If you’re in the book writing/publishing business and you haven’t crossed paths with at least one of the unprofessional people on my list below, you might eventually. If you’re lucky, you never will. In no particular order, here are some of the most unprofessional types of people. Don’t be one of them. Also, here’s the followup post for the 13 Most Appreciated Gestures in the Writing Biz.
- The vanishing critique partner
You’ve exchanged manuscripts, spent the entire weekend reading, editing and making notes, you send the manuscript back and you wait and wait and wait for your critiqued manuscript in return. You receive nothing. Don’t be this person. Time is precious to every writer and that’s something you can’t give back. Respect the writer’s time by keeping your word.
- The vanishing publisher
Anyone you rely upon who suddenly vanishes into thin air is probably not a professional, especially when they’re holding your royalty check and the rights to your creations. Don’t be this person. A wise thing to do is to give your authors notice that you’ll be going under long before your vanishing act. Be open and honest, answer your emails, and assure your authors that you’re handling things in the best manner. Most importantly, give them their money and their rights back pronto.
- The vague critique partner
You received your manuscript back with a short note. “This was awesome!” You’re thrilled that she liked it but would’ve liked a little more detail. Just a little more. Don’t be this person. If you can’t pick apart every piece of the manuscript from the first word to the last … don’t. That’s not what most authors are looking for, but we can use much more feedback than an “awesome.”
- The agent/editor who likes your work but still rejects it
In my humble opinion, if you decide to write a page-long letter or email raving about the manuscript you’ve just finished reading, never mention a flaw, but still reject it, I think you should at least tell the author WHY you rejected it. Don’t be this person. You of all people in the publishing business should know how frustrating it is to give false hope through a rejection letter that starts as a raving review of the manuscript and ends with “I hope you find a home for it!” Either state why it’s not for you or send a form rejection.
- The agent/editor/publisher who never answers your questions or delays
Deadline has passed … a week ago! You sent email after email, asking the same questions from the emails before, but this time you’re asking if they’ve even received your emails. Finally, you get a response … days before the book’s official release date! Don’t be this person. Sure, you’re an editor and a super busy one too, but you can find time to send a quick email. A brief “Got your email. Will get back to you shortly” instead of nothing at all is always appreciated.
- The professional who picks favorites
Jane Doe’s books are a top seller (she’s a regular commenter on your blog). John Doe edits the most books in the shortest amount of time (and you chat every day on Facebook). Mary Jane’s books are rating pretty high with readers (and her Twitter pic is pretty hot too). Go ahead and allow Jane, John and Mary to take over the publisher’s blog and reel in the readers. Sure, there’s other authors and editors who can better contribute, but … these three are your favs. Don’t be this person. Sure, it’s a business and you want the top, highest and the best, but don’t make it obvious that you have your favorites. Professionalism requires that you are fair and making the best “business” decisions. Project that.
- The agent/editor/publisher who talks about inappropriate matters in public
Sure, you’re human, and you go through rough patches like the rest of us, however, not everyone is interested in your bankruptcy details, your crazy sex life, or the fact that you think self-publishing and its authors should go the way of the dinosaurs. Don’t be this person. Think before you speak, especially in public. You feel secure behind a screen. It’s not like being face-to-face with a “real” person. In social media it’s easy to forget that your colleagues, employers, fans, readers, followers, etc., are witnessing what you put out and are judging you by it.
- The tardy blogger/staff
Your job is to update the blog every Monday. Instead it gets updated sporadically (maybe late Monday night on a good day). You’re hosting a blog tour and have a give-away scheduled for this day, instead you post it that day. Do you find yourself constantly apologizing for being late? Then this may be you. Don’t be this person. If you say you’re going to do something at a specific time, do it at that specific time. Punctuality is one of the best traits a professional possesses.
- The lowdown, dirty “professional”
Think it’ll be cool to try to cheat Amazon’s algorithms to raise your book’s sales ranking? Don’t see the harm in giving away copies of another author’s e-books on your blog without the author’s permission? Thinking about making a bunch of email accounts and rating and reviewing your own books online? Don’t be this person. You will lose all the respect people had for you once they realize your ways. Being lowdown and dirty especially in the publishing business is never a good look.
- The author/writer who never follows the guidelines/rules
You want to send your submission to your dream editor before they leave on vacation and don’t have time to look for and read the submission guidelines, so you just attach it as a DOC file and send it to the email address you found online. Don’t be this person. Submission guidelines are there for a reason. Simply put, they make life easier for you AND the editor, and increases the chances of your submission being seen. You want to show the editor you are a gem to work with and are capable of following rules. So follow them exactly.
- The professionals who never follow their own guidelines/rules
Being a professional is hard work. Life is very busy. So since you made the rules you can break them at your convenience. Don’t be this person. If you want others to follow your rules practice what you preach by following your own. If you promise to respond to submissions in four weeks, then make sure you follow through. How can you expect others to put up with your rules when it’s difficult for you to?
- The negative/snarky/bashing reviewer
So you think the book was written by an author who couldn’t grasp the basics of high school level English, and you say so in your review. You even go a step further and accuse the author of writing their own five-star reviews of the book because “who in their right mind would like that junk?” Don’t be this person. A good reviewer reviews the book’s content, not the author. And even though you believe those terrible things about the author, you don’t look good accusing or bashing another, especially in public.
- The author/writer who negatively responds to negative reviews
So the reviewer claims you wrote all the five-star reviews of your latest book because the book reads like an illiterate child scribbled it down and no one else could possibly enjoy it. You think the reviewer didn’t read your book at all because in the author bio, at the end of the book, it states that you have a B.A in English, and the reviewer needs to know this. So you respond to the review and tell her. Don’t be this person. If someone didn’t like your book, they are simply stating their opinion. When you respond, you are trying to sway their opinion. It never works. When someone writes a bashing review, they look like a bully. When you respond, YOU look like a bully. Keep that in mind.
Well, there you go. The thirteen most unprofessional types of people in the writing biz and why and how not to become one. Have you encountered some of these types? Take a shot at adding to the list. Did I leave a certain type out? Could you relate? Do I ask a lot of questions? Leave a comment and let’s discuss it.