Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Few Words On Professionalism

Over the years I've seen authors do a lot of crazy things online. Today I'm going to talk about just a few of them.

Being an author means that a lot of my business is conducted online. This means the internet is essentially my office. I communicate with my boss (editor) via email. I interact with customers (readers) via blogs and social networking sites. Instead of drinks after work with coworkers, I socialize with fellow authors through private Yahoo groups and Instant Messengers. As in any business, it's important to be professional. You don't roll into work and start cursing and ranting to the room at large about your crappy paycheck. You don't shout from the rooftops when you have grievances about the company you work for. If we're unhappy about such issues, we go to our boss and discuss the matter in a civilized and intelligent manner.

However, there are some authors who either don't care or simply forget that the internet is indeed a public place. Anyone who happens across your name can read everything you say. So, I'll start by sharing a few things I've personally seen or experienced that left me dumbfounded. A quick note. The review site references below are things I've come face to face with over the last year and half as I do happen to work behind the scenes of a review site.

Text speak. I’m amazed at how many use text speak to send a message to a review site. Authors, words are your business. Do not use 'ur' in the body of an email when requesting a review.

Complaining about your publisher(s) on Facebook. Social networking sites have never been and will never be the proper place to air your dirty laundry. If you have legitimate issues take them to the appropriate people. Your agent, editor, publisher. If that fails, if nothing is resolved, then consider talking privately with other authors with the same publisher. Discuss how best to proceed. If there are real problems with this publisher (Dorchester for example) then clearly something has to be done. A lawyer might be required. If you're concerned about other authors being duped by this same publisher, then let places like P & E know what's going on. Talk to Publisher's Weekly and Dear Author. It's definitely good to get the word out, but do it the right way.

Royalty whining. Again, going on and on about your low royalties on Facebook or Twitter is not going to sell more books. I've personally seen authors plead with their Facebook friends, 'please buy my book'. That's so far from professional it should be a given.

Angry emails. Please, think before hitting send. Stop and breathe before leaving nasty comments to reviewers because they didn’t LOVE your book. I can't believe how often this happens. I've had my share of blah reviews, but firing off a message filled with curse words to the review site is not a smooth move. One important thing to remember here is that reviewers are avid readers. They review because it helps feed their addiction for books. They have friends. They blog. Do you really want to shoot off at the mouth because you got a 3 instead of a 5? Still, if you feel this strongly about a review site, maybe all the reviews you get from them are tepid or lame, then send a note to your publisher and ask them to stop sending your books to that site, but do it in a civilized way. If the review site is buying your books and reviewing them on their own, then just suck it up and count it as one more book sold. In the end, remember that a bad review is not the end of the world. We all get them.

Read before asking. I've seen this happen on my publisher author loops, often. So many of us are in a hurry and we tend to fire of a message filled with questions to our publisher before taking the time to see if the question was already answered elsewhere. For instance, a new way to receive your royalty statements can be confusing. However, check the publisher's business loop, or ask on the author loop before filling your publisher's inbox with questions that she/he already answered. The publishers I write for are busy people. They're working on statements, formatting, marketing, new releases, etc. Don't hold that process up because you failed to do a quick check first.

Cursing. I have a dirty mouth sometimes, I admit it. However, I save those nasty words for private email. Using the F word over and over in your status updates is beyond annoying and you're likely to offend someone. Readers, editors, agents. Clean it up. Most of us want editors and agents to take us seriously. When they read your disgusting *&%$#@$ status updates she/he is definitely not taking you seriously.

That massive backlist. This is not something I see often, but a few authors do this so regularly that I'm betting any reviewer reading this will automatically know exactly who I'm talking about. Please, for the love of all that is holy, DO NOT send a review site all 50 books in your backlist for review, then send them all again a month later when they don’t ALL get reviewed right away. And then again a month after that. And a month after that. I will not use names, but if you're reading this please please stop. They're in the database already!

Read those instructions. Every review site has a list of instructions on how to submit a book for review. They need certain information and they can't list your book until they get that information. So, sending a review site 50% of the info about your book and making them hunt down the other 50%, and then not even bothering to have said 50% on your website, yeah, that's incredibly annoying. We authors want those reviews completed yesterday, but that can't happen if they have to dig clear to China just find the ISBN or page count, or heat level, etc.

More about instructions. The same goes for submissions. Most publishers have specific writing guidelines. Please read them. You're wasting your time and theirs if you send them something that doesn't fit with their line.

