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Your Reputation Always Precedes You

Pen and Notepad

To be a professional writer, to gain and keep a good reputation, you need to act like a professional. You can’t blow off responsibility and decorum because you are “a genius.” You just can’t. Don’t tell me that such-and-such fantastic writer spends his days drunk in a hotel room and then churns out brilliant novels in a cocaine fueled haze, misses all his deadlines, spits at publishers, and is beloved by all. Chances are you aren’t a genius – they are not thick on the ground – and I’ll wager his publisher, agent, publicist, and third and soon-to-be-ex-wife are all eagerly awaiting his fatal coronary so they can be rid of him. And write the tell-all book which will expose his nastiness to the world after he’s safely out of it.

So, dear writer, and I need to keep this in mind myself, let’s say you see an open call with the following guidelines: We seek short stories, 2K words max, no zombies, no rape, pedophilia, bestiality. Please don’t send that publisher a 10K novelette about a zombie apocalypse where the villain rapes the 8-year-old girl next door by means of a bull mastiff. I mean, just don’t. And, furthermore, don’t think publishers haven’t seen that story as a result of that sort of open call. More likely, though, if the publisher says “No reprints,” don’t send a reprint. If the publisher wants the story single-spaced in 8 point font, don’t sent it double-spaced in 12 point font.

Say you’ve gotten a contract or are participating in a round robin or other group project. If you say you’ll have your story in by such-and-such a date, do your dead level best to fulfill that promise. As a person who suffers from more than one debilitating illness, I understand that sometimes your body will fail you. Sometimes other life circumstances will get in your way. That’s not what I’m talking about here. Truthfully, sometimes circumstances just stop even the strongest of us from making our goals. Mental, emotional, physical illnesses. Family turmoil. Loss of parents, partners, spouses, children, even jobs. I am not talking about those things. I’m talking about something a good deal more frivolous — and something I see happening with some writers. I am urging you, for the sake of your reputation, not to ditch your obligations because it’s summer and you’d rather be swimming. Do that too many times and you’re apt to find those opportunities drying up.

If you get a bad review, don’t blow up on social media. It’s an opinion. Not everyone will like your work. When you feel as if no one likes your stuff, go to Amazon or Kobo or Barnes & Noble, and look up your favourite book — one you truly love. I’ll bet there are some 1-star reviews on that book which will curl your toes. Opinions. Seriously, everyone’s got one. Thicken your skin.

When you hire an editor, listen to him or her. That doesn’t mean you have to take every suggestion you editor makes. But you need to pay attention. Know why you are rejecting this or that suggestion. Understand why the editor suggested the change.

I usually say, “Treat other people the way you’d like them to treat you.” A very wise Man said that many years ago. Others have said it, too. No one ever said it better.

Reputation matters in business – and in the publishing business it matters a lot.

2 Responses to “Your Reputation Always Precedes You”

  1. Wendy Luane says:

    Good post. Bad behavior never ceases to amaze me. Maybe I should put that in a book.

    • Mary Ann says:

      Thanks for commenting. 🙂 I am often surprised when people behave badly and then are shocked when other people remember that bad behaviour.

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