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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Writing Tip Wednesday--Professional Behavior

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! I’ll be discussing career topics for the next several months. For writing craft topics, see the Labels list in the left sidebar as you scroll down the page or check out my handbook in e-book or print.

The topics of edits, author branding, websites, social media, marketing and promotion, and blogging all lead to one very important aspect of being an author—Professional Behavior. Any and all missteps can have significant consequences.

The worst possible indiscretion is plagiarism. Three words… DON’T DO IT. Copying an author’s work does not make a person a writer. It makes her a thief. It’s illegal and on the same level with piracy. In the age of the internet, plagiarism is very easy to detect and could land the accused in a lawsuit.

The next author-behaving-badly misdeed involves reviews. Authors should never, ever, ever rate or review a book poorly with the intent to increase her own sales or rankings. Yes, writers are readers and they have opinions about the books they read. However, trashing someone’s book without reading it or with the sole purpose of making it less appealing to buyers will likely cause a backlash from the author’s loyal readers and writer friends. If an author reads a book and is compelled to write an unfavorable review, she should include constructive comments and accurate examples of the book’s problems. Think twice about leaving a less-than-glowing review under a pen name. Whether honest or not, the review reflects on the reviewer-author. If an author is on the receiving end of a poor review, her best course of action is to ignore it. Refrain from engaging or responding to the reviewer, even if the review makes mistakes about plot problems, character names, etc. Some people live for putting down others. Don’t sink to that level.

Everyone has his/her own political, religious, economic, etc. views, but arguing about them on Facebook and Twitter—where editors, agents, readers, and fellow authors may see—probably isn’t a wise choice. Don’t bait others into commenting and don’t succumb to baiting unless you’re willing to deal with the fallout. Loss of readers, loss of book sales, etc. First impressions are difficult to change.

Although unauthorized use of images got several mentions in previous topic posts, it bears mentioning again. Purchase or use free images from reputable stock image sites or get permission from the photographer or artist for original artwork. Piracy is stealing, whether the commodity is books or art. Respect the artist and her right to make a living from her hard work.

Facebook etiquette can’t be repeated enough. Do not friend people and immediately spam them with private messages or posts on their walls about your books, blogs, websites, publishing services. More often than not, that kind of behavior earns an “unfriending” and a block. Social media is social first. Marketing and promotion posts belong on the author’s own timeline. “Be sure to like my author page to see all my updates!” with a link in a status post provides an opportunity for others to like the page if they wish to—without being spammed.

Return edits on time. Part of being a published author is behaving like a professional one and that includes prompt attention to time-sensitive responses, like edits, cover art questionnaires, and contracts.

Blog posts should refrain from insulting authors, readers, publishers, editors, agents, etc. Informational and educational articles can make others aware of unethical practices, but the advice must be based on actual evidence, not hearsay. He told her and she told me his second cousin twice removed heard that No-name Publishing is underpaying royalties could easily turn into slander. A warning can be issued without finger-pointing when carefully worded. Bad-mouthing others can result in retaliation.

An author can brand herself a diva by her treatment—or mistreatment—of fans or other authors. Without readers, an author has no audience. Treat them with respect and appreciation. Author A may have hit the New York Times Bestseller List, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s a better writer than Author B. It simply means she sold more books. A lot more than writing ability influences the publishing industry and sales. Keep the ego in check.

Today’s publishing world is small. Word of an author’s behavior can quickly spread between publishers, editors, agents, authors, and readers. Writing is a job/career like any other. Do your best to create and maintain a professional reputation.

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

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