Profile pictures. Oh boy. What can I say about this particular topic. I guess all I can really say is that using cleavage shots as your profile picture is...tacky. Potential editors and agents do not want to see your boobs. Keep your profile picture clean. Tess mentioned in one post about author branding. Definitely a great idea! Use an image that ties in with your website. If you don't have something of that nature, then do what a lot of authors do and use a nice headshot or book cover. Just please, keep those pretty D cups under wraps!

Be nice. Once upon a time, saying 'please' and 'thank you' was second nature. I've noticed that's not the case anymore. This is an example of what I've personally seen at the review company I work for:

My new RS bk called "Whatever Title". Pls review. Ty.

Okay, we all love our cell phones. And it's lots of fun to use text speak. But when asking for someone to review your book you might at least use complete sentences. And actually typing out the words 'thank you' is a good thing, trust me. Also, it never hurts to say something to the person your requesting a review from. If I submit my book myself to a review site--I don't have to very often because my publisher does it--then it's because I like their site. I've browsed their reviews and felt they were honest and well written. So, I let the review site know that in my email. Complimenting is not necessary, of course. It's simply a nice thing to do.

Those gorgeous signature lines. Yahoo Groups are a great way to promote your books. Talking to readers, getting to know them, sharing a little about yourself. It's all good. However, having 100 lines of stupid nonsense in your signature line that makes everyone on digest insane is NOT. You do not need a review quote for every book you ever wrote in your signature line. You do not need fifty banners either. Keep it short! One banner, your website/blog link, a few titles. That keeps the poor folks on digest from creating voodoo dolls of you.

And now some very good advice on professionalism from Ellora's Cave Editor-in-Chief, Kelli Collins:

Probably the most eye-popping examples of unprofessionalism I see on a regular basis are in query letters and submissions. Let me just say this: Yes, I work for an erotica publisher. And yes, I can discuss sex all day long…in the context of your book. Please, for the love of all that’s virginal, do NOT give me specifics on your personal life in your query letters. I don’t want to know about the experiences that make you an expert in BDSM, or threesomes, or certain ouchy sex acts. Really.

But the most shocking act of unprofessionalism I’ve personally witnessed? It was in a submission that contained – wait for it – visual aides. No, not the hot, somewhat tasteful nudes you can find in abundance online. These were personal photos of a couple engaging in hardcore booty knocking, complete with (*shudder*) the “happy ending” shot. If the author wanted my attention, that sub definitely got it. In the worst way possible. Be memorable through your stories, please, not by sharing intimate details or your personal sex portfolios.


A final word about professionalism. The fact is, every publisher and editor I've ever worked with told me straight up that they did indeed Google me first. My agent as well. So, before you do anything online you should know that the internet is an essential part of your query letter. Would you really use the F word in a query? A cleavage shot? Hmm...

44 comments:

Judith Leger said...

Excellent advice, Anne. Words of wisdom everyone needs to listen to often as a reminder of what the proper etiquette is for a public person. And yes, as authors promoting and writing, we are public figure. A little professionalism is in order.

Avril Ashton said...

Thanks for this very interesting post, Anne. These things should go without saying, but alas, such is not the case.

I'm off to Google myself to see what shows up. Hopefully nothing cringe-worthy.

Anny Cook said...

Ohhhhh, yes! Been there and seen more than one! I second and third the comment about foul language. Especially on facebook where my grandchild is one of my friends...and therefore can read stuff sent to me.

Please clean it up.

Shoshanna Evers said...

What a great post! I keep a Google Alert for my name and book titles, and it reminds me, on a daily basis, that every time I even post a comment on someone else's blog it comes up on a Google search of my name. And Twitter and Facebook, while they can start feeling cozy - especially when we start replying back and forth to one another - is the equivalent of talking loudly in front of total strangers. Great advice from both you and Kelli!

Regina Carlysle said...

I'm constantly amazed. Really. I'm nodding my head in agreement here, Anne. Curb the language, be professional. You can certainly present yourself as a warm, approachable person in every venue mentioned here. Bottom line...this is a business.

Brandi Evans said...

Amen!!

Melissa Bradley said...

Great advice that should be heeded well. Having the distance of the Internet, we sometimes forget our manners. And we should remember that even when we take something down, it is out there forever floating in the ether.

Anne Rainey said...

Judith--I think the first time it really sank in about being professional online was when I sent a review quote to my editor at Kensington. She emailed back and said, 'Great quote! I saw it already on your website'.

So, not only do the editors and agents look you up prior to working with you, but they keep tabs on you along the way. Good thing to take note of, I thought.

Amy said...

Great advice. It boggles my mind the way some authors act.

Also add spamming chat loops on nonpromo days. I moderate for a Chat Loop and it drives me squirrely when I see authors blanket promote on a non promo day.

Anne Rainey said...

