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Sometimes writers get grumpy. The writing world comes with a host of disappointments—rejection letters, endless revisions, criticism, writer’s block—and it’s tempting to lose your cool or vent in public.
Writers, like actors, develop reputations. We’re emotional creatures. Many of us tend to be sensitive, walking the line between having big, powerful egos and deep insecurities. If you’ve been in the writing biz any amount of time, you’ve met your share of difficult writers.
Writers that are difficult to work with sometimes see their careers go into a slump. Word gets around. People whisper.
The email that one writer dashes off to an editor in a fit of fury just might make the rounds behind the scenes. That angry phone call or rude comment that a writer made after his/her work was rejected might become fodder for conversation at the lunch table the next day.
Here’s what it boils down to: In your career as a writer, it pays to be nice. Your attitude opens (or closes) doors. We’re not advocating that writers be doormats, but professional courtesy goes a long way toward good relations in the industry.
Seven Things To Remember To Do To Cultivate A Good Reputation
1) Say thank you. Not pleased by what feels like a personal attack by a fellow critique group member? Grin and bear it, and say thank you. You can always unload on their work later…(just kidding!). And always, always remember to thank an editor or literary agent for his or her time when submitting your work for publication.
2) Be gracious. Congratulate a critique group member for placing a short story in the lit mag you’ve been targeting. (It won’t kill you, we promise.) Then, pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
3) “Hold the door” for someone else. For writers, this can mean lending a helping hand. Offer advice on a query letter, introduce another writer to an agent, or share a kind word after a rejection. We’re all in this together. And you know what they say; what goes around, comes around.
4) Use your “inside voice.” Always be aware of how you sound to others. If you’re not happy with the cover art for your novel, don’t raise your voice when speaking to the publisher about it. Politely but firmly state your concerns and avoid making threats.
5) Curb your language. It goes without saying that no writer who wants to be a professional uses foul language or offensive terms when talking to others in the business. Feel free to use whatever language you desire in your head or in your car or even in your writing.
6) Listen sincerely. Writers who interrupt others are not listening, and you can miss important things this way. You may come across as a know-it-all or as self-absorbed. Plus it’s just plain rude.
7) Think before you speak (or email or Tweet or post). Engage that filter between your brain and your mouth (or your keyboard) and avoid embarrassment later. Ranting about a literary agent on your Facebook page probably won’t get you very far in your career, especially since what you say on any social network can easily get around.
But Before You Take “Nice” Too Far…
Good manners go a long way in establishing a professional reputation and furthering your career. But keep in mind that there is such a thing as being too nice.
If you allow others to walk all over you, it gives the impression that you don’t value yourself. Standing up for your rights and beliefs is important to earning respect (from yourself and others). Learn how to say no to unrealistic demands, and don’t be a pushover!
It’s important to find a happy medium when dealing with fellow writers, editors, and literary agents so that you project a strong yet respectful image. Remember: If you have to, you can always pitch a fit in the privacy of your own home!