Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Business of Writing: Being a Professional Writer #ASMSG #IARTG #MFRWOrg

Author Nikki Tysoe from London, UK
(c)2008 by Alan Moore, Wikimedia Commons.
Although the concept of the "lonely writer's garret" still carries a certain romantic flair, once a writer has transitioned into preparing to make money off his or her words, he or she becomes a professional writer. 

But what does that mean, exactly?

Writers being creative beings, this can mean a number of different things in terms of personal appearance, behavior, and habits. For the writer who wishes to be perceived as a professional, these aspects center upon various demonstrations of common courtesy... the exercise of which seems to be eroding in this day and age of Internet anonymity.

Yep, I have my "Mom hat" on again. Feel fortunate that I'm not into taking selfies, or you'd be treated to my "hairy eyeball" look too! :D

I can't say it any better than Nikki Woods did in this article published 8/4/15.

As a professional writer, you should always remain mindful of how you come across to your audience, not only in your books or articles but in everyday correspondence tasks. This applies (but is not limited) to email and "earthmail" interactions with:
  • Literary agents, editors, cover and interior-layout designers, promotional companies, accountants, and other service personnel, prospective as well as contracted.
  • Booksellers and other event organizers, both before the event as well as giving thanks afterward. In fact, expressing appreciation can be the fastest way to a return invitation.
  • Book bloggers and other reviewers, when asking for reviews as well as optionally expressing thanks for a helpful review; and never engage a reviewer if you are in any way dissatisfied with the review. I already covered that advice in this blog post, but IMO it cannot be emphasized enough. (Insert "hairy eyeball" selfie. Again.)
  • Your fans—and this goes double for anything written online, even in "private" messages. Since any site can be hacked or otherwise monitored, the best policy is to presume that nothing is truly private, and structure your interactions accordingly.
  • Anyone with whom you need to send followup correspondence.
  • Can you think of any sector I have missed? Please leave a comment letting me know which ones! :)
Now there's a loaded word! For journalists, deadlines are usually perceived as just a means of structuring one's workday. For everyone else, especially those of us who write book-length fiction or nonfiction, adhering to content delivery deadlines that are established by another party such as a publisher can be problematical at best. And yet delivering a completed manuscript on time will set you apart from the madding crowd of authors who play fast-and-loose with their time—and with their editor's or publisher's patience.

Public appearances offer a slew of opportunities to present yourself as a professional writer.
  • Online. I have already covered fan interactions; here I refer to things such as the random tweets, retweets, pictures, videos, and status updates that you choose to share to your sundry social media platforms. As you decide upon your online persona, make sure that it jives with what you write, for that persona will become a part of your author brand. And then tweet/retweet/share accordingly. For example, if you write Christian fiction, I would advise against saying anything in a tweet that you wouldn't say in church!
  • Book vending & signings at bookstores and conferences. Your in-person persona should also jive—or at least not conflict with what you write. On the other hand, if you write about serial killers, I strongly suggest that you do not act like one in public! (Unless it's a PR stunt for your book promotion, but still, I'd think twice about using that tactic. :D) You can get a lot of mileage from being courteous, respectful, and appreciative of customers, non-customers, and event hosts alike, regardless of what type of books you write.
  • Writers' conferences. If you're a member of the Romance Writers of America, I don't need to tell you how to present yourself as a professional in this type of venue. You know already—or you should. Although I haven't attended a RWA National convention since 2011, I can pretty much imagine what 2015's looked like: out of 2,000 attendees, 1,942 were power-suited women (whether publishers, editors, agents, or authors), 55 were similarly attired men, and the remaining three were newbie women authors who didn't receive the dress code memo, showed up in blue jeans, and missed the entire first day of panels shopping for an emergency power suit and accessories. Okay, I jest... but barely.

    The dress-code memos will, of course, vary by genre. At a typical World Fantasy Convention you'll see no shortage of suits, but very few of those will be draped over authors, who sport pretty much whatever tickles their fancy, short of character costumes. Although come to think of it, I haven't attended a WFC since the debut of the first edition of Dawnflight in 1999, so you tell me if character costumes are in vogue at these non-fan cons now!
  • The grocery store. The what? Yes, there is always the possibility that you could be recognized in a chance public encounter, so your appearance and behavior choices matter there too.
As I always told my kids as they were growing up, no one will ever fault you for being polite, gracious, appreciative, respectful, and kind. And the people you impress with your professionalism may just remember those choices and become extra supportive of you and your work!


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...and each action this month is good for one chance to win an e-book copy of Snow in July. Please enter often, and good luck!

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