Anny--Both of my daughters, my brother, my mom, a cousin, and two aunts are on my friends list on Facebook. They see what I'm doing and they see what others are saying to me. I want to make them proud, not red in the face! :)

Madison Scott said...

Awesome, AWESOME advice, Anne. This was a great post. It amazes me some of the language I've seen and I can't imagine using text speak with a review site.

Anne Rainey said...

Shoshanna---Google Alerts are wonderuful! I have several that help keep me updated on my books, etc.

Anonymous said...

This was a very well thought out and presented editorial on the business end of your career. I found it to be both informative and amusing. I am amazed that some people who consider themselves to be authors do not bother to re-read and edit their own comments before posting them. It does not make me want to read a book by someone who apparently can't tell that they have poor skills in spelling and grammar. Linda J

Paisley Smith said...

Great post!

And oh my, Kelli, the stories you'll be able (or not) to tell your grandchildren... :-)

Anne Rainey said...

Amy--Very good point about promos! Not only do some authors promo on non-promo days, but they won't bother to take note of the fact that only 1 or 2 is allowed per author. I've yet to meet a single reader who actually enjoyed receiving 4 or 5 promos from the same author. Oh, you'll be remembered, just not in the way you hoped!

Anne Rainey said...

Linda--Thank you! :) You know, we all get in a hurry and spelling errors do happen here and there, but I agree, it makes you wonder how good their books could possibly be when their comments are constantly littered with mistakes.

Tess MacKall said...

Great advice, Anne. And OMG @ what was sent to Kelli! Amazing how clueless some people can be.

I think it's okay to have fun and joke around with others. Heck, we've got to or we'd all be just a colorless blob. lol But some thought should go into the way we authors present ourselves for sure.

And it's not just how we present ourselves to editors and publishers, it's how we present ourselves to readers as well.

Great post!

Maria said...
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Maria said...

Fantastic post Anne! Really, really hit some of my pet peaves as someone who's done reviews and as a reader in general.

Thank you!

Desiree Holt said...

I couldn't have said it better myself. You have no idea how I cringe when I see some of the stuff out there. Doesn't everyone know what you put on the Internet is out there FOREVER? And some editor or publisher, five years from now, is going to Google you and it will pop up. I'm even more astounded by Kelli's comment. Ewwww! Gross! So...very good job, Regina. Excellent.

Shelley Munro said...

This is a very good post, Anne. Lots of excellent advice. I can't believe that people actually do some of the things you mentioned. And, Kelli, photos illustrating their sub? I am speechless.

Jo-Anne Kenrick said...
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Jo-Anne Kenrick said...

*waves hello*

Thanks for yet another great blog on here :)

It's shocking, and most unfortunate, that those things need to be pointed out -- it should be common sense for pretty much everyone.
I cringe when seeing text talk on Facebook, unless I can see it's been posted by a phone. And half the time I don't understand the appreviations everyone uses (think that is just a sign I'm not a teenager though LOL)
And as for using inappropriate language -- I guess it's easy to forget and slip up from time to time...but the F word just shows you didn't know how to express what you wanted to say. Not so good considering you're meant to be an expert with words as an author.

Maybe Google Alert yourself with your name, and all the swear words you don't want to be associated with -- and you can consider google alert your personal 'swear box' and reminder to keep it clean.

And EWWWW; that submission letter sounds disturbing...very disturbing.

Anne Rainey said...

Maria--Thanks! You know, working for a review site has really opened my eyes. It shows the other side of the coin, which is something all authors can benefit from. :)

Anne Rainey said...

Tess--Yes, I agree. Let that lovely personality show through. Don't hide it beneath the ugliness. :)

Cat Grant said...

Oh, thank you for writing this. I've seen people post stuff online that makes my jaw drop. Stuff I wouldn't even talk about in private email! Just because I write sexy books doesn't mean I want smut all over my Facebook page. Sometimes I think the internet has destroyed everyone's common sense where boundaries are concerned.

Brindle Chase said...

*lol* Thanks Anne. You had me cracking up all morning, reading this at work. I try to make good on those suggestions. I know I slip sometimes, but I am conscientious that people I want to like me, are watching.

I tried the cleavage shots, you know, to try and fit in, but that did not go over very well... *lol* ok, kidding. Didn't really do that. While I appreciate cleavage, as a peer, I agree its not something publishers, editors and agents want to see from authors. I can see where some readers might... might... appreciate it, but not all readers in our respective genre need it or really care. I think it would be best to side with caution and offer a pleasant portrait, sans excessive skin. I've never heard an erotic romance fan complain about the absence of cleavage in an author's portrait.

