as loud as they can. All good points here, Claribel!

    Like

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