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...