And thank for you the sig line bit! There are many that as so busy, they pretty much guarantee I would never buy anything from that author. If the sig is annoying, its a general indication that the author is too.

@Amy ...and yes... add to that, not spamming yahoo loops ON promo days too! The easiest way to assure I won't buy your book on a yahoo group, is to hit me with 50 messages about their books. Watching them talk over all the other authors who respectfully make ONE post about their latest releases, is infuriating.

Casey Sheridan said...

Excellent post.

It's too bad these things need to be brought up in the first place. They should just be common sense.

I can't imagine sending a query letter with visual aids. That's just gross. Ewww...

C. Zampa said...

Fantastic advice!
Thank you for sharing this!

flchen1 said...

Anne, what an excellent post--thanks for the reminders to authors and to the rest of us to keep our heads up and to remember that now often what we type is out there representing us, if not forever, then for a good long time. What kind of image of us do we want others to have?

I nearly laughed aloud at some of your points, but as I'm sure others can also attest, they still clearly need to be said!

Thanks!

Anastasia V. Pergakis said...

This is a great post with tons of advice. It is amazing how many people forget professionalism - even in the offline world!

Could I post a copy or teaser of this on my blog with a link back to you? This information is too valuable not to share.

Anne Rainey said...

Anastasia--Definitely! And thanks for sharing! :)

Anne Rainey said...

Shelley--Poor Kelli, right?! I can't imagine getting something like that!

Anne Rainey said...

Jo-Anne--My daughters get on me because I spell everything out when I text them, but that's partly because I don't know all those bloody abbreviations! LOL

Another reason to use whole words! If I don't understand all that jibberish, then a lot of readers probably don't either. I want readers to know what I'm talking about. I don't want to make them decipher it first!

D. said...

Love the topic and the advice! This should be used as a guideline in behaving in all manner of business.

Anne Rainey said...

Cat--I couldn't agree more.

It's interesting that a person will complain about a teenager's rude behavior at a fast food restaurant (for example), then that same individual will go online and talk as if the filter between their brain and mouth has suddenly disappeared.

The internet is just as public as a restaurant.

Lyla Sinclair www.lylasinclair.com said...

Oh, wow! I still can't get over people sending naked pictures to an editor they don't even know. Unfathomable!

However, since I do know you, Kelli, you'll be receiving my naked pictures shortly.

kellicollins said...

Thanks for the sympathies and collective "EWWWWWs", everyone. Yes, most of us editors are scarred for life in one way or another. My eyes have never fully recovered.

@Lyla, by all means, send me your naughty shots. I'm running short of inventory on my Naked Author R Us eBay store...

Kelli Collins

Natalie Dae said...

I agree with what you've said, although I do believe an author should be allowed to be themselves to some degree too. I have a place I can be myself at, and it's so refreshing to let my hair down.

I've whinged about low royalty payments, guilty of that. I've cursed, guilty. I've probably done many things people consider unprofessional on my private blog venues. If anyone joins my actual "me" Facebook page, you get the real deal. It's my place to hang out, not my professional names.

So, I'm mixed on this topic. Yes, I agree professionalism is needed, but I'm a person too, and if I'm shunned because I cursed, because I blogged about something others thought unprofessional, then so be it. It's not that I don't care, or that I go around being rude or whatever on other people's blogs and groups, more that I'm just being "me" in my personal spaces.

:o)

Kaily Hart said...

Great post and excellent advice. Yeah, I can't believe what some people have out on the social networks, so can only shudder at when might be contained within a submission!

Nina Pierce said...

You know you hear stories all the time of authors acting unprofessional ... the manuscript under the stall door ... the glitter in the query letter ... but photos?? If Kelli hadn't said it, I would have thought it was an urban legend.

The thing is, it's not just authors acting this way. I think the world in general has lost its common sense and good manners. Great post.

Anastasia V. Pergakis said...

Thanks Anne! I'll have this up on my blog this coming Monday - the 22nd. I'll set it up with you as a guest blogger! Thanks again for allowing me to share this great info!

Brenda Woody and Steve Tindle said...

Great advice! I have posted the link for this article on my Writers Resource page. Hopefully any authors stumbling upon it will think "Did I do that?" or "No wonder I am being rejected."
I LMAO on the nude shots and query letter! Amazing!

http://www.brendawoodystevetindle.yolasite.com/writers-resource.php

Leigh Court said...

Wow, sobering examples, Anne. I seriously can't believe some of this stuff happens. Then again, when I pointed out to a writer recently that her use of the phrase "All for not" should actually be "All for naught" I got a *scathing* reply that I actually can't even print here!

Shocking.

Your post is a great service! I hope authors and writers take it to heart.

Leigh